When it comes to impressing someone with your cooking skills, choosing the best cookware material becomes crucial. The suitable cookware material will help you get the best out of your cooking ingredients and makes the final product even tastier.
Choosing the best cooking material is also subjective. Your choice of the fabric of your cookware relies heavily on your cooking style and what you want to cook.
There are quite a few cookware materials to choose from, including stainless steel, cast iron, Aluminum, ceramic, etc. Each of these materials is suited for different cooking styles, and thus, it may be harder for you in choosing which one is the best for you. Consider this article as a guide for selecting the best cookware material.
Different Types of Cookware Materials
1. Stainless Steel
This very affordable, yet lustrous material is very reliable when it comes to cooking. Stainless steel is an alloy made up of a definite proportion of iron, chromium, and a bit of carbon. As its name suggests, the key feature of this material is its anti-rust properties. The best stainless steel cookware in India is even more robust than ordinary iron.
Kitchen sinks, cutlery, dinnerware, pressure cooker, tope, and containers that come to contact with water very frequently.
- Easy maintenance: Stainless steel is known for its durability, and thus, it requires very little maintenance. It can handle repeated rough use without getting visible scratches. When combined with the ease of cleaning, the material’s corrosion resistance makes this material ideal for use in cooking purposes.
- Highly conductive: The main property you want your cookware material to have is to be a good heat conductor. Lucky for you, stainless steel has it. The molecular structure of stainless steel allows it to conduct heat in a very efficient way. Apart from that, stainless steel is also very heat reactive, which means it heats and cools down pretty quickly. It gives you more control over the material.
- No transferred flavours: Stainless steel can withstand high amounts of heat without releasing its flavour into the food. That alone makes it one of the best materials to be used in cookware. So, no matter how high the temperature gets, the taste of your food won’t be spoiled by any means.
- Quality varies: There is not just one type of stainless steel in the market; the quality of it often goes with price. That depends on the dealer you’re buying the cookware from. Cheaper stainless steel cookwares tend to warp and bend with time, while quality stainless steel cookwares are reliable. You have to choose carefully.
- Too flashy: Sometimes, you may find shiny stainless steel cookwares to be too vivid and unpleasant for the eyes. The lustre of stainless-steel material makes it unsuitable for people who love the matte finish.
2. Cast Iron
Cast iron can be a beneficial cookware material if used in the right place. It is a group of iron-carbon alloy with 2-4% of carbon content. Cast iron may not be the best cookware material due to its brittleness and relatively low melting point. It can also change its shape when heated to high temperatures, which is not a good thing. Overall, it’s a decent material suitable for use as cookware material.
- Suitable for slow cooking: Cast iron has very high heat retention. It effectively retains heat longer than other materials, which makes it ideal for slow cooking. This high heat-retention property makes cast iron the best material for frying purposes.
- Non-sticky: The best cast iron cookware, on repeated use, can form a coating that acts as a natural non-sticking surface. Say goodbye to the expensive non-stick pans; cast iron has it naturally for a relatively low price.
- Adds iron to your food: Iron is not considered bad for our body. It is an essential mineral our body needs regularly. Thankfully, cast iron tends to add some of its iron into the food that’s being cooked in cast-iron cookware. It makes the food even healthier and mineral-rich.
- Long lifespan: Cast iron has undoubtedly one of the most extended lifespans of all materials. You can expect years of reliable service from a cast iron cookware, longer than any other cookware material.
- Slow reaction to heat: Cast iron retains heat pretty well, but it is also very slow to heat and cool. Once the cast iron is hot enough, it takes a lifetime to cool down; it’s the same for the heating procedure. It takes very long to heat, which is not ideal for a cookware material.
- Heavy: Cast iron is undoubtedly very durable, but that durability makes this material considerably more severe than other materials. Cookware like a grill pan made of cast iron can easily weigh more than 10 pounds on average. It makes cast iron cookware pretty hard to carry around.
- High maintenance: Cast iron is not resistant to corrosion and can lose its non-stick properties if not cared for properly. Even a simple everyday task like washing needs to be done with special care in cast iron cookware; else, it will catch rust easily.
- Transfers flavours to the food: Unlike stainless steel, cast iron releases some of its material into the food, altering the food’s taste. While this cast iron flavouring can be good for junk food like burgers, it may add too much of its flavour to lighter tasting food and change its taste completely.
Copper is known for its conductivity of heat and electricity, making it an ideal cookware material. Copper rests at number 29 on the periodic table with Cu as its symbol and has excellent thermal conductivity. Apart from being a great conductor of heat and electricity, copper is very malleable and ductile.
Kadai, wok, pot, pans, bottle, etc. (Related: Wok vs. Kadai)
- Highly conductive: Copper is a great conductor of heat and electricity, which means there will be very little heat loss while cooking. High conductivity also results in better heat distribution throughout the utensil, making your food cook firmly from each side.
