I have always been looking for the perfect cooking tools. Perfect for me was something that was low maintenance, had a long life span, was light enough, big enough and could handle high heat. For the longest while I was sure than my expectations were too high and stuck with the usual choice between teflon/non-stick coated or stainless steel. I’ve cooked my share of dished with these two, but my heart was left yearning for more…
Stainless steel cookware varies a lot by quality of the stainless steel and the bottom of the pan. I am not an expert but I’ve noticed that the heavier the pan, the better it is. Stainless steel can endure high temperatures but food does stick to it. Maintenance is quite high on stainless steel cookware. It stains, things burn and stick to it and if it is heavy, it becomes a pain to hand clean in the sink.
Teflon/non-stick coated cookware is not built for high temperature cooking although most people do not know it. This means that we should not use it for stir-frying (although we all do), blackening or cooking a stake, deep frying (you shouldn’t do that anyways) or put it in the oven. It is easily to clean, light and mostly non-stick unless u damage the Teflon coating by scratching it and then the days of the pan are numbered. The relatively short lifespan of this type of cookware does not qualify as a good investment for me. There are also growing health concerns about the non-stick coating leeching in the food. Teflon is great for medium temperature cooking such as making fish, eggs, pancakes and braising but not for at least half of my tasks at the kitchen as they require high heat.
Cast iron cookware is the perfect cookware for almost all cooking. If I could, I would cook everything in cast iron. It is fairy on the expensive side, however, all good cookware is not cheap as I am yet to meet a good $20 skillet (maybe only Lagustina on a 70% off sale). It retains heat outstandingly well, is non-stick and cooks everything to perfection. Cast iron is god when it comes to steaks, you simply cannot blacken a steak on anything else except cast iron. With all of this being said, cast iron is very heavy, which makes me reach for it much less than I should. If do you decide to invest in cast iron cookware, do not buy enameled cast iron. Stick to plain thick cast iron and be prepared for delicious meals at the cost of some heavy lifting.
Aluminum pots and pans are somewhat cheap, light, last forever. They are OK to maintain, but food does stick, burn and stain in moderation. Aluminum has good heat conductivity and long shelf life which made it so popular around the world in the last 100 years until evidence to aluminum-Alzheimer’s disease connection begun to surface and raise concerns over the safety of aluminum cookware. Although to clear connection between the two was never proven, these cheap but sturdy pots and pans were deemed “non modern” and their usage rate declined.
So what cooking material encompasses all of the benefits of the above without the big disadvantages? Turned out anodized aluminum was the answer!
Here’s a link to Canadian government website that explains the benefits of anodized aluminum cooking over regular aluminum. Without going into too much detail, anodized aluminum is made by placing alumium in an acid solution and exposed it to an electric current to create a deposit of a layer of aluminum oxide on the surface of the aluminum. This process is called anodization
Anodized aluminum cookware conducts heat as well as ordinary aluminum, but has a hard, non- stick surface which makes it scratch-resistant, durable, and easy to clean. Anodization also reduces leaching of aluminum from cookware into foods, particularly acidic foods like tomatoes and rhubarb and therefore, is considered safer than regular aluminum. May I also note that it looks much better.
On my quest of searching for anodized aluminum cookware I did not find a lot of choices. Not a lot of selection was available at the big department stores here in Canada, plus, I much rather buy online. My search led my to the Calphalon website which had a special on specialty professional anodized aluminum cookware. I bought a casserole there for 50% off ($77) and had it shipped to Canada. My package arrived pretty fast and I was using my new pot in less than a week. I also noticed that Calphalon dropped the price on it by $15 for one day only, so I called them and got a credit back of $15. Good service, I love getting money back! As for cooking in it, I give it 5 stars. It is non scratch, heats up great and cleans very nice. Please note I am not talking about the teflon coated hard anodized aluminum, I am talking about the uncoated real thing.
My next goal is to buy the wok from them. I dream of stir-fries just by looking at this beauty… a Christmas gift from hubby, maybe? (hint, hint!)
I am not an expert butI hope I gave you an idea of how cooking materials compare and why I am in love with anodized aluminum cooking. I later learned that it is widely used by professionals at restaurant. I also learned that while it can handle the vast majority of the tasks at hand, some tasks, like blackening a steak could only be handled by cast iron. Over all though, anodized aluminum cooking is fantastic and I am sure the pros are up to something!
Let me know what you use for cooking in you kitchen, until then, take care!