Guide to Buying New Cookware Online in the UK
Good cookware is a vital ingredient when it comes to preparing delicious meals for family and friends. As well as the functional properties, cookware can also add to the decorative appeal of a kitchen interior. When buying new cookware online it is important to bear some considerations in mind before making the final purchase. The following comprehensive cookware buying guide will cover various differences in cookware and their positives and negatives in relation to different requirements. Pots and pans come in different sizes, shapes and materials, so it’s important to know what to look for.
Stainless Steel Cookware – The most commonly found material for pots and pans is stainless steel. The material is durable, resistant to scratches, warp resistant and inexpensive compared to other cookware materials. Interestingly, stainless steel is in fact an alloy of metals which include iron, carbon and chromium. The stainless properties make this material well suited to often messy kitchen environments, hence its popularity.
One draw-back is that stainless steel is a poor conductor of heat. However, this is usually rectified in most cookware products by the addition of other metallic elements in the base of the saucepan or pot, which then results in an evenness of cooking.
Cast Iron Cookware – Cast iron is the more durable of materials you can find that go into making cookware. It’s not unheard of for a quality frying pan to be handed down from generation to generation, still in relatively good condition. Cast iron cookware has long been a popular and respected addition to a kitchen arsenal. One of the biggest advantages to this material is its good heat conduction.
However, cast iron cookware does need to be properly looked after in order for it to retain its original quality. It has a tendency to react with some foods and so needs to be seasoned beforehand. On top of this, it’s also the heaviest type of cookware you can find which might be a problem for some people.
Aluminium Cookware – Aluminium is one of the best heat conductive materials you can find and this is one of the reasons for its widespread use in the manufacture of pots and pans. That said, unless treated through a special process of hard anodising, the aluminium will be at risk of being too susceptible to acidic properties in food. Fortunately, a lot of aluminium cookware has been through this process and thus makes the surface non-porous, very smooth and thoroughly scratch-resistant.
Glass Cookware – One might imagine glass as being a rather unsuitable material for use in cookware. This is understandable but one can find glass cookware made from hard and smooth glass ceramic. The benefits of this type of glass are that the cookware item can be moved from the extremes of cold to the opposite extremes of heat, in a very short period of time without cracking or other damage being incurred. Glass also continues to retain heat very well thereby cooking food shortly after being taken away from the heat source. It can of course also be used in a microwave.
Copper Cookware – Copper is the quickest of heat conductors and a cookware item made from this material will heat up in no time at all. It also distributes heat evenly thereby ensuring all the food is cooked in equal measure. For this reason, it is often found as the cookware choice amongst professional chefs because of the control it affords in relation to quick temperature changes.
Copper cookware is expensive however and with the amount of maintenance required to keep them looking as good as new, the material is one of the lesser seen types of cookware in the family home. Many copper cookware pieces have other metal components inside to keep the copper metal away from direct contact with the food. This stops the copper from changing colour and even directly changing the taste of some foods.
Multi-ply Cookware – Many cookware pieces are made from a combination of the above metals. These take the benefits each material brings and combines the elements together. Understandably, these pots and pans are often seen as highly versatile and easy to use.
Types of Cookware
When we think of cookware, we usually bring up an image of pots and pans. This is of course very much the case with a lot of cookware but there is more of a variety and each design will suit a particular food and cooking style. Here are the most frequently bought cookware pieces bought online in the UK today.
Frying Pan / Skillet – As the name suggests, a frying pan is the ideal cookware piece for the frying of food. They come in a variety of sizes and depths and in most cases also come with a lid. One can also use a frying pan to sauté food.
Saucepan – A saucepan is a high-sided round pot used for a variety of purposes including cooking vegetables, making sauces and heating soup. These come in a myriad of sizes which suit varying requirements a family has in relation to the number of mouths to feed. The vast majority come with lids.
Sautéing Pan – This type of pan is many ways very similar to the frying pan but with slightly higher sides. Sautéing is a cooking method which can be confused with stir frying but is a little different. You can read about this process here: Sautéing.
Chef’s Pan – This type of pan can be considered as a cross between a traditional frying pan and a saucepan. Usually it is found with flared or rounded sides together with a flat base and a wide mouth (rim area). It is perfect for sautéing, frying and steaming, as well as turning over food midway through the cooking process.
Stockpot – A stockpot is similar to a saucepan but much bigger and used for the simmering of large amounts of liquids such as soup and stews. It can also be used to boil pasta. Another feature which sets it apart from the saucepan is the two loop handles on either side of the pot which make it easier for the stockpot to be transferred from the over and out again, using heavy-duty oven mitts.
Casserole – A casserole pan is frequently made from ceramic, earthenware of glass. This type of cookware is often used for a single type of meal such as a pie which is then served directly from the casserole dish on the dining room table. You’ll find these cookware items measured in quarts.
Grill Pan – These pans are very distinctive and hard to mistake for any other style of cookware. This is due to the evenly spaced out ridges on the bottom of the pan which closely resemble a grilling process with various meats. The ridges also allow fats to drain away as well as preventing the food from steaming when cooking. Some come with shallow sides whilst others are deeper.
Wok – Used predominantly for stir-frying, the wok has become an increasingly popular cookware item in British kitchens over the last couple of decades with the introduction of more Asian cooking. The bowl-shaped pan comes with either a rounded or flat bottom and is idea for heating food quickly. The rounded bottom is best used on a gas stove whilst the flat bottom woks are ideally suited to electric burners. That said, they can technically be used on either.
Roasting Pan – Available in an array of different sizes, the roasting pan does exactly what its name suggests. Used on conjunction with a metal rack, the roasting pan is used to roast meat in an oven. The rack and the low sides are designed to expose the meat from multiple directions of heat thus creating a browning effect.
Buying Cookware Sets
Purchasing a cookware set which consists of a variety of cookware pieces ranging from frying pans, saucepans and stockpots is often cheaper than buying pieces individually. What you buy is likely going to be based on the items you already have in the kitchen and this will impact on the choices you make. For newly-weds or people wanting a complete change of cooking implements, buying a complete cookware set is going to be the more sensible route to take.
Are you or a family member an enthusiastic cook? If not, then buying a 20-piece cookware set is likely to be a waste of money as well as storage space. Consider how much you will put into the cooking process as far as passion and time is concerned, as well as the types and styles of cuisine you will be making. If you feel you’re the next Jamie Oliver or Nigella Lawson, then by all means, splash out on the best cookware money can buy.