The Ultimate Guide To Types of Cookware: Discover The Best Solution For You!

There are two things to consider when you are selecting cookware, and that’s the type of cookware and also the materials the cookware is made of, most people don’t realize this, and can often make the wrong decision when choosing cookware.

The choices you make before purchasing could be the difference between a life-long cookware companion or a frustrating pan that you can’t wait to replace.

Ultimate Guide To Types of Cookware

This guide shows you exactly what you should look out for and why so that you can go ahead and purchase the perfect culinary companion for your personal home cooking needs. 

Here’s what you need to know

What Types Of Cookware Are There?

Starting with the basics; there are approximately eight main types of cookware:

Keep on reading to find out more about what you use the different types of cookware for and what materials are the best for each one. 

How To Use The Different Types Of Cookware

To kick off this section, we'll start by listing the essentials required for every kitchen and then work through to the 'good to have' or specialist cookware types.

The Essentials

Sauce Pans

Sauce Pans Uses

Most people are familiar with saucepans; they are an essential piece of kit.

You can use them to boil, reduce, saute, prepare grains, and reheat leftovers.

Sizes include; large saucepans, medium saucepans and many other sizes too.

Ideally, you need a few different sizes in your kitchen arsenal and we’d recommend you start with a large saucepan and a medium saucepan first and then move onto the rest. 

Most people are familiar with saucepans; they are an essential piece of kit. You can use them to boil, reduce, saute, prepare grains, and reheat leftovers.

Sizes include; large saucepans, medium saucepans and many other sizes too.

Ideally, you need a few different sizes in your kitchen arsenal and we’d recommend you start with a large saucepan and a medium saucepan first and then move onto the rest.

Tip! You can purchase stackable cookware if you’re limited in space.

Skillets And Fry Pans

Even as a beginner cook, you'll need a skillet or fry pan in your kitchen. They are essential.

You'll find that both skillets and fry pans are very similar, which is why there's often a lot of confusion surrounding them. 

Skillets can come with a lid, and are slightly deeper than the fry pan, which means you can use them for creating sauces and reductions. The base on the frying pan is more easily accessible with your utensils thanks to the shallow sides.

You only really need one pan (either a skillet or a frying pan) to get started with, and we'd recommend the frying pan because you can always create sauces in a large saucepan.

Onto the next …

Skillets Uses

Grill Pans

Grill pans make food look delicious owing to the raised ridges on the grill pan which leave beautiful 'grill marks.' But there's a purpose for those 'ridges’ they are not only aesthetically pleasing — they keep the grease separated from the food.

Making the grill pan a healthier cooking option when compared to a standard Grill. 

Griddle Pans

Griddle Pans

Griddles are similar to a grill, but the surface is smooth and flat, and the food cooks in the grease the food dispels.

Some people prefer this option because they like the taste of the fats, but it's not a healthy cooking option — unless you're cooking fat-free food like vegetables. 

You can use grills and griddles for a wide variety of foods, from grilling vegetables to sandwiches, frozen foods, steaks, hamburgers, chops, and quesadillas, to name a few.

Next up; the non essential cookware you SHOULD have!

Non-Essential 'Should Have' Cookware

There are some other pieces of cookware that make things much smoother in the kitchen. These are non-essential pieces but should be in any kitchen when you can get around to buying them.

Stock Pot

The main feature of a stockpot is that it’s a very large cooking pot.

Perfect for cooking food that doesn't need to be close to the source of heat.

You can cook liquids like soup, stew, or stock in this large cooking pot. Large cooking pots like stock pots are also handy for boiling large quantities of potatoes or pasta too. 

Stock Pot Uses

Stockpots come in different sizes. The bigger pots are fantastic for cooking for large numbers of people, or batch cooking while the smaller versions are great for everyday cooking for fewer people. 

