With its high heat conductivity, relatively low price, and ease of manufacturing, aluminum is quickly becoming an industry standard in cookware equipment. Many modern pots and pans feature aluminum-clad bottoms to help with fast and even heat conduction without sacrificing durability, while others are made of solid cast aluminum. But with aluminum becoming a more prevalent cookware material—one that may make its way into our home or restaurant very soon, if it hasn’t already—it is important to know how to care for your aluminum pots and pans. Caring for aluminum is a bit different from caring for highly finished and polished materials like stainless steel, but with a bit of care and attention, your aluminum cookware will offer years of reliable use. Here are some tips for keeping your cooking implements in great condition:
While aluminum cookware does transfer heat very well, it is not quite sturdy as materials such as stainless steel or cast iron. Always take care when storing and handling your aluminum cookware to avoid dents, scratches, or warping that can impede your cookware’s effectiveness.
Like most cookware, aluminum pots and pans should be allowed to cool thoroughly before washing. Rinsing with cool water before your cookware has cooled can cause warping, particularly if filled with water and left to cool on an uneven surface. Remember: even hot water from the tap can be considered “cool” compared to the heat of a pot straight from the stove, so always give your pans a few minutes to cool before soaking or rinsing.
Because aluminum is a relatively reactive metal, it will tend to combine easily with other natural elements and will, in turn, tend to stain more easily than other types of cookware. To remove stains and discoloration from aluminum cookware, create a solution of 2-3 tablespoons cream of tartar, lemon juice, or vinegar per 1 quart of water and bring it to a boil. Soak your aluminum cookware in the solution for about ten minutes, and then use a soapy scouring pad to gently remove the stains. Use softer materials (avoid steel wool or metal scouring pads) and lighter pressure when scouring aluminum pots and pans. Scouring too vigorously with abrasive materials can cause scratches in the aluminum’s finish.
Washing by hand is the recommended cleaning method with aluminum cookware. The mineral content of the water used in most commercial and residential dishwashers can cause staining and degradation.
Because aluminum is softer and can be easier to scratch than other types of cookware, it is important to always use smooth-edged cooking utensils with your pans. Tools made of wood or plastic are the best choice, although some smooth-edged metal implements may be safe to use with your pots and pans, if handled with care.
The relative softness of aluminum—particularly uncoated aluminum—can also leave it more susceptible to corrosion. Acidic or salty foods and food residues can cause pitting corrosion (the formation of tiny, shallow holes or “pits” on the material surface) on the surface of your aluminum if left to sit for extended periods of time. Additionally, when adding salt to liquids and sauces, be sure to wait until after the liquid has heated sufficiently to allow the salt to dissolve quickly and completely. Salt that does not dissolve can collect on the surface of the pan and eat away at the material if not thoroughly cleaned.