Hard anodized cookware takes its name from a chemical reaction known as anodization. Anodization is a process by which air reacts with aluminum to create a protective layer which in effect seals the aluminum against the elements. Once anodized an aluminum surface becomes nearly impervious to rust, corrosion and pitting. The process can also be chemically induced by dipping aluminum cookware into a bath of sulfuric acid and electrolytes and then introducing an electric current. When performed in this manner the resulting anodized layer is thicker and more resistant to breakdown than one produced via natural processes.
The Many Advantages of Anodized Aluminum Cookware
Anodized aluminum cookware is very tough and durable and its natural non-stick surface is preferred by many over Teflon. An anodized surface is also non-reactive: i.e. it isn’t easily discolored nor will any chemicals in the aluminum pass into your food and affect the flavor, so you can be sure of your hard anodized cookware safety. Here are more of the many advantages of Anodized Aluminum Cookware:
- It’s more dent resistant the regular aluminum.
- Cleans up quickly and easily.
- Scratch resistant (unlike Teflon).
- Twice the strength of steel.
- More affordable than stainless steel.
- Retains more heat than other cooking surfaces.
Comparing the 5 Best Hard Anodized Cookware Brands
Reviewing the 5 Most Popular Anodized Cookware Brands
Now that we have a clear picture of the 5 most popular brands of anodized aluminum cookware let’s take an up close look at them individually.
Circulon Infinite Hard Anodized Nonstick Cookware Set
Designed to work as good as it looks, Circulon Hard Anodized cookware will enable you to achieve professional results in the comfort of your own home. Designing cookware that is both usable and beautiful was the job of the Circulon designers and they’ve succeeded brilliantly with this 10 piece cookware set. Empower your culinary dreams for years to come for less than the price of dinner for 2 at a top restaurant. Other features include:
- High-quality stainless steel handles.
- 100% dishwasher safe.
- Oven safe up to 500° F.
- MSRP: $175
T-fal E765SC Ultimate Hard Anodized Cookware Set
T-fal’s innovative Thermo-Spot indicator notifies you when your pan is preheated and ready to go. The anodized surface heats quickly, is warp resistant and designed to distribute heat evenly to all points of the surface. The true non-stick surface is a boon to health-conscious consumers worried about the negative effects of other non-stick surfaces and when you’ve finished cooking clean-up is a breeze. Let’s not forget the incredibly reasonable price point. Other features of this 12 piece T-fal hard anodized cookware set include:
- Preheat indicator assures proper cooking temperatures.
- Suitable for all cooktops except induction.
- Oven safe up to 400° F.
- MSRP: $89
T-fal C770SF Signature Hard Anodized Nonstick Cookware Set
At the higher end of the hard anodized cookware spectrum is the T-fal C770SF Signature 15 piece set. With the Signature set from T-fal in your kitchen, you won’t be wanting for anything. Soft touch handles provide a secure grip for any sized hand and each beautifully balanced piece is easy to maneuver and a snap to clean. As with the T-Fal Ultimate cooking set, the Signature features the unique Thermo-Spot pre-heat indicator that allows you to properly seal in the flavor of your food. The Signature set is lead/cadmium free and completely recyclable. Other features include:
- Suitable for all cooktops except induction.
- Easy cooking and equally easy cleanup due to the natural non-stick surface.
- Incredibly even distribution of heat across the entire surface.
- Limited lifetime warranty.
- MSRP: $203
Cuisinart 66-14 Chef’s Classic Nonstick
The Cuisinart 66-14 Chef’s Classic Anodized Cooking Set is one fabulous collection of pots and pans. It includes all the essentials and features Cuisinart’s Quantanium, titanium-reinforced cooking surface for surefire food release, clean, natural flavor experiences and effortless clean-up. The drip-free pouring rims featured in the 66-14 set make transferring from pot or pan to dish, bowl or other vessel worry free and the first class ergonomics buttress the sense of easy use. Other features include:
- Stainless steel handles provide reliability and durability.
- Tempered glass lids are oven safe.
- MSRP: $135
Rachael Ray Hard Anodized II Nonstick
Rachael Ray Hard Anodized Cookware may be the best-looking cookware you’ll find anywhere. By simply introducing a bit of color to the handles of saucepans et al, RR has elevated their pots and pans from something functional into an actual design element akin to copper cookware. While there is plenty of colored cookware out there, something about the way RR has applied color separates it from the pack. (Just be aware you’re going to pay a premium for that design foresight.) Beyond just looking fabulous, however, the Rachael Ray 10 piece hard anodized cookware set also performs fabulously with the durable, non-stick surfaces providing effortless release and equally effortless clean-up. Other features include:
- Comfortable rubber handles.
- Oven safe to 350° F.
- Limited Lifetime warranty.
- MSRP: $285
Selecting the Right Anodized Cookware Set for Your Kitchen
While all of the above-anodized cookware sets will perform magnificently and help broaden your culinary horizons not every set is right for everyone. So just how do you determine which cookware set is the right one to adorn your kitchen? Follow the tips below:
- Utilize the Internet: There are literally hundreds of consumer reviews posted on various websites about these and other cookware sets. Make use of them. While many of them will be short on specifics they’ll still be helpful because if you see 40 people saying “great cookware” chances are it’s great cookware.
