Cookware materials and everything you need to know about them

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Knowing your cookware materials is something convenient in life. If you know which one is best for a particular type of cooking, you are golden, as you will be highly efficient. At the same time, you can use this knowledge to your advantage, as different materials have different attributes.

For example, a baking sheet made out of aluminum heats up and cools down way quicker than one made out of cast iron.

IMUSA USA Heavy Duty 8-Piece Cast Aluminum Cajun Cookware Set, Silver

Aluminum cookware

Aluminum is one of the most popular materials used in cookware because it’s affordable, lightweight, and cleans up easily. It’s also a pretty decent conductor of heat, making it responsive to temperature changes. What you should know, though, is that aluminum doesn’t tolerate extreme heat well. If you try to sear something on high heat for a long time, the surface betrays you with black dots and stinky smells.

How is Aluminum cookware made?

Aluminum is produced through electrolysis, which means it occurs naturally in nature. As an element, aluminum is mined out of the earth, and the process may include purification and tempering. The molten form of aluminum is then cast into molds to create different shapes for cookware.

One of the best explanations of the process can be seen here:

Aluminum cookware advantages

Aluminum is a lightweight, affordable material that doesn’t rust as quickly, and it’s also very versatile as it’s easy to clean and maintain. In addition, aluminum cookware comes in a wide range of sizes and shapes to fit everyone’s cooking needs.

The most notable advantages are: 

  • Durable and lightweight
  • Non-stick cookware
  • Affordable
  • Eco-friendly, as aluminum can be easily recycled
  • Dishwasher safe, if there is no scratching inside it

Aluminum cookware disadvantages

It may not be as sturdy as cast iron, so aluminum cookware can’t tolerate long bouts of high heat. In addition, aluminum cookware is relatively poor at retaining heat. The excellent conductivity of aluminum also means it can break down from prolonged exposure to acidic foods.

The most notable disadvantages are: 

  • The aluminum will react with acidic substances
  • The surface is prone to scratches from utensils

Acidic food can and will break down the aluminum, releasing it into your food. Another way to let aluminum into your food is by cracks in the top layer of your pots and pans. Even a tiny crack can release a sizeable amount of aluminum. If it is inside your cookware and it gets damaged somehow, get rid of it as soon as possible. 

Repeated exposure to additional aluminum from cracked pots, pans, and foil can negatively influence your health. 

So my recommendation would be to stay away from pure aluminum cookware if you can.

But there is a sub-version of aluminum that is used in cookware. 

Hard anodized aluminum cookware

Most likely the one you heard about before. Hard anodized aluminum is a type of form of “aluminum oxide.” In simple terms, the aluminum is put into a chemical bath, which assists in the formation of a rigid surface and creates a protective layer. Hard anodized aluminum is mainly used as an external coating on skillets, pots, and pans. 

Note:

Often you will encounter words like cast aluminum and forged aluminum. It might sound like something a blacksmith would say, but it can be easily explained. 

Cast aluminum refers to melting aluminum and pouring it into a mold to form its shape. This way is often used when a manufacturer mixes different metals. It is the only way to combine them properly. The issue with it is that there can be impurities added to the mix changing its structure in a molten state. This can lead to cast aluminum being damaged more easily. 

Forged aluminum is aluminum that was pressed, pounded, or squeezed under extreme pressure. Forging doesn’t allow for complex shapes to be created. Still, as there is no other metal used to create a final product, it is usually more robust than casted aluminum. 

The differences are best explained in the video below.

Cast iron cookware

Cast iron cookware is one of the most popular types of cookware used in the United States. Cast iron is essentially a metal alloy created by heating molten pig iron, which is taken from the earth and poured into molds. The iron is turned into a more robust metal that is still flexible even at very high temperatures through this process.

Check out the video below that is all about the process. 

Cast iron cookware advantages

Cast iron is the best cookware for everything from baked goods to searing a steak when it comes to cooking. It browns foods better, heats more evenly, and retains heat better than other metal cookware.

