Cooking properly can tenderize tough meats, bring out the rich flavors of foods and heighten the presentation and enjoyment of your meals. However, to be a good chef, you’ll need a good grasp on which cookware works best for what foods.
First, it is important to note that conductivity of heat plays a leading role in cooking, and pots and pans made from different materials will conduct heat differently. For instance, copper has very high thermal conductivity. Aluminum is next. Then comes cast iron, and stainless steel is last.
The higher the thermal activity of a material, the faster it will heat up and the more evenly items inside those pans will cook. Consistent heat gives you better control. So why not always use copper or aluminum? Well, they can actually transfer trace elements to your foods so although they can be excellent cookware, it’s not healthy to use them every day. They also are not recommended for acidic foods like tomato sauce or anything with lemon. One more not so appetizing thing they can do is turn light colored foods, like eggs, darker or give them streaks.
Seasoned cast iron actually develops a protective barrier so it has less reactivity. It is thick, so it takes a bit to heat up, but it will maintain consistent heat for long periods. It’s great for foods that you need to transfer from the stovetop to the oven because it can withstand both famously. It’s a good pan for searing steaks, as well as baking items on which you want a crisp edge, such as cornbread.
Stainless steel has very low heat conductivity so your pan will be hot in the center over the heating element, creating more of a chance to burn your food. It is, however fine for boiling pasta and heating soups that you stir frequently. It’s also great for stir fry because after you quickly heat your meat in the middle, you can set it to the side of the pan to remain warm while you finish cooking your vegetables in the center.
Nonstick pans are ideal for more delicate foods such as fish and omelets that will be one big mess if they stick to the pan.
So, just tailor your pans for the food you love to cook and you’ll be cooking with fire!