Walking into a department store can be quite overwhelming when shopping for cookware. With so many celebrated brands and celebrity endorsed product lines, it could be hard to narrow down your search in finding the perfect pan for you, and not your friend Amy who was recommended a product from an infomercial last week. With most brands promising the same ease and ability to brown the most perfect potatoes when using their product, most fall through.
Therefore, before looking at the pros and cons mentioned below for each type of pan, ask yourself what do you cook most frequently. If searing meat is the usual, then it's best to look into Cast or Japanese Iron pans. However, if it’s important for your pan to be an easy clean-up post some scrambled egg activity, then a surface with a non-stick guarantee is what you need. Labeled below are the pros and cons for you to acquaint yourself with, prior to welcoming your new sous-chef into your kitchen.
Non-stick pans allow for an easy clean-up, all while staying light on the butter and oil. By saving time these pans make frying eggs and cooking particularly sticky foods easy. However, for as easy as they may make your life in the kitchen, they contain toxic carcinogenic chemicals which seep into your food, causing a potential health hazard. These chemicals are especially released when the pan gets scratched. When they do, it is imperative that you discard the pan, rather than to continue use. These pans, although cheap in comparison to other alternatives, rack up replacement costs overtime.
Searing, browning, frying and sautéing are all made possible with a cast iron pan, due to its ability to evenly heat up the surface at a slow rate. Highly durable, it is important to remember that once the stovetop is turned off the food in the pan will continue to cook, as its materials are able to retain heat for longer periods of time. Not the most clean-up friendly, Cast Iron pans are also extremely heavy. This can cause accidents and injury, as a tired hand could easily let slip a heavy iron skillet.
Japanese Iron pans boast all the same advantages of that of Cast Iron, except with it being on average 70% lighter to the former. This highly durable mostly non-stick material is furthermore PFOA and PTFE free, and will further provide great health benefits to those looking to include more iron into their diet. That being said, with its versatility in being able to heat evenly (better taste) this highly durable material is best when marked as a Premium grade of Japanese Iron.
Most home-cooks across the United States cook with aluminum pans, due to its ability to be a great heat conductor. However, it is important to steer clear from thing gauge based pans, as they can further deform when exposed to rapid temperature changes. It is also important to note, that when the surface of an aluminum pan is scratched, that it is best to replace it, as to continue cooking with a scratched pan may lead to metal leaching into the foods being cooked. Therefore, this option could be costly, due to the frequent replacements needed in order to ensure the safety in those consuming the foods being cooked.
With that said, when looking for your next (or first) cookware purchase, it is best to ask yourself : A) What will I be using this pan for? B) Do I value price over durability, and vice versa? C) How important is a hassle-free non-stick surface to me, when in relation to toxic materials? When all of those are answered, you can best see if a Japanese Iron pan is of preference, compared to a low-cost (temporary) non-stick piece of cookware.