If you’re shopping for cookware for your kitchen, you’ll realize that not only are there pots and pans in varying shapes and sizes, but also in a wide variety of materials to choose from, right from stainless steel, aluminum, copper, cast iron, carbon steel to clay, ceramic and more that is sure to leave you bewildered. So why pots and pans are made of metal?
However, most commonly, we find that pots and pans are usually made of metal and in this article, we’ll discuss why.
Why Are Pots And Pans Made Of Metal?
- Metals are basically good conductors of heat that can transfer heat very quickly, which ensures that the food in metal pots and pans is cooked uniformly.
- Metals are denser compared with other materials and the electrostatic bonds are so strong in metals that they can resist any changes due to heating and high temperatures.
- Metal is highly durable and can withstand daily wear and rough use, especially the times when you drop them.
- Usually, cooking pots and pans are made of metals that do not react with the food or alter the flavor of the foods, especially when heated at very high temperatures, making metal vessels safe for our health.
- The high melting point of the metals ensures that the food cooks quickly.
Metals Commonly Used For Pots And Pans
Metals commonly used for pots and pans include stainless steel, aluminum, copper, carbon steel and cast iron. Here are some of the major factors to consider when it comes to choosing metals suitable for pots and pans:
- Conductivity: The heat conductivity of the metal determines how it conducts heat and loses it.
- Maintenance: This is a very important aspect considering the rough usage of utensils and how often they are mishandled in the kitchen.
- Reactivity with Food: This determines how suitable the particular metal is when cooking certain types of foods as compared to others.
Here is an in-depth guide on the various commonly used metals for pots and pans and their pros and cons.
Pots and pans made of stainless steel are typically suitable for sauteing, making sauces, braising and searing and can be used on the stovetop, oven or broiler. Stainless steel is a good option because it is durable, non-reactive, resistant to corrosion, rust, denting, scratching and is dishwasher safe.
Stainless steel is, in general, non-reactive, which means it is safe to cook any type of food in it. Also, stainless steel utensils are quite inexpensive compared to pots and pans made of metals like copper and aluminum.
However, stainless steel by itself is not a very good conductor of heat and the heat distribution is also very poor. So, it is best to choose stainless steel pots and pans that have been reinforced with copper or aluminum.
Copper is an excellent conductor of heat and ensures that the food is cooked uniformly, which makes it a popular option for cookware. When polished, not only do copper pots and pans look beautiful in the kitchen, adding to the aesthetics, but they can also be used for most cooking jobs such as steaming, boiling, braising and sauteing food.
While copper pots and pans may not be suitable for cooking on high heat, they distribute the heat and retain it very well so there is no need to cook using a very high flame.
However, the limitation of copper is that it reacts with the natural acids and minerals in the food and so the pots and pans made of copper must be lined with non-reactive metals like stainless steel or tin.
Also, copper cookware is more expensive compared to other metal utensils. Copper pots and pans are not suitable for induction cooktops and require quite a lot of time and effort to polish and maintain their shine.
Cast-iron pots and pans are quite popular cookware as they are very versatile. They can withstand high heat and also retain heat very well. Cast-iron cookware is also quite inexpensive compared to others.
However, cast-iron pots and pans do not heat uniformly and they are quite difficult to clean and maintain. Also, they need to be seasoned well to prevent food from sticking and rusting. Iron is reactive and is not well suited for acidic food.
While the older cast-iron pots and pans were very heavy, prone to rusting and difficult to maintain, the newer varieties usually come with pre-seasoned coatings such as enamel, which makes the cast iron completely non-reactive, easy to maintain and more affordable.
Ideal for cooking veggies, meats, omelets, breads and cakes, carbon steel pots and pans can be used on the stovetop, broiler and oven. Pots and pans made of carbon steel can be considered a cross between stainless steel and cast iron. They are durable and are good heat conductors like cast iron, but do not retain heat as well.
Cookware made of carbon steel is generally lighter and more expensive compared to cast iron but cheaper than stainless steel. However, carbon steel cookware requires seasoning just like cast iron. Carbon steel is reactive, making it unsuitable for cooking acidic, as well as alkaline foods.
Cookware made of carbon steel is generally susceptible to corrosion and rust; however, with proper care and maintenance, this can be reduced. Today, there are several options with non-stick and enamel coating that make it a lot easier to maintain carbon steel pots and pans.
After copper, aluminum is next best in conducting heat and distributing it effectively across the cooking surface. Suitable for stovetop and oven cooking, aluminum pans are ideal for sauteing, searing, cooking fish and eggs. Aluminum is more lightweight and a cheaper option compared to copper. It is also very strong and scratch-resistant.
However, aluminum on its own is very soft and reactive, which reacts with the minerals and acids in the food. To prevent this, often the aluminum utensils are treated with a non-stick coating or anodization that makes the aluminum non-reactive.
The Bottom Line
In conclusion, most often pots and pans used in the kitchen are made of metal and this is because they are good conductors of heat, which helps to cook the food more quickly and evenly, they don’t alter the flavor of the food and sometimes make the food more flavorful, they durable and last for a very long time.
There are several options of metals when it comes to pots and pans and you can evaluate the pros and cons of each before deciding which option is the best for your type of cooking.