Michele GastlFour standouts and some considerations for each
- Anodized Aluminum: This material, strengthened by a coating of aluminum oxide, takes time to warm up, but it evenly disperses heat throughout the pan, says Daniel Choi, Ph.D., a professor of metallurgy at the University of Idaho, in Moscow. Anything that's meant to cook slowly will benefit from an anodized-aluminum pot.
- Cast Iron: "No kitchen is complete without a cast-iron skillet," says Food Network host and cookbook author Paula Deen. "Mine has always worked just as hard as I work." Cast iron gives a terrific sear to meats. Even slower to heat up than anodized aluminum (you'll need to pre-heat it on a medium-low flame for a minute or two), it maintains steady heat long after the burner is turned off, which works well when you want to keep foods warm. Many are sold preseasoned (the surface has been treated with a layer of cooked-on vegetable oil), but you can also season a pan at home. Just follow the manufacturer's