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Pans? We Have Pans. Which pan for what job and why.
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cynicalb_repost
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PostPosted: Sat May 21, 2005 8:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

All sarcasm aside (and don't get me wrong, I am a huge fan of sarcasm), let's look at this discussion in a logical, engineering manner. After all, that is the basis for this forum.

What is the primary objective of cookware? To cook food properly. By that I mean both in a taste and visual sense. With a few exceptions, the best way to accomplish this task (i.e. sauteeing, pan frying, reductions, etc.) is by using cookware that has high heat conductivity. That is easily met by two materials - best (by far) is copper, second best is aluminum. [Cast iron has its own category - heat conductivity is not very good, but you can get it hotter than hell and it will retain that heat for a long period of time, which makes it excellent for certain types of cooking.] However, copper is expensive, heavy, and reacts with foods unless properly layered with tin or clad with stainless steel; aluminum, although light and relatively inexpensive, is not very sturdy (with some exceptions) and reacts with foods unless anodized or clad. A third material, steel, or its cousin, stainless steel, does not react toxically with foods, is very strong for its weight, easily formed, and fairly cheap. However, the heat conductivity for steel is pathetic, thus it is prone to hot spots resulting in easily burned dishes.

Engineers, being the innovative sort that we are, looked for a way to prevent burning and scorching of foods. Hence, the advent of Teflon coatings on cookware, and its variants. It is cheap, easily applied, resists burning and sticking, and is non-toxic (although some of our friends in this post may disagree with that). Although I do not know this for a fact, I would surmise that Teflon is used to make inferior cookware, at least from the perspective of preparing good looking and tasting food, useable.

What can we assume form this? Teflon is a good way to make inferior cookware perform adequately for many people. However, as one gains confidence and ability, they will realize the shortcomings of inferior cookware and save their money for the best performing cookware that they can.

Assuming my logic is sound, I would also posit that Teflon on All-Clad or some similar type of cookware is nothing more than marketing chutzpah (with perhaps a few exceptions - see my last paragraph) - a way to get those with more money and less ability to purchase a premium product. The reason for this is that copper or stainless clad aluminum with their superior heat conductivity are the materials that create a fond the best. It is impossible to create a fond with non-stick coatings, thus the raison d'Ítre for copper or clad cookware is lost.

All that said, there are a few things that non-stick coatings excel at - omelets, crepes, pancakes, etc. - although I think properly seasoned cast iron is at least as good if not superior for those types of dishes.
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Dr. Biggles
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PostPosted: Sat May 21, 2005 8:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hey,

Okay, I'll lay down me Sarcasm for moment.

I enjoyed, read and appreciate how you layed that down. Unfortunately, I'm not an engineer. And if I was, I don't believe I'd be very good at it. However, I believe I do have an appropriate analogy.

My days are spent getting paid for either taking photographs or acting the computer geek. Over the years people want to know what kind of camera I use to take my photographs. How come my pictures aren't all off color? How come I can get so close up and not have most everything out of focus? What kind of camera do I have for that? Each time I say that I spent time learning about how to take pictures and I read my owners manuals. I can pick up my camera or yours and get a nice photograph.

I believe the same can be said for cookware and cooking in general. Invite a Chef over and have them put together something from what they have at hand and using the equipment available. Jacques Pepin could probably give you a world class omelet from nearly any pan.

My point being, for those reading here is to say, GET OUT THERE AND COOK. Get out and use your camera. Pay attention and take notes. You'll find out on your own what you find necessary and what you find works best. Hopefully.

There are many of us out there, equipment hounds. A hand made solid copper fry pan gives me goose pimples. I love the art of it, there's a beauty in the design, the feel. The same can be said for older German & Japanese mechanical film cameras. They're works of art. That being said ...

don't leave a pan empty on an open flame for too darned long. We home cooks don't want to be responsible for the death of our beloved feathered pets.

Xo Xo
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cynicalb_repost
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PostPosted: Sat May 21, 2005 8:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Excellent point. Sadly, I believe that we have become a knowledge rich and skill poor society, at least in regard to areas outside our immediate milieu. Regarding cooking, as with all other hobbies, trades, etc., the proper equipment, properly employed, make it easier and more fun to achieve success. All things being equal, I think that anyone with basic cooking skills can prepare steak au poivre better in a copper or clad saute pan than a Teflon one. However, without the proper foundation of cooking skills, it is virtually impossible to prepare any, except the most basic, dish properly regardless if you are using a Bourgeat copper pan or a $10 Revere Ware that you bought at Wally World.

