Having spent a reasonable amount of money on a new cookware set, you’ll no doubt want to do what you can to ensure it serves your kitchen for as long as possible.
How you care for your items depends a great deal on the material that’s been used in production though.
Some are more resistant to vigorous scrubbing than others, for example, while others require a little more TLC.
There’s plenty of tried and tested advice on how to avoid some of the more common pitfalls too.
In this article I’ve put together advice on cleaning some of the most common cookware materials.
Towards the end you’ll also find useful tips for keeping your pots and pans in great condition, so you can enjoy years of service from them.
(If you want to explore more of my cookware content, take a look at the home cookware guide I have on the site.)
Jump ahead to:
When it comes to cleaning, it’s important that you respect the material your cookware’s been crafted from.
Here’s some advice for keeping each type in top condition.
I recommend cleaning aluminum cookware as quickly as possible after you’ve finished using it. Make sure you dry it thoroughly as well.
Don’t use abrasive cleaning tools on this material, as it can easily dull and gain scratches.
If your cast iron cookware hasn’t been pre-seasoned by the manufacturer, you’ll need to do so before using it.
Even if it has been supplied in a pre-seasoned state, this is a process you’ll need to repeat from time to time to keep it working at its best.
This isn’t a difficult task at all, so don’t be put off! It just takes a little bit of time, care and attention.
Our cast iron seasoning guide contains everything you need to know about the process, so give it a read if you need help getting started.
IMPORTANT: Don’t ever put cast iron cookware into storage while it’s still wet. If you do, you run the risk of developing rust.
Avoid scouring copper cookware as it can do serious damage to the lining, and in pretty short order.
Instead, just use water and washing liquid to clean it. If there’s anything caked onto the surface, a good soak should shift it, followed by a gentle scrub with a cloth.
As for the exterior, it’s worth buying a copper cleaning treatment that’s been specifically designed for the purpose.
Many of the materials I’ve listed so far may have been complimented with an additional enamel layer.
Although this means they can be cleaned a little more aggressively, you should still avoid using harsh scrubbing materials and strong cleaners.
Some of these items can also be run through the dishwasher, but check the manufacturer’s listing carefully before doing so!
It’s extremely important that you don’t use metal or other sharp utensils on non-stick cookware.
Doing so will quickly deteriorate that surface you’ve spent so much money on.
It’s very rare for non-stick items to be dishwasher safe either (although, again, check the manufacturer’s product listing). It’s best to stick to hand-washing only here.
While washing by hand, use a wooden or polymer utensil to gently clear any burnt-on food from the surface.
These items should be hand-washed by water as quickly as possible after each use. Fail to do so and there’s a chance the material will become stained, ruining that pristine appearance.
As with aluminum cookware, you should avoid using abrasive cleaning materials. This will minimize the risk of developing scratches on the surface.
This kind of cookware also isn’t suitable for leaving in a long soak.
The most important consideration with earthen cookware is that you should allow it to cool completely before cleaning. Fail to do so and you risk the surface cracking.
This kind of cookware should be washed by hand, unless it’s been glazed. In that case, it’s usually safe to be put through the dishwasher. As always, check the product listing carefully first.
Glass, Ceramic & Porcelain
Although comparatively fragile, these items are some of the easiest to care for.
Each item can be soaked in hot, soapy water. If that’s too much fuss then most of them can also be cleaned in the dishwasher.
Across all categories of cookware there are some good practices to keep in mind.
Even if an item of cookware has been marketed as safe to use with metal utensils, I really recommend against it.
Given enough scraping, even these hardier pans will eventually take some damage. Once a non-stick surface has been scarred, the pan’s performance will only go downhill.
You should also resist the temptation to use kitchen knives or scissors on items that are cooking in a non-stick pan. It only takes one moment of carelessness to do more than take the shine off your cookware!
It’s best to stick to using either wooden or silicone utensils on your cookware – whatever the material and the promises made by the manufacturer.
If you’ve finished cooking and are keen to get that pan straight into soaking, avoid using cold water immediately.
If you fill a searing hot pan with cold water, you run the risk of warping the material.
When this happens, you won’t be able to seat the pan evenly on the stove, and at that point you’ll really struggle to cook your food evenly.
Either let the pan cool at least a little before filling it up, or pre-run very warm water to fill it with.
Some cookware materials really don’t play nicely with the kind of acidic ingredients that are commonly used in sauces.
The biggest culprits in this regard are aluminum and copper cookware.
If your aluminum pans have been anodized, you should be fine. If they haven’t, you’ll notice that acidic ingredients lend a distinctly metallic taste to your food.
If you have a small kitchen it can be difficult to find the space to store cookware. The temptation is to pile it all up into as convenient a space as possible.
The problem with this is that you run the risk of each item scraping or denting the others. When that happens, you’ll start noticing performance issues.
I have a hanging rack above the cooker from which each item can be suspended.
These racks are not expensive to buy and install, and making extra use of your kitchen’s verticality will really help prolong the life of your cookware.