Choosing the best cookware depends on the appearance of the pots and pans as well as how well they perform, ease of maintenance and durability. Although brass and aluminum, two widely available materials for pots and pans, have positives and negatives in these categories, they are both solid cookware choices.
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Brass, a copper alloy, has a golden, shiny finish that is hard to beat for beauty. It also conducts and retains heat better than other cookware materials, so it saves energy through heating up fastest and cooling down slowest. Like copper cookware, brass is lined with other metals to keep acidic foods from absorbing brass. If tin is used as a liner, it is easily refurbished, unlike linings made from nickel or stainless steel. Professionally hammered brass cookware is stronger than aluminum or stainless steel and will outlast it by years, but it is also more expensive than these alternatives.
Drawbacks of Brass
To keep brass glossy requires high maintenance. It must be polished with a commercial or homemade solution on a regular basis to remove spots from the exterior. Brass cannot be cleaned in a dishwasher and requires hand instead of air-drying to prevent spotting. The lining in brass pots and pans is easily scratched, so plastic or wood cooking utensils are best to protect the finish. The soft brass exterior is more easily scratched or dented than aluminum cookware.
Aluminum pots and pans are either stamped or cast. Stamped aluminum cookware is made from rolled, flat sheets of aluminum that are shaped into pots and pans through presses. These medium and light gauge pans are thinner, lighter and less expensive than cast aluminum types. Cast aluminum cookware is made from molten aluminum poured into a mold, is heavier than stamped aluminum and, if anodized, has a stick-resistant finish. Aluminum comes in second to brass and copper for heat conduction, can be cleaned in dishwashers, and stamped aluminum requires no polishing to maintain its finish. Cast aluminum has a maintenance free, flat gray exterior. Any type of kitchen utensil can be used with aluminum pots and pans and they are resistant to dents and scratches.
Downsides of Aluminum
Stamped aluminum has poor heat retention; cast varieties are better at holding in heat but not as good as brass. Lower gauge aluminum is prone to warping when exposed to high oven or stovetop temperatures. Higher gauge pans are too heavy for many cooks to easily move from ovens to countertops. Foods tend to stick and scorch in lower gauge aluminum pans.