- Heat reactive: Copper utensils are quick to heat up and quick to cool down, which means they are heat reactive. Cookware made of copper is ideal when hunger calls as they quickly get ready for cooking.
- Elegant looking: Apart from its features, copper utensils are a pleasure to look at. No doubt they’re the first choice of chefs from around the world.
- Pricey: With great features and benefits comes an even greater price tag. Copper cookware is the most expensive of them all, affecting its accessibility.
- High maintenance: Copper can undergo oxidation and develop an ugly-looking green layer if not correctly cared for. Therefore, copper cookware requires higher maintenance than most materials.
- Heavy: Copper utensils are severe; a single skillet of medium size can weigh over 3 pounds. It affects the portability of cookware made of copper to a great extent.
4. Hard anodized Aluminum
Aluminum is the most widely used metal globally, which is not iron or doesn’t include iron in any form. Aluminum is the most abundant metal in the earth’s crust and has an atomic number of 13. When Aluminum is placed in an acid solution, and an electric current is passed through it, a layer of aluminum oxide is formed on the metal, acting as a hard, non-stick surface.
Aluminum releases a lot of material into the food when heated to specific temperatures. Anodization of Aluminum is done to prevent it from doing just that. It is always preferred to use the best hard anodized cookware instead of regular Aluminum.
Tawa, frying pan, wok, kadai, etc.
- Lightweight: Utensils made of anodized Aluminum are lightweight, more lightweight than any other cookware material. This property of Aluminum makes the aluminum cookware ideal for carrying around or carrying them for camping purposes.
- More substantial than steel: This specially treated Aluminum can be even more potent than steel in most cases. All while they are significantly lightweight.
- Resistant to corrosion: The thin layer of aluminum oxide makes the metal utterly resistant to deterioration and salt. This resistance to corrosion and salt reduces the maintenance efforts overall.
- Naturally non-sticky: The aluminum-oxide layer formed during the anodization process makes the utensil made of anodized aluminum non-sticky.
- Health Risks: Some believe that Aluminum contaminates food, especially acidic food. It is thought that corroded Aluminum reacts with the food to make it harmful to the human body. That said, it is only believed by some people, and there is no scientific proof that Aluminum does contaminate food.
- Requires special care: We must prevent scratches on hard-anodized Aluminum to avoid corrosion. Anodized Aluminum needs special care while storing them as it can easily get scratched by other utensils if stored carelessly.
Ceramic cookware boasts the health benefits that might be true. However, ceramic cookware is not entirely made of ceramic; it’s just a sol-gel coating on metal that makes it completely non-sticky. This coating releases silicone-oil every time the cookware is heated, which mimics a non-stick surface. The best non-stick cookware in India has better durability and is affordable too.
Pottery, kadai, casserole, pressure cooker, etc.
- Non-sticky: The best ceramic cookware are entirely non-sticky. The sol-gel coating on these cookwares releases silicon-oil, which makes the surface completely non-sticky. You can get the same result with steel or iron cookware, but you will have to use oil or butter as a lubricant for that, which increases the fat quantity in your food.
- Easy to clean: Cooking on a non-stick pan is always a treat; the ceramic coating works as a lubricant like oil. This makes it easy to clean this non-stick cookware.
- Energy-efficient: Ceramic coated cookware gets heated quickly, which means very little heat is lost during the cooking process.
- Ideal for reheating and storing food: Ceramic naturally resists the buildup of bacteria, making ceramic cookware ideal for storing and reheating food.
- Lacks durability: The ceramic coating is not very durable. It tends to get damaged with repeated use. Once that coating is removed even partially, the cookware loses its non-stick properties, and the surface becomes sticky for almost every type of food.
- Needs special care: Although it is effortless to wash ceramic coated cookware, the washing must be done with special care; else, the ceramic coating will get damaged, and the cookware will lose its non-stick properties. It would help if you also avoid scratches on the ceramic coating; you must store this cookware with care.
- Cannot handle high heat: The ceramic coating tends to get damaged when exposed to very high heat settings. It results in the loss of non-stick properties. Ceramic cookware can only handle low to medium amounts of heat.
Bronze is a copper alloy with an addition of 12-15% tin and some aluminum or zinc. It can also be mixed with some non-metals like silicon as per requirements. Bronze is one of the most lightweight metals of them all. Cookwares made of bronze feel weightless when compared with stainless steel cookware of the same size. This feature alone makes them more preferable over others.
Kadai, wok, plate, glass, etc.
- Lightweight: Bronze cookware of the same size feels weightless when compared with other metal cookware. This makes it highly portable and suitable for carrying around for camping purposes.
- Health benefits: Scientists have proven there are health benefits relating to cooking and eating in bronze utensils. The copper present in bronze increases haemoglobin, whereas tin improves digestion. Bronze is also known to improve brain function and helps in fighting cardiovascular diseases.
