Cookware 101: Which Material is Best for Pots and Pans?

Cooking was a lot simpler back in the day. Pots and pans all looked pretty standard, and everyone used relatively the same cookware and tools. These days, as with everything else in our lives, we have a lot more options available to us (which can be fantastic, but also a little overwhelming.)

One look down the kitchenware aisle (or aisles) at any department or cookware store is enough to give any cooking novice a headache. For the average person, all the pots and pans look the same- so how do we know which type is going to cater best to all our different cooking needs?

Here’s a simple breakdown of the most common types of cookware with some quick pros and cons and cleaning tips so you can shop without becoming overwhelmed.

Aluminum

The pros of aluminum pots and pans is that they transfer heat quickly, aren’t too heavy, and best of all, they are quite affordable. One important note about aluminum cookware is that aluminum itself is soft and can change shape when it’s used on high heat. One way to solve this problem is to use an aluminum pan or pot that has been coated in aluminum oxide, (also called anodized aluminum). Once there is a layer of coating on, the cookware becomes scratch resistant and much stronger under any cooking circumstances. Keep in mind, however, that anodized aluminum cookware is more expensive than a plain aluminum pot or pan.

Care Tip: Check to see if it is dishwasher safe! Some versions of aluminum based cookware cannot be cleaned in a dishwasher.

Stainless Steel

There are many pros to stainless steel cookware. It’s scratch-resistant, dishwasher safe, strong, and not usually very pricey. However, depending on how often you cook and what you usually like to cook, the cons may not work for you. Stainless steel cookware tends to not be very efficient with transferring heat and it’s also not known for being good with spreading the heat evenly throughout the cooking surface. Now, there are modifications that have been made to certain stainless steel cookware where an inner core with a more conductive metal has been added which will help spread the heat, however, this addition raises the cost.

Care Tip: Store stainless steel cookware in a dry, cool area otherwise you will have to deal with rust on your cookware.

Cast Iron

You might have seen cast iron skillets or pots at your friends’ homes and wondered what in the word could be cooking in there. Cast iron looks really heavy duty because it is. It’s one of the strongest, everything-resistant materials for cookware. You can really get a sense of how durable it is when you pick it up and feel just how heavy it is. Heat gets spread out very well with this type of material and what’s even better is that it can keep heat in long after it has been taken off whatever heat source you use. Another pro is that it’s perfect for getting the ideal sear on meats, so even when it’s the dead of winter, you can still get BBQ-esque food without the BBQ. Cons for this type of material are that it takes longer to heat up, and the heaviness of the cookware that was mentioned before isn’t ideal for everyone. Also, in some cases, it’s not a buy and use type situation- some cast iron pans and pots haven’t been “pre-seasoned” (which essentially means a coating of cooked-on vegetable oil that the manufacturer has performed). Without this protection, it can rust or make food stick to the surface. Even if the cast iron cookware is pre-seasoned, it still requires special maintenance in order to preserve its quality.

Care tip: Wash with hot water and mild soap, and remove all moisture completely before storing away in a cool, dry place.

Enameled Cast Iron

Enameled cast iron is very similar to cast iron, except for its (arguably) more attractive exterior. These are the beautifully coloured heavy duty pots you see used on cooking shows where the bright red lid is opened, and a perfectly done pork belly or roast is revealed. Enameled cast iron doesn’t require pre-seasoning as long as the lining is enamel as well, and it’s much easier to clean than raw (or plain) cast iron. Cons are that it may not give the most powerful sear or be as effective when used in its skillet form, but as a covered pot, it performs just as well. A popular example is Le Creuset cookware.

Copper

Of all the materials we’ve looked at, copper cookware is the winner when it comes to how fast it heats up and how evenly the heat is distributed. A unique feature that makes it preferable for serious cooks is that it cools as soon as you take it off the heat source which cooks know is essential to get the perfect cook on steaks, fish, and other meat that you want to keep tender and juicy. The cons of copper cookware are primarily that it’s expensive and it requires a little more work to maintain. Lining on a copper pan or pot needs to be replaced every 10-20 years (which isn’t actually too bad). It’s also important to keep in mind that if you cook a lot with acidic ingredients, it could react with the copper to create a metallic taste which isn’t exactly pleasant.

Care Tip: Never put copper cookware in the dishwasher and polish it regularly to keep its shine

Categories:Kijiji for the Home

How to downsize your living space

Moving from a house to a smaller space like a condo or an apartment can be challenging task, but it can also be a refreshing one.

