Like most things in life that present you with tons of options, choosing cookware can be quite a task. In the last few years, even more options have appeared, making it even more challenging to know what’s best for you. You may ask…
- What’s the difference between teflon and “non-stick?”
- What the heck is a “green” pan and why isn’t it green?
- How can a frying pan be ceramic?
- Aren’t cast iron pans a pain to deal with?
To help make your decision a bit easier, let’s go over the specifics of each type of pan.
Though they lack the “foolproof-ness” of non-stick pans, stainless steel pans are a great all-purpose option as they are non-reactive, meaning you can cook anything in them and the food won’t pick up any smells or flavors. Steel is a not a heat conductor, so heat distribution is not always even, but manufacturers now put in an extra layer of copper or aluminum to help remedy this.
Stainless steel is one of the most durable materials on the market. Though stainless steel cookware can be expensive, it’s an investment that will last you for (what seems like) forever!
- Durable, long lifetime
- Will not be damaged by cleaning tools
- Some stainless steels pans have uneven heat distribution
- Not non-stick (some sort of oil will be needed, depending on what you’re cooking)
- Can be pretty pricey
Teflon® pans are the kind of convenience — nothing sticks to them. But think of the age-old “quality vs. quantity” argument if you are considering teflon pans….
The name Teflon itself is a registered trademark for a synthetic non-stick coating made from PTFE (but most consumer colloquially refer to all PTFE products as “Teflon”). It’s non-reactive when not at extremely high temperatures (i.e., not ideal for frying), but the coating can also wear down after time, making the pan not only less non-stick, but also toxic! Cooking with damaged PTFE will release toxins and chemicals into your food, and thus must be replaced once it’s damaged. To prevent damage, only plastic, silicone, and wooden tools should be used, and teflon pans should only be washed after they have cooled completely.
- Non-stick (less oil/fat is required when cooking)
- Toxic when damaged
- Easily damaged, will need to be frequently replaced
Green Pans/Ceramic-Coated Non-Stick
Ceramic-coated nonstick pans, otherwise known as “green pans” have risen to fame in the last few years — not coincidentally around the same time consumers began switching to BPA-free, glass, and metal reusable water bottles. The green pan is just that — environmentally friendly.
The inside of a green pan feels the same as brand new Teflon pans, but unlike Teflon pans, green pans are made of a “Thermolon” Ceramic Coating and are completely PTFE free (and thus, are non-toxic). Given the unique coating, green pans are said to be better heat conductors than traditional coatings, so the heat is evenly distributed, is more stable at high temperatures, and barring user error, can produce a superior crispiness (that’s a technical term). Like teflon pans, green pans should only be cleaned with the soft side of a sponge and hot, soapy water after the pan cools completely.
- Similar to Teflon or PTFE pans, but are non-toxic/environmentally-friendly!
- Relatively inexpensive
- Offer even heat distribution
- Easily damaged with use of metal utensils or rough cleaning tools
- Lose their “non-stick” quality over time
Cast iron is the mother of all cookware. You can cook pretty much anything in a cast iron pan, but most people use them to sear and roast meats, make baked goods, or treat the pan as a griddle. Because the entire pan is made of cast iron and there are no plastic parts, you can transfer the pan from stove to oven.
While totally durable and versatile, the downside to cast iron pans is their cleaning requirements. Cast iron skillets need to be seasoned (cleaned, oiled, baked) from time to time and are actually not supposed to be washed with soap, but are supposed to be cleaned immediately after use (prolonged contact with water can cause rusting). All in all, cast iron pans may seems scary at first because of their strict care requirements, but they are an excellent investment and can be used to cook virtually anything.
- Very durable, will last a long time
- Can be used in the oven
- Difficult cleaning regimen
- Bulky & heavy
- Can rust if exposed to water for too long
When you’re deciding what type of cookware is best for you, think about what kind of foods you make. Choose something that makes sense for you. And as a rule of thumb I would recommend investing in a set of high-quality pots and pans that will last you for years.