Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Absolute Beginners Guide to Learning How To Cook for Survival: Part 3 Pots and Pans: Aluminum

Aluminum is lightweight and a fast conductor of heat, that also means it tends to have hot spots and makes it harder to properly sear foods. Aluminum is a reactive metal but unlike cast iron cannot be seasoned. Aluminum is also somewhat soft and is easily scratched. Regular aluminum generally used for very large pots and bakeware.
It would be better to go with either anodized aluminum or one of the non-stick coatings. 
Aluminum is anodized by giving it a bath in an electrified acid tank. This causes oxygen to combine with the aluminum to create a sapphire coating. This makes these pans corrosion and wear resistant. A good thick anodized aluminum pan is good for all kinds of uses and is a fine general use pan. The only real downside is that the anodization is usually very dark making it a little hard to tell how done the food is. An anodized aluminum pot is ideal for long term simmering of high acid foods like tomato sauce. It is also lightweight enough to boil water for pasta and still be able to carry it to the sink. Get pots and pans with oven-safe handles, so you can finish an underdone dish in the oven without burning it.
Aluminum is also often coated with a non-stick material polytetrafluoroethylene aka Teflon(tm). It is so slippery not even a gecko can climb it. A non-stick pan is ideal for cooking eggs, which are liquid protein and will find any crack or pit to hang on to. Obviously, you wouldn't want to use it for making pot-stickers. While it is non-reactive it can start breaking down in kitchen temperatures about 500°F (260°C) and it's not very durable. Pans made by better manufactures don't require special non-metal tools to prevent scratching, stay away from any that do.