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Saute pan too big for my stove?

 
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pj_rage



Joined: 07 Feb 2007
Posts: 15

PostPosted: Tue Mar 06, 2007 4:12 pm    Post subject: Saute pan too big for my stove? Reply with quote

I recently found a good deal on a Calphalon one infused anodized 5qt saute pan. I chose the 5qt instead of 3qt because I often cook large meals and that is more or less the reason I wanted the pan in the first place.

Well, anxious to try it out, I was sauteing some stuff last night, some onions in olive oil to start my dish. I was sauteing on low heat (mediumish setting on the biggest burner) such that I could cover and saute for about 10 minutes. I noticed, however, that the inside area of the pan was much hotter than the outside. I noticed it even more once I added the rest of the ingredients and was simmering, it only bubble in the center 4" or so (the side of the burner). It makes sense, looking at the burner, and the bottom of the pan (it overlaps the burner by about 3 inches on each side), but I hoped with a high quality pan, it would more evenly distribute the heat? I solved the problem by constantly stirring, but I was hoping that I would have had a more even heating surface. My burner isn't particularly small or anything, it is your average burner.

So, what gives? Is this pan not meant to be used on this surface? Is it only meant for higher heats, and then it will distribute the heat? Or is this a problem with all pans larger than the burner and you just need to keep stirring? I'm thinking I'm going to need to buy a 3qt version that will better fit my burner and require a little less finesse and attention for my smaller meals.
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opqdan



Joined: 25 May 2006
Posts: 43

PostPosted: Tue Mar 13, 2007 6:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Aluminum (or aluminium) is a great thermal conductor, but that is both good and bad from a cookware standpoint. Since aluminum heats up fast, and evenly (normally), it makes a pretty good material for making pots and pans, but it cannot hold on to heat nearly as well. What I think that you are seeing is that when the burner is hot, the heat is transfered quickly through the pan but the pan also cools too quickly as it moves away from the burner. This is compounded by the fact that most low to mid end cookware tends to be pretty thin (especially if it is made of just aluminum).

At the exact opposite of this spectrum is something like cast iron, which will take a lot longer to heat, but will hold onto that heat much better with much more even temperatures across the surface. The difficulty here, is that cast iron doesn't respond very quickly to heat changes.

Great cookware tend to try to get the best of both worlds by sandwiching a metal with high thermal conductivity within a second metal that will retain heat better (and is also non-reactive because Al is). When a pan uses this type of construction is is called "clad" and most of the time it is an aluminum or copper layer sandwiched in stainless steel. The best pans will have the clad layer come all the way up the sides of the pan and not just the bottom. Of course, I use "best" as a sort of relative term. Some cases call for using a thin and highly conductive pan, and I use a cast iron pan for just about everything.

In your case, you might need something to help diffuse the heat across a larger surface. You might try placing a large cast iron skillet on the burner and then placing your pan on top of that instead. The cast iron will heat the bottom of the pan in total and help you avoid hot spots.
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pj_rage



Joined: 07 Feb 2007
Posts: 15

PostPosted: Tue Mar 13, 2007 7:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Upon second use, I noticed that it seemed to be a little better than my initial inspection. I was also using slightly higher heat. I think at full heat it would be perfect.

I understand the basic thermal properties of the different metals, but I assumed that with Calphalon's top of the line pans, at over $200 retail, they would compensate the weaknesses of aluminum (either with thickness or other) to achieve an even cooking surface.
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DrBiggles



Joined: 12 May 2005
Posts: 355
Location: Richmond, CA

PostPosted: Tue Mar 13, 2007 11:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

pj_rage wrote:
Upon second use, I noticed that it seemed to be a little better than my initial inspection. I was also using slightly higher heat. I think at full heat it would be perfect.

I understand the basic thermal properties of the different metals, but I assumed that with Calphalon's top of the line pans, at over $200 retail, they would compensate the weaknesses of aluminum (either with thickness or other) to achieve an even cooking surface.


Yeah, you'd think. Full heat is great for many things, but you should be able to use your pan at nearly any heat.
What you're looking for is a Heat Diffuser (cast iron metal disc). You should be able to find one at your local hardware store or fancy cookware supply store. I've seen them with holes in the center to help with distribution of the heat and flame, it sucks. Basically what it does is funnel heat to the direct center and burn yer beans.
You're looking for a solid cast iron disc. Some older gas ranges, 50 years +, have a few burners with such discs built in. This is wonderful for melting butter and such things.
I was lucky enough to get a home that had gas, and then bought a 1952 Wedgewood. The burners are adjustable from puny to flame thrower. I have mine adjusted so I can actually cover the bottom of a 12" pan with ease.
In any case, heat diffuser.

Biggles
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