Guide to Cookware & Bakeware

Cookware Manufacturers Association

New Guide Cover Photo
The CMA’s Guide to Cookware & Bakeware, 2015 Edition can be read online now by simply clicking here.


Below are some of the most frequently asked questions about cookware answered by the CMA.

What is the “best” cookware?

Family fun at breakfastThe best cookware for consumers is cookware that matches their experience, their lifestyles and their budget. Overly expensive cookware won’t turn anyone into a gourmet cook, but results are more easily obtained with quality product. We recommend consumers try a single piece of cookware before buying an entire set. Our guide helps consumers identify the types of materials best suited to the cooking they do.

How can I get stains and baked on grease from my pans or bakeware?

Nonabrasive cleansers such as Bar-Keepers Friend and Bon Ami are helpful. Try soaking badly stained cookware in a 50/50 solution of vinegar/water or simmering a solution inside the pan. For really tough grease and stains, soaking in a 50/50 solution of household ammonia and water (do this outside to reduce unpleasant smells) for several hours should do the trick. Wash with warm soapy water and rinse well before reusing the product.

Can glass or ceramic utensils be used on top of the range?

While some heat-resistant glass and thermal shock-resistant ceramic ovenware and bakeware can go from refrigerator or freezer to a hot oven, they are not to be used on rangetop elements or under the broiler. Nor should a hot heat-resistant glass or ceramic object be placed on a damp or wet countertop or be immersed in water without first reaching room temperature.

How should ceramic, glass-ceramic or glass cookware be cleaned?

Glass-ceramic cookware should be cleaned with non-abrasive, self-polishing cleansers or with specially formulated mildly abrasive cleansers recommended by the cookware manufacturer. Plastic or nylon scouring pads can be used, but metal-scouring pads should be avoided, particularly if the cookware has a nonstick finish. Ceramic, glass-ceramic and glass cookware is non-porous, so soaking is very effective in loosening burned-on foods.

Can metal utensils be used on glass-ceramic “smooth top” ranges?

In general, flat-bottomed cookware that will remain flat (won’t warp) throughout cooking regardless of material, will perform well on glass-ceramic cooktops.

Can glass, ceramic and glass-ceramic cookware withstand sharp temperature changes?

Modern Kitchen 2Glass-ceramic and some ceramic cookware are impervious to thermal shock and will not break due to sudden temperature changes. Glass-ceramic ovenware and bakeware can go from refrigerator to hot oven, but hot glass bakeware or ovenware should not go directly from oven to refrigerator nor should it come in contact with water until the dish has reached room temperature.

Can cookware with non-metallic handles be placed in an oven?

Some cookware handles are made of thermoplastic materials (which include phenolic and bakelite materials), that conduct heat poorly and therefore stay cool on top of the range. Depending on the type of material, the handle may be oven safe. Check manufacturer’s literature to see what is a safe temperature for your handles inside the oven. Remember, the handles will be hot when they come out of the oven!

What is heat tint?

Heat tint is a mottle rainbow-like discoloration on stainless steel that is caused by excessive heat.

What causes aluminum to discolor? Can discoloration be removed?

In some localities, water contains minerals and alkalis that may be deposited on the inside surface of aluminum pans, causing some discoloration. This does not affect the use of the utensil nor the food prepared in it. Stains or discolorations that may appear on aluminum utensils can be removed by boiling a solution of two to three tablespoons of cream of tartar, lemon juice or vinegar to each quart of water in the utensil for five to ten minutes. Then scour lightly with a soap-filled scouring pad. Cooking acid foods also will help remove discoloration without affecting the food.

Can extreme temperature variations cause metal utensils to warp?

Yes. Don’t place chilled utensils over high heat or soak hot utensils in cold water. Do not begin cooking frozen foods in a hot pan. Extreme temperature changes may warp the pan because of uneven expansions and contraction of the metal. Long periods of high heat also cause metal utensils to warp.

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What is minimum moisture or “waterless” cookery?

Colorful kabobsMinimum moisture or waterless cookery simply means that only a small quantity of liquid is used to cook food. The liquid can be in the food itself or added by the cook. Cooking is started on a medium heat setting, which is reduced to a low setting as soon as steam forms and the pan cover is hot to the touch. This method permits the food to cook by constant formation of steam rather than by boiling. Minimum moisture or waterless cooking is more efficient in cookware of heavier thicknesses with close-fitting covers or covers which form a seal within the body of the utensil.

How is a “cup” of coffee determined?

For the purpose of uniformity, the industry uses 5 fluid ounces as the standard for a cup of brewed coffee. While the coffee cups consumers use may be found in many sizes, the 5-ounce measure is the standard applied to manufacturer’’ capacity statements. Example: a 10 cup coffee maker at full capacity should deliver 50 fluid ounces of brewed coffee.

Can top-of-range cookware also be used in the oven?

Cookware with phenolic (heat-resistant plastic) handles and knobs and/or with nonstick interior coatings may generally be used in a preheated oven up to 350° F. (180° C), but should not be used under the oven broiler unit. Cookware with wooden handles and knobs may not be recommended for oven use. Check the manufacturer’s instructions before using top-of-range cookware in the oven.

What special instructions should be followed when cooking or frying with nonstick coated utensils?

