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Matching sets of cookware are almost as much a sign of good taste and a well-equipped home as matching dinnerware or flatware. Cookware sets can be purchased all at once, as full sets, or in a smaller “starter” set. They may also be purchased in individual pieces, often given as Christmas or anniversary gifts.

Just a few of the more common types of cookware are: Dutch ovens, frying pans, roasting pans and sauce pans. Some slightly more unusual items include: au gratin dishes, grills, griddles, braisers and stockpots. Any of these items can be made out of materials such as stainless steel, aluminum or iron and may be lined with special non-stick linings or with copper. Some brands are made of a heavy cast aluminum core with stainless steel on the outside. Most items lined with non-stick materials are sold with advice about not using harsh chemicals or dishwashers to clean them. Some gourmet cooks believe that non-stick surfaces on cookware are better for cooking, except perhaps for frying eggs or making pancakes.

Reviews of various brands of cookware are easily found online. Many of the reviews are for one type of utensil, such as a frying pan. There are simply too many cookware items to review a whole brand and some brands do better with one item than another. A fussy cook may insist on one particular brand for a sauce pan and another for a griddle. The Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval, after so many years, is still a guideline for many people as to the quality of a line of cookware although there is also The Association of Cookware and Bakeware which offers standards and guidelines for selecting brands and products to meet any cook’s needs.

A high-end “beginner” set of cookware may cost as much as $600 for a ten piece set. If you are buying bargain cookware or an unknown brand it is wise to do a little research on standards and safety. For instance, if something is made of pottery or ceramic it is important to be sure that there is no lead in it. It is unwise to store foods high in acid in aluminum cookware. The Food and Drug Administration cautions against using unlined copper for cooking.

There are so many choices in cookware that it can be confusing but a little research will help you make a good choice for your health and lifestyle.