Cast iron also distributes heat evenly without hot spots, which helps prevent overcooking. The oils in foods like meat will not stick to it, and you can even bake on cast iron without fear of burning or breaking your pot. Cast iron is also the most durable cookware and can take a beating in the dishwasher without any issues.

Cast iron won’t react to your food the way aluminum will. It cooks evenly, is very durable, and is sturdy. It is also easy to clean and maintain as an added benefit. If you take care of it from time to time, it will last you a lifetime. Some cast iron cookware is transferred across generations, and that’s how good it is. 

The main advantages of cast iron cookware are:

  • Sturdy
  • Stays hot
  • Versatile
  • Dense
  • Durable 

Cast iron cookware disadvantages

Anyone who cooks with cast iron cookware may know that it takes a while for this type of cookware to heat up before food can be prepared. This is due to cast iron’s ability to retain heat and make it last for many hours. There are some drawbacks to this type of cookware, though. One of them is that cast iron cookware is heavy and can be hard to carry. It is also bulky and cannot be easily stored. See also

Cast iron is weighty, so cooking with it can be hard on your wrists. It’s also can be seen as hard to maintain, as the cookware needs to be appropriately seasoned before use.

But seasoning the cast iron is not that hard if you know what you are doing. In the end, it is just about heating a light coating of oil a couple of times whenever you remember. Seasoning is pretty much impregnating the cast iron with oil to create a protective layer, which grants it its non-stick ability.

It is also not that great of a conductor, so it takes time to heat up. But this can be an advantage if your recipe requires a slight temperature decrease over a while. 

 The main disadvantages of cast iron cookware are:

  • Heavy
  • Slow to heat up
  • Stains easily
  • Requires special care, which is not hard to do but might be considered by some as too much work

Even though it can be used for pretty much any type of cookware, you would mostly find it in the form of a pan like this one on Amazon

Also, as an old-school cookware material, it can be used over any heating source. In addition, as it is a natural product, it’s also very safe. It might not look like it sometimes, but it is one of the safest cookware materials you can use in your kitchen. 

On top of that, it can introduce an additional iron in your diet safely and healthily.

GreenPan Rio Healthy Ceramic Nonstick, Cookware Pots and Pans Set, 16 Piece, Turquoise

Ceramic cookware

Ceramic cookware is also pretty durable. It is made of clay mixed with quartz, glass, metal oxides, and sometimes other minerals. The clays are heated up in a kiln (heating chamber) to form ceramic objects. 

It can also be made in different shapes and sizes. A lot of ceramic cookware comes in the form of plates, cups, and bowls.

The answer to the question of how is ceramic cookware made can be found here: 

As you have seen, no pans or pots are being made out of ceramic. But how come that you can find pots and pans with ceramic coating? 

Well, the coating is an important word there. 

In most cases, on top of the pan is a thin layer of ceramic coating that provides the pan with a non-stick ability. Also, the top ceramic finish is nice and shiny, which is why it is used as a part of the non-stickiness. 

Now, this is not extremely bad, but it is not good either. What matters is what is under the ceramic layer.

This would be aluminum or some form of an aluminum mix in many cases, as the aluminum provides excellent heat conductive properties to the pan. 

In this case, I would say it applies the same way of thinking as with aluminum. Up until it has some cracks and significant scratches, you can use it to your heart content. The second it is broken in some way, you should get rid of it. 

The place where ceramic cookware is used the most is bakeware, like this one from Amazon.

Ceramic cookware advantages

Ceramic can withstand very high temperatures, so it is safe to be used in an oven. It is naturally non-stick, so you don’t have to worry that your baking could ruin it. 

 The most significant advantages of ceramic cookware are:

  • Ceramic cookware is non-stick, which helps to reduce the amount of oil, butter, or grease needed
  • Ceramic cookware has a long lifespan of 20-25 years or more with proper care and use
  • Ceramic cookware is easy to clean

Ceramic cookware disadvantages

To start with, ceramic cookware can break or chip easily. Because of that, you should be very careful when using it.

The most ideal of usage has been mentioned above. Still, to the oven bakeware, you can add things like the ability to store food and warm it up on ceramics plates.

