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Gear Guide Cookware Buying Guide, OutdoorPlaces.Com



 OutdoorPlaces.Com Cookware Buying Gear Guide


 Picking The Right Cookware



Aluminum does yeoman’s work for cookware both out at the camp in our homes.  Aluminum is lightweight and for the most part inexpensive.  Inferior aluminum cookware can oxidize leaving a white chalky residue on your pots.  Ingesting this oxidation can make you sick.  Aluminum is also reactive.  Cook something acidic in your aluminum cookware, and the aluminum can interfere with the taste of your food.  Aluminum is a tricky material to cook with.  Aluminum is not terribly conductive, so it takes a while to get hot, and when it gets hot, it stays hot.  Get your aluminum pan to hot and the food starts to burn, removing it from the heat won’t help.  The food will continue to burn because the heat is trapped and dissipates slowly.  Aluminum cookware has also been linked to Alzheimer’s disease.  Short-term weekends won’t matter, but if you’re going to take a half-year off to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, you might want to think again.  Because aluminum is soft, it can get banged up more easily than other materials in the field.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is probably the number two material you will find for cookware both out at the camp in the home.  Stainless steel doesn’t rust or oxidize.  It is very durable, and takes the rigors of life on the trail very well.  It is the heaviest of the materials typically used in cookware, but the margin of increased weight is minor in a well-designed cookware set.  Stainless steel is also a tricky material to cook with.  Stainless steel is not a very good conductor so like aluminum it takes a while to get heated up.  Unlike aluminum it doesn’t trap the heat.  If your food starts to burn, remove the pan from the heat and the temperature drops quickly.  So it is easier to cook with.  Stainless steel is also a little slicker than aluminum, making clean up easier.


Composite pots are usually stainless steel and copper or stainless steel and aluminum.  The copper or aluminum is usually sandwiched between the stainless steel.  Composite pots, especially those with copper-sandwiched bottoms are the best for cooking.  Not only do you get the durable, non-stick qualities of stainless steel, copper is an excellent conductor.  It heats quickly and cools quickly, and passing through the layer of stainless diffuses the heat for nice even cooking.  Aluminum adds the same qualities, but is not quite as efficient as copper.  Because stainless steel does not take to welding, specialized construction of composite pots adds weight.  Poorly designed pots with sandwiched bottoms can break their welds, leaving you with useless cookware when the copper plate and protective stainless layer falls off.  Also, don’t confuse a pot that has a layer of copper on the bottom that is visible with a sandwiched bottom.  The thin layer of copper on the outside of some pots, typically electroplated on, are so thin it ads very little benefit to the cookware.


Titanium is incredibly lightweight and durable.  If you are counting every ounce in the pack or will be going on long trips where durability is an issue, titanium may be the way to go.   Titanium is very expensive when compared to other materials and like aluminum is a poor conductor of heat.  It heats quickly but stays hot, making it easy to burn your food.  Unless you are a purist for lightweight backpacking, titanium is probably over kill for the average person.