There is such a bewildering array of different pots and pans in the market today that it often seems impossible to decide what is best for any given purpose. Cooking pans come in a variety of shapes and sizes and in a wide range of different materials.
Better with Brass:
As I was growing up there were some lasting impressions of what a typical Punjabi kitchen would look like: shiny peetal vessels that were my grandmother’s and mother’s pride. Ancient Indian history is rich with information about clay, copper, iron and brass vessels. Peetal as we call it in hindi is an alloy of copper and zinc. As brass is reactive to acidic foods, the inside surface needs to be hand coated with nickel (kalai) every three months, i.e. if the vessel is used regularly.
Biryanis cooked in mitti handis, or even yogurt set in them tastes different! And yes, matkas for water storage. Ever thought why water cools so well in the matkas? It is simply because the matkas have numerous pores on the surface through which some of the water evaporates. And the process of evaporation absorbs heat which is why the water inside the matka remains cool. When it comes to cooking in clay pots, hard-baked pots are sturdier and used for specialty cooking but require a lot of care. Using them effectively in our daily cooking would certainly pose a problem.
Aluminium is light and strong, so even a large sturdy pan is easy to handle. It imparts no odour to food, is durable and, best of all, and has excellent cooking characteristics. Aluminium pots are excellent heat conductors. It loses only about seven per cent of the heat it receives, leaving ninety three per cent of the heat to cook your food. This means that aluminium cookware transfers heat very efficiently and evenly to the food inside, rather than to the air outside. On the downside, aluminium pots, unless anodized, may become dented, scratched or dis-coloured. Aluminium is perfectly safe for all cooking although I advise that you do not use acidic foods, in aluminium pots because it can be leached into the food and may lose its color. If aluminium pots become old and pitted, it’s best to retire them. With proper care it can last a lifetime.
Copper cookware is the best in terms of energy conduction. Copper cookware is generally lined with another metal such as stainless steel, because copper can leach into foods and could be harmful. However water stored in copper jugs is considered very beneficial and specially advised to people with high blood pressure levels. Since copper is attractive, many people use copper pots as kitchen decorations, although it usually requires polishing.
Stainless steel is an old and useful cooking material because it’s easy to clean and durable. The stainless steel is non-reactive to acids, and easy for maintenance. It does not corrode, tarnish and the surface is not porous like cast iron or aluminium. As cookware, stainless steel is a poor conductor of heat. To remedy this, a layer of aluminium is sandwiched in between two layers of stainless steel to form the bottom. Sometimes, the layer goes all around the cookware. The heavy bottom allows even heat distribution which is suitable for sautéing and simmering.
Cast iron pots are worth the muscle power it takes to lift them out of the storage! While heavy, they do retain heat once they reach a desired temperature. Many chefs like them for frying, browning and slow cooking. All foods cooked in the cast iron pots have more iron available for absorption. So look after all your tawas and karahis and use them regularly.
Carbon Steel: Lighter in feel
It is made with a mix of both iron and carbon. They contain around 2.1% of carbon content. Also, this material is much like cast-iron but it is much lighter in weight. They are used to make cookware like woks and stir-frying pans.
Pans with non-stick coatings have been popular for years now and they have made cooking much easier, fuss-free and healthier. Considered non-toxic, the coatings are safe, although they may wear out over time. And when the coating comes off it is time to retire these pots and pans.
Covering thin steel with porcelain enamel makes enamelware. Unfortunately, the cookware uses thin base metal, making it difficult for low long simmering. Also, make sure you handle them with care because the coatings on these utensils are prone to chipping. These are best used as decorative or serving pots.
There are so many cookware options that you can choose from. Make a choice according to what suits your lifestyle and health best.
Chef Sanjeev Kapoor is the most celebrated face of Indian cuisine. He is Chef extraordinaire, runs a successful TV Channel FoodFood, hosted Khana Khazana cookery show on television for more than 17 years, author of 150+ best selling cookbooks, restaurateur and winner of several culinary awards. He is living his dream of making Indian cuisine the number one in the world and empowering women through power of cooking to become self sufficient. His recipe portal www.sanjeevkapoor.com is a complete cookery manual with a compendium of more than 10,000 tried & tested recipes, videos, articles, tips & trivia and a wealth of information on the art and craft of cooking in both English and Hindi.