Gourmet cookware should be selected for its shape, size, ability to conduct heat evenly and overall quality for construction. Of course, if you’re like me, you’ll also want to consider style, color, and the general aesthetics of the pieces in terms of how well they blend into your kitchen’s decor.
Metals and Heat Conduction
Metals that do not distribute heat evenly causes hot spots and will burn foods. The most important thing to think about when you buy gourmet cookware is the type and thickness (known as the gauge) of the material used.
Copper is an excellent conductor: It heats quickly and evenly and cools quickly. Copper is extremely expensive, heavy, and involves a great deal of care. Copper may react with some foods, so it usually has a tin lining, which is soft and easily scratched. Because of these problems, copper is often layered with stainless steel or aluminum in the bottom of pots and pans.
Aluminum is the most commonly used in commercial utensils. It is lightweight, and after copper, conducts heat the best. Aluminum is a soft metal, so it should be treated with care. Do not use aluminum containers for storage. Light-colored foods, such as sauces or soups, may be discolored when cooked in aluminum.
Stainless Steel conducts heat poorly, however, it is a hard, durable metal. It is useful for holding foods and for low-temperature cooking. Stainless steel does not react with foods so they make good storage containers.
I have to recommend All-Clad Pots and Pans. They are made of three-ply stainless steel layers sandwiched with a pure aluminum core for even heating. The set is pricey, but will last forever. If you can only afford one piece at this time, I would recommend the 12-inch frying pan . . .
A cast iron skillet is a must for fried chicken!
Glass retains heat well but conducts it poorly. Tempered glass is okay for the microwave provided it does not have any metal band or decoration. It does not react with foods, so they make good storage containers.
Ceramics, including porcelain, stoneware, and earthenware conduct heat uniformly and retain temperatures well. They are often used for baking dishes, casseroles and baking stones. Ceramics should not be used over a direct flame because they do easily chip and crack.
Plastic containers are often used for storage and in the microwave, but they cannot be used for heating or cooking. Plastic microwave cookware is made of phenolic resin.
For bakeware, I recommend Doughmaker Bakeware! They have a pebble pattern that releases food so it doesn’t stick, they will never rust and my cookies and cakes come out a light to golden brown and not over-browned like some bakewares.
Nonstick Coatings consist of a polymer plastic known as polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), which does not affect a metal’s ability to conduct heat. PTFE is marketed under the trade names of Teflon and Silverstone. It provides a slippery finish that prevents foods from sticking and allows the use of less fat in cooking. Do not use metal spoons or spatulas in gourmet cookware with nonstick coatings.
Common Gourmet Cookware
Pots are available in a range of sizes based on volume. They are used on stove tops for making soups or stocks, or for boiling or simmering foods.
Pans are round vessels with one long handle and sloped or straight sides. Pans are available in a range of diameters and used on the stove top usually for sauteing, frying, or reducing liquids rapidly.
Woks have round bottoms and curved sides to make it easy to toss or stir contents. Their large domed lids retain heat well for steaming vegetables.
I also use my wok for deep-frying. It works great!
As you can probably tell, I do not intend this web page to be the be-all and end-all regarding gourmet cookware. But I hope you do now feel a little better prepared to begin shopping for your own new set.