Product Knowledge Guide: Cookware

When it comes to buying cookware, foodservice operators have a number of choices in terms of sizes and materials.


Around for many years, professional aluminum cookware is very durable and a great conductor of heat. The challenge for some operators is the fact that aluminum is not as easy to clean as other metals, such as stainless steel. Tomato sauce in an aluminum pot, even its first use, can cause aluminum to stain and pit because the acid from the tomato eats right into the soft aluminum.

Because they resist pitting, professional stainless pans are more sanitary and can last longer. Stainless with a mixture of alloys, such as chromium and nickel, is common. The mixture of alloys used within stainless comes in a number of types, such as 18/10, 18/8 or 18/0. The downside of stainless is that it does not conduct heat as well as aluminum.

Truly non-stick, operators can use cast iron cookware indefinitely. Cast-aluminum and stainless-clad offer more in the line of heat retention like cast iron but without the non-stick properties. Cast iron offers a rustic appearance. For this reason, foodservice operators commonly use cast iron cookware for oven to table applications, meaning it doubles as servingware. This material is almost indestructible when properly cared for and can handle high temperature up to 1700 degrees F. Cast iron and cast iron aluminum cookware can go directly on the grill or into the oven.

There are cast aluminum and stainless clad aluminum platters, skillets, griddles and servers that operators can use to both cook and serve food in commercial operations. Platters and skillets offer a number of different finish options.

Typical sizes include 8-inch by 12-inch oval platters or 7.5-inch and 10.25-inch diameter platters. Serving skillets can be as large as 13-inches by 10-inches.

Handles can be riveted, welded or screwed onto the cookware.

Common Applications

  • Foodservice operators use cookware to cook, serve and add flare to a food presentation.
  • Operators use stock pots to cook larger quantities of product. These are normally pots wider and taller than other pans. These straight-sided pots have open loop handles.
  • Sauce pots/sauté pans are straight sided or have slightly tapered sides, and usually have longer straight handles; this is so they extend beyond the flames and direct heat.
  • Braziers are shallow pans, similar to a sauté pan, but with lower sides. As their name implies, operators use these pans to braise meats.
  • Similar to a standard pot, double boilers come with another slightly smaller pot that nests inside. By filling the outer pot with water and heating it and placing the smaller pot inside it, steam builds in the inside pot allowing the operator to cook indirectly.

Specifying Considerations

  • The material has to resist denting and staining from heavy use, yet the materials need to be light enough so staff can move them around the kitchen.
  • The cookware metal should conduct heat rapidly and evenly for consistent results.
  • Operators need to determine specifically how staff will use the cookware prior to choosing the size and types.
  • Operators need to consider whether the cookware will go from oven to table or just be used in the back of the house. For items used in the dining room, aesthetics is a factor.

When to Replace

  • Breakdown of materials: If the cast aluminum or cast iron is broken, chipped, dented or stained, it needs replacing.
  • Broken handles: If handles are broken or severely cracked, safety of the user may be compromised and the cookware should be put out of service.
  • Rust: If there is rusting on the cookware that cannot be removed, it should no longer be used.
  • Menu changes: Restaurants with menus that have been revamped may require new or additional cookware to accommodate the added dishes.
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