Pots & Pans
Selecting pots and pans is one of the most personal decisions a cook can make. There are an infinite number of choices, materials, durability, weight,extra features all combine to make it a difficult process.
For the average cook a single set of pots will do. A 1 and 2 quart sauce pot and a 6 quart stock pot with a lid, a 8 inch and a 10 inch frying pan or skillet, and a 12 inch or 3 quart sauté pan with a lid all with a non stick surface will probably suffice. In addition because of the non stick properties you will need silicone or silicone coated utensils to keep from scratching the surfaces of the pots and pans. A set of pots like this can run anywhere from thirty dollars up to a couple of hundred, depending on the quality and maker. Augmented with a few specialty pots and pans this collection should be able to satisfy 90% of the average cooks needs.
For the more adventurous cook, a single set just won’t do. The serious cook who is into making sauces will find that non stick just won’t work, as the surface of a non stick won’t create the browned bits that stick to the pan and make a great base for a sauce after deglazing the pan. In addition you can’t cook at extremely high heat with a non stick surface. So for this type of cooking you will need a sturdy heavy bottom Stainless steel or anodized aluminum sauté pan.
Cooking with highly acidic foods you more than likely need a non reactive pot or pan. Non reactive pans will not pass on a metallic taste to your food. The food won’t become discolored and the pots themselves won’t stain. Copper, aluminum and tin are reactive. Stainless steel, enameled,and most non stick surfaces are non reactive. If the finish on a enameled pot is worn, it may stain. Stainless steel doesn’t transfer heat well but won’t stain or pit with acidic foods, but they may pit with salt. Glass will work but can’t be exposed to direct heat sources. The anodized aluminum is supposedly safe, but can over time lose its finish.
Perhaps your into frying, then your choice may be cast iron. It has an excellent ability to hold and retain heat. If they are seasoned properly they will be fairly non stick and are excellent in high heat cooking and frying. Non stick surfaces are not well adapted to high heat applications.
If your style of cooking is to brown on the stove top and finish in the oven then you need to be careful of the type of handles that are on the pots and pans. Many now come with insulated handles, which while protecting hands on the stove top,they don’t do too well in the oven.
The best choice for the serious cook starting out would be a combination. A set of non stick pots and pans with lids and utensils of silicone or silicone covered to protect the finish, and set of stainless steel with heavy either aluminum or copper bases and lids. To this add a 6 quart cast iron pot with a lid and a 12 inch cast iron pan. A good sturdy 6 or 8 quart enameled pot with a lid and you now have an excellent starter kit. Add to this a variety of glass pans and casseroles, and aluminum non stick coated and glass bake wear and you should be set to scale the culinary heights.
Just be sure to inspect the pots and spend the extra few dollars on studier better made products. In the long run the extra dollars spent now will save you money in the future. From here, as your experience grows you can try different pans and pots and fine tune your collection.
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