Aluminium cookware is known for its light weight, ability to heat up quickly and affordability. It can be classified into three main types:
Sheet aluminium: This is the most common, where the metal is stamped or rolled into shape. Sheet aluminium is typically used in baking trays, cake tins and also in some stock pots and budget skillets. However, it can be highly reactive to acidic food such as tomatoes and citrus which can cause leeching onto the food, thus potentially damaging to one’s health.
Anodized aluminium: This form of aluminium goes through an electro-chemical process where a thicker layer of aluminium oxide is formed on the surface, sealing the reactive aluminium. This new layer is harder, non-porous and non-reactive which will not leech onto any acidic food being cooked. Anodized aluminium is also more resistant to chipping, cracking or peeling but is still susceptible to scratches. Once scratched, the anodized surface will be destroyed.
Cast aluminium: Molten aluminium is poured into a mould to create cast aluminium. This process causes microscopic air pockets to form inside the metal which increases its heat retention ability. Cast aluminium can heat up quickly with a low heat source. The downside for this metal is that is does not distribute heat as uniformly as compared to the other aluminium cookware and is considered brittle. As it is porous like cast iron, seasoning is required to maintain the state of the cookware. Some cast aluminium goes through the anodizing process which makes them non-reactive to acidic food.
- Ensure no scratches are made to the surface of the cookware since it increases the chance of leeching.
- Unless anodized, all aluminium cookware should avoid contact with acidic substances.
- Try not to leave food sitting in the cookware to avoid increasing the amount of aluminium leaching onto the food.
- Avoid soaking cast aluminium cookware in soapy water since it is porous, and do not use an abrasive cleaner which strips away its seasoned layers.
- To season, coat the cookware with vegetable oil after cleaning and drying then leave it in a 120 °C oven for two hours.
- Ensure that you do not overheat the cookware as it will damage it. Always check the manufacturer’s label before use.
Cast aluminium or Cast iron?
Cast Iron is highly durable if maintained well as it is made from an extremely durable metal. Take note to never add cold liquid in a hot pan: it will cause irreversible cracks and rust will form on the cracks which can lead to food contamination. A good quality cast iron cookware is an investment for serious cooks or the well-heeled.
Cast aluminium on the other hand, is less durable but lighter and cheaper. This is ideal for those who prefer less heavy lifting in the kitchen especially when handling larger cookware like stockpots. With proper care, cast aluminium can be a delight to use.