During the nineteenth century the majority of cooking pots had been made of cast iron. A major United Kingdom company manufacturing cooking pots was Kenricks of Birmingham. Lighter wares were of sheet tin. Enameled cast iron was developed in the 1850s. It was easier to clean and more attractive, despite a limited color range. A mottled blue was one of the commonest colors. Germany, Austria, and France were all significant producers. The 1870s saw innovations in the metal industry. Pressed mild steel appeared as a result of the Bessemer and Siemens processes. Aluminum wares were produced in the United States, France, and the United Kingdom from the 1880s. The American West Bend Company of West Bend, Wisconsin, began production of aluminum cookware in 1911. Its main customer was the mail-order company Sears, Roebuck.

The new cooking methods of gas and later electricity had an effect on cookware. Enameled iron saucepans were unpredictable and milk pans boiled over due to the uneven conductivity of iron and enamel. American manufacturers did continue with cast iron, offering bright enameled colors on the outside. British manufacturers moved to steel and aluminum.

The cookware industries of Europe and America went into wartime production between 1914 and 1918 and emerged with improved technologies. The most popular British brands were Tower, Diamond Brand, Swan, and Goat. Steel cookware was often enameled in either green or beige with contrasting rims in a darker shade. In postwar Germany, the once mighty BMW company had to cease producing aircraft engines and move into pots and pans to survive.

Aluminum wares were well suited to electric stoves. In 1934 the Wear Ever Company produced a range with heat resistant plastic handles. Stainless steel, an alloy of steel, nickel, and chromium developed in the 1920s, offered better resistance to rust and acidic corrosion. West Bend introduced their Waterless Cooker in 1921. Based on the suggestion of one of its salesmen, the lid of the cooker was fitted with clamps that prevented the escape of steam during cooking, making the addition of water unnecessary. They sold well and led to the introduction of a range of waterless wares known as the Flavo-Seal line. The U.S. Revere Copper and Brass Company developed a range of stainless steel pans with copper plated bottoms. Marketed in 1939 as Revere Ware, they gave better heat distribution.

In addition to stainless steel materials, chrome plated steel and heatproof glass like Pyrex was becoming popular. Colored aluminum was also fashionable during the late 1940s and 1950s. Anodized aluminum wares have a satin gloss finish and were introduced in 1946 by the Aluminum Utensil Company. West Bend had introduced anodized wares with colored dyes by 1950; these materials improved the aesthetics of cookware during the 1950s when the look of a kitchen became more important to manufacturers and consumers. This trend continued throughout the late twentieth century.

The first nonstick pan was introduced in 1956 by a Frenchman, Marc Gregoire, and his wife, Colette. Gregoire had experimented with the low friction substance PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene) to produce a smoother running fishing reel. His wife suggested that it would have more commercial success if applied to cookware. The resulting Tefal company became a brand leader as nonstick Teflon-coated pans became popular during the 1960s and 1970s.

Traditional manufacturers also received a boost during the 1970s as a result of public interest in antiques and the positive reassessment of much Victorian taste. A refurbished range or new Aga in a suburban home required the “right” pans. The French firm of Le Creuset benefited enormously. Founded in 1925 at Fresnoy-Le Grand at St. Quentin, its heavy, hand-finished enameled cast-iron pots and pans were just right.

Cultural and social trends also influenced cookware. The success of Asian and Eastern restaurants during the 1960s and 1970s led to a rising interest in cooking such dishes at home. In the United Kingdom, the Habitat stores led the way, selling woks, rice steamers, and chicken bricks. Another trend was toward professional cookware as the Western media began to promote “lifestyle” eating and drinking in the 1980s. For those inspired by celebrity chefs, popular choices were the Elysee Line of 1981 by Cuisinox, a French company established in the 1930s, or Calphalon of 1978, a range of commercial, hard anodized aluminum wares made in Ohio. Another serious choice was Le Pentole designed in 1979 for Industrie Casalinghi Mori in Italy by Nika Sala. This is a stylish modern reworking of a stacking steamer with five pans.

A more recent innovation has been the specialized pan designed for use away from the stove burner (hob). The Tefal Le Saucier is a nonstick saucepan with an integral mixing paddle powered by an electric spindle through its base. It sits on an individual hot-plate with electronic controls for heating, timing, and stirring. Equally French is the Tibos electric crepe maker, with a nonstick griddle and spreading device.

Cookware has largely retained its traditional forms throughout the twentieth century; the main advances have been in the better performing and lighter materials used and the aesthetic choices available. Most cookware performs well, dependent on price, and both manufacturers and consumers are equally influenced by popular fashions and tastes.