What different materials can pots & pans come in and what distinctive features do different materials contribute?
The most common material for cookware because it’s an excellent conductor of heat, and it’s inexpensive compared to copper.
Thickness is the key to performance; the thicker the pan the better the heat dispersion, reducing the risk of hot spots occurring. Aluminum’s lightweight, meaning even a large pan is easy to lift.
In its natural state, aluminium is a dull silver colour, but when used for cookware it is usually coated in heat-resistant enamel on the exterior, with a non-stick coating on the interior. Although it is still used for commercial catering, uncoated aluminium cookware sells in minimal quantities these days in the domestic market.
- Excellent heat conductor, second only to copper
- Lightweight–easy to handle
- Eco-friendly/Energy efficient
Hard Anodized Aluminium
A highly controlled and technical automated process, hard anodizing’s exceptional durability comes from changing the material on a molecular level rather than just being a coating. The process requires significant investment in manufacturing equipment and automation. Pre-formed aluminium is immersed into a diluted chemical formula, at specific temperatures and charged with an electrical current. This changes the molecular surface of the pan making it less porous and much harder… In fact twice as hard as stainless steel. To achieve optimum results The manufacturing process requires close control of all the elements (time, temperature and the chemical solution).
Cookware with a thicker gauge helps the heat spread evenly over the whole surface, not just the base. Meyer invented and launched the world’s first non-stick coating to hard anodised cookware which revolutionised the industry establishing a new standard in performance.
Hard anodised finishes have a low resistance to alkalis used in dishwasher detergents and it is not usually recommended to put hard anodised pans in a dishwasher. However, today the majority of hard anodised pans have an exterior coating intended to protect the anodized aluminium from the effects of these detergents. Uncoated hard anodized is also vulnerable to acidic foods.
- Excellent heat conductor
- Scratch, abrasion, corrosion resistant
- Twice as hard as stainless steel
- Easy to clean
Made by combining steel with chromium for corrosion resistance and nickel for strength and ductility. Stainless steel is a hard metal that gives an excellent polished finish and resists scratches and dents. Its smooth surface is very hygienic; but it is a poor conductor of heat, and it needs the addition of a high conductivity aluminium or copper base for heat distribution, to prevent food from burning.
- Will not corrode
- Scratch resistant
Carbon steel (sometimes called ‘black iron’) is used to make commercial frying pans favoured by professional chefs. Black iron pans are also sold to amateur cooks through specialist cook-shops. Carbon steel will rust if exposed to water for prolonged periods.
A carbon steel pan needs to be seasoned before use; coat it with oil, heat until the oil is smoking, then let it cool and wipe the remaining oil off with a paper towel. Never wash the pan, just wipe it clean after use, and in time it will build up an effective non-stick patina of its own. Washing the pan will destroy this patina, and it will need seasoning again.
- Cooking at high temperatures
Cast aluminium’s thermal conductivity is less than pressed aluminium of the same thickness, due to the gases trapped in its molecular structure. In practice this is cancelled out by the fact that most cast aluminium is thicker than pressed aluminium, and the thicker the material, the better the cooking performance.
Cast aluminium pans also have greater thermal stability (resistance to distortion) than pressed aluminium. As a rule, cast aluminium pans combine excellent cooking performance with great durability.
- Excellent heat conductor,
second only to copper
- Eco-friendly/Energy efficient
- Versatile–can be used on the
hob, in the oven or under a grill
Although it has a lower thermal conductivity than pressed steel, cast iron is usually much thicker—which gives more even heat spread across the base, as well as better heat retention making this cookware ideal for searing meat, stews and slow cooking in the oven.
Cast iron is considered to be one of the most efficient cooking materials for numerous reasons. Its durability means your cookware can last a lifetime. Heat is transferred evenly across the whole pan, eliminating the occurrence of hot spots. This efficiency will save on both time and energy.
Cast iron’s great drawback is its weight—particularly for elderly people or anyone with weak wrists. It is also relatively brittle, and a cast iron pan can shatter if accidentally dropped on a hard surface and damage the surface.
