Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Update on My Pots and Pans, PLUS Recommendations.

I started writing a little update to my post “To Stick or Not to Stick: Alternatives to Teflon” and I decided it was worthy of a separate post.  If you haven’t already read the first post, please do.

At the store, I couldn't lift any of the cast iron cookware I had been romanticizing.  I think I am finally over my craving for a cast iron pot or pan, unless I take up weight-lifting.

After writing the above article I decided that it was worth having a little non-stick pan just for cooking eggs.  I don't use oil or heat the pan above medium, and it heats in the time it takes me to crack and scramble two eggs.  They take about two minutes to cook.  When the pan cools, I just wipe it clean with a dry rag.  I never leave the pan in the sink where it could soak or someone might drop silverware in it.  I use a silicone spatula to scramble the eggs. 

In addition, I replaced my expensive, though scratched, heavy anodized aluminum, non-stick coated set, with a small stainless steel pot, a big paella pan (extra-large sauté pan), and a stainless steel pressure cooker.  My grocery store had a 70% off sale on cookware, so it didn't cost me much to get what I needed, including the little non-stick pan. 

One thing that I learned from this shopping spree is that even if you save money buying a set of cookware, you may waste space for years before realizing that you are never going to use the smallest pot and that you only use one of the pans.  Often newlyweds can't anticipate what they really need, but I strongly recommend trying to buy only the pieces you need, and get good stuff.  If you are frying eggs, get a little non-stick pan, but don't buy a whole set of non-stick ware that will get ruined when you sauté and fry in it. 

Think about how you cook.  If you like to move things between the stove and oven, make sure all parts are oven safe.  The glass top to my new little pot shattered the first day I had it when I left the dish to stay warm in the oven.  If you like sunny side up eggs, a non-stick pan with a glass top is a good buy, so you can monitor them without lifting the lid and releasing heat needed to cook the top.  If you do a lot of stir-fries, sauté large quantities to start soup, or pan fry more than two servings of meat or fish, having the additional “real-estate” of a paella pan is great.  You get the maximum food touching the heated surface with less piled up waiting its turn on the bottom.  Just make sure you have the sink space to wash the pan and somewhere to store it.  You also don't NEED tops to fit all your pots and pans.  If you are cooking eggs in the bottom of a pan with sloped sides, you can make due with a top that is smaller or larger than the pan rim. 

On The Splendid Table radio show, Lynn is often asked what a first or must-have item would be for a new chef and I often hear her talk about a sauté pan.  If I could only choose one pot or pan, I would probably have to take the simple stainless steel pot my brother bought me a few years ago (pictured above).  If you have a pot, you can make pasta, soup, and use the bottom for all your pan requirements from sautés to eggs.  But a sauté pan is great also. When my husband and I were the only solid-food eaters in our family, I used to use my sauté pan (left) to make matzoh ball soup.  The volume was great for two people, and the surface area was important for the matzah balls to fluff up.

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