Whether you love cooking or prefer to be cooked for, quality pots and pans are an essential feature of the modern kitchen. The best cookware will be both functional and decorative – it should help make cooking a pleasure and seamlessly go from stove to tabletop. So when choosing your cookware, it’s worthwhile considering both practicality and style: good cookware is an investment and one you should be happy with for years to come.
To help you make the right selection, we’ve put together some useful tips from the pros to help you find pots and pans that look great in your kitchen and ignite your enthusiasm for cooking.
01.Types of hob
Before purchasing any piece of cookware you need to ensure it is compatible with your hob – the right cookware will protect the element and the pan plus help you get the best from your cooker. The most common hob types found in the home are:
You can use any type of cookware on a gas hob – just be sure to regulate the flame, as when it extends beyond the base of the pan it can damage or discolour your cookware.
Electric hobs are very commonly found in the home kitchen and are versatile enough to use almost any kind of cookware. Radiant ring hobs will take anything, while solid electric plate hobs work best when cookware has a flat base to ensure it’s heated evenly.
Induction hobs are made from ceramic glass – a current flows through an induction coil inside and heats the cookware but not the cooking surface by creating a rapidly alternating magnetic field. Choose cookware made from magnetisable metal like cast iron or steel – pure aluminium or copper pans won’t heat up on an induction hob.
Ceramic hobs are made from ceramic glass and have a heat element sealed underneath. These hobs are versatile enough to use any type of cookware but work best with pans that have flat heavy bases, like cast iron for example. The key is to lift, never drag, any cookware off a ceramic hob to keep it from scratching.
Solid hotplate hobs – found on AGA cookers - are typically made from cast iron and have a sealed electric element inside that heats the surface. For this type of cooker choose thick, heavy pans that can withstand high heats and have flat bases to help them heat evenly without wasting energy.
Choosing the right materials to cook with can help your food taste better and cook more evenly – try to balance the practical and decorative here. Your cookware should be a pleasure to use as well as look at and if you choose carefully, your cookware will last you for years to come.
Stainless steel is a classic in the kitchen – it’s timeless, cool, and elegant. Stainless steel cookware is very hard and durable; it doesn’t warp, peel, chip or break and is very easy to clean. Stainless steel is made from a combination of iron and other metals like chromium and nickel, to prevent it from rusting or tarnishing with time. It’s suitable for all types of hobs and retains its lustre, so is an excellent choice if you want a compact arsenal of pots and pans you can use again and again.
Copper is a great conductor – it heats up quickly and distributes heat evenly without any hotspots. Copper is also one of the most expensive materials you can use for your cookware and requires the most maintenance – it’s an excellent choice if you want your cookware on display but requires polishing and needs to be washed by hand to keep it looking at its best. Copper pots and pans are often bonded with stainless steel to give them more strength and create a non-reactive lining. Don’t forget, copper is suitable for all hobs, except induction.
Aluminium comes in two basic forms – hard anodised and coated aluminium. Like copper, it’s an excellent conductor and will heat foods quickly and easily. Coated aluminium pans use enamel and a non-stick coating to make them tougher and easy to clean, also acting as a barrier to prevent the transfer of metal. Hard anodising is a chemical process that alters the aluminium to make it smooth and strong. It has a scratch-resistant surface and will not chip, crack or peel. You can use aluminium for all types of hob except induction.
Cast iron pans are thick and heavy – they are slow to heat, but once they reach temperature will retain and distribute heat well so you only need a low heat source. This type of pan is great for slow-cooked foods and is very durable thanks to a hard enamel coating that keeps it looking fresh and pristine. Cast iron cookware will also retain heat long after it’s been taken off a heat source – a great solution if you want your cookware to double as a serving dish, as it will keep your meal warm while it’s on the table. Take care when using cast iron on a ceramic hob; the weight of the pans makes them tempting to drag, which can scratch your cooking surface.
Ceramic bakeware is perfect for going straight from oven to table – it’s durable, versatile and long lasting. Though it is breakable, kiln-fired ceramic bakeware is closer in strength to brick than it is to pottery. It’s safe for the oven, freezer, microwave and dishwasher, making it ideal for busy families and small kitchens. The ceramic material also holds heat well, naturally keeping your food warm so it can double as a serving dish. Ceramic is also scratch and stain resistant – it’s easy to clean and wears well even after years of regular use. It can be glazed to come in dozens of different colourways, from classic white to vibrant red, perfect for any kitchen style.
Pots and pans come in all different shapes and sizes, and it’s likely you’ll need a collection of them, great and small, for a busy family kitchen. Remember, cookware pots and pans are measured across the top and will show their capacity in volume – so for example a 16cm saucepan is referring to the diameter of the rim and 6.75 litres is the volume that will fit inside it.
Most pans are intended to be multi-use; rather than getting too hung up on the specific purpose of the pan, look for cookware that can accommodate the kind of cooking you do regularly and is big or small enough to cook portions for the people you regularly feed in your household.
Some of the most common shapes are:
This is a deep pan with flat base and lid. It comes in a variety of sizes and a staple for any kitchen. Best for cooking liquids, grains or any other food with a high volume.
A large flat-bottom pan with low sides. Its shape is made to encourage air circulation and make it easy to flip or turn food. Best for frying, searing and browning.
A griddle is a broad, flat pan made to sit flat on a stovetop. It’s best for foods that cook quickly and need a smooth, flat surface like steaks, eggs and pancakes.
Similar to a frying pan, but with a vertical sides that rise higher and are more suitable for holding liquid. It’s best for sweating vegetables and cooking foods that need to be stirred and turned.
Large, multifunctional saucepans with flat base and high sides. Ideal for making large volumes of soup, sauces and stews.
Your cookware is an important investment, and when cared for properly will last for decades. Here are a few tips to help your pots and pans stand the test of time
01. Choose pans that are the same size or slightly larger than the heating area on the hob. Pans that are too small waste energy and are prone to damage through constant overheating.
02. Avoid steel wool scouring pads or other abrasives when cleaning your cookware – though effective, it can damage your non-stick coating and scratch the bottom of your pans.
03. The same goes for metal utensils – choose wooden spoons rather than sticking a metal fork into your saucepan to check if your food is cooked.
04. Read the care instructions of your pots and pans – some are suitable for the dishwasher while others need to be washed by hand. If you have stubborn stains, try leaving your pans to soak overnight to avoid scratching.
05. Be careful not to overheat your pans as this can damage them. Never put an empty pan on the hob or in the oven when the heat is on – not only does this waste energy but can warp and ruin your pans.
06. Similarly adding cold water to a hot pan can cause warping. Let your pans cool down slightly before you try to wash them and use hot, soapy water instead of cold water.