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Cookware Buying Guide

Cookware Buying Guide

We understand that buying cookware is an investment. It doesn’t matter whether you are cooking for one or creating a family feast it’s important to choose the right equipment. That’s why we’ve put together a range of expert buying guides with loads of information and advice. We’ve also included some handy tips that might be helpful and/or interesting.

Types of Cookware Cookware Materials Which Hob Type? Things to Consider
  • Saucepans

    Saucepans come in a range of sizes from the largest at 20cm in diameter to the smallest at around 12cm. Larger pans often have a helper handle to make carrying, pouring and straining a bit easier. Small saucepans are often referred to as milk pans and the smallest of all are generally used for melting butter. Most pans come with a lid made of stainless steel or glass (the latter is brilliant for letting you see how food is cooking). When buying think about what you most cook, what type of hob you have and how long you want it to last. Size, strength and material are things to think about before you press the buy button.

    Top Tip: Have you seriously burned your pan? Add a tablespoon of baking soda and water, cover with a lid overnight and the next morning give your pan a quick wash - it will come up as good as new.

  • Frying pans

    Used for frying, browning or searing foods and have shallow sides. Go for a non-stick coating; it will save hours of cleaning and needs less oil making your food that little bit healthier.

    Top Tip: Having trouble getting perfectly cooked rice? Try cooking it in a frying pan with a lid, the wider base will stop it clumping together and becoming stodgy. The result is beautifully fluffy rice.

  • Sauté pans

    From the French word sauté which means to jump or bounce. When sautéing food constant movement of the pan is essential so a good pan will have straight high sides and a flat bottom (to prevent spillage). Buy one with a sturdy, comfortable handle.

    Top Tip: Try cooking a risotto in yours. Try a delicious pea and goat’s cheese risotto or a scrumptious chicken and chorizo risotto and don’t tell your family that it was the pan that did all the work.

  • Woks

    Woks have tall round, sloping sides which means that heat is concentrated in the base and food can be tossed easily. Wok’s can also be used for boiling, steaming and frying. To create a signature ‘wok hei’ taste, always opt for one made from iron or steel which allows all the flavours from the wok to be inducted into your food.

    Top Tip: When buying a wok size up. Stir frys and chow meins cook much better when they are given more room.

  • Chef's pan

    Similar to a saucepan, this very versatile and multi-functional pan can be used for many different methods of cooking. With rounded sides and a wide flat base, it allows liquid to be evaporated more easily, making it ideal for soups, stews and sauces. It’s also ideal for, sautéing, frying and poaching. Before buying think about what you will most use it for. Then choose from one singled handle pans which are better for manoeuvring and sautéing, or a double handled pan which are better for lifting and draining.

    Top Tip: The chef’s pan is ideal for making soups which require sautéing too. Try a French onion soup and sauté the onions in the pan first to add flavour. It will help you cut down on the dishes at the end too.

  • Griddles

    With many of the same qualities as the frying pan, the griddle would be its healthier sister. Little or no oil is needed to cook food and its shallow ridges allow fat to drain away. Its thick and heavy base is ideal for searing and browning and they also add a familiar charred stripe when cooking.

    Top Tip: Cook courgettes and aubergines on a griddle, giving them a wonderful charred patterned finish then add mixed leaves for a beautiful artisan salad. Remember though, apply the oil to the veg and not the pan or it will stick.

  • Pressure cookers

    Cook food in a third of the time with a pressure cooker. All will have a tight lid, loads of multifunctional settings and a deep body. The principle is that steam builds generating pressure giving a quick and delicious meal. When choosing, take into consideration the size and the material it’s made from - aluminium is the less expensive and stainless steel the most durable.

    Top Tip: When you are storing your pressure cooker, make sure that you have the lid fully off, allowing any odours to air out; making sure it’s fresh for your next dish.

  • Steamers

    A healthy way to cook as it keeps essential vitamins and nutrients in. Just fill your steamer with hot water and allow the steam to travel up into a 1, 2 or 3 tier steamer allowing you to cook different types of food at once.

    Top Tip: Add a little garlic to the water at the bottom, to give your food much more flavour.

  • Casseroles

    Nothing says home cooking more than a perfectly cooked casserole. Perfect for stewing, braising and slow cooking. With their straight from the oven to the table quality the traditional casserole is made from cast iron however you can now choose from many different shapes, sizes and colours.

    Top Tip: Pop your meal into your oven before you go to work on a low heat and be greeted with a delicious aroma and an even more delicious meal when you get home.

