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How to buy a pan that you love



The desired pan finish depends on what it is used for.


Tyler Lizenby / CNET

Maybe your faithful pan has just kicked the bucket. Or maybe you are considering buying one for the first time. Either way, the choices can be overwhelming.

That's true, even if you just want a single, simple frying pan. Go shopping and you will find stainless steel, cast iron, carbon steel and various types of non-stick pans.

Everyone has their own pros and cons, how do you know what you get for what you want to cook? This guide will give you everything you need to know.

  Omelette folded over the artichoke

Nonstick shells treat eggs particularly well.


Getty Images

Nonstick Still Appealing

Nonstick cookware is designed exactly as it sounds. The internal coatings of these pans are deliberately as frictionless as possible. Foods that cling to other pans – like omelettes – slide effortlessly away from the cookware. Use it to roast, roast and roast vegetables and meat to poultry and fish.

Another advantage is that you do not have to use a lot of oil or butter to prevent the food from sticking to the pan when cooking. Cleanup is also a breeze, as there is no stuck garbage.

However, there is a trade-off for this convenience. Non-stick cooking surfaces are less durable than other inner dishes. Also, using metal utensils in them is a no-no because they scratch (and ruin) the coating.

You should not place non-stick cookware in the oven, under broilers, or even over stovetops at high heat. High amounts of heat (above 500 ° F or 260 ° C) cause their plastic polymer coatings to deteriorate or disintegrate completely. This in turn releases vapors that prove toxic when inhaled.

More: How to Store Your Pots and Pans Correctly.

Ceramics, the other non-stick

Ceramic-lined pans have become popular in recent years as they are free of synthetic materials. Widely used ceramic pottery brands include GreenPan and Green Earth.

Made of natural, inorganic material, similar to sand or clay, ceramic surfaces are not chemically disrupted when exposed to extreme heat (over 500 F). They will not release dangerous fumes even under these conditions.

Ceramic frying pans, however, will not satisfy all. Their non-stick properties fade over time. Ceramic cookware also wears faster than conventional non-stick coatings. Do not choose a pan with a ceramic finish if you expect it to last for generations.

Stainless steel cookware is the workhorse of many home kitchens


Taylor Martin / CNET

Practical, high-performance stainless steel

Stainless steel pans are another type of cookware that can be found on many shelves. This finish is the perfect choice if you want general-purpose, high-performance, cookware with the least effort. Stainless steel pots and pans sit in the Goldilocks Zone between durability, versatility and price.

They can absorb high heat, be it on the stove, in the oven or under a grill. And as long as you do not mistreat them, they will provide for daily service for years. You do not have to season them like cast iron and carbon steel pans. And their insides can handle all kinds of utensils (sharp, hard, metal or otherwise).

Stainless steel cookware is not indestructible. Hard cleaning solutions, abrasive materials and excessive dishwasher travel will do them harm. Her appearance is particularly vulnerable. If you are not careful, they lose their shine and shine and get scratched.

Excellent heat retention helps cast iron pans to produce a thick, fried crust on meat.


Tyler Lizenby / CNET

Cast iron for a nice burn

Large, heavy and sometimes easy to clean cast-iron cookware does not seem to be worth the effort. But once you get the hang of it, you might become a convert.

Thanks to their high density, cast-iron pans retain their heat remarkably well. And their relative thickness distributes this heat evenly to the food they cook. So if you are looking for steaks and chops in restaurant quality, delicious crunchy crusts and all, then take a cast-iron pan.

You must, however, clean cast iron pans before using them. There are two main purposes for seasoning cast iron. The first is to make a smooth, almost non-sticky surface in your pan. The second is to protect the pan from rust caused by moisture or direct contact with water. The process is not difficult, but requires some effort and time.

You also have to refer them back from time to time – especially when they are shot by burned fat and old food bites. These deposits will reduce the non-stick properties of deposited cast iron over time.

Cookware made of carbon steel like this pan made of carbon steel from Matfer Bourgeat are what professional cooks prefer.


Matfer Bourgeat

Cooks choose carbon steel

Do you really want to cook like a cook? Then use what the pros use: carbon steel cookware. Carbon steel, also known as black steel, is much lighter than cast iron. Despite the lower density, C-steel pans and frying pans retain heat almost as well as their cast-iron cousins. That means they also fry food.

Carbon steel tends to be smoother than cast iron. The big advantage: These pans have cooking surfaces that may be just as slippery as nonstick frying pans. Eggs, omelets, prime cuts of meat, poultry, seafood – quality carbon steel pans can do it all.

Like cast iron, you must spice it up. It protects the cookware from rust and ensures a smooth interior. All this makes C-steel frying pans excellent multi-purpose kitchen appliances. If you're a seasoned amateur chef and want to spice things up, whip up a carbon steel pan.

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