 The most significant disadvantages of ceramic cookware are:

  • Ceramic cookware is fragile
  • Ceramic cookware can be expensive
  • Ceramic cookware isn’t non-stick
  • Ceramic cookware is only oven and any other space in which you can control temperature safe

Pots and Pans Set, Cookware Set, Copper Pan Set, Nonstick Ceramic Coating, Saute Pan, Saucepan Stockpot with Lid, Fry Pan, Copper, 10pcs

Copper cookware

Copper cookware is a great way to prepare your favorite dishes. Copper has been used to manufacture cooking pots and pans for centuries because of its ability to heat up and conduct heat evenly.

Copperware conducts heat quickly and cooks food more quickly than traditional metals such as aluminum or stainless steel. Cooking in copper cookware can also provide a fantastic tasting meal due to the metal’s metallic flavor to your dish.

But today, we know that extensive amounts of copper are not suitable for our health in the long term. This is because copper is a heavy metal, which means it can accumulate in our bodies. Some of the indications of copper toxicity are fatigue, hair loss, depression, weight gain, vomiting, and tremors.

I can imagine that these sound horrible, but you don’t have to worry. It is tough to find pure copper cookware these days. In most cases, you will find cookware that only has a layer of copper inside of itself, bringing additional heat conductivity and heat distribution to the cookware piece.

How is copper cookware made?

Copper is made by heating copper ore, like other metal ores. The ore contains copper sulfide, which forms the same chemical compounds as other typical metals ore. The chemical composition of the ore dictates the method used for production. Once purified, it can be found in pots, pans, and other containers.

Copper cookware used in most cookware pieces these days can be found as an outside layer covering the part. The reason for this is that it provides the massive benefit of heat distribution so that you won’t find unevenly heated spots in your pots and pans.

It is challenging to find cookware that has at least the outer layer made out of copper, but if you look hard enough, you can see, for example, this set on Amazon.

What benefits does copper cookware have?

With so many cookware options available, it can be challenging to determine which type is best for you. Copper cookware has a variety of benefits that make it the perfect choice for your kitchen.

Copper is an excellent conductor of heat, and it heats up quickly. This means that when cooking at high temps, copper will resist hot spots and provide even cooking. It also doesn’t require any seasoning and will never lose its luster.

The most significant advantages of copper cookware are:

  • Copper cookware is easy to clean
  • Copper cookware is resistant to corrosion, unlike other metals
  • Copper cookware can be used on all stovetops because it heats evenly and quickly
  • Copper cookware distributes heat very well, which means foods won’t burn or stick to the bottom of the pot or pan

What drawbacks does copper cookware have?

Copper cookware has been a staple of professional kitchens for centuries. It is the most durable and aesthetically beautiful metal available, boasting superior heat conductivity and strength. But with this beauty comes a hefty price tag, which can be up to 3 times as expensive as stainless steel.

Copper also reacts with acidic foods such as tomatoes and vinegar, which can cause it to corrode or become pitted, rendering it unsuitable for those types of recipes. Copper cookware is also a scarce resource and, in short, supply, meaning that it can be challenging to find locally.

The most significant disadvantages of copper cookware are:

  • Copper is a soft metal that can easily get scratched
  • Copper cookware is more expensive than other types of cookware
  • Copper can react to acidic foods, such as tomatoes and vinegar
  • Copper pieces may tarnish over time
  • Cooking with copper may change the flavor of food

Glass cookware

Glass cookware is a new trend gaining popularity in recent years. Glass cookware is made from borosilicate glass, which is strong and heat-resistant. It can be used on all cooking surfaces, including gas, electric, ceramic, and induction.

How is glass cookware made?

Traditional glass cookware is made by fusion, which is the melting of sand into glass. The sand is fused at 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit in an oven for 10 hours. Once it has cooled down, molten glass is poured onto a mold. The mold has the desired shape of the cookware, and it cools down to form a solid piece of cookware. The process of making glass cookware is very similar to the creation of traditional window panes.

Here is a short video explaining the process of making glass cookware:

Note.: Pyrex is a brand name, even though that over the years, it has been interconnected with glass cookware and is by many seen as the same thing.

