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What to Look for When Buying Stainless Steel Cookware

Grade of Stainless Steel

 

Often times, the grade of stainless steel is stamped on the cookware, with 18/10 being the most commonly used grade for good quality cookware. This fraction tells you the percentage of chromium and nickel in the alloy used—18/10 contains 18 percent chromium and 10 percent nickel and will resist rust while also retaining its shine and polish.

 

Weight

 

While the ideal thickness of a good pan is subjective to a cook’s preference, a quality stainless steel pot will have a certain heft in your hand. A weighty pot means that it won’t move around on the stove, and its weight also means it is more likely to distribute heat evenly and less likely to have “hot spots.” Heavier pans also stand up well to the rigors of daily use and are less susceptible to dents, warping, and dings than lighter, thinner pans.

 

Core and Construction

 

Look for a fully-clad pan with an aluminum or copper core. Good stainless steel cookware will have an aluminum or copper disc sandwiched between layers of stainless steel to aid in conducting heat. The full layers of stainless steel that make up the bottom and sides of the pot are called “cladding,” and the number of layers will be described by its “ply.” The most common is tri-ply, which describes two layers of stainless steel with an aluminum or copper core, but pans can also come in 5-ply or 7-ply (commonly referred to as “multi-clad”). Another quality feature is riveted stainless steel handles—they are more secure than spot-welded handles, which are more likely to come off with heavy use.

 

Heating Capacity

 

Most stainless steel cookware is also oven-safe, but its heating capacity depends on the quality of the cookware. Less expensive, lighter pans may only be oven-safe to 350 degrees, and higher-quality, heavier pans can often withstand temperatures well above 500 degrees (including use under the broiler). Be sure to always check the manufacturer’s instructions to determine the maximum heating capacity of your cookware (and their lids) before use.

 

Versatility

 

Stainless steel is great for all-purpose cooking—it can be used for braising and browning as well as creating sauces and soups. The non-reactive properties of stainless steel make it ideal for cooking sauces with acidic ingredients (think tomato sauce or meats stewed in wine). Many stainless steel pieces are oven-safe, allowing you to finish a dish under the broiler if needed.

 

Piece Count & Accessories

 

When purchasing a set of cookware, you’ll want to consider how many pieces you actually need, along with how much space to have to store them. A large set offers variety in sizes and styles, but if you rarely cook for a crowd, you may not need a larger-capacity saute pan or stockpot that might come in a bigger set. Also consider the accessories included with a set, which are included in a set’s piece count, and decide if they are the material and type that you need. Pay attention to the material and sizes of the included lids—bear in mind that glass lids are usually less heat-proof than metal (particularly in the oven), but do allow you to visually monitor your cooking.

 

Price

 

Stainless steel cookware can range greatly in price, depending on the manufacturer and the materials used—for example, a single pan from All-Clad’s copper core D5 line can run to $300, but a similarly sized pan with an aluminum core by Cuisinart can run about. Buying an entire set at once can actually be less expensive than buying them one at a time, and you’ll have the benefit of matching pieces that look good together.

 

Warranty

 

Many major manufacturers offer a limited lifetime guarantee on stainless steel cookware as long as they are purchased from an authorized dealer. These guarantees protect against defects in material, construction, or workmanship but may exclude damage arising from improper use, thermal shocks, drops, or normal wear and tear. Before you buy, be sure to check on the manufacturer’s terms and warranty coverage to make sure it’s what you need.

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How to Can Tomatoes

Introduction 

These whole peeled tomatoes are what most people think of as canned tomatoes. They are quickly blanched in hot water, peeled, stuffed into jars, covered, and boiled to seal the jars. There’s no point in sugar-coating it: The process takes some time and is a bit of a hassle. However, it doesn’t require any special skills. Anyone with an excess of ripe tomatoes and the appropriate canning equipment can do it, and whole tomatoes are a perfect introduction to canning.

 

The tomatoes don’t need to be boiled more than a minute before being peeled and going into the jars, so there’s no real precooking involved. Salt is not required for this canned tomato recipe, although it can be added for taste if you like. And lemon juice helps keep the canned tomatoes from spoiling, so don’t skip it.

 

Canning whole tomatoes ingredients and tools

Bring a large pot or canning kettle full of water to a boil. As the water comes to a boil (which will take a while), use a sharp knife to cut a small “X” in the bottom of each tomato.

 

Cut an “X” into bottoms of the tomatoes

Prepare a large bowl of ice water and set it near the pot. Once the water is boiling, add the tomatoes. Cook them for about a minute, then lift them out with a slotted spoon and transfer them directly into the ice water so they can cool quickly.

 

As soon as the tomatoes have cooled off enough so that you can handle them easily, use a sharp paring knife to remove the tomato skins. After blanching, the skins should slip right off without too much fuss.

 

Remove tomato skins

Gather 6 quart-size jars (with rings and new sealable lids). Bring the water back to a boil, put the jars in the canning rack, and boil the empty jars for 10 minutes to sterilize them. Remove the jars from the water (empty any water back into the pot and bring to a simmer). Put the lids in separately, also for 10 minutes, to soften the sealant. Put a tea kettle full of water on to boil.

 

While the water is boiling, put 2 tablespoons bottled lemon juice in each jar. Stuff the jars evenly with the tomatoes. If you don’t care how “whole” they are in the end, really cram them in there, releasing the juices from some to create enough liquid to cover them. Cover the tomatoes with boiling water from the tea kettle, if needed, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace at the top of the jars.

 

Place tomatoes in jars with water

After wiping the edges of the jars clean, place the lids and rims on the jars, set the jars in the canning rack, and lower them into the boiling water in the canning kettle or other large pot. The jars should be completely submerged and covered by 1 inch of water. Cook, with the water boiling the whole time, for 45 minutes, adding more hot water as necessary to maintain the water level.

 

Remove cans from their water bath and set them on a counter to dry and cool. Do not disturb them for 12 to 24 hours. Check that the jars have properly sealed and store them in a cool, dark place until ready to use.

While you can leave the skin on tomatoes when canning, they can be tough and a bit bitter. You’ll notice that commercially canned tomatoes are peeled for this reason. If the skin doesn’t bother you, leave it on. Otherwise, quickly blanch the tomatoes and peel them before canning for a more pleasant experience.

Is Adjusting for Altitude Really That Important?

To ensure the canned tomatoes are safe for long-term storage, you need to adjust for altitude. For water bath canning, the canning time needs to be extended if you live higher than 1,000 feet above sea level. While altitude is often associated with mountainous regions, it can affect those who live in seemingly flat areas. In the U.S., check with your local county extension office for accurate elevation information and other canning tips.

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