- Determine your cookware material for heat diffusion properties.
- Make sure the interior surface of each product is non-reactive to food.
- And you’re ready to choose cookware to serve your needs.
WITH ENDLESS BRANDS, SHAPES, SIZES & PRICES:
WHAT SHOULD YOU BUY?
What are the right tools? For each of us, they may differ.
Cookbook author Dione Lucas wrote:
“Every piece of equipment that finds its way into your kitchen should pass one test:
DOES IT HELP YOU DO GOOD WORK?”
Probably the most ancient cooking utensil, stock pots are made for boiling, simmering, steaming and blanching. They’re tall and relatively narrow to reduce evaporation. The cooking demand of a stock pot is only to reach a boiling point. Although stainless steel is a poor conductor of heat, its suitable for a stock pot, usually made in 8 to 22 quart capacities.
Covered casseroles are usually round or oval and come in many sizes. Very large versions are also called dutch ovens. The absence of long handles suggests oven cooking although recipes for many casserole dishes specify ‘starting’ on top of the stove. Well-fitting lids provide self-basting condensation. Heavy weight ceramic wares, copper, iron, aluminum or enamel on cast iron casseroles can be used for oven-to-table cookery.
Round or elongated for a roast, metal casseroles with two handles and a lid are perfect for braising or browning meat on top of the stove. With the addition of vegetables and stock, wine or gravy, an entrée is ready for gentle, long cooking in the oven or top of the stove. Heat is transmitted to the entire interior of the covered pot.
Ceramic casseroles (heavy terra-cotta, stoneware and porcelain) are excellent for oven cooking but cannot be used for stove-top cooking. Master chefs explain that ceramic casseroles with unglazed exteriors better absorb heat.
Sauce pans should be a heavy with excellent heat distribution for making sauces, boiling, steaming, braising or stewing foods. Sizes range from 1 to 5 quart capacity. Faster cooling is important for sauces, and for this, copper performs exceptionally well.
Sides of a sautéuse pan slope to a small diameter bottom, beneficial for foods that require frequent stirring because of unstable or delicate consistency such as butter, cream or egg sauces. Sloped sides expose a maximum amount of sauce to the air for reduction and facilitate the movement of a whisk. The metal should be a heavy gauge and one that holds heat uniformly.
Skillets are for frying, sautéing, browning, searing, braising, etc. They’re low and wide to encourage evaporation and in theory, any size or shape skillet can be used for frying or sautéing. It’s recommended handles be equal in length to the diameter of the pan for easy maneuvering.
Frying is cooking in oil/fat—but not deep-fat. The oil/fat is heated before food is added in order to cook quickly and evenly, produce a crisp outside and seal natural moisture to prevent food from absorbing fat. Oil/fat must not reach the smoking point that creates a substance having harmful effect on the stomach. Frying pans are shallow with curved or flared sides for turning eggs and crepes.
Skillets for specific foods include:
Crepe skillets— must distribute and retain heat.
They should be heavy yet light enough to flip.
Omelet skillets –must be heavy to respond to and diffuse high heat evenly. Shallow, sloping sides aid in rolling-over omelets.
Sautéing involves shaking the pan to keep food mingling with oil/fat for browning, then usually covered to complete the cooking. Sauté pans have straight sides to contain food while the pan is kept in motion across the burner.
Frying and sauté pans must have flat bottoms of sufficient weight to prevent warping which causes fats and liquids to settle around edges of the pan. The metal of both should be a heavy-gauge that transmits heat evenly and steadily. Iron, copper and aluminum are good. Iron prevents abrupt temperature changes inside the pan but can discolor some foods. To prevent this, some iron skillets are lined with enamel.
A flambé pan is placed over a burner (a wick fueled by alcohol) intended for preparing foods at the dining table. This is a fast way of cooking so the pan must adjust quickly to a wide range of flame.
Fish fillets, medallions of meat and sweet and savory crepes are typical flambéed foods.
Roasting means cooking with dry heat—yet there’s professional controversy whether a roasting pan should have high or low sides. Meat thermometers are recommended because each requires different cooking times. Roasting pans should have a rack to keep roasts elevated and may or may not have a cover. Handles must have a good grip and be securely riveted.
James Beard preferred a roaster with low sides. He placed meat on a rack to keep it out of the fat and allow air to circulate around the roast.
Complimented on her pot roast, my Mother replied, “It’s the pan”, a high-sided, heavy aluminum roasting pan, covered to create steam and a moist and tender roast.
Fish poachers are elongated covered pans with a rack that can be adjusted to different heights for boiling, simmering, steaming and braising fish. They’re also good for foods of unusual size.
Multi-task inserts are currently marketed by many manufacturers to extend stock pots and sauce pans into service as pasta cooker/strainers, steamers, hot oil fry baskets, etc. They’re practical, save space and ultimately, save money.
Classifications for pot & pans seem endless. Bain-marie, paella, griddles, wok, gratin, terrines, couscousiere, soufflés, marmites are but a few. If specific names of pans for your favorite foods are not listed, information about fabrication still applies.
WHO HAS MONEY TO THROW AWAY?
Pat Breen: EYEWITNESS TO QUALITY
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