How to choose materials for kitchenware?
Kitchenware includes cookware hollowware utensils and Tableware. The materials have changed dramatically in last 100 years
Up until 1950s, all items were made of Clay (Mitti), Porcelain, Brass (Peetal),
Bell Metal (Kansa), Copper (Tamba), Iron (Loha), and Wood. In general, the Hindu ceremonial ware is made of copper.
tableware and hollowware was made of Kansa. Cookware and cooking utensils were made of brass copper or iron.
Earthenware was used for hollowware, storage as well as cooking. Wood was used to carve-out spoons, spatula,
bowls, and churners.
History not long ago! Cookware, Hollowware, Tableware
Pottery makers (Kumhar) would use local clay and a spinning wheel to form the needed ware and fired in the Kiln. It was believed that the heat from Kiln purified the clay, It overlooked the elements that may be harmful such as lead. The products
would be either black or red depending on the color of clay. The earthenware was classified as: either Kachi
Mitti, or Pakki Mitti.
Earthenware (Mitti) Terracotta
Kachi Mitti was used to make Ghara to store water or grains. Smaller version of Ghara was called Gharia
Kachi Mitti was also used to make Kulhar for beverages, Diya (a small wicker lamp) for water storage, and
planters. Surahi is made to store and serve cool water.
The Pakki Mitti is used to make Handi, Paraat, Manthani. Handi is used for Dum Pukht (slow cooking). Paraat are used to
incubate warm milk to make yogurt, ferment batters for Idli Dosa, or Badiya. The yogurt is churned in Manthani to
Granite is used to make Hamam Dasta (Mortar and pestle), Sil Batta (Horizontal hand operated grinder, Batta
is also called Lohra), Chakki (hand operated flour mill), Chakla Belan (Rolling board and pin to roll out dough for making flat breads).
Granite, and red clay are also used as a grinding stone to sharpen knife blades. White
marble is also used to make Chakla Belan and Mortar.
Stones (Granite, Marble)
Imrit-Baan are made of glazed porcelain jars. These were used to make and store Indian pickles.
They are similar to 'Pickling Crocks' used in USA. Porcelain absorbs heat and cools off slowly. The feature
made it ideal to age pickles in hot-sun. Ghee was stored in Imrit-Baan as well. In United States porcelain
crocks are used to store cookies. In Punjab, Mathri, Atta Laddu, Pinni, Mewa were routinely stored in
Loha literally means iron. The craftsmen were called 'Lohari'. The cast iron has about 3% to 4.2% carbon. Low carbon Iron is normally called
steel. The iron was pounded to make griddle (Tawa) to cook flat breads, Karahi (Indian wok),
Mortar and pestle for Hamam Dasta, Skewer (Seekh). Karahi was favorite among professional Halwaii and Khansama, Iron is used to make
different types of knives: Chakku. Chhuri, Gandasa, Hansiya (Sickle), Bonti, Pharsa (Wide blade Axe), Aari
After Iron and before Brass, copper was phased in to make kitchenware. Copper is considered pure and
sacred. It was considered to have medicinal properties. Copperware was used to store water at home. In temples, almost all the hollowware was
made of copper, specially Lota to store the holy water from Ganges river.
Copper cookware lined with Tin is preferred by Moslems.
In Hindi, Brass is called Peetal. Brass is an alloy made by smelting 67% Copper and 23% Zinc. Amount of
zinc varies from 3% to 30%, producing about 40 different types of Brass for different applications. Brass is a
good conductor of heat and retains heat well. Brass-ware and any other ware that has copper in it, is reactive
to acid. Therefore the inside surface is hand-coated with Tin (Kalai). After about 3 months of average use,
the surface has to be
The cookware included Degchi, Pateela, Pali, and
Karahi, and tea-kettle. For tableware, brass is used for Thali, Katori, Lota, and Gilas. The hollowware
included Surahi to be used as Pitcher.
Brass is used to make utensils such as Belan, Kalchi, Chimta,
Chamcha, Palta, Pakkad.
Brass cookware lined with Tin is poplar with Hindus.
Bell Metal (Kansa)
In Hindi Bell-Metal is known as Kansa. The craftsmen were called 'Kansari'. Kansa is a type of Bronze with proportionately higher amount of Tin.
Kansa is made by smelting 78% copper 22% Tin. Bronze is made by smelting about 90% copper and 10%
Tin. Kansa does not tarnish like copper or brass. The Kansa when struck generates a ringing tone for several
seconds. That's why it is called Bell Metal in English. It is used to make Ghanti (prayer bells), Ghanta (Call to prayer bell), and Kartals that are struck
during Kirtnas. Kartals are hand cymbals about 3" in diameter.
