Choose Pots and Pans
The last paragraph of this Article uses Circulon pans, I do not endorse this
item, this is only a part of Amy's Article. So, no e-mails about the pans please.
The following Article is from Amy Albert from Fine Cooking Magazine
well-chosen pieces -- starting with a good stockpot and a heavy sauté pan
-- can make a big difference
plenty -- including the fact that good-quality pots and pans made of the
right materials really can improve your cooking.
Rather than having a rack filled with pots and pans
of all shapes and sizes, owning a few well-chosen pieces will give you the
flexibility to cook whatever you want and the performance you need to cook
Advice from expert cooks made
choosing the best pans easy
polled some of our authors to find out which pans were the most valuable
to them and why. I then came up with the following selections, starting
with the two indispensables shown above: an anodized-aluminum stockpot to
handle stocks, soups, stews, some sauces, blanching, boiling, and
steaming; and a high-sided stainless-steel/ aluminum sauté pan with a lid
for frying, deglazing sauces, braising small items like vegetables, making
sautés and fricassées, cooking rice pilafs and risottos, and a whole lot
more. The other four pieces I picked make for even more cooking agility
and add up to half a dozen ready-for-action pots and pans that you'll
All good pans share common
In a well-stocked kitchen
store, you'll see lots of first-rate pots and pans. They may look
different, but they all share essential qualities you should look
for.To help offset the
weight of a heavy pan, choke up
on the pan's handle and brace it along your
forearmLook for heavy-gauge materials.
Thinner-gauge materials spread and hold heat unevenly, and their
bottoms are more likely to dent and warp. This means that food can scorch.
Absolutely flat bottoms are particularly important if your stovetop
element is electric. Heavy-gauge pans deliver heat more evenly.
To decide if a pan is heavy enough, lift it, look
at the thickness of the walls and base, and rap it with your knuckles--do
you hear a light ping or a dull thud? A thud is good in this
case.Good pans are worth their price because they
manage heat better
and "heavy gauge" are the key features of good cookware. Here's how these
characteristics affect cooking.
You'll want handles and a lid that are sturdy,
heatproof, and secure. Handles come welded, riveted, or screwed. Some
cooks advise against welded handles because they can break off. But Gayle
Novacek, cookware buyer for Sur La Table, has seen few such cases. As long
as handles are welded in several spots, they can be preferable to riveted
ones because residue is apt to collect around a rivet.
Many pans have metal handles that stay relatively
cool when the pan is on the stove because the handle is made of a metal
that's a poor heat conductor and retainer, such as stainless steel.
Plastic and wooden handles stay cool, too, but they're not ovenproof.
Heat- or ovenproof handles mean that dishes started on the stovetop can be
finished in the oven.
All lids should fit tightly to keep in moisture.
The lid, too, should have a heatproof handle. Glass lids, which you'll
find on certain brands, are usually ovensafe only up to 350°F.
- You get responsive heat. Good heat
conductors, such as copper and aluminum, are responsive to temperature
changes. They'll do what the heat source tells them to do-- heat up,
cool down-- almost instantly.
- You get fast heat flow. Heat flows more
easily through a good heat conductor, assuring a quick equalizing of
temperature on the cooking surface.
- You get even heat diffusion. A thicker
pan has more distance between the cooking surface and the heat source.
By the time the heat flows to the cooking surface, it will have spread
out evenly, because heat diffuses as it flows.
- You get more heat. Mass holds heat (heat
is vibrating mass, so the more mass there is to vibrate, the more heat
there will be). The more pan there is to heat, the more heat the pan can
hold, so there's more constant heat for better browning, faster
reducing, and hotter frying.
A pan should feel comfortable. "When you're
at the store, pantomime the way you'd use a pot or pan to find out if it's
right for you," advises Fine Cooking contributing editor and chef
Molly Stevens. If you find a pan you love but you aren't completely
comfortable with the handle, you can buy a rubber gripper to slip over the
handle. Just remember that grippers aren't ovenproof.
Some pans need special talents
Depending on what you'll be cooking in the pan, you may also need to look
for other attributes.
For sautéing and other cooking that calls for quick temperature changes, a
pan should be responsive. This means that the pan is doing what the heat
source tells it to, and pronto. For example, if you sauté garlic just until
fragrant and then turn down the flame, the pan should cool down quickly so
the garlic doesn't burn. Responsiveness isn't as crucial for boiling, steaming,
or the long, slow cooking that stocks and stews undergo.
For sautéing and oven roasts, it helps if the pan heats evenly up the sides.
When you've got a pan full of chicken breasts nestling against the pan sides,
you want them all to cook quickly and evenly, so heat coming from the sides
of the pan is important. Even heat up the sides of a pot is important for pot
roasting, too. Paul Bertolli, Fine Cooking contributing editor and chef of
Oliveto restaurant in Oakland, California, counts on his enameled cast-iron
oval casserole by Le Creuset for braising meat because "it's a snug, closed
cooking chamber with even heat radiating off the sides for really good browning.
" Bertolli finds that meat fits especially well into the oval shape.
For cooking acidic foods, such as tomato sauces, wine sauces, and fruit fillings,
a pan's lining should be nonreactive. Stainless steel, enamel, and anodized aluminum
won't react no matter what they touch, while plain aluminum can discolor white sauces
and foods that are acidic, sulfurous, or alkaline. It can even make those foods taste
metallic. Eggs, vegetables in the cabbage family, and baking soda are some of the other
foods vulnerable to aluminum's graying effect. In the past, there was concern about
aluminum and Alzheimer's, but evidence has been far from conclusive.
Interview yourself to help you choose the right pans.
There's nothing wrong with matching cookware in principle. Packaged starter
sets are attractively priced, and a whole lineup of matching pans can be
attractive, too. But a single material isn't suited for every kitchen task
-- with sets, you're often stuck with pans you don't need. That enameled
cast-iron casserole is just right for the cassoulet you'll move from stovetop
to oven. But its matching saucepan overcooked your last caramel because
the pan was too heavy to heft quickly once the sugar turned color.
You'll get more use out of pieces that you hand-pick yourself. You may
already own a matched set (the red Le Creuset ensemble I got years ago as
a housewarming present is still hanging in my kitchen), but as you add new
pieces to your collection, you'll have a chance to branch out to different
materials (see Materials that make the pot).
To decide what you need, ask yourself questions like the ones that follow.
Are you more likely to make saucy dishes like fricassées and sautés than
delicate foods like omelets and crêpes? A bigger sauté or frying pan with
high sides and a lid may be a better choice than a shallower, slope-sided
omelet pan without one. "At home, I make a lot of dishes where the pasta
gets thrown in with the other ingredients for the last few minutes, and my
anodized-aluminum sauté pan is the one I always grab," says Molly Stevens
of her favorite Calphalon pan. "It's responsive, I know the food won't scorch,
and I love the handle." She adds that its anodized surface is easy to clean.
Pots and Pans Part 2 .