Various materials and combinations of
materials are used in the construction of pots, pans and molds. Because
form and function are closely related, it is important to choose the
proper equipment for the task at hand.
Pots made of copper transfer heat rapidly
and evenly; but because direct contact with copper will affect the color
and consistency of many foods, copper pots are generally lined. (An
exception is the copper pan used to cook jams, jellies and other
high-sugar items, often known as preserving pans.) Great care must be
taken not to scratch the lining, which is usually a soft metal, such as
tin. Copper also tends to discolor quickly, and so it requires significant
time and labor for proper upkeep.
Cast iron has the capacity to hold heat well
and transmit it very evenly. The metal is somewhat brittle, however, and
must be treated carefully to prevent pitting, scarring and rusting. Cast
iron is sometimes coated with enamel during manufacturing to simplify care
and increase its useful life.
Stainless steel is a moderately good
conductor of heat, but is often preferred because it has other advantages,
including easy maintenance. Other metals such as aluminum or copper, are
often sandwiched within stainless steel to improve heat conduction.
Stainless steel will not react with foods and this means, for example,
that white sauces will retain a pure white or ivory color.
Blue-steel, black-steel, pressed-steel or
rolled-steel pans are all prone to discoloration but transmit heat very
rapidly. These pans are generally thin, and are often preferred for
sautéing foods because of their quick response to changes in temperature.
Aluminum is also an excellent conductor of
heat; however, it is a soft metal that wears down quickly. When a metal
spoon or whip is used to stir a white or light-colored sauce, soup or
stock in an aluminum pot, it could take on a gray color. Anodized or
treated aluminum tends not to react with foods, and it is one of the most
popular metals for pots used in contemporary kitchens. The surfaces of
treated aluminum pans tend to be easier to clean and care for than most
other metals, with the exception of stainless steel.
Nonstick coatings on pans have some use in
professional kitchens, especially for those that try to offer foods that
are cooked with less fats and oils. These surfaces are not as sturdy as
metal or enamel linings, so care must be taken to avoid scratching during
cooking and cleaning. New methods of adding nonstick coatings as well as
new materials used to create these coatings have produced more durable
nonstick pans, suitable in many cooking situations.
The following guidelines should be observed
for the choice of a pan or mold :
The chef should be familiar with the
capacity of various pots, pans and molds. If too many pieces of meat are
crowded into a pan, for instance, the food will not brown properly. If the
pan is too large, however, the caramelized drippings from the meat will
scorch. If a small fish is poached in a large pot, the cooking liquid will
not have the proper flavor intensity. It is also easier to overcook the
fish in a too-large pot. If the pot is too small, there may not be enough
cuisson available for the sauce.
Experience has shown, and science has
verified, that certain cooking techniques are more successful when used
with certain materials. For instance, sautéed foods require pans that
transmit heat quickly and are sensitive to temperature changes. Braises,
on the other hand, require long, fairly gentle cooking, and it is more
important that the particular pot transmit heat evenly and hold heat well
than that it respond rapidly to changes in heat.
Air drying is best to prevent the pitting
and rusting of some surfaces, as well as to keep them clean and sanitize.
Proper and organized storage prevents dents, chips and breakage, and
expedites the work load, because you can more readily find what you need.