Posted March 29, 2011 at 12:39 AM
One of the major pieces of equipment that any cook uses are pots and pans. There is large debate about which type of material makes the best pan, and each material has both its advantages and disadvantages. However, for the most part, the material doesn’t matter so much as whether the material does what it is supposed to: conduction.
Conduction plays a major role in preparing any foods on the stove top or in any situation where heat is added to any vessel. Conduction is the process where heat is transferred from one object to another through direct physical contact. An example in the kitchen would be when you are heating a pot of water on the stove. The heat from the burner is transferred to heat the water by the water directly contacting the surface of the pot. How well a certain material conducts heat depends on it thermal conductivity, which is a numerical coefficient that relates how well a material conducts thermal energy. The larger the value of thermal conductivity, the better that material conducts heat.
This is where the different types of material come into play. Copper is the best conductor among the materials that pots and pans are made out of, but these types of pans can be very expensive. The next best is aluminum. The material that, on its own, is the worst conductor of heat is stainless steel.
The following video is an excellent source of information on the different types of materials that pots and pans are made out of and what sorts of applications they are best used for. The video is rather long (~10 minutes), but the information is really good. The lady who is in the video is Rita Heikenfeld, and she does a wonderful job. She does get off topic a couple of times, but on a whole she does a fantastic job.