The history of bakeware dates back to ancient civilizations as we all know. It was better known as pottery which has been found at archaeological digs and has been dated as far back as can be remembered. It started out as simple clay pots that were fired and used for cooking, baking and storing food as well as other things.
Todays world uses a lot of the same materials and has added to them with the ever expanding advancements of technology. You can still find clay bakeware which is similar to earthenware and is still very popular. Then you have your ceramics, stoneware, stainless steel, porcelain, glass, cast iron and non stick, to name a few more.
All of them are good for baking and here are a few characteristics to keep in mind when choosing what to use.
Clay and earthenware are are kiln fired. They are great for baking fish, meats, stews, casseroles and breads. It is relatively inexpensive to produce and can be transferred directly to the table. It provides an attractive look to your table and many pieces have beautiful designs which bring a personal touch to your dishes and most types can be used on on the cook top. It does however chip and break easily and is not the best choice for baking pies and cakes.
Glass, ceramic and stoneware ( which is a blend of glass and ceramic ) are more modern than the earthenware and clay bakeware and come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. These are used more for casseroles and cakes and can also be transferred to the table, since most of them are glazed and have elegant designs. They too have a tendency to chip and break. Because of the processes involved this kind of bakeware is a little more expensive than the clay or earthenware varieties but are worth the money.
Porcelain bakeware is probably the most expensive and is very elegant. The rich glaze and attractive designs make it stand out and make a real statement at your dinner table. It does chip and break so it is recommended for special occasions because of its high price and value. I would classify it as high maintenance because of how fragile it can be.
Stainless steel bakeware is very durable as it does not chip or break and can be used for every kind of baking. It is easier to clean and is dishwasher safe. It does not react with food and is my favorite for roasting meat. It is great for making all of those wonderful sauces after the meat is done because it can go to the cook top and and can be utilized to render sauce or gravy using the pan drippings.
Cast iron bakeware is the best conductor of heat and has the most even heat distribution. It is almost indestructible and lasts forever with proper maintenance. It is heavy and needs to be seasoned before use. It will rust if not properly maintained and and does react with certain foods. It is relatively inexpensive and is worth having around because of its baking versatility. It too can be used in the oven or on the cook top.
Non stick is probably the most popular type of bakeware and is probably the best for baking pies and cakes. The non stick surface that is the most widely known is teflon and if you want easy clean up this is for you. The non stick surface is most often applied to either an aluminum or stainless steel piece of bakeware and is dishwasher safe. Non stick coatings will chip over time which can result in little flakes of the coating in your food.
There are a lot of different kinds of bakeware out there and they all have their best uses and I would recommend trying them all to see what you like best. It would be a good idea to have at least one piece of each to experiment with. You will then find out what type best suits your individual needs.