Comparison of Different Cookware Materials

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Cast Iron Cookware
Aileen Danna

For thousands of years, human beings have been cooking their food on different types of materials. The food was originally cooked over open fires. The food was suspended over an open flame by whatever means were available. As the techniques improved and cooking moved indoors, metal cookware became the norm. In China, cast-iron cookware has been in use for at least two thousand years. Cast iron cookware still remains popular for many reasons, but it has fallen out of favour in most cooking applications. Aluminium non-stick cookware has largely replaced cast iron for many different uses. Plastic and glass are even in use in different circumstances. They each have advantages and disadvantages.

Cast Iron Cookware

Cast Iron Cookware

Cast iron cookware is one of the oldest forms of cookware still in production today. Cast iron cookware is at least two thousand years old. It was originally created for cooking that happened over open fires because the kitchen stove was not actually invented in Europe until the middle of the nineteenth century.

To cook over an open fire such as a hearth or fireplace, the cookware was designed to stand on its own or to hang over a fire. The pots and pans were typically created with a long handle that allowed the cook to hang the pan over the fire. Other pans, such as a “spider”, were designed with three legs so they can stand on their own.

Cast iron is created by a manufacturer superheating iron until it turns to liquid. The liquid is then poured into a mold and cooled until it hardens. Because of this relatively low level of required technology, cast iron cookware can be created by many different manufacturers. Also, this construction means that the pans are normally made from one piece of metal, including the handle. Since the handle is the same metal as the pan, the entire skillet can be placed in the oven.

Cast iron offers some other benefits as well. It is very good at retaining heat so that it is ideal for slow-cooking. It also has a very high tolerance for high heat which makes it perfect for frying or searing meat and vegetables. However, if cast iron is heated too quickly, it tends to heat unevenly, developing hot spots.

Also, cast iron needs to be treated at least once a year with a seasoning oil to prevent it from rusting. Also, seasoning a pan with oil creates a non-stick coating on the pan. Certain chefs advocate that a pan be seasoned at least once a year.

Since cast iron is so susceptible to rust, and it is coated with a non-stick oil, it cannot be washed with soap and water. Some chefs advocate for not washing cast iron at all, but instead, just wiping it after use. Some use a stiff brush. Others use a very mild soap. Some advocate for scrubbing the pan with coarse sea salt.

Whatever process you use, it is important that you keep the pan very dry because cast iron can rust very quickly. When it rusts, it degrades the quality of the food, undermines the non-stick coating, and prevents it from heating evenly.

Cast iron has fallen out of favour because it is so difficult to care for, but it has retained some level of popularity due to its unique features. At a supply store such as Pattersons Bristol, you will be able to find some iron cookware. Most of it will be more modern materials such as aluminium.

Aluminium

In the 1960s, aluminium Teflon-coated pans began to replace cast iron cookware in kitchens. Aluminium is one of the most popular non-ferrous metals, meaning it does not contain iron. It is very popular for many reasons. One of the main reasons aluminium was able to replace iron in kitchens is because it does not rust. Since it does not contain iron, it does not oxidise, meaning that it is easier to clean. In the 21st century, aluminium pots and pans can simply be placed in a dishwasher or washed by hand in soapy water. If you were to put a cast iron pan in a dishwasher, its seasoning would be removed by the hot water and detergent. If it did not dry fully, it would rust. Aluminium cookware does not have any of these problems.

Also, aluminium does not corrode, and it is very lightweight. Coating a pan in Teflon creates a non-stick coating that does not wear down with hot water. In addition to these advantages, the material also has some drawbacks.

Aluminium is a lightweight material that transfers heat very well. This makes it ideal for creating foil. You can cover food so that it easily transfers heat but traps moisture. However, that ability to easily transfer heat does not make it the best cooking material. It transfers heat to your food very well, but the material itself does not retain heat very well. This makes it less than ideal for cooking for a long time or for slow cooking a stew. More energy will be required to maintain the preferred cooking temperature. Also, since the material does not hold heat very well, your food will be hottest close to the source of the heat. That means on a kitchen stove, the bottom of the pan will be significantly hotter than the sides of the pan. This makes stirring essential.

Glass

Glass, especially temperature-resistant glass, is an excellent cooking material. Glass is inherently scratch-resistant and non-stick. It does not need to be treated with anything special to make it resilient as a cooking material. Also, the glass is easy to wash with soap and water. It does not corrode or rust.

However, one of the drawbacks with glass is its ability to shatter. Glass can shatter when dropped, but the thicker glass that is heat-resistant tends to not shatter when dropped. It does, however, crack or shatter when temperatures swing quickly. For example, if you take a glass pan of the oven and put it directly into a sink full of water, it might shatter.

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