Pots and pans are essential items in the kitchen. There are many different kinds, so how do you choose? And what are the best pots and pans for cooking?
The problem I’ve found with non-stick coatings is that they tend to wear off; they’re great to start with, but after a while your non-stick pan will stop performing as well as when you first used it. One day you will be frying an egg and it will just slide out of the pan onto your plate. The next time, it needs a bit of a nudge. A few weeks later you have to scrape it free of the pan and end up with a burst yolk.
I’ve tried pans that claim to have a non-stick coating that will last for up to ten years. But sadly, this has never happened. Most non-stick pans are coated in a material called Teflon. When Teflon was first used on cooking utensils in 1938 it was considered a breakthrough. It was discovered by accident but scientists quickly took advantage of it. (Teflon was used in artillery shell fuses in the second world war and was used in the Manhatten project.)
Teflon took off in a big way in the 1960s when housewives wanted to save having to scour burnt-on food out of their cooking pots. Teflon is still widely used today. Most of us will look for the Teflon label when buying our pans, thinking that they’re the best kind because food won’t stick to them. But as we now know, this doesn’t last.
So what are the alternatives to non-stick pans?
Hard Anodised Pans
Hard anodised pans are heavy but they last longer, and as they don’t have a non-stick coating there’s nothing to wear off. They do tend to be a bit expensive but are more economical in the long term, as you won’t have to keep replacing them.
That’s a big advantage. Also, these pans are often attractive to look at and can be used straight from the oven to the table, saving on washing up – another advantage. The downside is the weight; I once picked up a Le Creuset saucepan in my local cook shop and I needed both hands to lift it off the shelf. Imagine how heavy it would be when filled with food or liquid! Needless to say, I didn’t buy it.
Popular hard anodised brands include Le Creuset, Tefal, Circulon, Prestige, and Meyer. They vary in price and quality but buy the best you can afford.
Stainless steel pans have become very popular in recent years; they’re used by TV chefs and in cooking competitions like MasterChef. They are very attractive to look at, with their polished, shiny exteriors. But how do they compare with non-stick and hard anodised pans?
The main benefit of stainless steel pans is that they’re very durable. They’re resistant to chips, rust, and scuffing. Also, they’re easy to clean, not too heavy, and moderately priced. But it’s best not to put them in a dishwasher as this can cause the shiny finish to become tarnished. Wash them by hand and dry them thoroughly.
The downside to stainless steel is that the cheaper pans have poor heat conduction; this means that the centre of the base will be hotter than the edges, so you have to keep moving the food around to ensure that it cooks evenly. This can cause delicate foods, like some fresh fish, to break up during cooking. Food can also stick to the pan, which is a big disadvantage.
To avoid this happening, look for pans with a copper base when buying, as copper is a good conductor of heat.
Please note – When buying your pots and pans, make sure that they’re suitable for your hob; if you have an induction hob you will need special pans, ones that are self-heating. In other words, the pan gets hot rather than the hob. Pans that can go into the oven are a bonus as it saves on the washing up. Some pans can up be heated up to 260C. Others can only take temperatures of up to 180C. (Le Creuset pans can be used on all types of hob.)
What Pans Do I Need To Start With?
I would advise starting with 3 saucepans; small, medium, and large, and 2 frying pans, a large deep-sided one and a smaller shallow one, which is useful for making omelettes and pancakes. A milk pan is also useful but keep it solely for warming milk. I once used mine for warming up tomato soup. My warm milk and honey bedtime drink the next evening was a really weird colour. It tasted pretty awful too!
One other item I would like to add to the list is a ridged griddle pan. These are usually made from cast iron or hard anodised aluminium and can be heated to a very high temperature. Griddle pans will give your food an almost barbecued taste, with dark lines on the surface of the food, just as if you had cooked it on a barbecue. This is particularly good for steaks, burgers, kebabs and vegetables such as peppers and aubergines. Ideal if the weather is not on your side – which is often the case where I live.
Just bear in mind when using a griddle pan that the food produces a lot of smoke during cooking, due to the high cooking temperatures. Make sure you have your extractor going at full speed when cooking with a griddle pan! Or open a window.
These items will take care of most of your cookery needs when you start to equip your kitchen. You can add to them as you go along. Or when it comes to replacing them, you can upgrade to a higher-quality brand. Do your homework, take your time choosing your pots and pans, and they will serve you well for years to come.
I hope that you found this article useful and that it will help you to decide on the best cookware for your needs. Please feel free to leave a comment below.
For more advice on how to equip your kitchen go to kitchen tools and gadgets
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