Pots & Pan Care

Since writing this article I have learn much more about safe cooking materials – please read this article to be informed. However, the information below is still valid for those who still use these types of cookware – I do suggest you stop using teflon though, read the article to know more!

Quality cookware taken care of properly can last a lifetime.. key word there is properly. I have done some research to find out just how to take care of certain types of cookware. Shockingly steel wool and dishwashers are not recommended for your cookware. They can both can damage the pot/pan and then you will have to buy new ones sooner. It is best to store your pots and pans (ie. cookware) individually – not stacked within. This can be hard if you are low on space, the next best thing then is to have a layer between each so the metal does not touch – tea towels or regular towels work great for this. Metals do not react well together, and even if it is aluminum on aluminum – it can still scratch and damage the surface.

Porcelain Enamel
Porcelain Enamel (aka: Le Creuset or French Ovens or Dutch Ovens) are prized because they can retain and evenly distribute heat. Le Creuset are best used for long-baking stews and soups; they are not recommended for frying or oil based sauces – as the oil can heat up to high and damage the enamel. They work in all ovens, and all cook tops: electric, gas, glass halogen, and induction.

To clean: allow to cool first – if you fill a warm Le Creuset with water is can cause the enamel to crack. It is recommended to hand wash with hot soapy water and dry it – don’t air dry it. Do not use steel wool or other abrasive materials on it, they will damage the enamel.

Le Creuset has a variety of other products, but are known for there enamels cast iron cookware.

Nonstick Cookware
Everyone loves a good nonstick pan! No nasty scrubbing or soaking after you cook, who would not love that added luxury! Nonsticks pans can be bought for all cook tops, just read the label to make sure it matches the cook top you have. Always use silicon or plastic utensils with nonstick – never metals. Metal utensils will cut and pierce through the thin two layer coating – this can cause rust and foods to stick. It is recommended to not stack your nonstick pans with other pans – the bottom of the other pans will scratch the insides of your nonstick.

When removing your nonstick from the heat source, never submerge or rinse with water – wait till it cools. If you wet the hot pan the metal will warp, causing problems – mainly that it does not lay flat and the heat will not evenly disperse. Never put nonstick in the dishwasher – the soap and process are to abrasive and again will damage the surface. Soak if needed before to loosen foods. Wash by hand with plastic scrubbers or a spounge – never steel wool – in warm to hot water. Notice I did not mention soap. Soap also breaks down the nonstick surface. It is next recommended to cure it – this means to add a thin coat of oil and a sprinkle of salt to the pan. Turn the pan on high and the impurities will burn off, there will be smoke. Leave the nonstick to cure. I personally have not been curing my nonsticks, after the hot water rinse I leave them to dry then put away. The way I see it is that I will heat it up with oil before putting food in it the next time – so I have just reordered. I did try it once, but the smoke was just a bit much for me – it smelled all evening. I have not found anything saying that it is wrong to just oil before cooking, I have however found information saying that a nonstick on extremely high temperatures is bad – so I rinse and pre-heat.

A side note: Make sure that the oil or butter in the nonstick is heated up before you add your ingredients to it. Keep them moving the first few seconds to coat them and viola!

Aluminum Cookware
Aluminum pans are good on all cook tops except some induction cook tops. So again, read the label to make sure said pan works with your cook top. Aluminum bakeware of course is good in any oven. Aluminum can react with acidic foods for the worse, take caution. If adding salt to a pot, it should be added after the liquid has boiled. Foods with high acidic or salt levels should not be stored in aluminum pans as it can cause pitting. Pitting appears as little dents in the pot, like if they were made with a screwdriver – while this is not the end of the world, it is still not the best.

To clean, wait till pan has cooled – as with the others, do not submerge in water while pan is hot. Aluminum is safe for the dishwasher and can also be hand washed. To remove hard stuck food, use non-abrasive cleaning pads – not steel wool. To remove stains: boil a water and vinegar solution.

