Posts Tagged ‘cookware heat conduction’

High Quality Cookware And Heat Conduction

Wednesday, April 9th, 2008

Heat conduction is one of the most important quality characteristics when it comes to cookware, asides from other factors such as reactivity with foods, durability and ease of maintenance. High quality cookware always has great heat conduction. There are different ways to achieve this, but the main objective is almost always to distribute the heat evenly to all sides.
There are exceptions where the exact opposite is desired – a extremely hot center whereas the surround shouldn’t be hot. This is specially true for woks, since in Asian cooking there are certain ways of frying dishes on very high heat for short periods of time so that certain gustatory characteristics develop and the nutrients are preserved and not “fried to deatch”.
However, unless you are into Asian cooking you probably want even heat distribution for your cookware. There are different methods of achieving this that different manufacturers of high-quality cookware adhere to. For stainless steel cookware from Williams Sonoma for example this is most often achieved through a copper or aluminum core that is sandwiched inside the base layers of the stainless steel pan or pot, because stainless steel itself has very poor heat conductivity.
Other manufacturers like Magnalite have a certain magnesium-aluminum alloy casting process where the bases are extremely thick and have different grades of thickness. Aluminum is the second best cookware material for heat conduction.
Copper is in and of itself the perfect heat conductor and professional chefs often use gourmet cookware made from copper.
Another great heat conductor is cast iron cookware.
Better heat conductivity has several advantages – cooking time can generally be reduced and in general lower cooking temperatures are possible. But most important of all you can precisely adjust the heat to the temperature that you want. Certain foods need to be cooked at a precise temperature point – gourmet chefs know this – and copper cookware is the only real choice for professional chefs who need temperature precision.
The downside of copper is definitely it’s price (it’s easy to spend more than $1000 on a good copper cookware set) and the fact the copper reacts with certain foods. That is why all high quality cookware made from copper usually has a protective coating that prevents it from reacting with foods. When I say reacting I mean that it will either change the taste of the food, or in some cases even be harmful to your health. (And the same is true for aluminum). However, with good coatings high-conductivity cookware is save to use!
There are many other issues when it comes to determining cookware quality, but in this one I wanted to focus on heat conductivity only. If you want to know more about other factors of high-quality cookware I recommend you read the other articles that are available for free on HighQualityCookware.com