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Picking the Right Pots and Pans

Choosing the right cookware just got easier!

By Terry Trucco

In with the New

If the handle on your favorite pot keeps coming loose or the bottom of a beloved pan is warped, it’s time to head to the store. The good news is that if you haven’t been in the market lately, you’ll find better-quality choices at every price range.

Stocking the Shelves

There is a pot for every purpose, from braising a beef roast (use a Dutch oven) to flipping flapjacks (try a flat griddle). However, since pots and pans eat up valuable storage space, consider what you like to cook before you make a purchase. A complete set is a good value only if you plan to use every item regularly, according to Norman Kornbleuth, owner of Broadway Panhandler in New York City. “If there’s even one piece you don’t like, think about what you need and buy only those individual pieces.”

A Basic Cookware Wardrobe
Flat bottom saute pan
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Flat-bottom saute pan

Other Options
Multicooker
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Multicooker

Shaping Up

Material World

Each metal has advantages -- here’s the rundown.

Stainless Steel

Pros: Durable, easy to clean, attractive. Good for boiling foods like seafood and pasta.

Cons: Conducts heat poorly. Instead pick cladded stainless steel -- a core of either aluminum, copper, or a combination of the two, sheathed in stainless. A copper or aluminum disk on the bottom is a cheaper alternative.

Care: Dishwasher safe.

Options: Sets (7 to 10 pieces): Farberware, from $70; Cuisinart, from $260; All-Clad, from $300.

Copper

Pros: Heats up and cools down rapidly; cooks evenly. Ideal for delicate sauces.

Cons: Expensive, heavy, and high maintenance.

Care: Hand wash; the exterior must be polished regularly to retain its coppery glow.

Options: Bourgeat saucepan, $130. Look for stainless steel interiors, which will last longer than tin.

Aluminum

Pros: Heats up and cools down fast; cooks evenly. Works well in nonstick pans.

Cons: Reacts with foods high in acids (tomatoes), sulfur (eggs, onions), and alkaline (cabbage), causing discoloration of food and cookware. Dents, scratches, and warps easily. Anodized aluminum -- treated with an electrically charged solution -- won’t warp, dent or scratch, or react with foods.

Care: Hand wash.

Options: Calphalon set, from $200 (10 pieces); Lincoln Wearever 9-quart stock pot, $56.

Cast Iron

Pros: Heats evenly and holds it extremely well. Great for grilling, searing, frying, and making stews. Inexpensive.

Cons: Slow to heat and cool down; heavy. Can rust and pit.

Care: Hand wash. To prevent rust, “season” new cookware: Coat with canola or peanut oil and heat; “reseason” once a year.

Options: Lodge frying pan, griddle, Dutch oven, from $9 to $47.

Enameled Cast Iron

Pros: Heats evenly and holds heat; excellent for stews and slow-cooked meats; moves handily from oven or range to table. Attractive glass-like enamel coating fused to cast-iron surface comes in many colors.

Cons: Expensive; heavy; can chip.

Care: Hand wash.

Options: Le Creuset Dutch ovens, from $70, frying pans, from $50, baking dishes, from $120.

Safety and Quality Is It Safe?

The issue surrounds perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) -- a compound used in making Teflon, T-FAL, and other nonstick surfaces. While PFOA is being investigated as a possible carcinogen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the FDA has& analyzed nonstick cookware for residual PFOA and determined that the level is so low that the risk to consumers is negligible, according to Paul Honigfort of the FDA’s Office of Food Additive Safety. Honigfort added that it is important to use the pans properly. Heat the cookware only to the temperature needed and add ingredients right away. Do not leave empty nonstick pans over heat for any length of time.

Quality Control

The difference between so-so and sensational is in the details. Visit a store and hold potential purchases before you buy.

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