  • Stockpots

    Designed to make large vats of stock however now more commonly used for making soups and stews for the whole family. The majority of stock pots have a flat base, good depth and strong, sturdy handles.

    Top Tip: Cooking for a large family? Pop uncooked pasta, tomatoes, onion, garlic in a pot and let everything cook at once, creating a beautiful rich sauce and pasta oozing with flavour.

To help you make the right decision, here’s our clever guide on everything you need to know about cookware materials.

MATERIAL

CONDUCTIVITY

PRICE

WEIGHT

DURABILITY

MAINTENANCE

CAST IRON

Durable, long lasting and tough. Cast iron cookware will be a part of the family for a very long time.

Heats up slowly

Mid to high

Heavy

High

Medium

STAINLESS STEEL

A very durable and hard wearing affordable cookware. Some ranges will come with a not-stick surface.

Heats up quickly

Low to high

Medium

High

Low

MULTIPLY

A thin, light, conductive material such as aluminium or copper, embedded with a much stronger material such as stainless steel. This combination gives the benefits of aluminium and copper making for better heat distribution than stainless steel however keeping the durability.

Heats up quickly

High

Medium

High

Medium

CARBON STEEL

Traditionally used for woks and crepe pans, carbon steel works best over high temperatures, quick to heat and excellent for whipping up speedy dishes.

Heats up quickly

Low to medium

Heavy

Durable

High

ALUMINIUM

A very lightweight metal and a superb conductor of heat. A cheaper alternative to stainless steel.

Heats up quickly

Low

Light

Low

Low

HARD ANODISED

Created by treating aluminium to make it more tough and durable. Long lasting, while still having the lightness of regular aluminium.

Heats up quickly

Mid to high

Light

High

Medium


Before choosing cookware make sure it’s suited to your hob. Not all cookware is compatible with every type of hob and some work better with others.

Gas Hob

Pretty much all types of cookware can be used with a gas hob. Be careful that the flames don’t travel up the sides of the cookware or unto the handles as this will cause unwanted damage.

Range Cooker

From AGA’s to Rayburns, range cookers are an expensive piece of kitchen kit and need specialist cookware. Look for cookware with a thick heavy base for maximum cooking efficiency, stackable saucepans allowing for different foods to be cooked in the same oven at the same time and items that are able to withstand very high temperatures and heat up evenly. Cast iron or ceramic are generally the most suitable.

Induction Hob

With a glass surface on top, and an induction coil underneath, induction hobs heat up cookware very quickly. For this type of hob stainless steel or cast iron work best. Do not use aluminium or copper unless they have a magnetisable base.

Ceramic Hob

Any type of cookware can be used with a ceramic hob. As it electric with a glass ceramic top, make sure not to drag your pots and pans across the surface to avoid scratching.

Halogen Hob

Creating the heat for cooking with the halogen light below, the halogen hob is great for cooking as it gives the extreme heat from an electric hob, with the quickness of gas. Heavier pans tend to work better, and always avoid pans with a shiny, reflective base or you could damage the heat lights.

Solid Plate Hob

Any type of cookware can be used on a solid plate hob. Flat bottoms tend be a little more efficient though as the heat will be more evenly spread, making for cooking.

There are some essential points to consider before choosing the cookware that you are going to buy.

Heat Conductivity

Are you a slow steady chef, or a ready steady cook? Cookware materials react differently to heat than others, so if you don’t like waiting opt for the better heat conductors.

Price

You get what you pay for, and this is certainly true when it comes to cookware.

Durability

Are you buying a pan to last a lifetime or for a weekend away? Some pans depending on the type of material will be much hard-wearing wearing and long lasting than others.

Reactivity

Not every cookware material reacts well to every type of food. When choosing your cookware make sure and think about what you are going to cook. Aluminium for instance has a tendency to react with tomato and other acidic dishes; this means that your food can actually absorb some of the metal.

Maintenance

Some pots and pans need a lot more care than others. Do you want something that you can throw in the dish washer or are you happy to wash it by hand every time. Check out our cookware materials section where we have given you tips for maintenance and cleaning for all the different types of cookware.

Heavy or Light

Before you buy, make sure that you take into consideration the weight. Some cookware can be extremely heavy, and although it performs well it may be too heavy to use every day.

What will I be cooking?

Are you buying for practicality or pleasure? Is cooking something you love to do or you have to do? Think about exactly what you are using your cookware for. Stainless steel pots and pans are a sensible choice however cast iron could be better.

Traditional or Modern

Are you recreating a 1950’s kitchen or is stylised modernity more your thing. You can now choose the cookware to match the style of your kitchen. With so much choice out there, you can get exactly what you are looking for.