- Seek out the Real Thing: It’s tempting but risky to order things just based on a few reviews and a photo or two. If at all possible you should try and find examples of the real thing, either at a local department store or home center. Pick them up. Get a feel for them. Are they well balanced? Are they too heavy for you?
- Spend a Little More if Need Be: None of the above-featured cookware sets will require that you take out a second mortgage to pay for them. So if spending an extra $100 will get you exactly the set you want then make the stretch. You’ll have these pots and pans for years. You’ll want to be happy with them.
- Don’t Settle for Imitations: There are some pretty clever imitation cookware sets out there that look virtually identical to the high-quality sets featured above but are actually fabricated using low-grade aluminum and a rushed or discount anodizing process. Don’t be fooled. Insist on the brand name product. You’ll be glad you did in the long run.
Care and Maintenance of your Anodized Aluminum Cookware
Something that has the word “hard” in its description doesn’t sound like something that will be needing tons of TLC. But there are some things to consider when it comes to the care and maintenance of your hard anodized cookware set. Follow these few basic maintenance rules regarding how to clean hard anodized cookware and it will look great and serve you well for many years to come.
- Clean Before Using: Don’t just take your new cookware out of the box and start preparing your first culinary masterpiece. Wash it off well using hot, soapy water. Rinse it thoroughly and allow it to dry before thrusting it into service.
- Avoid Sharp Objects: Hard anodized aluminum cookware won’t chip or peel and can withstand just about every type of hard, metal utensils including spoons, spatulas, whisks and more. Where you’ll run into trouble is if you use knives, hand-held blenders/mixers or any implement with a hard, sharp edge.
- Don’t Overheat the Cookware: Anodized aluminum is an excellent conductor of heat and therefore you’ll discover that you don’t need to have the heat up as high as you would with other types of cookware.
- Don’t Use Hard Anodized Cookware for Storage: People occasionally try to use their anodized cookware as a storage device but it’s really not designed to be used this way. First, because the lid is not airtight and second because leaving acidic foods like spaghetti sauce in constant contact with the surface could compromise the non-stick properties of the pan.
- Follow the Manufacturer’s Guidance: If the manufacturer says the pan is oven compatible up to 350° F don’t use it in an oven set at 400 or 450°. The temperature ceiling is set for a reason. Respect it.
- Thaw Food First: Speaking of temperatures… don’t put frozen food directly into the anodized cookware. Let it thaw first. Thawed food will be less likely to stick and will also cook more evenly.
- Hand Wash Your Cookware: Some manufacturers will say that their cookware is dishwasher safe and it may well be. However, if you want to get maximum use out of your hard anodized cookware you should hand wash it using hot water and a gentle dish soap. Avoid abrasive scrubbing pads unless absolutely necessary.
Follow these simple tips and your hard anodized aluminum non-stick cookware will serve you as well 10 years after you unpack it as it did the first time you used it.
The Best Hard Anodized Cookware Vs Stainless Steel Cookware
To a fairly sizable community of stainless steel cooks, hard anodized cookware and its use is something akin to culinary blasphemy. But why is that? Is stainless steel cookware really superior to hard anodized aluminum? Let’s take a quick look just to put the issue to sleep.
Anodized aluminum should never be confused with more typical aluminum which is fairly soft and easily damaged. Hard anodized aluminum is a cut above standard aluminum: maybe several cuts above. While it retains the excellent heat conductivity of standard aluminum it’s also much harder, dent resistant, longer lasting and provides you with a natural non-stick surface stainless steel simply can’t compete with. It also provides excellent heat distribution on the cooking surface and cleans up in a flash. About the only drawback to anodized aluminum cookware is that it can’t be used with induction heating. But how many people is that an issue for?
Stainless steel looks great. There’s no denying that. But not so great that we’d give it an aesthetic edge over anodized aluminum. We’ll call it a draw. Like hard anodized cookware it’s also tough and long-lasting and, like anodized aluminum, won’t react badly with foods. However, it does a fairly poor job conducting heat and if you’re looking for a non-stick surface it will have to be one that is imposed on the cookware after the fact. As such you’ll need to be careful with this unnatural non-stick surface as bits can come off during the cooking process. Stainless steel is also heavier than hard anodized cookware which is an important consideration for older folks or those who simply aren’t that big or strong.
The bottom line is that while stainless steel has its positive qualities it just doesn’t stack up across the board to anodized aluminum cookware. Hard anodized cookware is lighter, conducts heat better, has a natural non-stick surface that won’t taint the taste of your food or present a health hazard, cleans up easier, is more dent resistant and will last every bit as long or longer than the best stainless steel cookware. For our money, it’s anodized aluminum all the way.
Hard anodized cookware is the type of thing that can turn an ordinary kitchen into an extraordinary one. Don’t underestimate the difference a first-rate set of anodized cookware will make to how you experience your kitchen as well as your willingness to push the creative envelope in your future culinary adventures.
Hard anodized cookware has been around for a while but still, represents the pinnacle of cooking technology. It’s simple to use, simple to clean, simple to maintain and the question “is hard anodized cookware safe” has one clear answer: “yes”. If you love to cook but don’t like to worry about potential health hazards of more well-known non-stick surfaces or having to constantly be on guard for your food sticking hard, anodized non-stick cookware is the only choice that makes sense.