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I'm just starting to cook for myself in college, and I'm curious what the best material of cooking tools are for pasta in a metal pan and stir fry in a non-stick wok. To make this question more general, when should you use plastic, metal or wooden cooking tools?

Are there reasons not to use a certain type sometimes? For example, is it unsafe to use wooden tools with raw meat in stir fry?

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    There is no good material for cooking in a non-stick Wok, because the non-stick coating is already an extremely poor material. The temperatures used in stir-frying are way too high for it to handle. I understand that you're just starting out but you'll want to replace that with a carbon-steel wok ASAP - they're not expensive, and food won't stick to them after seasoning and regular use. – Aaronut Dec 4 '10 at 14:56
  • Aluminum filled stainless also works nicely, but every nonstick wok I've seen is basically a dispo item. – Wayfaring Stranger Jun 10 '13 at 13:59
  • @WayfaringStranger I actually have two (Banquet brand) which are still pretty much like new several years after purchase. I am very gentle with them though. – JohnEye Jul 9 '18 at 11:28
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Metal
Advantages: durable, no risk of absorbing flavours
Disadvantages: may scratch certain cookware

Wood
Advantages: doesn't scratch, looks nice
Disadvantages: can wear down over time, can sometimes absorb flavours

Plastic
Doesn't find a place in my kitchen other than a rubber spatula for baking.

Silicone
You didn't mention this, but I like it, because it works like rubber but can withstand high temps (brushes, spatulas)

I think the answer really depends on what you cook. A good basic set might consist of a wooden spoon, a spatula that can handle heat, a good ladle, and maybe a set of tongs or chopsticks. You'll quickly learn what you wish you had to make it a little easier.

  • I actually rather like "wooden" spoons (you know, that shape) made from plastic. Much less flavor absorption, easier to clean, nearly as cheap--what's not to like? – RolandTumble Dec 4 '10 at 17:26
  • @Roland can't withstand high temperatures, can bend – Agos Dec 4 '10 at 20:22
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    On the plastic score, I only use melamine utensils with non-stick, they can withstand pretty much any temperature and don't bend. I use silicone coated whisks however. – Orbling Dec 5 '10 at 1:17
  • It's also a non-renewable resource. I'm not strict or crazy about it, but since I prefer the look and feel of wood and metal anyway and I don't need to worry about heat.... – talon8 Dec 5 '10 at 6:38
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    Wood disadvantage: Not dishwasher save – user2215 Dec 6 '10 at 0:42
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If you do decide to go with wooden spoons (they are cheap after all), you should get at least 2. Write "sweet" or something else on the handle of one so you're less tempted to use the same spoon for cakes as you are for a heavy garlicky curry!

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The main rule here is to not use metal tools on nonstick cookware. Even nonstick cookware labeled "metal safe" can be scratched by using metal tools.

Clean your wooden tools with very hot, soapy water (but don't leave them soaking in water), and they'll be fine.

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Plastic/silicone & wooden: on NON-Stick metal surfaces

Metal/stainless steel & wooden: on metal/cast iron surfaces

I do not recommend using plastic for cast iron cooking. Reason being that most of the time the temperatures are higher (i.e deep frying) which may melt the plastic.

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I have non-stick safe utensils made from a hard nylon, I believe that may be more common for harder, non-bendy utensils like sturdy stirring spoons, and flat pancake turner type tools that you want to be strong and not terribly flexible as some softer plastics are.

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