Pots, Pans and Molds

Pots, Pans and Molds

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 :

  • Choose a size appropriate to the food being cooked.

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.

  • Choose material appropriate to the cooking technique.

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.

  • Be sure to dry pan before storing.

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.

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