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What's the Best Type of Cookware?

BY: Editors | Oct 9, 2018

Stainless steel or aluminum? Nonstick or cast iron? Our cookware buying guide is here to help you find the best type of cookware for your needs.

Choosing the best type of cookware for you begins with an honest assessment of your cooking habits and preferences. How often do you cook? What do you most like to cook? Will your pots and pans be displayed in your kitchen? Does the idea of frequent pan seasoning strike fear into your heart?

The choices can seem overwhelming, but in our easy-to-follow guide, we outline some of the most common types of cookware materials, and the pros and cons of each, to made to make it easy for you to find the best type of cookware for your unique needs.

Hard Anodized

Made from aluminum that's treated to gain a coating of aluminum oxide on its surface, hard-anodized pans are very strong and heat conductive.

Benefits: stick resistant (but not nonstick) and long-lasting

Compatible utensils: all types

Oven safe?: yes, and to high temperatures, provided the handles are metal

Induction safe?: not usually unless otherwise noted

How to clean: wash by hand

Shop hard-anodized aluminum cookware here.

Hard Anodized

Hard Enamel

Similar to hard-anodized aluminum (above), hard enamel is trong, highly heat conductive, and typcally budget friendly.

Benefits: where hard-anodized alumbinum comes only in plain gray, hard enamel can come in any color

Compatible utensils: wood, nylon, or silicone

Oven safe?: yes, but not broiler safe

Induction safe?: not usually, unless otherwise noted

How to clean: wash by hand (recommended), though some types are dishwasher safe

Shop hard enamel cookware here.

Hard Enamel Pa

Stainless Steel

Long favored by professional chefs, stainless steel is handsome and long-lasting. To heat up to high temperatures quickly, look for tri-ply stainless steel, which is constructed in three layers: two layers of stainless steel sandwiching a core of highly conductive aluminum or copper.

Benefits: cooks steaks and chicken to perfection—and leaves behind browned bits that make excellent pan sauces and gravies

Compatible utensils: all types

Oven safe?: usually

Induction safe?: yes, if the base is magnetic

How to clean: put it in the dishwasher—it's dishwasher safe

Shop stainless steel cookware here.

Stainless Steel Pot

Copper

Along with stainless steel, copper is one of the more expensive options, but it's prized for its beautiful luster and its quick, even heating—you won't find any hot spots in a copper pan.

Benefits: highly versatile and worthy of display

Compatible utensils: wood, nylon, and silicone

Oven safe?: yes, so long as they're not lined with tin

Induction safe?: no

How to clean: gently hand wash and then dry right away; polish regularly to maintain luster

Shop copper cookware here.

Cast Iron

The workhorse of the cookware world, cast iron is heavy, takes a while to heat, and requires lots of care, yet it's prized by chefs. Why? For one thing, it lasts forever if properly maintained. There's also nothing better for getting crispy skin on a roasted chicken or a crunchy sear on a steak.

Benefits: holds heat very well; builds up a stick-resistant surface the longer it's used

Compatible utensils: all kinds (including metal!)

Oven safe?: yes

Induction safe?: yes

How to clean: when a cast-iron pan is properly seasoned—that is, it's coated in a layer of polymerized oil—it can be gently cleaned with hot water and a sponge (forgo the soap)

Shop cast iron cookware.

Cast Iron Skillet

Enameled Cast Iron

While similar to cast-iron, the enameled version comes with one key difference: it has a porcelain surface that requires barely any seasoning, making it easier to clean and maintain.

Benefits: heats evenly and consistently; holds heat very well; can come in any color

Compatible utensils: nylon, silicone, or wood

Oven safe?: yes

Induction safe?: yes

How to clean: dishwasher safe, but hand washing with soapy water is recommended

Shop enameled cast iron cookware here.

enameled cast iron pan

Aluminum

Aluminum pans conduct heat and retain it well, making them suitable for a wide range of dishes. However, they may warp and their surfaces might pit if cared for improperly.

Benefits: lightweight, highly heat conductive, and inexpensive

Compatible utensils: nylon, silicone, or wood

Oven safe?: yes, so long as the handle is oven safe as well

Induction safe?: no

How to clean: hand wash and then dry right away

Shop aluminum cookware here.

Aluminum Pans

Nonstick

Though it won't sear or brown very well, a nonstick pan has its place in the kitchen. Use it for sticky foods such as eggs and grains, and grab it when you don't feel like spending much time cleaning. Make sure your nonstick pan is PFOA-free; PFOA was deemed toxic by the EPA, and most reputable brands manufacture items without it.

Benefits: cuts down on the amount of oil or butter necessary; easily releases food; easy to clean

Compatible utensils: nylon, wood, and silicone—no metal!

Oven safe?: no, unless otherwise noted

Induction safe?: yes, usually.

How to clean: simply give it a good swipe with a soapy sponge and rinse

Shop nonstick cookware here.

Non-Stick Pan

Ceramic Coated

An attractive alternative to traditional nonstick, ceramic-coated cooking equipment is typically made from coated steel or aluminum. It's naturally free of PFOA, as well as PTFE, from which Teflon and the like are made.

Benefits: needs less oil or butter for cooking; easy to clean; white surface makes it easy to gauge level of doneness

Compatible utensils: nylon, wood, and silicone—no metal!

Oven safe?: yes

Induction safe?: yes, usually; check to make sure

How to clean: hand wash

Shop ceramic-coated cookware here.

Ceramic Coated Pan

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