Archive for the ‘High Quality Cookware’ Category

Crock Pot Cooking

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008

Just stumbled across a great post by JeMangeLaVille about Crock Pot Cooking. It’s actually a recipe, but you will learn many useful things about cooking with a crock pot and if you look at the comments also find crock pot cookware recommendations and buyers tips.

Cookware Materials

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008

There are different kinds of high quality cookware materials:

Stainless steel
Stainless steel is generally the most versatile and durable material for cookware. It’s the most popular kind of cookware among chefs because you can get really good quality for a reasonable price.
Downside of stainless steel is that it conducts heat not very good – thus stainless steel cookware should have a copper core.

Specially gourmet cooks go for copper when they have to cook foods at exact temperatures. Copper is the best choice in this case because there is no better conductor of heat. You can cook at exactly the temperature you want, e.g. you can cook at 78 degrees celsius if you wanted to. Great for frying and sauteing.
Downsides of copper are high price and the fact that copper reacts with food when heated and thus needs special coating (most of the time stainless steel).

Great heat conducter (almost as good as copper) and it’s cheap and strong and durable.
But it reacts with acidic foods and thus should generally have a coating to prevent leakage or taste alterations (this is specially true for spinach).

Non-Stick cookware is great because it allows for low fat cooking and is easy to clean.
Downsides is that non-stick cookware doesn’t last very long and has to be maintained carefully.

Cast Iron
Cast iron cookware is kind of a special case. It needs to be conditioned before using it because it will otherwise react with certain kinds of acidic foods and absorb the flavors of the food. (There’s a special kind of cast iron that doesn’t need conditioning – enameled cast iron cookware. A hard procelain enamel coating protects the cast iron from the food and vice versa.) The advantages of cast iron are that it provides even heating at high cooking temperatures and retains the heat excellently. One downside of this material though is that it heats up slowly.
Cast iron cookware is excellent for baking, browning and frying foods.

Anodized Aluminum
Anodized aluminum cookware has all the advantages of normal aluminum (except for the low price) but makes up for some of regular aluminums disadvantages. A chemical process makes aluminum much more durable and gives it a kind of non-stick surface and also prevents leakage of toxic substances into the food. It really is kind of the cheap version of stainless steel. Can be great for roasters, Dutch ovens, stockpots and saute pans.
However, you’ll have to handwash it because dishwashers might damage the surface. You also should not use steel wool or other aggressive scrubbing tools or corrosive detergents.
Another problem can be that because of it’s dark color it can be hard to observe the food – sometimes you’ll have to judge your food by it’s color and that might be difficult with anodized aluminum if you don’t have optimal lighting.

Glass cookware is a good choice if you use your microwave a lot. While most of the times it’s used for baking, there is also stovetop glass cookware available (it usually needs special handling though). Foods sticking to glass cookware is pretty unusual because glass is in itself already a non-stick material.
Disadvantages are that it’s heavy weight, and it’s heat distribution (not evenly) and that it’s not easy to handle. Glass is a very save cooking material, I have never heard of negative health effects from glass cookware.

Ceramic cookware has very similar characteristics to glass cookware (and can also be used for microwave cooking and is pretty non-sticky) but retains the heat better than usual glass cookware, distributes heat very evenly and is oftentimes also non-sticky. Oftentimes it’s used to make creme brulee, flan and custard.
Unglazed ceramics like terra cotta have are kind of spongy (that means they have lots of tiny little wholes inside) and thus can make the food a little juice, because the surface of the cookware add moisture in the form of steam to the food.
One thing that you have to be very cautious of when purchasing unglazed ceramic cookware is that the clay doesn’t contain lead.
Ceramic cookware might brake if you don’t handle it careful – but it’s also pretty cheap generally.

High Quality Cast Iron Cookware

Wednesday, April 16th, 2008

Cast iron cookware is not just for your grandmother anymore. Cookware manufacturers have researched and developed cast iron cookware for decades and have improved a lot on what cast iron used to be fifty years ago.
Cast iron cookware is still great for comfort foods, but there’s much more than that to it.

Let’s look at the “new and improved” cast iron cookware first:

Enameled Cast Iron Cookware has a porcelain enamel coating covering the surface. As with all coatings this makes cleaning a lot easier since the coating is much less sticky than the old school cast iron cookware. In terms of health that’s also an added benefit, because you will be able to cook and fry with much less oil. You don’t need to go through a whole seasoning or conditioning process with enameled cast iron cookware neither – it’s ready to use right out of the box. And one of the main drawbacks of cast iron cookware in my opinion (that it absorbs the taste of the foods that it has cooked previously and thus might alter the taste of the foods that you will cook next time) is non-existend with enameled cast iron cookware – no taste absorption!

Now let’s do it the old school way: I still love a good piece of tradition cast iron cookware. It’s kind of like with jeans or high quality Japanese lacquerware – the older it gets and the more you use it, the better it gets!
First when you get a traditional cast iron pan, skillet, casserole or griddle then you have to season it (another word used for seasoning is curing). You’ll have to rub some grease or shortening into the cast iron and bake the whole thing in the oven. Cast iron has lots of pores and these pores fill up with oils. With time a natural non-stick surface develops and you will be able to cook without any oil whatsoever! It’s kind of built-in oil. (But don’t worry – it doesn’t taste like old, greasy oil! The pores are so tiny that only the pure oil can get in there).