Basically the procedures for cooking are the same rules to be followed for regular fry pans. Medium and low heats should be used. Preheat the pan for about 1-1/2 minutes over medium low or medium heat. Then add food and turn the heat lower. (Many meats are first browned on both sides over medium heat; then the heat is reduced to finish cooking.) High temperatures cause food residues to burn on, affecting the nonstick characteristic.

Do cooking utensils have to be discarded if a handle or knob breaks?

Most manufacturers attach handles and knobs in such a way that they can be easily replaced. It is suggested that the specific manufacturer be contacted for replacement parts should the consumer choose to replace a damaged part rather than discard the utensil. Glass or glass-ceramic utensils that are chipped or cracked should be discarded.

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Is cast iron available only in fry pans?

Cast iron skillet exampleThe most popular utensil made of cast iron is the fry pan, but there are other utensils available. A wide variety of skillets, roasters, Dutch ovens, broilers and specialty items such as muffin pans are available in cast iron.

What is meant by heat absorption?

Heat absorption is the transferring of heat from the air and vapor to the food. The food absorbs heat from the vapor around it. In addition, where the food is in contact with the utensils, heat transfer by conduction also occurs.

What is mean by “clad?”

“Clad” usually means the bonding of one metal to the surface of another, such as copper or aluminum to stainless steel in a way that takes advantage of the characteristics of both metals. For instance, copper or aluminum may be bonded to the exterior of stainless steel to improve heat conductivity, while the inside surface retains the easy-to-clean, scratch-resistant properties of stainless steel.

Do scratches on a nonstick finish ruin the pan?

Scratches may affect the appearance, but they make little difference in the performance of the pan. Despite scratches, pans with a nonstick finish are still usable and can provide good service.

What should be done before using a pan coated with a nonstick finish?

Before using the first time, wash the utensils with hot sudsy water. Rinse thoroughly with hot water and dry immediately. Then apply a film of cooking oil or shortening to the inside surface with a cloth or paper toweling. Solid shortening is more effective than oil when greasing a bakeware pan for baking cakes. However, silicone-coated bakeware does not require pre-seasoning.

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Muffins and panDoes a nonstick coating prevent all food from sticking to the cookware?

While it provides a nonstick surface for most foods, some foods do tend to cling. Even these foods are removed more easily, however, than from a pan not coated with a nonstick finish.

Can fat or grease be used when cooking with nonstick utensils?

Yes, Any type of solid shortening or cook oil may be used when cooking with nonstick utensils. Except for eggs and baked goods with a high sugar content, no shortening or oil is needed to keep food from sticking. This is a definite advantage to people on low-fat diets.

Do special kitchen tools have to be used with nonstick cookware and bakeware?

Nonstick finishes on some pans may be marred by the sharp edge of a spatula or the point of a form. Similarly, metal tools may leave gray marks on glass-ceramic cookware. For this reason, follow manufacturer’s instructions as to the type of kitchen tools to be used on a nonstick utensil.

Is there a health hazard in using aluminum cookware and bakeware?

None whatsoever. Over the years medical experts and food authorities have repudiated this notion over and over. A Food and Drug Administration Consumer Memo reports in part: “…Aluminum occurs naturally in many foods. Aluminum compounds have a number of uses as direct food ingredients, as for example in alum baking powder and in the use of alum in pickles to keep them firm. These uses are generally recognized as safe by scientists qualified to evaluate the safety of food additives.… Many scientific studies have determined that the amount of aluminum ingested as a result of preparing foods in aluminum cookware is so small as to be of no significance in comparison with the amount of aluminum consumed from other sources.”

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Can cookware and bakeware be washed in an automatic dishwasher?

Most cookware and bakeware can be cleaned safely in an automatic dishwasher. However, water with high mineral content, as well as certain detergents, can darken some surfaces, stain aluminum or copper and remove the “seasoning” from cast iron. Porcelain enamel coatings, organic resin coatings and nonstick finishes are generally dishwasher safe. Check the manufacturer’s instructions before washing your utensils in an automatic dishwasher.

Is there a health hazard in using pan with a nonstick finish?

No. Food and Drug Administration scientists have confirmed that these coatings are safe for human use.

How should a utensil with a nonstick finish be cleaned?

Wash it in hot sudsy water, using a nylon scrubber. Stains that may accumulate after repeated use, especially on fry pans, should be cleaned with a special cleaner as recommended by the manufacturer. Most nonstick finishes are dishwasher safe. Re-seasoning with a light application of cooking oil is recommended after dishwasher use.

Can metal cooking utensils be used in a microwave oven?

Teens cookingProvided a few precautions are observed, metal containers can be used in microwave ovens. The important considerations are that the container be shallow, that there be a reasonable food load in the container, and there be sufficient clearance from oven walls and/or other metal. It is best to consult the instruction book furnished by the oven manufacturer prior to using any cooking utensil. Some new microwave cookware contains a safe combination of plastic and metal to give more controlled cooking.

Why are some metal utensils finished with a “sunray” interior and a “satin” finish bottom?

Both of these finishes are applied to metal cookware for better heat conduction and to provide a more attractive utensil. “Sunray” interiors are formed with a slight abrasive such as sandpaper while the pan is on a rotating mandrel. “Satin” finishes are applied to the exterior bottom by a brushing operation to provide better heat absorption.

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