What are the advantages of glass cookware?

Glass cookware is made of non-porous material, which means it can be cleaned quickly and will not absorb smells, grease, or food. 

Glass cookware has a variety of advantages: it is safe to use around children and pets. It is non-porous, which means it is relatively easy to clean.

The most significant advantages of glass cookware are:

  • Durability
  • Easy to clean
  • Easier to see through
  • Doesn’t hold flavors of food
  • It won’t corrode or rust

What are the disadvantages of glass cookware?

Glass cookware is a popular choice for many people, but there are a variety of disadvantages to using it. It is heavier than metal pans, which causes trouble with stirring and can be cumbersome to handle. The glass can break from thermal shock or sudden temperature changes, not always covered by a warranty.

The most significant disadvantages of glass cookware are:

  • The weight of glass cookware is not an issue for some people
  • Glass cookware can chip or break easily if it falls from a high height
  • The non-stick coating that the glass cookware has may not be as effective as metal coatings
  • The handle on a glass pot may get hot when cooking over high heat settings

Glass cookware can find its use in many parts of your kitchen. It doesn’t matter if you want to boil or bake; glass cookware can safely handle both. 

Handle it with care, and it will serve you well. If you are looking for at least a small addition to your kitchen, check out this small glass saucepan on Amazon. 

Stainless steel cookware

Stainless steel cookware is a popular option for many home cooks because it is affordable, durable, and easy to clean. The best stainless steel cookware is 18/8 grade stainless steel, so no harmful chemicals are leaching into food. These pots and pans are dishwasher safe, oven safe up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit (260 degrees Celsius). Most importantly, they do not react with acidic foods, which minimizes getting burnt food.

Cost-effective, durable, and long-lasting are just a few words to describe stainless steel cookware. And although the cost may seem higher than other kitchen items, stainless steel is worth more of your investment over time.

Stainless steel will not react with the food you are cooking, meaning that it won’t change the taste or color of your dish. With this type of cookware, you will avoid any health risks posed by aluminum or copper pots and pans.

How is stainless steel cookware made?

The quality of stainless steel cookware is not without its issues. First, the production process for cookware involves a high-temperature furnace that is highly corrosive to metal surfaces.

This leaves a protective layer on the outside of the cookware that prevents it from rusting and corroding and limits a metal surface’s ability to be non-stick. In addition, stainless steel can become brittle if it is heated to high temperatures.

The quickest way to explain the whole process of creating stainless steel cookware is to show you a video of it:

What are the advantages of using stainless steel cookware?

Stainless steel cookware is a durable and safe alternative to non-stick, PTFE-coated pans. This type of cookware conducts heat quickly and evenly and can withstand high temperatures. While stainless steel cookware can be expensive, it lasts for many years and is dishwasher safe. Stainless steel is also a good conductor of heat, which means that food will cook more quickly in this type of pan.

The most notable advantages are:

  • Stainless steel cookware is durable, flexible, and responds well to heat
  • It’s safe for cooking acidic foods like tomatoes
  • The material doesn’t leach any harmful chemicals into your food like some other materials might
  • You can find stainless steel cookware at many affordable prices

If you are interested in getting a one-and-done set of stainless steel cookware for yourself, check out this set on Amazon.

What are the disadvantages of using stainless steel cookware?

Stainless steel cookware has many benefits, but there are also some disadvantages. The main disadvantage is that it scratches easily. This can be a problem because scratched stainless steel doesn’t have the same qualities as new stainless steel.

The cookware will start to take on a dull finish from scratch alone and won’t shine as new cookware does. Blemishes often lead to rusting, and this is another concern with stainless steel pots and pans.

The most notable disadvantages are:

  • Stainless steel can be scratched by abrasive materials such as sponges and scouring pads, making it difficult to clean the pots and pans after use.
  • Stainless steel absorbs heat and does not provide a uniform cooking surface.
  • Stainless steel is hefty.
  • Tarnishes with use
  • Poor heat conduction

I don’t blame you if you are slightly put off by the stainless steel since it is heavy, doesn’t provide even heating, and can be easily scratched. I have similar feelings.

