Buying and nursing your pots and pans

Zenoyise Madikwa

Zenoyise Madikwa

Buying the right cook ware can be confusing because there is just too much to choose from.

The range of pots and pans is enormous, with materials varying from stainless steel, cast iron, aluminum and copper. And complicating the issue even more is the range made of two or more different metals.

According to chef Puis Ngoro, most pots and pans look similar, but there are certain qualities to check for before deciding which to buy.

What to look for when buying cook ware

Heat conductivity

Some metals are better heat conductors than others. For instance, copper is a particularly good heat conductor whereas stainless steel is not. The better the heat conductivity, the better and more evenly food will cook. Also, when you turn the heat up or down, a copper pot or pan will react a lot quicker to the temperature change than stainless steel cook ware.


The amount you pay for cook ware will most likely be a determining factor in what you end up buying. The rule of thumb is to buy the best you can afford.


Some cook ware will maintain their good looks and last longer than others. Stainless steel is considered to be one of the best in this respect.


Some metals react with certain foods. Aluminum, for instance, has a tendency to react with tomato and other acidic dishes. This means that your food can actually absorb some of the metal, so take care with your cook ware choices and ensure that you are aware of the reactivity of each product.


If you don't want to spend time shining pots and pans every day to keep them looking good, then you will need to consider the amount of maintenance required to keep them in tip-top shape. Copper and cast iron cook ware generally require quite a bit of work to keep them looking pristine, while stainless steel is easier to look after.

Taking care of your cook ware

Basic care starts with reading the manufacturer's care instructions. Wash all pots and pans thoroughly inside and out soon after use. If baked-on food requires washing the pan in soapsuds, dry it thoroughly after washing over a warm stove and rub vegetable oil into the pan with a paper towel.

Prevent heat stains on the outside of pans by keeping gas flames low so that they cannot lick up the side. Do not subject cook ware to sudden temperature changes and allow to cool before washing or soaking.

Getting rid of stains

To remove burned-on food, fill the pan with enough warm, soapy water to cover the mess and let it sit for an hour. Then put the pan back on the stove and boil the soapy water for 10 to 15 minutes. Let the water cool then scrub with a nylon scouring pad. Wash out again with hot, soapy water, rinse and dry.

To bring back that brand-new shine, wet the surface and sprinkle on some baking soda. Rub gently with a synthetic scouring pad, rinse thoroughly and dry.