Commercial Cookware Cheat Sheet: Choosing the Best Pieces for Your Kitchen

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One of the biggest secrets of achieving restaurant-quality results at home is the right cookware. However, many home cooks never consider commercial cookware, opting to purchase well-known brands online or at a big box retail store. Built to withstand high heat, constant washing, and the scraping, banging, and bumping that goes along with a busy kitchen, commercial cookware usually lasts longer than the typical pots and pans you see at your favorite store. Surprisingly, it is also often cheaper than what you may already have at home. So how do you decide what is best for you? Focus on three factors: material, handle type, and how you will use your new pots and pans.

Materials

Cookware can be constructed using a variety of materials. A budget-friendly option, aluminum cookware is less expensive than most other types of cookware. Aluminum pots and pans are great heat conductors, cooking food evenly and quickly. However, because aluminum is a soft metal, cookware made from this material tends to scratch and dent easily.

Slightly more expensive than aluminum, non-stick cookware features a coating that eliminates the need to add extra butter or oil to prevent food from adhering to the pan. Although these types of pots and pans are easy to clean, special care must be taken when using them: the non-stick coating will scratch off with the use of metal utensils or abrasive scrubbing pads. Like aluminum cookware, non-stick cookware is also an excellent heat conductor, producing evenly cooked meals.

Stainless steel cookware is more costly than aluminum and non-stick, but it is also the most durable. Ideal for cooking slow and simmering foods, stainless steel cookware heats up slowly, resisting scorching from a quick high heat. Choose stainless steel stock pots and sauce pans to create perfect soups , gravies, and sauces.

Comparable in price to stainless steel, tri-ply cookware combines the benefits of aluminum and stainless steel cookware. With a stainless steel body and copper or aluminum bottom, tri-ply pots and pans stand up to frequent use and provide superior heat conduction.

When selecting the material for your cookware, also consider the cooking processes required by your recipes. Some materials, like non-stick, are not oven and broiler safe, preventing you from transferring dishes in a single pan from stovetop to oven.

Handle Type

Selecting the wrong handle for your cookware could result in injuries and undue frustration. An ergonomic handle makes it easy to transfer pots and pans from one location to another, ideal for those who spend hours in the kitchen. Heat proof handles prevent burns and are convenient for those times when your pot is boiling over and your pot holder is on the other side of the kitchen.  Long handles are great for sautéing, helping cooks avoid burns when moving the pan back and forth on the burner.

Uses

When choosing cookware, think about how often you will use it and what types of food you will prepare. For most cooks, three or four pieces of quality commercial cookware is all they need to make a wide range of main and side dishes, appetizers, and desserts. Sauté pans, sauce pans, and stock pots are among the most versatile pieces of industrial cookware, must-haves for professional chefs and home cooks alike.

Sauté pans feature a flat bottom to provide even heat distribution. With traight sides, sauté pans keep liquids from spilling over the side when stirring or sliding the pan back and forth over the heat.

Like sauté pans, sauce pans have a flat bottom. Constructed with a round base and straight sides, sauce pans are not only ideal for sauces, but also rice, mashed potatoes, and steamed vegetables.

Stock pots have a thick bottom to prevent burning and double handles to make them easier to move. Extremely versatile, stock pots can be used to make soups, stocks, and pastas and braise meats. A stock pot with a 6 to 12 quart capacity is ideal for most uses.