Raw (uncoated) cast iron is prone to rusting and needs to be seasoned before use; in practice this isn’t a great problem, because nearly all the cast iron sold in the UK is coated with enamel.
- Superior heat retention
- Suitable for use on all heat sources, including induction
- Versatile–can be used on the hob, in the oven or under a grill
Copper is a high-conductivity metal – it has twice the thermal conductivity of aluminium and ten times the conductivity of steel, but it can contaminate the flavour of the food cooked in it, so a copper pan must always have an interior coating. This was traditionally tin, either plated or ‘wiped’ on, and copper saucepans needed regular re-tinning.
Modern copper pans usually have stainless steel interiors which are much more durable than tin; they are also available with a non-stick interior coating. Copper is sometimes coated with a protective lacquer that needs removing before the pan is used.
Copper is also sometimes used in the base of a stainless steel pan; this improves heat conductivity without it going anywhere near the food. The copper allows the heat to spread uniformly across the bottom and up the sides of the pan as professional chef’s demand.
- Superior heat conduction
- Eco-friendly / energy efficient
- Attractive / timeless
Cold forging is generally preferred when the metal is already a soft metal like aluminium. The cold forging process, despite the word ‘cold’ actually occurs at or near room temperature. One of the most common types of cold forging process is called impression-die forging, where the metal is placed into a die that is attached to an anvil. A descending hammer then hits the metal and forced into the die that is attached to the anvil.
Cold forging enables you to give a better overall finish, increased dimensional control, improved reproducibility and handles high stress and high die loads.
- Excellent heat conductor, second only to copper
- Corrosion resistance
- Durable/ no warping or distortion
- Eco-friendly /energy efficient
Stainless Steel Clad
The clad design of cookware incorporates an aluminium core between layers of stainless steel to produce highly responsive conduction and even heat distribution all the way up the sides of the pan. The magnetic stainless steel exterior ensures compatibility with induction hobs and is ideally suited for use with traditional cooking technologies. The cookware’s durable clad construction delivers the ideal combination of professional performance and dishwasher-safe cleaning.
- Superior heat conductivity
- Durable multi-layer clad construction
- Will not corrode
- Scratch resistant
- Eco friendly
What’s a good sign for an excellent quality pot or pan?
- Make sure the panhandle is in proportion to the pan and does not tilt for good stability.
- Ensure that rivet fittings are made from stainless steel this will prevent the handle from working loose. (Aluminium fittings will work loose in time and will become unsafe to use).
- Check that handles are not hollow—if they are they will draw heat up the handle and get very hot.
- Ensure the lids fit correctly and ideally they have a slight dome in the lid (no vents), giving you the extra feature of waterless cooking and a self-basting lid.
- Check that non-stick cookware is perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) free.
- Check out the non-stick capabilities a good non-stick system will allow you fat-free cooking and to use metal utensils.
- Good quality cookware can be used on the hob top and in the oven and are usually dishwasher safe with the exception of copper.
- Reputable manufacturer, check out guarantee statements, good quality cookware will always be backed by extended guarantee statements and excellent aftersales.
There’s a huge range of different types of foods to choose from—could you break down what each different variety of pot and pan could be used for cooking?
A cooking pot with two small handles instead of one long one, designed for use either on the hob or in the oven. Among the most useful items in the cook’s armoury, casseroles can be used for frying, boiling, steaming, simmering, baking, roasting, braising – and, of course, casseroling. They are made of aluminium, stainless steel, enamelled steel, cast iron, glass or ceramic.
A shallow pan with gently sloped sides, just enough to round the edges of the pan, to make stirring or whisking more efficient.
A saucepan with a special basket for cooking chips and other deep-fried foods. The lid normally has a slot for the basket handle. Generally regarded as a high fire risk.
The industry term for what the user generally calls a frying pan; a shallow pan with tapered or curved sides and a single handle. Made in various sizes, the most common being 10in/24cm in diameter.
