When it comes to buying good cookware, there are a lot of different options. Some people like to buy a matched set of cookware, but seasoned cooks often like to mix and match making an eclectic set that assures them the perfect finish to every dish they create.
It is hard to know what kind of pan works best for what kind of dish, so keep this handy guideline on hand and you will never choose the wrong type of pan for whatever delectable dish you whip up.
Aluminum: Aluminum makes for an all around pan that can be used for many things. It takes a little bit of steel wool applied with elbow grease to keep it shining, but the finished product is well worth the effort. A good aluminum pan will provide even heat distribution making it the perfect choice for sautéing of frying food evenly.
Stainless Steel: In a perfect world, all of your pots and pans would be stainless steel, but in the real world, their cost is a bit inhibitive to this dream. They are extremely easy to clean with stainless steel cleaner and practically impossible to destroy. You should always purchase stainless steel pans with copper, aluminum, or laminated-steel bottoms. You can also find pans that are clad in aluminum on the bottom and sides, to give an even distribution of heat. Stainless steel pans are the all purpose pan and can be used to cook just about anything.
Teflon: Teflon is a coating that is applied to many different pots and pans. Cookware that is coated with Teflon has a non-stick surface making it perfect for frying food without using a lot of oil. Clean up of Teflon coated pans is also very easy because foods don’t stick to the surface. Cooking eggs in a Teflon pan is an easy task because the non-stick surface lets them slide out of the pan and onto your plate without breaking. Teflon does have one problem. If you use a metal utensil to stir your food you could scrape off the Teflon surface causing food to start sticking to your pan. You should always use wooden or plastic utensils with your Teflon. On the upside, Teflon pans are rather inexpensive, so if they do get ruined, they are easy to replace.
Cast Iron: Chances are your Grandma had a cast iron pan or two and if you inherited one of her old beauties, the remnants of every meal she ever cooked have been captured in its sturdy coat. Cast iron must be seasoned before you use it for the first time. You season the pan by spreading melted shorting all over its inside and placing it in a warm oven for a few hours. Every so often you swab the oil up the sides of the pan. When you cook in a cast iron pan, you should never wash it with the rest of your cookware. Detergent and rust are the enemies of cast iron. Wash your cast iron pans with a mild soap and dry immediately with a paper towel. It is even a good idea to take the dried pan and place it in the oven so the pilot light can dry up any moisture you missed. Cast iron skillets are fantastic tools for cooking a mouth watering steak.
Copper: Copper makes for a beautiful pan, but truthfully most copper pans serve a decorative purpose in the kitchen. They are hard to keep clean and distribute heat poorly. There is one job in the kitchen that is best done in a copper pan or bowl. Egg whites being whipped for meringue come out much more airy and light when whipped in a cooper dish.