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 Considering Cookware 
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Post Considering Cookware
Considering Cookware
by: Scott Patten

The amount of quality cookware in the marketplace has grown immensely over the years. Cast iron was the original quality piece, but over the years we have been introduced to copper bottom pots, aluminum pots and pans, and teflon coated cookware. The non-stick cookware industry has become huge since it was introduced. All of these products, when used and treated properly, can be of very high quality and last a very long time.

There are a many things to consider when comparing different types of cookware, but for the best actual cooking experience there are only three things that need be addressed. Durability, heat distribution, and cleanup. The durability of a piece of cookware is very important to the person that cooks at home. Most people do not want to buy new pots and pans every year. A pot or pan that can last is very desirable. Along with a durable piece of cookware, one that evenly distributes heat throughout the entire piece can make even the weekend cook look good. Even heat means even cooking. Cleanup may be highest on the list of the home cook. Cooking is fun, cleanup is not. A piece of cookware that can be cleaned easily can make a meal a good memory. Spending hours soaking and scraping pots and pans can sour the experience. I would like to compare cast iron and non-stick cookware to see if the modern advances in cookware outweigh the "good old-fashioned" heavy duty stuff.

Cast iron cookware by nature is very durable. It is strong, solid, and does not bend easily. When properly treated it can last not only one person's lifetime, but it can be handed down through the generations. On a personal note, my wife was bequeathed her grandmother's cast iron skillet that she used solely for corn bread. She still uses it today. Best corn bread ever. Even if a skillet goes unused for a number of years, it can be reconditioned and re-seasoned to be used again.

On the other hand non-stick cookware is not as durable as cast iron. If treated properly, it can definitely last for a long time, but it is a lot of work. Non-stick cookware cannot be scratched. Nothing but wood or plastic spatulas. Unfortunately, if one is cooking with a very hot skillet, even the latest plastic implements will melt slightly. Storage must be done carefully. Stacking pot and pans can create scratches which will inevitably lead to food sticking to the pan. When food begins to stick, the pan is finished. Unlike cast iron cookware, which can be re-seasoned, once a non-stick pan is scratched and losing it's coating there is nothing to do except get a new pan.

In my mind, heat distribution is the most important aspect of a good piece of cookware. When put on a stove with direct heat, a quality piece of cookware should distribute the heat throughout the entire piece. Cast iron cookware is, again, by nature, built for it. The iron conducts heat throughout, and the thickness makes the heat even. It also holds heat very well. Most non-stick pans are made of lightweight material and are fairly thin. This leads to quick heating, but not evenly. Uneven heating means uneven cooking.

There is non-stick cookware that distributes heat well but it comes at a price. There are expensive non-stick brands that do conduct heat properly and cook evenly. Cast iron does this naturally so even the "lower grade" brands will perform well.

Finally, there is cleanup. Nobody likes to "do the dishes". Non-stick cookware has cornered the market on this. A brand new, non-stick piece of cookware is a breeze to cleanup. A little soap, a swish of a dishrag and its clean. As has been discussed, if the piece is taken care of it will be easy to clean for a long time. However, over time and normal use a non-stick pan becomes more difficult to clean. Scratches and flaking can cause problems. Once these scratches have happened there's nothing to do.

Cast iron cookware can become one of the easiest things to clean. With proper seasoning a cast iron skillet will become as "non-stick" as any non-stick pan. With diligence over a short amount of time, a cast iron skillet becomes virtually non-stick. Cleanup becomes as easy as water and a soft scrubber. No soap. Conversely to non-stick cookware, over time a cast iron skillet becomes easier to clean.

Most cookware in this day and age will satisfy the basic everyday home cook. However, in looking at what I feel are the most important aspects of cooking, cast iron cookware has an edge of the modern non-stick equipment. From a cooking standpoint, cast iron is more durable and holds heat as well as, if not better than, anything else. If properly seasoned, cast iron can be just as easily cleaned as the most expensive non-stick cookware. It seems that the old stuff may be just as good as the modern day equivalent

About The Author
My wife and I enjoy spending time in the kitchen together. We cook everything. In the summer we like to cook over a campfire with a dutch oven.

Because we like cast iron cookware so much, we have a site to get the word out and people cooking at home with it.
The author invites you to visit:

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Sat Dec 04, 2010 11:52 am
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