The two types of cookware most widely sold in the United States are nonstick and anodized. Whether you're a novice in the kitchen or a gourmet chef, before purchasing either style of cookware, take into consideration some of the differences between these popular types.
Nonstick surfaces were first introduced on cookware in the 1960s. Since then, nonstick cookware has garnered a huge share of the North American market, nearly 60 percent. Although controversial at times, nonstick coatings have been confirmed safe for human use by scientists from the Food and Drug Administration. Cookware without perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) is considered more environmentally friendly than those made with other nonstick coatings, according to their manufacturers. Nonstick pans provide an advantage when cooking meals for those on low-fat diets, as no shortening or oil is needed.
Anodized cookware (sometimes called "hard anodized cookware") is usually made with aluminum or an aluminum alloy, dipped into a chemical bath, then zapped with an electric current. This treatment provides a strong protective layer on the original metal, making pots and pans resistant to the eventual corrosion that takes place if the cookware does not go through anodization. Anodized cookware offers even heat distribution and does not react to acidic foods. Most have heavy bases, providing balance to the pan on a stovetop and contributing to a long life for each pot.
Both types of cookware save energy because they effectively cook at lower temperatures than pans made of stainless steel, cast iron or aluminum alone. A setting of medium or lower is recommended for both types of cookware. Cooking at too high a temperature will burn food in a nonstick pan right onto the pan, affecting the nonstick coating. In general, anodized cookware can handle a higher temperature than nonstick, although it's rarely necessary for even cooking. Impatient cooks can ruin any kind of pan using too high heat and leaving it untended on the stove.
Durability and Cleanup
Nonstick cookware is likely to scratch if cared for improperly; sharp metal utensils can mar anodized cookware as well. Lightly disfigured pans pose no safety threat and should provide years of good service. Both types of cookware boast of easier cleanup than other types of pots and pans. Nonabrasive plastic or nylon cleansing pads are recommended, as metal scourers will scratch the surfaces of both types of cookware. Most manufacturers do not advise cleaning nonstick or anodized cookware in an automatic dishwasher.
The Cookware Manufacturers Association recommends purchasing a single piece to determine whether it meets your needs before investing in a set of any type of cookware. Once that decision is made, buying a set is often more cost-effective than buying one pan or lid at a time. Cookware sets include several size and types of pans (e.g., saucepans or skillets) and are sold with a variety of lids and other accessories. As of September 2010, a 10-piece set in either nonstick or anodized cookware ranges in price from $60 to $400.