In the 1700s, some Europeans believed that tomatoes were poisonous, due to fatalities associated with eating them. However, it was later discovered that the problem was not with the tomatoes, but rather the cookware used to cook and serve them: pewter. The high acidity of the tomatoes caused lead from the pewter to leach into the food, causing poisoning. Though the cookware of today is generally recognized as safe, the incidence that occurred in the 1700s highlights the importance of cooking foods with the right cookware. The types of materials available for cookware make it hard to choose which to buy and which to forgo. By having a variety of cookware, made from different materials, food businesses can make themselves as comfortable as possible. Materials can be selected based on the purpose they will serve as well as the budget of the venue.
Aluminum is typically one of the cheapest options for cookware. Though it is relatively versatile and lightweight, aluminum can react with acidic foods, leading to a metallic taste and aluminum consumption. Studies have shown that consuming aluminum may be dangerous to health, hinting that cooking with aluminum should be done with caution (acidic ingredients should not be cooked using aluminum cookware). Anodized aluminum is less reactive due to having undergone treatment, making it a better, but more expensive option when compared to regular aluminum cookware.
Cast-iron is often a top choice for stovetop cooking, since it distributes heat efficiently and is relatively heavy duty. Egg dishes such as Israeli shakshuka and stews can be started on the stove in a cast-iron pan and finished in the oven.
They can even be served in the pan, for an authentic feel and interesting plating strategy. On the downside, cast iron is suspected to leach iron into highly acidic foods, causing potential risks for some populations. Overall, cast-iron is a great option for stovetop and oven cooking.
Copper dishes are a good option for serving foods directly after cooking, since they are very aesthetic. Copper also has fantastic heat transfer properties, helping its contents cook evenly. Copper dents easily, must be polished occasionally, and can be reactive with highly acidic foods. Fortunately, these problems can be partially solved by purchasing lined copper cookware, which can help lower the reactivity of the metal with various foods, making the cookware more ideal for food preparation venues.
Glass cookware is an ideal option for baking and cooking in the oven. Glass is nonreactive, eliminating the worries associated with aluminum and copper cookware alternatives. It also retains heat well, compared to metal, and is relatively easy to clean. However, glass pans also tend to be heavy, posing a downside for use in bulk cooking. They are also likely to break when dropped, potentially bumping up equipment expenses in a commercial kitchen.
Stainless steel is a material made with a combination of metals. The quality is defined based on the mixture of metals used, which determine the properties of the finished product. Stainless steel is relatively expensive, and the lower grade products are not usually very efficient at transferring heat evenly. Cheap stainless steel may also scratch easily. Nevertheless, good quality stainless steel products are convenient options for stovetop cookware in a restaurant kitchen.
Ceramic is an unreactive material that tends to hold heat well. It can be used for cooking dishes in the oven, such as eggs, baked potatoes, and stews. Some ceramic dishes are attractive and presentable, making them convenient for immediately serving food after cooking. Like glass, ceramic also has the downside of being a relatively heavy material and tends to break when dropped.
Nonstick cookware makes a cook’s life easier by minimizing the need to worry about contents sticking to a pan due to not using the proper amounts of butter or oil to grease it. Though recent speculations about nonstick pans suggest that they may not be healthy to use, according to many experts, the pans are safe at typical cooking temperatures. “Nonstick” properties of these pans are created by adding a layer of material to a pan. Nonstick pans are a must-have for commercial kitchens, providing hassle-free cookware for preparing omelets, fish, and pasta sauces.
Cookware materials can shape the properties of the finished dish. Heavy cookware will generally retain heat longer than lighter alternatives, increasing the heat transfer to the food. Therefore, as a general rule, heavy cookware materials should be used to cook and brown meat, along with other dishes that need high and efficient heat transfer. Cookware purchasing choices should be made by considering the types of foods that will be offered in the venue, as well as the budget. If the menu is changed drastically on a regular basis, a business may consider purchasing less expensive cookware items for those geared to preparation of very specific, seasonal dishes, but investing in good quality cast-iron pans and a sturdy stainless steel pot can have versatile and helpful uses in a kitchen.