- Durable: Good quality bronze is very durable while being lightweight. You can expect years of reliable service from bronze cookware.
- Equally injurious if the bronze is impure: There are many types of bronze cookware available in the market. If you fail to buy the best of them, it will be harmful to your health. Impure bronze can have adverse effects on your body.
- Special care required: Bronze undergoes oxidation very frequently, forming a green ugly-looking layer on the utensil. It then needs to rest in tamarind water for some time to remove oxidation.
Granite is an igneous rock formed from magma and has a high silica content and alkali metal oxides. It mainly consists of quartz, alkali feldspar, and plagioclase. However, when it comes to granite cookware, it does not contain granite.
It is only steel cookware covered with fused glass to create a non-stick surface. The look of granite cookware resembles the texture of granite rock, and that’s where it got its name.
Saucepan, frying pan, wok, kadai, etc.
- Lightweight: As said, granite cookwares are not made of heavy granite rock. Instead, they’re made of stainless steel and glass, making it very lightweight than a cast iron cookware of the same size.
- Elegant looking: The look and texture of granite cookware is aesthetically pleasing to the eye. Some people prefer granite cookware as it enhances the look of your modern modular kitchen in every way.
- Resistant to rust: Since granite cookware is made of stainless steel and covered by glass, they are entirely resistant to rust. This makes granite cookwares more preferable than cast iron cookware.
- Safe for acidic dishes: Unlike most metals that can react to acidic dishes, granite cookware is entirely neutral. You can prepare acidic dishes safely in granite cookware without worrying about health risks. Granite cookware is safe when cooking.
- Metal cookware can chip the enamel: The fused glass layer can be easily chipped by metal utensils if not taken correctly. The non-stick properties will be lost once the enamel gets chipped off.
- Not very durable: The coating on the stainless-steel core is not very stable and gets damaged with repeated use. Once that coating is gone, almost every type of food will start sticking to the surface.
- Fewer design choices: While granite cookware is one of the most elegant looking ones, the design choices are minimal. Most granite cookwares look the same; you will have a hard time finding different designs among them.
Clay is a natural soil, fine-grained and filled with clay minerals. Clay remains just like normal sand when dry; it only develops plasticity when wet. Clay is one of the oldest materials used in making pottery. When it comes to cookware, it induces an aroma in the food that one cannot forget.
Pottery, kadai, wok, pot, and pan.
- Induces an earthy flavour in the food: Food cooked in a clay pot has a simply unbeatable aroma. It also adds an earthy taste to the food that makes it even tastier.
- Retains nutrients: Clay pots can add essential minerals to your food. Minerals like calcium, magnesium, and sulfur are abundant in clay which can be significantly beneficial for your body.
- Affordable: Cookwares made of clay are very economical when compared to other types of cookware materials.
- Fragile body: The body of clay pots is tender; just a regular jerk is enough to break the pot into pieces. Clay pots are weak and thus require special care to store and move.
- Not very efficient: Clay is not a very good conductor of heat; a considerable amount of heat is lost during cooking. It results in a massive loss of energy, and food takes a long time to cook.
How to Select the Right Cookware Material?
Your choice of cookware material depends greatly on which type of food you want to cook in that cookware. It must be your rule of thumb in Cookware material Comparison, along with a few other aspects that are as follows:
- Budget: Everything starts with setting a budget. It’s probably the most crucial factor you need to consider when buying cookware. Choose the cookware material which fits your budget.
- Heat reactivity: Heat reactivity is how much time the cookware requires to heat up or cool down. If you’re the one who wants the food to be cooked as soon as possible, you should go with the material that is highly reactive to heat, like stainless steel.
- Heat conductivity: Heat conductivity also relates to the heat distribution and the efficiency of the cookware material. The higher the conductivity of the cookware, the better the food will cook. Materials such as stainless steel and copper have remarkable heat conductivity but also a hefty price tag.
- Durability: You don’t want your cookware to become useless in a few months. You should choose the material which can handle slightly rough usage and require low maintenance. Materials like cast iron and stainless steel are highly durable.
So, the choice of cookware material is subjective in most cases. There is no rule of thumb as such, which is 100% accurate. You have to consider many factors if you want to have perfect cookware that suits all your needs.
You must be wondering why there is so much fuss about choosing suitable cookware material?
If you pick the wrong one, you might mess up your food which is the last thing you’ll want to do when you’re hungry. Factors like durability, budget, and conductivity play a key role in choosing the best cookware material. Good utensils for cooking are made of these materials.
Selecting the suitable cookware material for you isn’t a hard choice either, it’s just that it can save you a lot of time and money if you make the right choice.
- Stainless Steel vs Cast Iron vs Non-stick Cookware
- Essential Utensils and Equipment for Kitchen
- Stainless Steel Pressure Cooker vs Aluminum Pressure Cooker