Pots and Pans: Let's get cooking!
Who doesn't love a great, home cooked meal? Fresh spaghetti with a hearty meat sauce. Pork chops and grilled onions. Garlic stir-fried rice with lots of veggies. (Anyone else getting hungry?) The only thing you need to make your masterpieces, aside from the food, is the cookware! Well, here at AFG we believe in the power of education, so we'd like to help teach you how to care for your pots and pans, and even make a few suggestions if you're looking to replace your old sets.
It used to be a no-brainer. Stainless steel won the favor of many cooks because the pots and pans lasted longer, and could withstand greater abuse. But as the nonstick lining became stronger and more durable, choosing between the two has become a real dilemma for chefs everywhere.
Stainless steel, when properly cared for, will still outlive pretty much any nonstick cookware. But you have to use extra oil or butter every time you cook to keep the food from sticking to your pan and burning. Food that is burnt in your pan because of a lack of oil can char, warp, or even permanently damage the pan. The thinner the metal, the easier the pan is to kill- I once ruined a brand new stainless steel frying pan when I overcooked and burnt a quesadilla. Lesson earned.
Nonstick cookware has been around for close to 70 years. The benefit of nonstick is that you don't always need oil or butter when cooking, there is almost no scrubbing required when cleaning, cooking is very simple, and it's actually harder to kill your pans like I did with my stainless steel frying pan. So, with the nonstick you may have to replace the pan every couple years, but with stainless steel you'll constantly be using more oil or butter, and be exposing yourself to slightly fattier foods because of it.
Side note: The lining used in nonstick pots and pans is much more sturdy and reliable than it was in years past, but we still don't recommend using metal utensils on it. You may see professional chefs on TV using metal cookware on nonstick pans, but that's because they get a new set of pots and pans every episode! We recommend wood or plastic utensils, and of course, silicon is definitely the best.
Public Safety Announcement
No pan, whether it's nonstick or stainless, should ever be heated up without any contents inside. The cookware will quickly heat up beyond a safe temperature, (sometimes within a matter of only a few minutes) and the metal will warp, char, and become permanently damaged. This makes for an obvious fire hazard, as well as a waste of a good pan! So regardless of what cookware you go with, don't heat it up when empty. Even when you're cooking something that calls for preheating the pan, this shouldn't take longer than a minute.
It should also be noted that most pots and pans are designed to withstand medium heat from your stove tops. Always cooking with your stovetop on the hottest setting may shorten the life of the cookware.
But are nonstick pans safe?
People have, pretty much since nonstick became available, wondered if the coating on pots and pans was safe. The truth is that at VERY high temperatures (around 550 degrees F) the nonstick lining begins to deteriorate and smoke- this smoke has been known to cause strong reactions in birds, and cause headaches in humans. The only way to achieve this temperature on a normal stove top is to heat the cookware without anything inside- so as long as you don't do that, then there shouldn't be a problem.
Stainless steel and Nonstick cookware should be hand-washed, as dishwashers tend to clang items against each other, and you risk scratching the nonstick lining, or scuffing your metal. You should avoid using any porous cleaning supplies or metal sponges on the nonstick, as this may wear down the lining over time. If you have burnt food crusted onto your nonstick pan, just wash it with soapy water, and wipe the burnt food away with the spatula you used while cooking, it should slip right off.
And with your stainless steel, make sure to wipe away any leftover food with your spatula as soon as you finish cooking. When the pan is hot and the food is still hot, the food should come off much more easily, which will save you from scrubbing and slaving over your pot later.
Also, don't use harsh chemicals like bleach or ammonia on your cookware, stick to simple dish soap, soft sponges, and your hands.
The nonstick coating on cookware is much sturdier than it once was- many companies are even claiming that it's safe to use metal utensils on their items, but you should still be extra careful when handling your pots and pans. Any parts of the coating that you scratch away will cease to be nonstick, thus ruining your pan. Remember, if you take good care of your pots and pans, they'll take good care of you, and you'll have years of delicious meals.
We hope this blog was helpful, and we'd be happy to respond to any questions or comments. And please check out our Free Recipe Section if you'd like some delicious ways to test out your pots and pans.