Dutch Ovens

Dutch Ovens Uses

A dutch oven is a deep ovenproof pot. It usually has short handles and a lid and is generally used in the oven. Dutch ovens are perfect for making casseroles, soups, and stews . They are also great for roasting or cooking tasty one-pot meals.

Next up is the icing on the cake - not necessary but a required taste for some people.

'Good To Have’ Cookware

If you like to flamboye your way around the kitchen and create authentic restaurant-style or healthy food, adding a steamer and a saute pan to your kitchen would complete your collection.

Here are the details:

Sauté Pan

The saute pan allows you to fry food fast while moving it quickly around the pan. It's also handy for poaching and reducing sauces too because it has a lid and reasonably deep straight sides.

The sides of the pan are deeper than a fry pan or oven safe skillet but shallower than a medium saucepan. 

Sauté Pan Uses

Steamers

If you're into healthy cooking, you'll appreciate a steamer. They gently cook foods such as vegetables with steam, leaving them moist and perfectly cooked.

There are claims that cooking with a steamer helps to retain the goodness in the vegetables you are cooking. 

Steamers Uses

Steamers are usually large pots with a steaming basket inside (which could also double up as a strainer). You simply add a small amount of water to the pan, and insert your steamer basket, place your food in the basket, add the lid and then cook - the steam does all of the work.

Knowing what cookware to buy is one thing, but the quality, design, and innovation of the cookware you use is vital to ensure an easy, safe, clean, and tasty cooking experience.

The next part of the equation is to understand what metals are feature in cookware, and why - it’s all coming up next! 

What Types of Metals Are Used in Cookware?

Different cookware types require different metals, and each metal has different qualities, which can reflect in the taste and texture of the food you cook and influences the performance of the cookware you use.

Here are the most common metals. 

Cast Iron

Cast iron is cookware you can take from the stove to the oven, to the BBQ or even an open fire. They are very sturdy, extremely heavy-duty, and heat resistant.

The variety of food textures and tastes you can create with a cast iron pan are endless - which is probably why many pro-chefs prefer them. Once heated, a cast iron pan distributes and retains heat evenly. 

Cast Iron Cookware

There is a downside to cast iron cookware, though. It's a heavy metal and can be too heavy for everyday home cooking. Cast iron pans also need seasoning to make them non-stick and keep them maintained. They also take longer to heat. They will rust if exposed to water for a prolonged period and most are not dishwasher safe.

You can purchase enamel-coated cast iron cookware to counter some of these issues. The enamel coating reduces some of the food quality, but it does make the pan easier to clean and maintain.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is prevalent in cookware, for a good reason. It's durable, lightweight, and reasonably easy to clean.

The downside of stainless steel cookware is the heat distribution - it's a poor heat conductor. To compensate, most cookware manufacturers will integrate copper, titanium, or aluminum into the construction of the pan. 

Copper

Copper Cookware

Copper is the king of conducting heat, which makes it a useful material for the kitchen.

However, as good as it is, it also has an equal measure of downsides.

The main issue is that copper can react with foods and become toxic. It's also high maintenance

Most cookware manufacturers use copper to conduct heat but then line the copper with other metals like stainless steel to remove the risks and hassle. 

Aluminum

You'll find a variety of different ways that cookware manufacturers use aluminum. They reinforce it and turn it into hard-anodized aluminum and also use it combined with other metals to create ‘clad’ cookware.

Like copper, aluminum is a great heat distributor and is very durable. It's also dishwasher safe and costs less than other metals. Aluminum usually needs to be coated in other substances to prevent it from reacting with food and staining. 

Titanium

The beauty of titanium cookware lies in its sheer strength and light weight. It's half the weight of stainless steel or carbon steel. It's also durable, and an excellent metal for use in cookware.

Titanium also resists corrosion and doesn't oxidize. It can also self heal scratches on its surface!

It sounds like the perfect metal for cookware, doesn't it? 

Titanium Cookware

Unfortunately, titanium is not a great heat conductor, so like stainless steel, it needs to combine with other metals for cooking.

