What Features Should I Look for When Selecting Cookware?

Dr. Bowser:  Here’s my list of basic characteristics to consider when selecting cookware.  


Surface finish:  A smooth, hard, inert surface is expected to be the best to cook on and easiest to clean. The surface finish for most cookware is achieved via mechanical polishing, electropolishing, or coating (or some combination).


Function:  Cookware must be functional in terms of meeting the needs of the chef. It must efficiently serve a critical role in the cooking process.


Appearance:  Cookware should be nice to look at.


Construction:  Good cookware is constructed to be durable and easy to clean. Durability can be measured in terms of successive generations of owners, for example, of high-quality stainless steel cookware. (I’m still using some of my grandmother’s stainless cookware!)  Easy to clean means that there are no cracks or crevices (from roll-overs or seams in the metal); no hollow handles or spaces that might fill with water or food; no exposed threads, rivets, or rough areas that retain food and are difficult to clean; smooth graceful lines and transitions between vertical and horizontal surfaces that are easy to clean (no sharp corners).


Weight:  Good cookware should be light, but heavy enough to feel substantial and not easily knocked over or off the cook surface.


Now for my pet peeves and the features I recommend avoiding:


I can’t stand rivets in the food-contact area of cookware. Rivets are a strong and cost-effective joining technique for metals; however, they also form a great place for food to collect and are difficult to clean. Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to find mass-marketed, high-quality cookware without exposed rivets in the food-contact area. Another problem area: handles that get too hot to handle. This circumstance should never occur. Handles can easily be designed to dissipate heat and remain touchable.


Glass lids are nice, but those steel rims and riveted handles make huge cleaning headaches. It’s hard to clean the transition between the steel and glass, and how do you clean inside the steel rim when food gets into this area (and it will get in)? When the metal is fused to the glass to make a smooth, seamless transition, I will consider buying cookware with glass lids. The technology needed to do this is available but very expensive.


Finally, I like cookware that’s made in the U.S.A. I want to support jobs in my country as much as possible, and buying high-quality American cookware is one way to do this.




Timothy J. Bowser, Ph.D.  Oklahoma State University, Dept. of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering



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