Selecting and Handling Cookware

Selecting and Handling Cookware

The type and quality of pots and pans that you use has a dramatic effect on the quality of your cooking. It is not necessary to invest a whole lot of money in an expensive matched set. A few well-chosen pieces are all you need.

How to choose - 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 sauté pan is indispensable. This pan will be frequently used 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. 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.

To season a cast-iron pan - wash the pan 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 for 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.

Cleaning a seasoned cast-iron cookware - remove food from the pan as soon as it is done cooking. While the pan is still hot, rise 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 paper towel.

Preventing 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.

Restoring 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.

Cleaning a discolored aluminum cookware - make a paste of equal parts cream of tartar and water. use the paste with a scrub brush.

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