‘What could be complicated about finding and purchasing cookware sets?’, you may wonder. However, some commonly asked questions about what sets to buy, how many pieces it should include, what brand, what material, etc., indicate that there is more to consider about cookware than you may have thought initially.
What factors are most important to consider when selecting cookware?
According to the Primal Gourmet blog, “Your top priorities when buying pots and pans are cost, quality, and material. After that, aesthetics, or the way things look, become an important, albeit subjective, factor.”
Additionally, “The question of cookware set vs. individual items is perhaps the most common one.” For example, do you need a couple of staple pots and pans to use on a rotating basis, or do you need a complete set? This is an important question to ask yourself because once you have decided, you can figure out if you want to splurge if you only need a couple of pieces.
Is expensive cookware better?
Everyone is familiar with the adage, “You get what you pay for,” but spending more doesn’t always equal better. Unfortunately, many of us fall under the misconception that we are getting a better deal when we pay for a complete set of cookware because we feel like everything we need will be included in that set or getting more of a bang for our buck.
This is not always the case because often sets come with multiple sizes of the same type of pan or pot when in all reality, we will most likely use one size more than the other. Therefore, to get the most out of the cookware you buy, try to think about function over the number of pieces in a set and consider how often you will use each piece.
Assess your needs first
Before you go shopping online or in-person, first consider your cooking habits and overall needs. You may come to realize that you need just a few specific pieces for your kitchen. Not everyone cooks every meal at home or are cooking enthusiasts. Each home and need will be different. For instance, if you are cooking for one person or a family of four, your needs will most likely be different.
What are the safest pots and pans to cook with?
One factor often overlooked due to lack of common knowledge is safety. We aren’t talking about heat-protected handles or tight-fitting lids to keep hot oil from spitting on and burning you. Instead, we are talking about PFCs (perfluorinated chemicals), most notably known as C8.
You may be someone who thinks that buying the latest non-stick pans will make your life in the kitchen easier. While this may be true, it is worth considering that toxic chemicals used to create non-stick surfaces have been related to an ever concerning amount of adverse health risks.
For a fascinating but quick run-down of the effects of PFCs, PFOs, and PFAs on individuals and communities, check out this clip from Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.
What you should know
According to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), “Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of man-made chemicals that includes PFOA, PFOS, GenX, and many other chemicals. PFAS have been manufactured and used in a variety of industries around the globe, including in the United States since the 1940s”.
‘Just how many people are impacted by this?’ you may ask. First, keep in mind that the following facts have been gathered since the origination and ultimately widespread use of the C8 chemical in the1940’s.
Environmental Health News reports that “According to a 2007 study, C8 is in the blood of 99.7% of Americans. It’s called a “forever chemical” because it never fully degrades. DuPont had been aware since at least the 1960s that C8 was toxic in animals and since the 1970s that there were high concentrations of it in the blood of its factory workers”.
In addition to the fact that this is a chemical that doesn’t break down over time, “the EPA reports that “Both chemicals are very persistent in the environment and in the human body,” “and they can accumulate over time. There is evidence that exposure to PFAS can lead to adverse human health effects.”
Impacts on health
While we can’t erase the effects of our past exposure to PFAs, we can be aware of the health effects of future use of products with these chemicals. The health impacts that have been researched and linked with PFA’s “indicate that PFOA and PFOS can cause reproductive and developmental, liver and kidney, and immunological effects in laboratory animals. Both chemicals have caused tumors in animals. The most consistent findings are increased cholesterol levels among exposed populations, with more limited findings related to:
- low infant birth weights,
- effects on the immune system,
- cancer (for PFOA), and
- thyroid hormone disruption (for PFOS).”
You may not be able to rid your immediate surroundings of PFAs entirely, but reducing your exposure will go a very long way. The EPA tells us that “PFAS are found in a wide range of consumer products that people use daily such as cookware, pizza boxes, and stain repellants. Most people have been exposed to PFAS”.
Maybe it is worth considering replacing that non-stick pan with something less toxic or invasive.
The safest cookware
According to Non-toxic Living Tips, the “Best and Safest Cookware” come in the following materials:
- Cast iron
- Enamel-coated cast iron
- Stainless steel
- Lead-Free Ceramic
Top 3 Cookware sets under $200 to consider
Cookware can range from cheap to expensive, but how much should you pay for something of good quality? The average price range for a decent set is between $200-$400. So if you are starting from scratch and have your heart set on buying a group, whether it be functionality, durability, or aesthetics you are looking for, here are the top 3 options for $200 or less:
This brand provides the best bang for your buck regarding utility and quality and has excellent customer reviews.
This T-Fal set ranks within the top five of several best-of lists. While the prices are a steal for most of their sets and products, their customer ratings are high, and the quality is still excellent. In addition, even though their products are non-stick, T-Fal boasts being PFOA-free and environmentally friendly.
This set appears on several lists and is a fantastic bargain in addition to being well-rated, decent quality, and aesthetically pleasing. So if you are looking for a set that looks great while still being of excellent quality, this set will fill that need.
One set does not fit all
Now that we have gone over the basics, it’s time for you to assess your needs and then decide if you will purchase a set or stick with single-piece purchases. Do your research and look at your options before making your final decision. There are tons of options out there, and not all of them may be suitable for your needs. Take your time and remember that there are plenty of good, quality, affordable options that don’t have to break the bank. Once you have your priorities in line, enjoy picking something that will add functionality to your kitchen. Whether you’re looking to hone your cooking skills or not, the right tools will make the whole cooking process more enjoyable and, hopefully, simpler.