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The Ultimate Homeowners' Guide To Buying Cookware

February 10, 2017
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If cooking is a work of art, your pots and pans are the paintbrushes that'll define the look (and taste) of your final product. Thankfully, the choices are endless for users. From Happycalls, Tefals to Le Creusets, there’s a lid for every (cooking) pot and budget.

However, just as holding a brush does not make you an artist, not all pots or pans are instantly suitable for your kitchen. So, before you jump the gun on that $400 cast iron pot you've been eyeing, here's a guide to help you understand and select the right cookware for your needs.

Cookware 101 - Materials and Types

What's your flavour? Cookware comes in all sorts of shapes, sizes and materials; which can be confusing for the general consumer.

It's important to know what you're buying yourself into, and how that might affect the way you cook. Here are some cookware basics to know:

Common Cookware Materials

Here are 8 commonly used cookware materials on the market:

The Ultimate Homeowners' Guide To Buying Cookware
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The Ultimate Homeowners' Guide To Buying Cookware
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Types of Pots and Pans

There's a piece of cookware for every form of cooking method under the sun, but these 7 types are the most widely used.

The Ultimate Homeowners' Guide To Buying Cookware
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The Ultimate Homeowners' Guide To Buying Cookware
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While it ultimately depends on one's personal preference, nobody wants to buy a piece that looks great but is a pain to handle. So, what cookware can (and should) you used? The next 3 key questions will help you determine that.


Question #1: What Stove Are You Using?

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Interior Designer: Weiken.com

The number one question you should ask before buying any cookware - 'Does it work on my stove?' Remember, heat is an elusive thing, and the wrong fit or material could lead to dishes not being cooked properly or at all.

Don't be that sorry chap who makes the mistake of buying a glass pot when they have an induction stove. Before you go trigger happy in the department store, check out what are best and worst types of cookware for two popular stove types - induction and gas.

Induction Stoves

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Source: Cooktop Expert

This seamless stovetop has its fair share of limitations; Because an induction stove uses magnetic waves to heat up, it can only work on surfaces with magnetic traces.

Best Cookware Material:

  • Pots made from magnetic components like steel and cast iron
  • Non-magnetic cookware (like ceramics, aluminium, copper, stainless steel) with magnetic steel or iron bases in them.
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Cast iron cookware like this Le Creuset skillet/frying pan do well on induction hobs.

Worst Cookware Material:

  • Fully non-magnetic cookware made from glass, aluminium or copper. An induction cooker will not transfer heat at all.
  • Non stick cookware made with full aluminium.
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Clear glass dishes like this one from LocknLock are great for ovens and microwaves, but not so much for induction stoves.

Its flat, glossy ceramic surface also makes it almost impossible to balance cookware with rounded bases, such as woks.

Also, take note the area of each hob. Induction coils transfer heat through touching surfaces, so make sure your pots and pans fit into the set boundaries for maximum performance.

Gas Stoves

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Interior Designer: Fifth Avenue Interior

The ever-reliable gas top may not be a winner in the looks department, but it's much more easygoing when it comes to accommodating different types of pots or pans. Any cookware material under the sun can be used with a gas burner, but which does the job better than the rest?

Best Cookware Material:

  • Copper pots are highly efficient. Drawback? You're in for a strenuous arm workout.
  • If not, try copper-core cookware with a stainless steel or tin coating.
  • High performance materials like stainless steel and cast iron.
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Stainless steel pans with copper bases are a cheaper alternative to full copper cookware. Source: Marks and Spencer

Worst Cookware Material:

  • Non-stick cookware isn't the worst performing material per se, but they are definitely trickier to use on a gas stove. High heat will damage the pots' bases very easily, so only use it under medium to low heat.
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Source: Lotus Rock Cookware

A gas stove's hob grills may make it hard to balance or grip small pots. For safety, lean towards choosing slightly medium to large scale cookware.

#2 What's Your Favourite Food?

Yes, that's a legit question. Think burnt sugar scraping the bottoms of your pot - heat brings about not just sizzling hot food, but chemical reactions that might potentially affect your wares and tastebuds. Here are some cookware considerations to make when cooking certain foods.

I Like My Food... Sour and Tangy

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Source: Epicurious

If cooking acidic foods like tomatoes and lemons are a common occurrence in your house, it's time to get some non reactive cookware , such as ceramics, stainless steel and glass, which are resistant to chemical changes in acidic/alkaline foods under high heat.

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Enamel coated iron cookware are likewise not reactive, and can be used to cook acidic ingredients, such as this lemon chicken dish. Source: Food Network

While, reactive cookware (such as steel, iron, aluminium and copper) are better conductors of heat, they react with acidic or alkaline ingredients, leaving a metallic taste and (sometimes) even actual metal traces onto food.

I Like My Food...Sweet and Sticky

Have an incurable sweet tooth? Cookware materials like stainless steel and copper are the top choices for melting and cooking sugar.

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Source: Sisters and Sidekicks

Why? Stainless steel's neutral colouring makes it easier for users to judge the caramelised colour of sugar. Meanwhile, copper is highly responsive, so it heats and cools down really quickly - perfect for hitting that (literal) sweet spot and avoiding burning the sugar too quickly.

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Source: Will Cook For Friends

Go for a small to medium sized saucepan that's deep enough to keep liquids from bubbling out, and is small enough to contain heat in a consolidated space.

I Like My Food... Fried and Oily

You don't particularly need a deep or air fryer to satisfy your greasy cravings. Besides doing stir-frys, a wok is the perfect cookware for frying foods, as its funnel shape minimises the amount of oil used, while keeping a large surface area at the top.

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Source: Serious Eats

However, if you have an induction stove that can't fit a wok, a skillet/frying pan does the same trick, albeit with more oil needed to fill up its deep ends.

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Source: Recipe Girl

What pot material's best for the job? Stick with cast iron or stainless steel. But avoid non-stick types, as the high frying heat might dissolve its coating and possibly release noxious chemicals.

#3 How Much Cookware Do You Need?

Every kitchen needs some cookware, but the question is what type, and how much of it? It all depends on who you're cooking for. Here's a guideline on the types and number of cookware you really need in your home, based on your lifestyle

If you: Live alone/ With your partner

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Interior Designer: D Initial Concept

Unless you're a professional chef, you won't need an extensive range of everything; There's only so much you can cook for one person, and too much cooking equipment is only going to make your space cluttered and dusty.

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Don't get tempted to buy a fancy 12-piece cookware set - you won't fully utilise them all. Source: Williams Sonoma

These 3 individual pieces are all you need to cover most of your cooking tasks:

  • Sauce pan: For boiling, blanching, making and reheating soups, noodles and even rice (if you don't want a rice cooker).
  • Saute pan: A saute pan is great for not only searing meats, but also stir and deep frying as well.
  • Non-stick Fry Pan: For light frying and for cooking egg-based dishes.

If you: Live with family/Do a lot of entertaining

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Interior Designer: Chapter One

With more mouths to feed, you'll need bigger and multiple pots and pans. Some key essentials are definitely the stock-pot, a large pot (usually ceramic or stainless steel) for boiling soups and blanching veggies.

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Source: Red Cookbook

A casserole dish is also great for making hearty stews or bakes to share over dinner.

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Source: John Lewis

Also, remember your staple cookware - fry pans and saucepans. Get both in varying sizes, one large for family cooking, and 2 - 3 medium sized ones for individual usage, or cooking various side dishes.


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