Ordering a complete set of cookware sounded like a good deal when I was in college. The gleaming pots and pans looked great in the advertisement, and the price was reasonable, especially with the money-back guarantee.
When the large box arrived, I thought I would strain my back picking it up at the post office. I took a good hold and lifted hard, almost throwing the box over my shoulder in the process. That lightweight box should have been my first clue about the value of my purchase.
I decided to cook a meal for my friends. No matter how much oil I used or what the setting was on the burners, everything burned to the bottom. Our dinner was not my best culinary effort. I avoided the burned part, and we ate it anyway.
When cleaning up, I remembered the pans were supposed to be dishwasher safe, so I washed them in the pot and pan cycle. The handles partially melted and the screws came loose. Disgruntled by this point, I checked on sending the cookware back and found the cost of mailing it back was not refundable. I wasn’t convinced the company would send my money back anyway. I learned a valuable lesson about bargain cookware.
Many types of cookware materials are available. Copper cookware is the best in terms of energy conduction. Copper cookware generally is lined with another metal, such as stainless steel, because copper can leach into foods and could pose a toxicity hazard. Because copper is attractive, many people use copper pots as kitchen decorations, although they usually require polishing.
Aluminum pots also are excellent heat conductors. On the downside, aluminum pots, unless anodized, may become dented, scratched or discolored. Try to avoid cooking acidic foods, such as tomatoes, in aluminum pots because aluminum can be leached into the food and the pans may discolor. If aluminum pots become old and pitted, you probably will want to retire them.
Stainless steel is an old standby cooking material because it’s easy to clean and durable. However, the pots may have hot spots. Some people are allergic to nickel, one of the components of stainless steel, but for the majority, stainless steel works well.
Pans with nonstick coatings have been popular for years. Considered nontoxic, the coatings are safe, although they may wear out through time. Your best option is to hand wash nonstick cookware unless the manufacturer says the pans are dishwasher safe.
Cast iron pots are worth the muscle power you need to lift them out of storage. While heavy, they do retain heat once they reach a desired temperature. Chefs like them for frying, browning and slow cooking.
According to a U.S. Department of Agriculture study, using iron pots can increase the amount of iron in food. Researchers cooked three different cabbage recipes in iron or aluminum pots and measured the foods’ iron content and the iron’s ability to be absorbed by the body. All the foods cooked in the cast iron pots had more iron available for absorption. Sauerkraut cooked in an iron pot had the highest iron level because the acidic food leached additional iron from the pot.
Here’s a tasty soup recipe. To get some extra iron, consider using a cast iron pot.
1 lb. lean ground beef
1 tsp. chopped garlic
1 medium onion, chopped
1 15‐oz. can tomato sauce
1 can water
1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 15‐oz. can diced tomatoes
1 envelope taco seasoning
Optional toppings: crushed taco chips, shredded cheese, light sour cream
Brown ground beef with garlic and onion. Drain well. Mix together tomato sauce, water, kidney beans, tomatoes and taco seasoning. Add to ground beef mixture. Cook until heated to at least 165 F. If desired, serve with crushed taco chips, shredded cheese and sour cream.
Makes six servings. Each serving (without added toppings) has 320 calories, 14 grams (g) fat, 42 g carbohydrate and 9 g fiber.