Fortunately, there is a solution to all these worries. It is a cookware material that has taken the world by storm. It has all the benefits of stainless steel but much less of its drawbacks.

The magical solution is carbon steel cookware, and you can look at it as a younger brother to stainless steel.

BK Black Steel Seasoned Carbon Steel Skillet, 12"

Carbon steel cookware

A lot of people believe that stainless steel cookware is the best on the market. But what if you want a set of pans that will season over time, provide a more even distribution on an electric range, and will last for years without getting dinged up? The answer may be carbon steel.

Carbon steel takes all the good parts from stainless steel and cast iron while being lightweight at the same time. Carbon steel is low maintenance and stays rust-free in a wide variety of temperatures.

Carbon steel cookware is a sturdy and economical material for pots and pans. Carbon steel has higher thermal conductivity than aluminum or stainless steel, making it easier to heat evenly. Carbon steel is suitable for cooking acidic foods such as tomatoes and grapes because the metal doesn’t react.

How is carbon steel made?

Carbon steel is made by heating iron ore with carbon to make it more complex and more robust. It is then heated again to remove impurities and to give it a natural black color. The steel is then cooled and worked into various shapes. Carbon steel is often stamped, brushed, painted, or plated and can be anodized to make it more durable.

There is a myriad of ways how to make carbon steel cookware, but one of the best videos describing it is this one:

What are carbon steel’s advantages?

Carbon steel is a metal that has many advantages for home cooks. Unlike stainless steel, carbon steel does not react with acidic foods or beverages. 

This means that it can be used to cook items like tomato sauce without the fear of potentially ruining the pan. Connected to this is that the carbon steel cookware will not leak into your food, even if you cook something acidic in it, unlike aluminum. 

The non-reactive surface also prevents food from becoming stuck. Further, carbon steel is affordable and durable while giving your dishes an authentic taste. 

What are carbon steel’s advantages?

  • Durability
  • Reusability
  • Versatility
  • Cost-effectiveness
  • Ease of use
  • Non-toxic
  • When appropriately treated, it will last you a lifetime

What are carbon steel’s disadvantages?

  • Carbon steel has a lower heat conductivity than aluminum or copper because it is thicker. It takes longer to reach the desired cooking temperature.
  • Carbon steel does not have a non-stick coating
  • When using this type of cookware, you will need to season it before using it first and then re-season it periodically.
  • But who am I to tell you that carbon steel is excellent, and some professional chefs think the same.

Below is an excellent example with great details described by a chef:

If you would like to get your carbon steel pan, check out this one on Amazon. 

Non-stick cookware

Non-stick cookware is a type of cookware that is coated with a thin layer of polymer. Non-stick coatings prevent food from sticking to the pot or pan and make cleaning much more manageable. A non-stick coating is also sometimes called Teflon, even though it doesn’t have to be one.

Non-stick is not material like the others on this list. It is just a thin layer on top of another material like aluminum.

The non-stick layer brings a notable benefit of food not sticking to your cookware, even if you don’t use some kind of fat or oil. The issue is that it is not the safest option.

If scratched or damaged, the dangerous chemicals can leak into your food, putting you and your loved ones in danger. The problem here is also with overheating. While for example, cast iron, if overheated, will release at most some additional iron to your dish. With non-stick, this is way more problematic, as even overheating can cause damage to the surface, and in hand, it might hurt you.

Word of caution here. If you are using non-stick cookware, don’t leave it unused, unattended, and overheating for a long time. It can be hazardous for you in the long term.

On the other hand, it is fair to say that if you treat your non-stick cookware with care, don’t use knives, forks, or other sharp objects on the surface. It should prolong its life noticeably while keeping your health protected.

As I would not like to miss anything important, I will let John Oliver explain the whole non-stick surface problem to you funnily and scarily.

How is non-stick cookware made?

I can either rewrite and describe the whole manufacturing process here for you or let you watch a video explaining it. I think the second option will be much easier for you.

What are the advantages of non-stick cookware?

