Aluminium is a popular material for cookware and comes with many benefits, such as excellent thermal conductivity, affordability and being lightweight than most other cooking pots. However, like copper, aluminium is highly reactive to alkaline or acidic foods. It is also a comparatively soft material, causing it to warp in high heat, so is not suitable for cooking with intense heat, such a flash frying. It also scratches easily, meaning it won’t last as long as its competitors.
To avoid some of these downsides, aluminium pans can also be anodized whereby the pans is treated with an electro-chemical process that hardens the material, making it a far superior option. Adonized aluminium will take a little longer to heat up, but retains its high heat conductivity, while also being less prone to scratching. It will be slightly more expensive than raw aluminium pans.
They are often enamelled on the outside and can have a non-stick coating on the inside.
Carbon steel is traditionally used to make woks and French-style skillets. The chemical composition is very similar to cast iron, sharing much of the same qualities, but being a more lightweight alternative. While it heats up quicker than cast iron, it does not retain heat as well. It also does not conduct heat as evenly. Like cast iron, carbon steel requires seasoning and becomes increasingly non-stick over time.
Popular and extremely durable, cast iron has been a favoured cookware material for centuries – some pans even being handed down over generations! The main advantage of cast iron is its excellent and even heat retention, making it perfect for slow cooking, simmering and browning. If seasoned properly, it also becomes increasingly non-stick with use.
On the downside, it is a reactibe material, meaning it is not suitable for alkaline or acidic foods. It is also generally quite heavy. However, at The Japanese Home, we offer an innovative range of super-lightweight cast iron cookware.
To maintain your cast iron pans in perfect condition and make them last for longer, they require thorough seasoning. Before use, scour your pan in hot slightly soapy water, making sure not to use a metal scour, and then dry thoroughly. Spread a thin layer of melted butter or oil over the pan using a cloth. Then bring it to high heat and let it cool again. Voila!
After each use cleans your pan with slightly soapy water, wipe clean, and dry thoroughly. Never let it soak in water. If stubborn crusty bits remain in the pan, bring the pan to very high heat, then wipe out while still warm and wipe it out again with melted butter or oil. Some people even swear by never washing their cast iron, only wiping it clean, drying thoroughly, and oiling it.
In the past, people have to rely on the Teflon coating for nonstick cookware. But as technology advances, the coatings for nonstick cookware have also developed rapidly. Ceramic cookware has fast become a popular alternative to toxic Teflon coatings – and for good reason!
Ceramic pans are oxide-free, made from natural minerals including sand, which (counter-intuitively!) helps to create its non-stick properties. Ceramic’s slick and smooth surface allows for easy non-stick cooking without using oil, making it the perfect choice for healthy cooking. They are also easy to clean and maintain – simply wipe out after use and dry. Generally, ceramic pans are a more affordable option than non-stick coated stainless steel. However, they don’t share the same longevity and will need replacing sooner. They are not safe for use in dishwashers or with metal utensils and work best over low to medium heat.
Whilst still a relatively rare cookware material, glass pots are on the rise. Aside from their visual appeal and novelty, they also have some very particular advantages. The main pro is an obvious one – you can see through it. This allows you to see what’s happening inside while you are cooking without needing to lift a lid and letting the heat escape. Many are also made for transfer straight from the hob to the oven and are also usually microwave safe. They are very energy-efficient and will continue to retain heat long after removal from the heat source. Finally, glass is one of the most inert materials, meaning it will not react with alkaline or acidic foods (for example, cast iron).
However, there are some drawbacks to glass cookware. Again, mainly the obvious – they break sometimes. Perhaps more than with any other cookware material, it is therefore important to ensure you purchase a good quality pan.
For many, choosing cookware materials comes down to a choice between two options – steel or copper.
Copper was the first metal to be worked by human hands, and that history goes back a long, long time—about 11,000 years. That makes the human relationship with copper about as old as agriculture, though for several millennia we didn’t do much with it beyond shaping it into decorative objects.
Compared to steel, copper might seem like a serious investment, as they are usually much higher in price. However, this is compensated for by, aside from its visual appeal, its incredible longevity, and excellent heat conductivity. This allows for nimble cooking with high reactivity to changes in heat. This is perfect for cooking delicate sauces, as the heat can be removed almost instantly, preventing the sauce from burning.
Because copper is a reactive material, meaning it reacts to alkaline or acidic foods like vinegar or tomatoes, it comes with a lining – usually tin. This allows for a completely inert surface, as well as increased non-stick qualities. However, tin has a low melting point of around 230 degrees Celsius. For this reason, copper pans should never be pre-heated empty and are not suitable for high-heat searing. Tin is also comparatively soft and can be worn away over time. With care, a tin lining can last many years, but eventually, most copper cookware will require re-tinning. And, unless specially treated, most traditional copper pans are not suitable for use on induction hobs.
While non-stick properties are not material in themselves, different types of cookware have varying degrees of “stickiness”. One of the most obvious types is a pan, usually stainless steel, with a specific non-stick lining. While these are generally very widespread, the majority contain lining, which releases toxic particles into foods during cooking, especially at high temperatures. However, at The Japanese Home, all non-stick-lined pans are certified PFOA-free!
Other materials also have non-stick properties – namely cast iron and carbon steel, which when properly seasoned and maintained, become increasingly non-stick with use. They can also withstand cooking at higher temperatures.
Ceramic-lined pans also have a smooth and slick non-stick surface and are often a more easily affordable option. However, compared to its competitors, ceramic pans are not as durable and are more prone to scratching and cracking, especially when used on high heat.
Stainless steel is one of the most common materials for cookware and with good reason! They come in a huge variety of shapes, size,s and uses – but also of qualities. The best stainless steel pans will have at least one layer of aluminium or copper lining sandwiched between the layers of steel. They are therefore generally slightly heavier than cheaper stainless steel pots and pans. These layers, however, allow for superior heat conductivity, allowing food to be cooked evenly. They react quickly to temperature changes, making them a nimble cooking tool.
Stainless steel is also one of the most inert materials, meaning it will not react with alkaline or acidic foods (as, for example, cast iron does). They are also generally dishwasher safe and easy to maintain.
On the downside, stainless steel can be relatively sticky, necessitating more oil in the cooking process. However, this can be mitigated by both using a high-quality stainless steel pan and not overheating it. Generally, it should be used at about a third of the maximum hob setting. Many non-stick stainless steel pans have linings, which release toxic particles into the food. However, at The Japanese Home, all of our non-stick coated pans are certified PFOA-free.