For many, it’s an opportunity to de-clutter and recreate a place to call your own. It’s the perfect time to take an inventory of what you’ve accumulated over the years and decide each items fate. Perhaps it’s time to get rid of that old hand me down couch you’ve had since college, or recycle that stack of magazines piling up in your basement. Either way, decisions have to be made. Here are a few tips to make the process a little easier.

Downsizing Your Living Space

Create an Action Plan
Professional organizers will tell you to picture what kind of lifestyle you want and how you will achieve this in your next living space. Is it worth it to keep the bulky armchair? Should you keep that large dining room set just because it was pricey? Where will all this go in your new home? Creating a plan and knowing what furniture and other items you’ll want to take with you will help you along the road to downsizing. Do you pour over images of modern minimalist living spaces? To achieve that lifestyle, you will need to be ready to eliminate most of what fills a large suburban home. On the other hand, if you would have trouble feeling at home without your souvenirs and trinkets, aim to curate your collection to only the ones that you would miss if they were not around.

Purge
Do you need a TV in every room? Probably not, but if you do decide to keep some, mount them on the wall and get rid of that bulky entertainment unit to save space. To take it even further, get rid of your TVs altogether and watch programs online through a computer, tablet and or even a smartphone. Connect to Wi-Fi to reduce cable use.

To downsize even further, consider trimming down your library. Think about only keeping your favourite books and have an idea of where they will go in your new home. If you can’t find the space, it’s time to let them go or purchase a Kobo or Kindle, which can store thousands of books. Keep in mind, you can always borrow books from the library as well.

Kitchen appliances can also take up tons of valuable cabinet space. It may be time to give away the waffle maker or pasta maker you’ve only used once since your wedding day. Clothes and toiletries you haven’t used in a year are a good indication that you can do without them.

Memorabilia and other must-keep items you can’t part with
It can be hard leaving behind items that have been with you for decades so consider going digital. Take a picture of your old home and those items you’ve cherished to preserve those memories. Old newspaper clippings, letters and cards can also be scanned and saved. Remember to plan where you’ll be putting the items you do want to keep or consider letting them go.

Multi functionable furniture
When you have limited space, you have to be creative with the furniture you have. Think about buying a sleeper couch to replace your guest bedroom, or an ottoman that acts as a foot rest, storage unit and a coffee table.

Finding a new home for the unwanted
Make a quick buck or two by hosting a garage or yard sale to rid yourself of all the items that don’t belong in your new living space, sell items online on Kijiji or eBay, or you can also donate the items to worthy charitable organizations in your community.

How to tell solid wood from veneer funiture

Solid wood and veneer both create beautiful furniture even though some may think that solid wood is superior. It all hinges on craftsmanship and the quality of wood used. If done right and with the proper materials, veneer furniture can be more expensive and just as, if not more, beautiful. Here’s a look at some of the pros and cons of each.

How to tell solid wood from veneer

What is solid wood?
Solid wood furniture is made from natural wood, generally using just one type of wood. No other materials are used. Solid wood furniture pieces are generally heavier than their veneer counterparts.

Pros
• Solid wood can be repaired, refinished, re-stained or painted and passed down from generation to generation.
• It recovers better from those scratches, dents and stains that are bound to happen with everyday use than veneer.
• It is great for framing, turnings, curved pieces, dining table sets and desk tops, and chair seats.
• The natural variation in the wood

Cons
• It can bow and warp over time.
• Weather changes, especially heat and humidity can make it contract, leading to splits and cracks.
• It can be expensive and heavy.

What is veneer?
Veneer furniture is made from a thin slice of wood cut or peeled from a log and glued together. It can be paper thin or up to 1/16″. It is then laminated to another wood surface. The top piece is usually made from beautiful or exotic woods while the base is made from manufactured boards like plywood and particle board. The base can also be made with MDF (medium density fibreboard), which is a stronger, better quality material often used for higher end veneer products. It is much lighter than solid wood furniture.

Pros
• One piece of lumber used to create a solid wood table can make 15 to 20 tables made of veneer.
• Veneer wood can be used to create a constant pattern, grain or colour.
• There’s more flexibility to be creative with veneer furniture because of the mix of materials used.
• It can be lightweight.
• It can be made cheap or expensive.
• It’s great for shelves and cabinets
• If you’re looking to be a little more eco-friendly, know that the base can be made of a particle board that is made up of recycled sawdust.

Cons
• Since veneer is made up of a thin piece of wood over a cheaper type of wood or particle board, sometimes deep scratches cannot be repaired without exposing the bottom layer.
• Sometimes veneer wood is done cheaply and can look cheap.

Nursery Essentials: What to include in the nest for your new baby

Expecting a baby? Congratulations! Preparing for your new arrival can be pretty daunting. Between all the strange and confusing baby products out there, trying to figure out everything you’ll need to get is enough to make your head spin!