There are many advantages to non-stick cookware. Cooking on a non-stick surface means that you don’t have to grease the skillet before cooking eggs, and it also means that your food will brown better and not stick to the pan. Finally, cleanup is a breeze with a non-stick surface; most of your food can be easily wiped away with a paper towel or dishcloth.

Advantages of non-stick cookware:

  • Non-stick pans tend to be more lightweight than other types of pans
  • Non-stick cookware can often reduce cooking time and cut down on the need for butter and oil
  • Non-stick surfaces are easier to clean than different types of surfaces
  • Non-stick cookware is typically less expensive than regular cookware, which may help you save money

What are the disadvantages of non-stick cookware?

Non-stick cookware is a great way to cook without worrying about the food sticking to the pan. However, there are some disadvantages. Non-stick cooking can lead to scratches which can allow chemicals to leech into the food. Cooking with high heat can also degrade the coating over time.

Also, if you have not been persuaded by the video above, I am not sure if I can explain it better.

Disadvantages of non-stick cookware:

  • Non-stick coated cookware has a coating that can wear down over time
  • The coating on non-stick pans is not always PFOA and PFAS free
  • Non-stick pans are more expensive than other types of cookware
  • Non-stick pans are not oven-safe, so they can’t be used with recipes that call for baking or broiling

Heritage Steel 10 Piece Cookware Set - Titanium Strengthened 316Ti Stainless Steel with 5-Ply Construction - Induction-Ready and Fully Clad, Made in USA

Titanium cookware

I have saved the best for last.

The titanium cookware is the top league of cookware. Of course, it comes down to personal preferences, but you should go for titanium if you are looking for the best. Titanium is a strong metal with a low density, making it one of the ideal materials for cookware.

Titanium cookware has become a new cooking trend in some areas. Titanium cookware’s benefits include its lightness, scratch and stain resistance, and ability to ensure food retains its color and flavor. It also is dishwasher safe.

If you’re looking for a durable, reliable set to use in your kitchen, then titanium is the answer. Titanium has many uses, but it’s most commonly used in dentistry, orthopedics, and food processing.

It’s a sturdy metal alloy that has exceptionally high strength and durability. It can be forged to create more durable cookware. It also can be used with types of metal. Titanium is also a very safe metal that is non-toxic. It’s a great way to create cookware that can easily last for years. It can be used in any type of cooking.

I don’t want to oversell it to you.

While titanium is the overall best cookware material, it can be costly. That is why even in pricey cookware sets, it is used in combination with other materials. As an example, you can check out this 10-piece titanium cookware set on Amazon.

The benefits of titanium cookware

Rising health and environmental concerns have led many people to switch to healthier and more sustainable ways of living, and titanium cookware is a perfect example of this.

Titanium cookware is guaranteed non-stick and can last up to 20 years with minimal need for replacing. It also does not require the use of non-stick coating or other harmful ingredients such as PTFE or PFOA. Titanium is a safe alternative to PTFE, which can cause respiratory problems. It also doesn’t contain any form of lead or cadmium.

The most significant advantages of titanium cookware:

  • Titanium is lightweight
  • Titanium is durable
  • Titanium is non-reactive with food
  • Titanium is non-stick
  • The titanium surface won’t rust

Disadvantages of titanium cookware

The titanium surface is so durable, non-stick, and easy to clean that most chefs prefer it. However, this comes at a price. Titanium cookware costs much more than stainless steel or aluminum cookware. It does not have the same heat retention properties as stainless steel. It also tastes metallic when used with certain foods. But it usually is not worse than the different taste from cast iron cookware.

The most significant disadvantages of titanium cookware:

  • Expensive
  • No non-stick properties
  • Harder to clean

I believe that I have presented you with all the available options in as much detail as you need to make a decision best suited for you. 

What is your cookware material of choice?

If you are missing anything in this article or made a mistake, let me know in the comments section below. 

Until next time, choose your cookware carefully and have wonderful cooking experiences.

Vojta Vevera

Combining a love for cooking and using all kinds of technological gizmos helps Vojta to bring the experiences and excitement to all his articles. He is always doing his best to serve you with great information. Mixing over 15 years of cooking experience with his analytical mind and love for all technological things.

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