The type and quality of pots and pans that
you use has a dramatic effect on the quality of your cooking. It's not
necessary to invest a whole lot of money in an expensive matched set. A
few well-chosen pieces are all you need.
When choosing, buy the heaviest-gauge
cookware you can afford. Heavy-gauge pans deliver heat more evenly and
last longer. Often, the best all-purpose cooking choice is stainless steel
with a copper or aluminum core. Thinner-gauge materials spread and hold
heat unevenly, and their bottoms are more likely to dent and warp. This
means that the pans will wear out sooner and the food can scorch. As for
pieces, a heavy-gauge large skillet or saute pan is indispensable. This
pan will be frequently use with high or medium-high heat to quick-cook and
sear foods. For your second pan, choose a heavy-gauge medium-to-large
saucepan, especially if you tend to make a lot of sauces. If you can
afford it, get a couple of different sizes. When it comes to a large
stockpot, however, don't worry so much about weight. Most of the time, you
will use it to heat water for cooking pasta. If a soup or stew calls for
browning meat in a stockpot, you can use your trusty skillet, then deglaze
the pan and add the contents to the stockpot.
To decide if a pan is heavy enough, check
the thickness of the walls and base. Or rap the pan with your knuckles. If
you hear a dull thud, you've got a heavy pan in your hands. A delicate
ping signals a light weight. Cast iron pan can be seasoned by washing it
in hot, soapy water and dry well. Using a soft cloth, rub melted vegetable
shortening or oil into the entire pan, coating all sides. Put the pan,
upside down, over a drip pan in a 350oF oven and heat 2 hours,
removing every 30 minutes to recoat with a thin layer of melted shortening
or oil Turn off the oven and let the pan cool completely in the oven.
Some of the tips for using your cookware -
To clean seasoned cast iron cookware
- Remove food from the pan as soon as it is done cooking. While the pan is
still hot, rinse it in hot water and, if necessary, rub a spoonful of salt
into the pan to remove any cooked-on bits of food. Wash with hot water
only. Avoid using soap, which will wash off the protective coating.
To prevent a cast iron pan from rusting
- Avoid drying with a dish towel. After washing, place the pan over low
heat to evaporate the water. Before storing, rub oil into the pan with a
To prevent corrosion in cookware -
Corrosion imparts an unpleasant flavor to food. Avoid cooking high-acidity
foods, such as tomatoes, citrus, vinegar and wine in cookware that easily
corrodes, such as cast iron and aluminum. Instead, cook highly acidic
foods in stainless steel or nonstick cookware.
To improvise an ovenproof pan - If
your skillet or pan is not ovenproof (if it has a plastic handle), wrap
the handle in several layers of heavy-duty foil. This will protect it from
the broiler for finishing dishes such as frittata in the oven.
To restore a shine to copper cookware
- Mix a solution of 2 parts salt to 1 part vinegar and rub it lightly into
the copper using a damp cloth or gloved hands. Rinse and dry.
To shine up stainless steel pans -
Rub with a moist cloth and dry baking soda in the direction of the steel's
grain. Rinse and dry.
To clean discolored aluminum cookware
- Make a paste of equal parts cream of tartar and water. Use the paste
with a scrub brush.