Unfortunately, I suspect that many of our high end pots and pans are sold because they look good hanging off of an Enclume rack above the Viking or Wolf range who's most recent use was for cooking a frozen pizza. And to me that is a waste. If you enjoy cooking, and if you are reading this forum I would assume that you do or are on the fast train to learning how, first follow Dr. B's advice - start cooking - anything and everything. Only then can you create the skill sets that allow you to navigate the marketing BS and determine what works best for what and what works best for you.

I, too, am an equipment hound, especially if I can find vintage equipment for a song (whether for cooking, woodworking, etc.). My reasons are the same - form follows function, and properly crafted equipment is a joy to use and behold. It completes the experience. Good cookware functions as an extension of your hand. And to me, it is a shame when it is used as mere decoration in a BH&G or Metropolitan Home spread.
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Dranore
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PostPosted: Sat May 21, 2005 8:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

A note, Teflon (and other non-sticks) doesn't make the end result of cooking, a dish that is better prepared. It's a non-stick material. It doesn't (as far as I'm aware) have any noticable effect on heat distribution. All it does it keep food from gripping the surface as many meats and other very wet foods do. Before we had this "miracle" material, we used oil and other fats for this purpose. If you properly oil a stainless steel pan, with a little practice with the food you're preparing, you can be just as "non-stick" as Teflon is (especially with well seasoned cast iron Smile ). Which again, leads me to reiterate the previous posters who essentially say, quite accurately, that experience is the best teacher. No matter how many books you read on cooking, you will not be a better cook for it. You'll be a better prepared and more knowledgable cook for sure, but untill you bother to actuall cook the dishes, you can't really have an understanding. As I've read in a number of interviews with chefs, when you become a really good chef you can just make up a recipe without reading it off of something. You just learn how the foods react to their preperation method and how they interact with one another. You learn that sort of thing from experience. And while we strive to make cooking a quicker simpler process, I feel that possibly comprimising your health in this goal to 'ease' your cooking experience is a mistake, especially when there are other ways. Joke about it as you will, I think it's a serious matter. Man has made many mistakes in the past reguarding things as 'safe' when they were far from. I feel this might be another one of those situations.

On a side note, referencing what CynicalB was saying, I can't stand on those shows where they show celebrity homes, and they have these amazing kitchens and they never use a thing in them. They've got like soda and prepared food in their Sub-Zero fridges next to their Viking Ranges. Shock It's so aweful. I remember watching the Tom Green show, and he went to visit Fabio. Aside from being hilarious, his kitchen was full of dirt bikes, and the ONLY thing in his fridge was 'I Can't Belive It's Not Butter.' Laughing Out Loud Anyways... totally off topic. But it had to be said. wink.gif

-Dranore
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cynicalb_repost
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PostPosted: Sat May 21, 2005 8:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dranore is absolutely correct - Teflon, or other non-stick coatings, do not improve the heat conductivity of pots and pans. I probably should have been more clear in my post. What happens in pans with poor heat conductivity is that you will create thermal gradients, i.e. hot spots, across the surface of the pan. This is especially obvious on electric ranges - heat a stainless steel pan - not one that has an aluminum core - pour in some oil, and cook in it. Depending on the amount of heat input, you should see the rings from the element either in the film of oil or in the fond that is created. It is this uneven heating which results in sticking - not only do you have temperature gradients, but because of the temperature differences you will have different thicknesses of oil and different temperature oil, resulting in uneven heating of the food, thus causing some areas to stick. This will result in selective burning of the food if you aren't careful, which produces a fond of lesser quality. Teflon eliminates this because nothing will stick to it. You'll still get the hot spots and uneven cooking, but because nothing sticks and thus does not have the chance to burn, the resulting product is better. However, this is accomplished at the expense of a proper fond and even cooking of the food. This is less pronounced on a gas range due to the more even heat distribution of the flame (I would expect the same for induction ranges).

This is the same reason that when you use cast iron you get it to the temperature that you want before you put in your oil or food. Cast iron, because it has poor heat conductivity, takes longer to heat, but it holds the heat exceptionally well which counteracts the thermal gradients and this results in a even heating surface.
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Dr. Biggles
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PostPosted: Sat May 21, 2005 8:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dranore wrote:
A note, Teflon (and other non-sticks) doesn't make the end result of cooking, a dish that is better prepared. It's a non-stick material. It doesn't (as far as I'm aware) have any noticable effect on heat distribution.

Hey,

Yeah except non-stick pans are downright lousy at making a decent fond. Stainless is one step above that. Enamel coated cast iron and cast iron come in there somewhere. I would choose the cast iron for easy to deal with fond. At the top is the solid copper tin lined rig.