Kansa is a good conductor of heat and retains heat well. The inside surface is hand-coated with Tin (Kalai).
It was used to make Degchi (the most common cookware), and Paraat
(to knead dough for making bread). Kansa Degchi was considered ideal to make Kheer (Rice pudding) and Dal. If
cooked properly and covered, the bottom of Degchi will not not scorch while making Kheer. Kansa is used to make all Tableware. In early 1950s, use of Kansa
fell out of favor as a kitchenware for following reasons:
1. India was a culture of bartering and
re-cycling. The old broken or dented metal-ware was traded-n for new metal-ware. Kansa was
also produced by adding Tin to old Bronze, or Brass. So it would wind up with small amounts of other elements
such as Zinc from Brass. Sometimes, you might even find Lead from another metal-ware. As the population became educated about Lead,
they just switched over to Brass.
2. Brass Copper and Iron ware were just dented when dropped accidentally. Kansa is brittle. The Kansa-ware
would crack, and even shatter if dropped.
3. Kansa was more expensive than Brass.
Gold and Silver
In Hindi Gold is called 'Sona', and Silver is called 'Chandi'. The goldsmiths were called 'Sonar'. The tableware was made of gold for the royal Moghul courts.
The gold is inert element and it does not react with acid or alkali. The gold used was 24 carat, and not 10 or
14 carat. The tableware made with Gold included Thali, Katori, Donga,
Gilas, Surahi, Lota, Donga, Tablespoons and teaspoons. The rich and middle class families used Silver.
Wood was used to carve out utensils such as: bowls, Hamam (Mortar), Dasta (Pestle), Dabala (Flat wood long spatula), Chakla (Rolling board), Belan (Rolling pin),
Makhan Phirni (Butter Churner), Katora (Bowls), Masala Daani (rectangular box with eight compartments and a sliding top lid to
store spices). Almost all the utensils have disappeared except for Belan, and possibly Chakla.
was used with cookware made with copper or copper alloy. The wooden spoon prevented
scratching the Tin lining (Kalai) on these cookware to prevent reaction with acids in the foods. India does
produce wooden spoons and spatula, that are just exported.
Butter churners came in three sizes. The large Churner was
used to churn (Manthan) yogurt while sitting on floor to extract butter and produce buttermilk. The mid-size churner was used to whip
yogurt to make Lassi. The smaller version was called 'Ghotni' and used to muddle Greens while making Saag, or
crunch beans when making Dal.
Modern Cookware, Hollowware, Tableware
The modern earthen cookware sold in United States must meet lead requirements. Most of the pottery sold for planters does not meet these standards.
Copper / Brass
This is electroplated with tin. Still the tin scratches and wears off with usage. Copper and brass still
remain the the best heat conductors, better than stainless steel or Aluminum cookware.
Cast iron / High Carbon Steel
Cast iron cookware can be used just like Karahi is used by Halwai in India. It must be kept properly seasoned to minimize reactivity to acids and make it non-stick.
AluminumAluminum is a good conductor of heat. This material is highly reactive. It darkens with Alkali and dissolves with acids in the foods.
Cooking curries with tomatoes tamarind lime juice will pit the surface of the cook ware and leave an after
taste in the food. The Aluminum is harmful to your health. Therefore, it is anodized to harden the surface. The Aluminum may is also coated with non-stick materials to reduce reactivity. The non-stick surface is not well suited to high heat, also scratches easily.
Enamelware is made by covering thin steel with porcelain enamel. Unfortunately, the cookware uses thin base metal making it difficult for
slow cooking. Also, the coating chips away even during normal handling.
Steel is made of iron and carbon, carbon makes it harden-able. A minimum of 10.5% Chromium is added so that
the steel is not easily stained, hence the name stain-less steel. Nickel is added to make it corrosion
resistant and prevents pitting. The stainless steel is less reactive to acids, and easy for maintenance. It does not corrode, tarnish, and the surface is not porous like cast iron or aluminum. It is resistant to wear.
On the other hand it is not a good conductor of heat. Therefore, the exterior of cookware may be clad with copper to better heat conduction. The heavy bottom is made by sandwiching a layer of aluminum in between the layers of stainless steel. The heavy bottom makes even heat distribution suitable for sautéing and simmering.
18/8 or Type 304 is the most common stainless steel used for flatware. 18/10 or Type 316 is better quality
stainless steel used for flatware and cookware. Type 316L is used for commercial cook ware. The weight and quality of stainless steel is also determined by its composition ratio. 18/10 is heavier and shinier than the 18/8.
Type 440 is used to make cutlery knives (Chhuri, Chakku, Chef's knife). Better quality cutlery knifes are made
with high-carbon steel (440C).