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Waterless cookware is so-called because it is designed to cook foods without the addition of water or oils. The pots and pans are usually constructed in several layers, including an aluminum or iron core that is surrounded in stainless steel. Foods are placed in waterless cookware and covered. Eventually the natural moisture of the foods rises and creates a natural "vapor seal." The food then cooks in the steam, without the need for additional cooking liquid.
Proponents of waterless cookware claim that it has several advantages over ordinary cookware. The first advantage is that cooking food in its own moisture preserves their flavors and nutrients. The second is that since no added oil is required in waterless cooking, no additional calories are added to the food.
The third advantage is that waterless cooking is energy efficient cooking. Low heat is used, and some waterless cookware sets work by bringing the temperature up to a certain level, then turning off the heat. The cookware has been sealed, so the heat remains in the pot or pan and the food continues to cook. While advocates of waterless cooking often focus on the cooking of vegetables in a waterless system, both meats and potatoes can also be prepared in these pans.
Variations in the cookware can include a valve that can be sealed or opened, as well as a temperature gauge. The quality of the stainless steel used in the cookware's construction also varies. Many of the high-end producers use surgical stainless steel, while less-costly sets use a lower grade. One concern for owners of waterless cookware is replacing items such as valves, handles, or temperature gauges, as cookware owners may not always remain in contact with the direct sales representative who sold them the set.
Waterless cookware sets can be somewhat difficult to find. The higher-end sets can also be expensive. This type of cooking requires explanation and training, so many manufacturers utilize the direct sales method of distribution. Independent representatives hold cooking parties in private homes to demonstrate the cookware to friends of the host or hostess. After the demonstration, which usually includes a chance to sample the prepared food, guests are given the chance to purchase the cookware. There are, however, some producers of waterless cookware that offer products online or in department stores, usually at lower prices than direct sales companies.