Which leads us nicely onto ‘clad’ cookware.

Clad Cookware

Clad cookware is not a specific metal, but it's a combination of metals clad together. The purpose is to garner the benefits of two or more metals in one piece of cookware.

In some cases, clad cookware is necessary to make the cookware safe for home cooking - such as with copper. In others, it's purpose is to optimize performance, and it doesn’t disappoint..

The outstanding performance of clad cookware is why it's often one of the best cookware options. However, it's usually costly too but well worth the investment.

There are also non-metallic substances used in cookware such as ceramic or stone.

Here are the details:

Non-Metallic Cookware Materials

You won’t find many non-metallic cookware materials in use, but here are some of the main types:

Ceramic Cookware

Ceramic cookware is insulating and doesn't overreact to heat — it creates the perfect conditions for casserole dishes and slow cooking in general.

It's also lighter but more fragile than cast iron. 

Ceramic Cookware

Porcelain

Porcelain is probably not the first substance you'd think of as being strong enough for cookware, but it is quite durable because when it's fired — it becomes very hard. But like all stoneware, it can break.

You can use porcelain cookware in the oven, microwaves, and on the stove

Stoneware

Stoneware is very similar to porcelain. It is usually made with a different form of clay which can create different colors or weights.

Porcelain usually has a white finish, but stoneware has several different finishes. 

Earthenware

You can also find earthenware cookware, but it's delicate and very prone to scratching or chipping. For this reason, earthenware is an unpopular cookware choice.

Glass

Glass Cookware

Glass is the final cookware material we should mention.

It holds heat fast and is reasonably light compared to some of the heavier metals or stoneware. Glass is also durable.

However, durability is compromised if the glass becomes weak in any way.

Check out the summary below for a handy guide on the pros and cons of each cookware material.

What Are The Benefits of Each Cookware Material?

Here's a handy guide to the benefits of each cookware material.

Material

PROS

CONS

Cast Iron

  • Durable
  • Withstands high heats
  • Versatile
  • Cooks delicious food
  • Heavy
  • Requires seasoning
  • It can be challenging to cook with for beginners

Stainless Steel

  • Durable
  • Lightweight
  • Easy to clean
  • Poor heat distribution
  • Requires other materials to distribute heat

Copper

  • Excellent heat conductor
  • Looks beautiful
  • Reacts with food
  • Needs a coating to prevent a reaction to food
  • High maintenance

Aluminum

  • Great heat conduction
  • Durable
  • Dishwasher safe
  • Less expensive
  • Can react with food
  • Stains

Titanium

  • Exceptionally strong
  • Extremely lightweight
  • Resists corrosion
  • Does not Oxidise
  • Scratches self-heal
  • Poor heat conduction

Clad

  • Garners the benefits from all materials
  • It can last a lifetime
  • Can be heavy
  • Expensive

Ceramic

  • Insulating
  • Manages heat well
  • Light compared to cast iron
  • Can be fragile
  • Ceramic is insulating and doesn't overreact to heat. It's is commonly used for casserole dishes and slow cooking in general. It's also lighter but more fragile than cast iron

Porcelain / Stoneware

  • Durable
  • Versatile
  • Can break

Earthenware

  • None compared to other materials
  • Prone to scratching and chipping

Glass

  • Holds heat well and fast
  • Light
  • Durable
  • Glass can weaken and shatter

The final piece of the jigsaw puzzle that is cookware lies in the coatings.

Types of Coatings For Cookware

Coatings on cookware are the icing on the cake. They change the surface of the cookware to make it easier to use, more durable, or to prevent any harmful toxins from metals seeping into the food.  

Types of Coatings For Cookware

The three primary coatings are: 

Enamel

Enamel is a popular cookware coating, especially for any porous cookware such as stoneware. It is durable, abrasion, acid, and corrosion-resistant and also flameproof, colorfast, and sanitary.