Anodized Aluminum Pots
I find that Anodized Aluminum is a great substitute for non-stick and it is supposed to be a healthier alternative too. Anodized Aluminum is basically non-porous – so no food should stick to it, plus you can use less oil. They are not dishwasher safe, the continual temperature with the soap is a no go! But since food does not stick a plastic scrubber will work just fine. Vinegar or citrus should not be left in pan after cooking.

Anodized Aluminum is not magnetic, so it does not work with induction stove tops – but all others are ok. There are a few brands which have made anodized aluminum with to work with induction – they are Jamie Oliver, Analon, Stellar and In-range. As with all metals, metals should not be mixed. I have a lovely Anodized Aluminum pot and the lid has chipped the edges – be careful dry chipped areas well to avoid rust.

Stainless Steel
Stainless Steel pots and pans are just stunning – there is no denying it. But they are not non-stick. Stainless Steel is dishwasher safe, but it is recommended to remove after the wash cycle and before the dry cycle – to hand dry. If you have a tough stain, mix a one to three – vinegar to water – solutions and bring to a boil. This also works to help remove the calcium build up that is common on stainless steel cookware. Good advice to removed caked on gunk, when your forgot or over cooked something and it has burned – add water to the pan and bring to boil, use a spatula to move or scrap off gunk.

When buying stainless steel look for a thick bottom or based pan, this help to evenly distribute the heat – stainless steel is not known for evenly heating, so the thicker the better. You can use all types of utensils on your stainless steel – though sharp metal, such as a knife, will leave a scratch. Stainless steel has the great advantage of not having negative reactions with any ingredients – ie. tomato, citrus, salt. It is also great for sautéing. I do love cooking with Stainless Steel, it feels more natural then say nonstick – and has the health benefits of no chemical seeping into the food.

Cast Iron
Cast Iron – the grandfather of them all. They are cheap and last forever! We had a cast iron skillet growing up, it was (and still is) my Dad’s favorite. Cast Iron is the meatier of the cookware – virtually impossible to break! It is an excellent heat conductor, evenly too – but it takes some time to heat up. This makes it great for searing steaks or any meat in that case. The metal is very porous, so therefore not nonstick, but if kept cured and well oiled will work like a charm. Wine and tomatoes can cause chemical reactions with the iron, and strangely it will turn fresh spinach black. One of the best benefits of cast iron is that it can go from stovetop to oven to fire-pit. Cast Iron can be used on all cook tops. One tip is if using it on a glass top (ie. induction) to have a silicone mat over the burner to avoid scratching the glass – make sure the silicone is oven safe.

Since cast iron is very porous, it needs to be cleaned and cured properly. Never use soap on your Cast Iron, all those oils that have seeped into the pan are good! To ‘wash’ your Cast Iron pan use hot water and a non-soapy plastic or nylon brush. Never soak your cast iron. Iron rusts, we all know and have seen this. Your typical air dry or towel dry will not do here – heat it up on the stove to make sure all the water is gone. Now if you use your pan every day, coat with a thin layer of oil and store (thin not glossy). If you are going to use the pan once every month, then leave it as is – if you coat it with oil and wait a few days before using it the oil will become rancid.

To use your cast iron pan, always pre heat it. To make for sure that it is heated drop a few small drops of water on the pan, if the water instantly is gone then it is too hot or if it sits around bubbling it is not hot enough. Never drop or add large amounts of cold liquid to your cast iron – it can crack it. Never boil water in cast iron, again it can cause it to rust. Remember the whole pan is cast iron, handle too – use an oven mitt! When you buy a new cast iron you need to ‘break it in’ by properly seasoning it. You can do this buy rinsing to remove dirt, then heating on the stove to dry. Once cooled, coat with oil and place face down in oven at 350 degrees F. Make sure to put a sheet tray below to catch the drippings. Leave for a hour, then let cool. You are trying to get the pores of the pan full of oil. You can repeat the process a few times if you see the need. It is also good to do this every so often in the future. It is said that a well seasoned cast iron skillet is as good as if not better then a nonstick skillet.


Invest in quality cookware, it may take time to build up a good collection – but it will be worth having the proper tools to cook great meals.

What do you think?