Food cooking: Which pots and pans to choose? The pros and cons of all materials

What are the most suitable materials for cooking food? Which pots or pans to choose? A stainless steel or cast iron pot is better? The new Guide to the choice of materials for cooking food, a project by Andid, the National Association of Dieticians, under the patronage of the Department of Public Health of the University of Florence, is here to help us. Also, if you need lightweight hiking cookware, you can choose one from different options here.

Here are the main indications regarding the type of materials to be used in contact with food, with all the pros and cons for each situation.

Aluminium

Pros: Aluminium pots and pans are lightweight and have high thermal conductivity. The heat is evenly distributed over all surfaces of the pot, both on the bottom and on the walls. This reduces the risk of local overheating and burns. Non-stick aluminium pots or pans coated with PTFE do not contain nickel, heavy metals or PFOA.

Cons: Aluminium pots and pans are among the most commonly used in the catering industry, but at home they can be difficult to clean. Washing them in the dishwasher or with too aggressive detergents can ruin them. They are not suitable for cooking acidic foods, such as tomatoes, for example for the preparation of sauce, as traces of aluminium may be transmitted to the food. Aluminium is not suitable for cooking on induction hobs unless it has been specifically treated. Ceramic coated aluminium pots and pans are not very suitable for cooking without condiments.

Steel

Pros: pots and pans made of this material are usually made of stainless steel, a very resistant material that makes them durable over time, easy to wash and resistant. The low heat conductivity of stainless steel makes the pots and pans suitable for cooking with water, such as boiling. In the case of coated steel, all PTFE-based non-stick coatings do not contain nickel, heavy metals and PFOA.

Cons: Stainless steel is made from an alloy of nickel and chrome, to which other metals, such as titanium, can be added to increase its corrosion resistance. Stainless steel contains 18% chromium and 8-10% nickel. It is usually referred to as 18/10 stainless steel. This suggests that the use of steel cookware may be unsuitable for people suffering from allergies or intolerances to metals such as nickel and chrome.

Copper

Pros: copper has a very high thermal conductivity, which makes it suitable for making pans, pots and pans. Tinning is still carried out by artisan method. They last forever as they can be stagnated on the inside and polished on the outside. At home, copper can be easily polished with lemon juice.

Cons: larger copper containers can be heavy and difficult to handle. They are not suitable for washing in the dishwasher because they can be damaged. Copper itself is not suitable for food contact, so perfect tinning or the combination of copper with steel is necessary.

Iron

Pros: iron has poor thermal conductivity. For this reason in the kitchen it is used only for some preparations, such as meat or fried food. Therefore we recommend its use for all those preparations that require high temperatures.

Cons: you will not be able to wash your iron kitchen utensils in the dishwasher, as this material tends to oxidize easily in contact with water and can rust. After washing by hand, we recommend that you dry your iron utensils immediately.

Terracotta

Pros: Terracotta is a particular type of ceramic and a non-metallic material. The terracotta utensils heat up and release the heat they have absorbed very slowly. They are therefore perfect for cooking over a low flame and without temperature changes, as in the case of legumes, soups, risottos and stews. The terracotta pots are easily washed with hot water.

Cons: they are very fragile and can be damaged by thermal shocks. It is recommended to soak an earthenware pot in cold water for 12 hours. To avoid breakage, it is recommended to soak the terracotta pots in cold water for a few minutes after use to allow the heat-dried terracotta to rehydrate.

Porcelain

Pros: Porcelain firing utensils have low porosity and high hardness. They are ideal for the preparation of soups and sauces. They can be used both in the traditional oven and in the microwave.

Cons: Be careful not to confuse real porcelain tools with other steel tools that only have a porcelain outer coating. They have nothing to do with porcelain, but only their appearance due to the colour of the coating.

Pros: cast iron, obtained from an iron-carbon alloy, is suitable for hotplate firing, but also for the preparation of soups and stews, because it allows long, low heat firing with constant heat. It is one of the materials that best retains heat. Enamelled cast iron also retains the cold well and can be used to store food in the refrigerator.

Cons: The weak point of cast iron is its cleanliness. Before washing the cast iron pots and pans it is necessary to wait for them to cool down to prevent them from breaking. If they have a protective coating against corrosion, they must be heated periodically and rubbed with oil.

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