Copper pots are revered for their ability to conduct heat and cook food very evenly. Chefs prize them for their ability to quickly achieve precise temperatures and maintain them, making them perfect for sauces, browning and braising. Also, they’re gorgeous and will complement any kitchen.
Almost as renown as copper cookware’s precision is their daunting price and their reactiveness to acid. Most are now lined with stainless steel or tin, but pure copper pots impart a metallic taste to food and can leave gray streaks. Frequent polishing is the price of beauty, and they can dent fairly easily. You absolutely should not use them on a ceramic-glass-top stove.
Glass is inexpensive, nonporous and nonreactive. Being nonreactive is an especially useful benefit for high-acid food like tomatoes and volatile ones like yeast. Their nonporous nature may be important to safety-conscious people, as there is growing concern over trace amounts of heavy metal leaching into food from metal cookware. Glass also bakes faster and retains heat longer than metal does. Snap on a heat-safe lid, and you can easily serve up hot food at a party or picnic.
Glass is heavy and especially prone to breaking when dropped. Glass can also be difficult to clean when food bakes onto it. It’s not recommended for ceramic-glass cooktops.
Cookware with nonstick coatings like Teflon, Tefal, Silverstone, Anolon, Circulon, Calphalon and others are remarkably easy to cook with and clean. They’re healthier, as they require less butter or oil to start a dish, and some are engineered to be oven-safe. Nonstick ceramic is quickly growing in popularity and offsets some of the negative and dangerous aspects of nonstick coatings.
Cookware with nonstick coatings can only be used with safe utensils like plastic and wood, or you risk scratching through the coating, which accelerates its inevitable erosion. Under heavy use, nonstick coatings eventually flake and scratch and introduce harmful chemicals into your food. At high heat (over 500 degrees F), some of these coatings, notably Teflon, emit off-gas, which is toxic to humans, inducing flu-like symptoms. Bird lovers, beware: Off-gas is fatal to birds.
Porcelain enamel cookware
Seen frequently as Dutch ovens and large skillets, these dishes are usually made from cast iron or carbon steel coated in porcelain enamel. They combine some of the best qualities of ceramic and cast iron. They are nonreactive and easy to clean like ceramic but don’t need to be seasoned like cast iron.
They also combine some of the drawbacks of both. They’re heavy and will break when dropped. There are also reports of their coating discoloring ceramic-glass cooktops at high heat, so be careful when using them.
Next up: Silicone cookware