I can produce a crispy crusted pork chop in just a few minutes with only kosher salt as a coating. And a little oil of some kind.

I have to admit though, I do use a tad of lard. I render my own several times a year.

Each type of pan will handle a different job differently. Just need the right tool for the job. Sorry, I will not agree a shallow fry chicken piece will be as good from a non stick as it is from a cast iron pan. Which ain't no big deal man, you can order a wonderful life-long piece of cast iron from Lodge directly for less than fifty bucks. Everyone can do that.

Dr. B. / http://www.meathenge.com/
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efsitz
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PostPosted: Sat May 21, 2005 8:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Another point is that folks who cook with non-stick often do so because they want to go very light on fat/oil but they don't want their food glued to the pan. The non-stick will allow them to do that, but since fat = flavor, the resultant food will be far less scrumptious.

That's not to say there isn't delicious low-fat cooking, but I'd submit there's not really any such thing as delicious low-fat *frying*. Your best bet is to fry at the right temperature so that your food absorbs less of the fat, but that's an art that takes practice and it does make a mess. It's certainly not a skill I have yet with any consistency.

My point as regards this particular thread is that I think some of the bum rap (not all, but some) non-stick gets has more to do with how people use it than with how well it cooks.
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Aileen_repost
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PostPosted: Sat May 21, 2005 8:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dr. Biggles wrote:
I would choose the cast iron for easy to deal with fond. At the top is the solid copper tin lined rig.

Sorry, I'm not familiar with the term "fond", at least not in the cooking sense Wink. Do y'all mean the brown crust that forms on meats and foods when pan fried (that doesn't occur as readily when using Teflon pans)? If that's not quite right, please elaborate.

I'm not an engineer (yet I have many friends and family that are), but it's interesting to read about food and cooking from your perspective. And I'm proud that I can follow along with the explanations, too! Smile
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Dr. Biggles
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PostPosted: Sat May 21, 2005 9:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Aileen_repost wrote:
Dr. Biggles wrote:
I would choose the cast iron for easy to deal with fond. At the top is the solid copper tin lined rig.

Sorry, I'm not familiar with the term "fond", at least not in the cooking sense Wink. Do y'all mean the brown crust that forms on meats and foods when pan fried (that doesn't occur as readily when using Teflon pans)? If that's not quite right, please elaborate.

I'm not an engineer (yet I have many friends and family that are), but it's interesting to read about food and cooking from your perspective. And I'm proud that I can follow along with the explanations, too! Smile

Hey Aileen,

Yeah, fond is that brown stuff that collects where the pan and the food connect. Sometimes this is dearly important and sometimes it isn't all that.

I cook a fair amount of meat (HAHAHAHAHHAHAAHAHHHAHHA) and it is important to me. In fact, I'm marinating (should have brined) some really fancy thick center cut pork chops tonight. They'll be tossed in to a cold copper fry pan, jack the heat and sear for maybe 6 minutes a side.

Oh man, speaking of crust. I did a deep chicken fry last night for dinner. Nearly the best ever. I have a friend of a sister inlaw that hails from Mobile. That man can fry chicken. He used my kitchen and all my ingredients and kicked my ASS. After nearly a year I cannot replicate what he was able to do. He used skinless chicken, flour, egg & milk. THAT WAS IT. Nothing else and he had this crazy frankenstein crust I ain't never had or seen before. I'll get it and I'm getting close.

Last night was #3. #4 should be around the corner. Me thinks.

Dr. B. / http://www.meathenge.com/
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Aileen_repost
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PostPosted: Sat May 21, 2005 9:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the update, Dr Biggles.

I am an unabashed carnivore myself (big juicy Porterhouse steak accompanied by a baked potato with all the trimmings is my ideal meal!), so it was fun taking a peak at the Meathenge website. Smile

My mom used to make fried chicken for Sunday night dinner (when Bonanza was on the ol' black and white TV). I think Crisco shortening was her frying medium...no skinless pieces either!
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Dr. Biggles
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PostPosted: Sat May 21, 2005 9:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Aileen_repost wrote:
My mom used to make fried chicken for Sunday night dinner (when Bonanza was on the ol' black and white TV). I think Crisco shortening was her frying medium...no skinless pieces either!


Hey,

Thanks for stopping by. Let's keep the record straight here. I'm a huge fan of the skin. In fact, my 'thing' these last few years has been to tuck bacon under the skin over the breast on roast chicken.

But dangit, John's chicken was SO DARNED good. That rolling lava-like crust was insane. I wanted to be able to do that myself. Skin or no.

The hunt continues.

Tonight was supposed to be a marinated beef onglet. But I left it at work, so maybe some other time.