Nonstick

Nonstick is a coating applied to cookware to make it non-stick and easy to clean. It's very popular in most home kitchens because it doesn't require seasoning or careful cleaning, and it's easy to cook with.

However, you can't accomplish some cooking styles in a non-stick pan - such as searing or caramelizing.

The coating also doesn't last too long. It's inevitable that with a non-stick pan, you'll need to replace it over time.

Seasoning

Seasoning is a natural way to seal a pan to make it non stick. The process uses warm oil, which needs to be warmed to an appropriate heat to make it viscous.

Heating oil is an essential part of seasoning; to coat the microscopic ridges forming a pan with oil, the oil needs to be viscous. This process prevents food from sticking in those ridges.

To season, you simply heat some oil, wait for it to cool, and then wipe the surplus out with a kitchen towel.

After cooking, you can wipe the pan down with a kitchen towel and use it again without having to wash it or season a second time.

Unfortunately, seasoning a pan and cooking with a seasoned pan requires a different approach to cooking, which can be a problem. Many home cooks become frustrated and find that the food sticks or pans warp.

If you choose a pan requiring seasoning, it will save you time, hassle, and money to learn how to clean, cook in and care for these pans properly. 

What Types Of Metals Are Frequently Used In Cookware?

To summarize, the most common materials used in cookware are:

  • Stainless steel
  • Cast iron
  • Hard anodized stainless steel
  • Clad

Cookware with a non-stick coating is also very popular.

What Are The Types Of Non-Stick Surfaces for Cookware And Which Are The Safest?

There are two types of non-stick surfaces for cookware.

  1. 1
    Synthetic
  2. 2
    Natural

Synthetic non-stick coatings are popular because they save a considerable amount of time in learning how to season and care for a seasoned pan. In contrast, the natural non-stick coating comes from seasoning a pan with oil.

Typically you'll find synthetic coatings such as Teflon or PTFE and PFOA on aluminum or stainless steel cookware. 

What Types Of Cookware Are Non-Stick?

Most cookware can be non-stick such as:

  • Stock Pots
  • Oven safe Skillets
  • Saute Pans
  • Sauce Pans
  • Dutch Ovens
  • Grills
  • Griddles
  • Steamers
Cookware Are Non-Stick

Which Types Of Non-Stick Cookware Are The Safest?

Good quality non-stick coatings you find today are usually safe. But they should be sourced from a reputable brand or branded non-stick specialists like Teflon.

PTFE is a reasonably safe coating; however, some studies show at high temperatures, it can become dangerous.

Other safe coatings are ceramic, anodized aluminum, and seasoned cast iron coating.

Tip! When it comes to non-stick, you must source reputable products. Cheap copies could be dangerous because you don't know for sure what materials are included both in the construction and non-stick coating.

There is plenty of
healthy cookware out there to suit most people's budgets and needs.

The final few considerations you'll need to make when purchasing cookware, don’t apply to everyone but if you have an induction or glass top stove, keep on reading.

What Two Types Of Cookware Will Not Work For Induction Cooking?

Copper, aluminum, and glass cookware do not work for induction cooking unless they have a magnetic layer on the bottom of the pan. If you're not sure, if the cookware you choose is induction safe it's best to check with manufacturers or retailers before buying.

What Types Of Cookware Are Best For Glass Top Ranges?

Rough bottomed pans will damage a glass stove, and should be avoided. Including pans compatible with glass tops that have worn or chipped over time. Round bottomed pans are also no good for a glass stove because the heat won't distribute and the dome could damage the surface.

So what should you use?

You should use medium to heavy-weight pans on glass ranges, and the best types of cookware are:

  • Stainless Steel
  • Heavy-weight aluminum
  • Copper bottomed pans
  • Enamel and porcelain (only if the bottom is flat, smooth and dense)

Now you have all of the information you need to go ahead and pick up the best cookware option for your needs. Which will you try? We recommend [INSERT LINK TO PREFERRED COOKWARE]