A conversation with my hunny about cooking sauerkraut at a picnic brought this topic to mind . . . whether or not to bring an aluminum pan to cook the kraut in. He thought that maybe sauerkraut shouldn’t be cooked in aluminum . . . of course he was right because there are all kinds of interesting, odd and trivial information stuffed inside that adorable brain of his.
Anyhoo . . . I am not a cookware snob by any stretch of the imagination. My collection consists of a plethora (yes, I said plethora) of a mix match, mish mosh of this that and the other thing that I’ve accumulated from a number of sources – wedding gifts, mom, gramma, tag sales and . . . ugh . . . Walmart. It’s safe to say I do not possess of full set of anything but I have every pot and pan that I need. For now.
Let’s start with aluminum cookware since that’s what set this whole post off . . .
Aluminum cookware is very popular. With the exception of my pressure canner, the only aluminum pots and pans I own are of the camp cookware variety. Anodized aluminum doesn’t pose any issues; however, uncoated aluminum reacts with many foods, causing damage to the pan and affecting the taste of the food. Acidic foods such as apples, citrus fruits, tomatoes, wine and SAUERKRAUT react with an uncoated aluminum surface. Salt in foods reacts with the surface of aluminum pans, as well.
It was recently reported that using aluminum cookware increased the risk of Alzheimer's, but fear not, that study is discredited.
Stainless Steel is another very popular choice in cookware. I have some that my mother cooked with when I was a youngster and I have many fond memories of the dishes she cooked in them.
Unlike aluminum, stainless steel does not react with foods and it’s sooooooo shiny. Two problems with stainless steel are that it heats unevenly and lots of foods stick to its surface. There’s all kinds of mumbo-jumbo about van deer Wasls forces, covalent bonds and proteins forming complexes with metal atoms . . . blah blah blah. We all know it happens . . . I don’t really care WHY it happens but it’s good to know how to prevent it. Hot oil . . . it fills in the valleys and caves of the pan surface . . . be sure not to over heat the oil to the smoking point. This is all so complex. How to tell if the pan is hot enough so food won't stick. Start by adding COLD oil to a HOT pan. The oil should begin to ripple, and spread quite quickly over the pan. The pan is hot enough if a few small drops of water flicked from your fingertips vaporize immediately, or if a larger drop of water hisses and floats across the surface of the pan on a cushion of its own steam.
Copper . . . besides being beautiful it heats very well and uniformly. It should go without saying that the higher the quality copper pot the better. . . cooking quality depends on the "thermic margin" . . . if your brain just imploded it’s okay because so did mine . . . suffice to say that most commercially available copper pots are very light do not produce the same results as a heavier copper pot. There are two things to keep in mind when using a copper pot . . . only use wood utensils to prevent “tinning”, which will damage your expensive copper pots and use low heat since it transmits heat so well. And the best thing . . . they clean up easily . . . food does not stick to them. Keep them all shined up with some lemon or vinegar and salt or a normal copper polish. Purdy!
On to my favorite . . . cast iron . . . I LOVE it. Besides being inexpensive using cast iron is a healthy way to cook. I bake bread, grill steaks, cook campfood . . . all in cast iron. It’s awesome. Cast iron heats evenly and will last forever if you take care of it. The health factor comes in because cast iron skillets also add iron to our food . . . good stuff! Seasoning your cast iron will create a non-stick surface and help to prevent corrosion. Every time you cook you add to the seasoning. To season your new pans, preheat your oven to 300 degrees. Wash each pan in hot, soapy water and hand-dry immediately. Using a paper towel or cloth, coat the pan with a thin layer of olive (or vegetable) oil or melted shortening. Be sure to coat all surfaces, including the handle. Place the pan in the oven for one hour. Remove while hot and let cool to room temperature. You need not wash your pans with soap and water. After use simply rub them clean with oil and a paper towel or dishcloth. To remove stuck-on residues, place salt and vinegar or oil in your pan and heat in on low heat for a few minutes, then rub clean. Alternatively you may scrub it clean with coarse salt and water. Be sure to always dry your pans thoroughly immediately after use. Never EVER place cast iron in the dishwasher -- this will cause them to rust.
And last, but not least . . . for this discussion anyway . . . Teflon pans. Teflon pans are easy to use but they can also be dangerous. Never leave a Teflon pan heating with nothing in them . . . they overheat very easily; causing a fire and toxic fumes. The same goes for burning food on Teflon . . . don’t cook on high with Teflon. Do not use the pan if the Teflon starts peeling from the surface and never use metal utensils to scrape or clean a Teflon pan. Other than that it’s great.