Pots and Pans for Cooking
When selecting pots and pans, look for items that are ovenproof as they can be used on the stove top and in the oven.
The Kitchen Pots and Pans Essentials
- 3 Stainless steel, thick-based saucepans with tight fitting lids, from 14 to 20cm in diameter. Glass lids are useful as they enable you to keep an eye on the contents without having to lift the lid.
- 1 Stockpot with a capacity of about 8 to 10 liter. Used for soup, stocks and pasta and great for poaching whole chickens and large pieces of meat. Some stockpots come with a basket for steaming vegetables that also doubles as a pasta strainer.
- 2 Sauté pans variating in size from 24 to 28cm. Wider and shallower than saucepans, look for one with a lid if possible. Good for cooking eggs, pancakes and pasta sauces. Also for steaks, chicken and fish.
- 1 or 2 roasting pans. A large roasting pan with a removable rack lets you elevate a roast, allowing heat to flow around the meat. The second pan can be shallow for roasting smaller items.
- 1 Ovenproof casserole. Preferably enamelled cast iron so it can be transferred easily from the stove top to the oven. Ideal for long, slow cooking as they retain their heat very well.
- 1 or 2 Woks. For stir-frying, steaming, deep frying and searing food. Made from cast iron, carbon steel or stainless steel. Some come with a hard-anodized, non-stick surface. Buy a flat-based wok if you intent to use the wok on induction and electric stove-tops.
Wanna have Pots and Pans
- Crêpe pan. A traditional French heavy steel pan, ideal for making sweet or savory crêpes.
- Simmer mat. A simmer mat sits underneath your saucepan to allow perfect heat control for long, slow simmering. If you cook on gas it enables you to cook at a very low heat. It is ideal when making jams, soups and casseroles.
- Reversible cast iron grill plate. The plate sis across two elements on your stove top. Use the ridged side for grilling meat, fish and vegetables and the flat side for pancakes and eggs.
- Double saucepan/bain-marie. Excellent for heating ingredients gently; melting chocolate and keeping food warm. It is also possible to create one with a bowl sitting on top of a pot.
What Pots and Pans should I buy?
Will the pot age well? Is nonstick good? Can you use it from stovetop to oven to table? Does it retain heat for a long time? The questions are many, but the choices even more. Here's some useful information to help you choose your cookware for a lifetime.
Stainless steel cookware is the most popular choice. Affordable and durable, stainless steel does not react to acid or alkaline in food. The cookware is easy to maintain and does not scratch, dent or corrode. It's usually the top choice in commercial kitchens. The main downside is that stainless steel pans don't conduct heat very well.
Cast iron is the antic pot. In the old days, people would hand them outside and in the evening build a fire and cook their food in it. The early users of cast iron pots used them for frying, braising, baking bread and anything else.
These days, cast iron cookware is the choice of many top chefs because it's an ideal heat conductor, has great heat retention and can withstand very high temperatures. Cast iron cookware can go from stovetop to oven. Properly seasoned, cast iron can develop a nonstick surface which many say is even better than popular commercial nonstick materials. Oil is applied to the surface of the pan and baked for an hour at 180 degree celsius so that the oil permeates the pores of the pan. To clean the pan, you just wash with mild soap, dry and apply a thin coat of vegetable cooking oil with kitchen paper to seal the pan to prevent it from rusting.
In the old days copper or brass cookware was very popular. Now-a-days they tend to be at the more expensive side of cookware buying spectrum. Cooper and brass pans are not just beautiful, they're also one of the best conductors of heat. Copper pans have no hot spots and respond to a change of temperature almost immediately.
The use of clay pots like the Thai or Chinese sand pot in cooking is an ancient method that is still popular to this day. The porous nature of the clay pot enables hot air and moisture to combine, similar tor what happens in steaming. The food is able to cook in its own juices, preventing it from drying out. The clay pot is great for braising and stewing. Unglazed clay pots are actually alkaline; they react with acids in the food, neutralizing the pH balance and giving the food a natural sweetness.