Dr. B. / http://www.meathenge.com/
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cynicalb_repost
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PostPosted: Sat May 21, 2005 9:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

An update to my Calphalon cleaning dilemma - I finally found, and purchased, some Dormund cleanser. This is the stuff that Calphalon sells and recommends for getting their pots and pans squeaky clean. I tried it and it works - well, sort of. The stuff is powerful - don't know what is in it but you can definitely smell some strong chemicals and notice it a bit in the tingling sensation in your eyes. It's also expensive - I paid $9 for 12 oz. (I think - it might have been 8 oz - I don't have the jar in front of me). I had to scrub some of my pans quite a bit and do it a few times, but they finally came out looking pretty good. No haze, the absolutely stubborn little bitty burned film that I had in a few came out, and the surface has a nice, uniform very slightly shiny look. A little of this stuff goes a long way and you don't use it every time you clean them - just when they really need it. So, I recommend Dormund if you don't mind spending about 5 minutes per pan cleaning them and want them to look almost new.
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PostPosted: Sat May 21, 2005 9:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

cynicalb_repost wrote:
An update to my Calphalon cleaning dilemma - I finally found, and purchased, some Dormund cleanser. This is the stuff that Calphalon sells and recommends for getting their pots and pans squeaky clean. I tried it and it works - well, sort of. The stuff is powerful - don't know what is in it but you can definitely smell some strong chemicals and notice it a bit in the tingling sensation in your eyes.

Hey,

What's it got in it? Do it say? Oxalic acid? The stuff that's good for bleaching wood clean, fences to bright work on boats. Also the main ingredient in Bar Keeper's Friend, my favorite cleaner of all time. It keeps my chrome wedgewood griddle sparkly nice. Gets greasy grime off stove & cookware, stainless mostly. Plus it polishes copper like nobody's business. Hurts nose and burns eyes, yes. Gotta be really careful.

Biggles / http://www.meathenge.com/
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cynicalb_repost
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PostPosted: Sat May 21, 2005 9:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dr. B-

Not sure - the label doesn't say. I don't think that it is oxalic acid though - on the Calphalon website they recommend various cleaners for their cookware, and for the hard anodized they recommend Ajax or Comet, and they recommend Bar Keepers Friend for their stainless products. So, by omission I assume that they don't recommend BKF for the hard anodized. Also, I use BKF almost exclusively, and Dormund's fragrance is different than BKF - also, the reaction to my skin is different. And when I use BKF, I don't get the tingly feeling in my eyes...
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danielsan
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PostPosted: Sat May 21, 2005 9:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Non-stick pans'll kill ya? Wait... Just heard on the radio that something related to the barbecuing of meat will kill you. I think they were aiming for the carcinogenic (but OH so tasty) blackened outside... Or was it the cardiac arrest... Or "the red meat/colon thing"?) I've never had a Canary but with a little melted butter and garlic... Hell, I'd even eat a SNAIL!

Fond is another of those tell-tale signs that Americans haven't been cooking long... We have no English equivalent for what the French call "Fond". Ironic that it parallels our definition of the same word...

All-Clad? Sure. But cook things in it that don't require much manipulation 'cause those handles heat up good and aren't easy to grab when your hands are full of various fatty substances.

Make sure you pick up some sort of illegal substance dealing job to pay for it though. You'll buy it alright, and you'll only need to buy it once.

Calphalon? Watch out for cast-iron handles... Only they heat up faster than All-Clad. As for anodized being acid resistant, I've had many a main course containing tomatoes that had an odd taste after spending time in anodized aluminum. Also, putting it in the dishwasher makes anodized stuff do weird things... I defer to the science gurus on the details...

The Emeril collection strikes me as one of the best bargains in the known universe. (Despite all the "Bamming!", he really does know what he's talking about.) Hell, I'd go buy a set tomorrow if I didn't need to remodel the kitchen to contain the crap I've already collected.

Non-Stick Saute Pan. Totally. Go to a restaurant supply place, get one for $30.00 WITH a silicone handle insulator, and rather than worrying about scratching it the way a mullet-headed neighbor of mine struggles with avoiding scratches on his "Cherry" 1989 Pontiac Firebird, get used to the idea that it won't last forever and that you'll cook better without the scratching paranoia that plagues most people. It's a pan, not a Rolex.

THE SHORT VERSION DANIELSAN...

Bite the bullet, buy All-Clad, buy it once, and get it over with. Stainless on the outside, stainless on the inside. THEN go get the $30.00 non-sticks. Smile

Danielsan-->
"Shouldn't you be doing something?"
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