We’ve pulled together a list of nursery essentials, here are just a few of the basics you’ll want to have ready before you bring your little one home:
How to Set Up a Nursery For Your New Baby
Clothes
Your teeny baby is going to grow in no time! So there’s really no need to buy too many newborn clothes. In the beginning you’re just going to want simple clothes like sleepers, all-in-one jumpsuits, cardigans(if the weather is cold) and socks. When selecting baby clothes, look for things that are:
• Comfort! Elaborate outfits are nice for photos, but comfort is the most important. Don’t forget they’ll be sleeping most of the time, so if they can’t sleep in it, it’s probably not worth buying
• Easy to remove. You’ll be changing your baby a lot (really, a lot!) – babies don’t generally like to be changed, so you’ll want clothes that are easy to get on and off. Look for wide neck holes, things that button or zip down the front (rather than the back), and snaps around the legs and bottom so you can do a diaper change without removing everything.

Bed time
As long as you have the space for it, you can put a newborn straight into a crib, saving you money on a bassinet (plus all the bassinet sized bedding that goes with it!). When buying a crib, look for one with an adjustable base that can be raised up, making it easier to pick up your baby without bending over too far. You’ll also need a crib mattress, sheets, blankets and a couple of mattress protectors.

Play time and other bits
While not essential, it’s nice to have a play mat or play gym with toys that dangle from above. Babies love reaching up and hitting them!

Other key items you’ll need before baby arrives include nappies, wipes, cotton swabs, bath towels, receiving blankets, drawers for storage and a good thermometer. Most other things you can buy at a later stage.

Baby on a budget: things you don’t need
If you’re on a budget, you’ll want to avoid buying too many things. Many of the baby items out there are unnecessary, or just fall into the “nice to have” rather than “must have” column. Here are just some examples of items you could probably live without:
Change table – a change table isn’t necessary as you can just as easily change your baby on a bed or the floor, especially if you are short on cash or space (or both).
Baby bath – for many, the sink is just as convenient as a ready made bath.
Mobile – mobiles are great for decorating a nursery, but really not essential. Your baby will still go to sleep without one
Baby monitor – if you live in an apartment or a small space, you’re likely to hear every peep without a monitor! If your living space has multiple floors, a monitor might be an essential.

Have we forgotten anything? We’d love to hear your tips for essential nursery items in the comments section.

Thinking of renting to a lodger or a roommate?

Shows like Income Property on HGTV make renting out a portion of your home pretty enticing – who wouldn’t want to pay off your mortgage quicker or have more disposable income? Before you start creating a basement apartment in your home or begin renting out a room in it, it’s important to do your homework. Being a landlord can be a demanding role that comes with a number of rules and regulations to follow.

Your House, Your Rules

Here are some you should keep in mind when making the decision to rent out a part of your home:

• Some municipalities require a permit for renting your basement. If you don’t have one and you build an income suite in a municipality that doesn’t allow it you could face some heavy fines and be forced to take down your rental property you worked so hard to put up.
Renting a room in your home with shared space generally doesn’t require a permit, but it could affect your insurance. You need to contact your home insurance company to let them know. If something were to happen to your rental space and the insurance company wasn’t informed of a lodger or tenant living in your home, they will likely not cover the damages.
• The rental income you get from a tenant renting a room out of your home is taxable. You must claim the rental income you get out of it on your tax return each year. Be sure you know what percentage of your home is being rented out as well as the percentage of time a renter uses the shared space like the laundry room, bathroom or kitchen when you file your taxes. You can also claim expenses specific to the rental unit like purchasing a washer and dryer.
• Make sure you know the fair market value in your area and set the rent for your suite accordingly. If you rent the room lower than the market rental rate you likely won’t be able to claim that income when it comes to your taxes.
• Know your rights and responsibilities as a landlord and make sure you protect yourself by having a written lease signed by the tenant. You should also screen potential tenants, making sure you do a credit check to learn whether the tenant would be a right fit for your suite.
• Lay down some ground rules, especially when you are renting out a room and there is shared space involved like a kitchen, laundry room and common area. It might be good to get it in writing as well just in case there is a disagreement that needs to be taken up with the Landlord and Tenant Board, which is responsible for settling landlord and tenant problems.
• When dealing with lodgers, since you are sharing your living space you are not bound by the same rules that apply when renting out a self contained apartment(learn more about the responsibilities of a landlord). You can select whomever you feel comfortable with, as they are effectively your room mate. Learn how to spot room mate red flags and avoid disaster.

Sources:
Ontario Human Rights Commission
Ontario Landlords Association