A frying pan with a ribbed base to give ‘char’ lines on food fried in it. A healthier way of frying, because the ribbed base allows much of the fat to drain away from the food. A non-stick grill pan is much easier to clean than an uncoated one, but customers should be warned that the ‘charred’ effect works best if the pan is preheated to a high temperature—this may not be the best thing for a non-stick coating. Contrary to what the name suggests, this item is not for use under a grill.
A small saucepan, usually 12cm-16cm in diameter, with a tapered shape and one or two pouring lips.
A stock pot with one or more perforated steamer inserts, enabling several different foods to be cooked simultaneously on a single hob: potatoes boiling in the base while chicken joints steam in one of the baskets and vegetables in another, for instance. Economical, because it makes maximum possible use of one heat source; and very useful for large meals because it leaves most of the hob free for other things.
A large, deep stockpot with a perforated inner container that can be lifted out to drain and rinse the pasta when cooked. Although it’s designed mainly for cooking pasta, it’s also useful for vegetables.
A pan with a lockable sealed lid that enables the steam pressure inside to be raised, thus shortening the cooking time.
Available in a wide variety of materials and sizes, with various devices for regulating pressure and thus cooking temperature and time. Because less of the moisture escapes, cooking in a pressure cooker retains more of the nutrients in the food; and it is also an effective way of tenderising meat.
Used in an oven for roasting meat and vegetables. Some roasters are available with self-basting covers: the lid has indents so that as the food juices vaporise and rise as steam, they condense on the indents and drip down onto the food again.
Similar to a wok, a stir-fry pan has deep curved sides to enable the food to be stirred and turned during cooking. It has a flat base so it can be used on conventional hobs, whereas the true wok has a curved base and has to be used with a separate supporting frame.
A large-capacity pan like a casserole.
A large frying pan with curved sides and base, mainly used for Chinese and Thai cookery, but useful for fast-frying any food in small pieces. Traditionally, woks were made of carbon steel and needed seasoning before use; nowadays they are also available in pressed or cast aluminium and cast iron, with or without non-stick coatings, and are often sold as a kit with utensils and other accessories.
What is Induction Cooking?
The cooker hob contains an internal coil. When a pan with a suitable (magnetic) base is placed on the hob, a connection is established between the pan and hob and the coil causes the pan to heat up. The hob itself does not get hot, only the ring in use will get warm.
Inductions cookware needs to contain levels of ferrous metal (iron or steel), which enables it to be magnetised. The hob has a certain power rating which can vary according to brand) but the amount of power actually generated depends on the pan used, different pans made of different metals and in different ways and containing varying amounts of magnetic materials in the base. In other words, some pans are more energy efficient than others.
The performance of the pan depends on three things:
- The amount of magnetic materials in the base
- How magnetic it is
- How it is distributed
Could you give us some tips on cleaning our pots and pans?
It is important to clean your product thoroughly after each use to prevent staining or build-up from food or grease. Occasionally stainless steel may exhibit a rainbow-like discolouration – this is normal for new stainless steel products. Such discolouration may also take place if the product is exposed to higher temperatures. So long as the product has not been overheated, this rainbow-like discolouration should be easy to remove. To remove, use lemon juice, or vinegar or a stainless steel cleanser and a soft, non-abrasive sponge. Be sure to rinse thoroughly as cleansers can leave a powdery residue.
To prevent water spotting, rinse in warm water after washing and towel dry thoroughly. If a spotted white film appears (caused by minerals in the water) try rubbing with a sponge or brush and lemon juice or vinegar. Wash, rinse and towel dry.
To remove stubborn stains or discolouration, use a stainless steel cleaner. The cleaner should be rubbed on the stains with a non-abrasive pad, cloth, or sponge. Do not scrub with steel wool or use harsh abrasive cleaners as scratching may occur.
Stainless steel products may also be placed in the automatic dishwasher using a mild dishwashing detergent; please follow the manufacturer’s guideline also.
Overheating or allowing a pan to boil dry can cause yellow, brown, dark purple, blue or rainbow tints on the stainless steel surface. Although harmless, these tints can spoil the appearance of the pan.
To remove this discoloration, use a stainless steel cleanser and a non-abrasive cleaning pad. Wash with warm soapy water, rinse and dry.