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Q&A -- Understanding Stovetop Cookware

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Hi Sam:

I read your cookware article with interest. Great Job!

Anyway, I am outfitting my kitchen with new cookware and I need your help, particularly in the saucepan/stockpot area, but feel free to comment on everything. as I can downsize or upgrade as per your suggestions. Price is no object. I am cooking for one (sometimes two - infrequently).

A. What I already own:

10 1/4" Lodge Cast Iron skillet

10" AC skillet

3 qt AC saute pan

10" Circulon non-stick skillet

8 qt. AC hybrid stockpot/dutch oven

3 1/2 qt LC round French Oven

5 1/2 qt LC round French Oven(do I really need both the 3 1/2 and the 5 1/2? which should I keep and if you recommend that I keep both, why?)

B. As I said above, I need stockpots/saucepans for porridge, rice, rissotto, polenta, etc.

What I am looking at:

1 - 1.5 qt saucepan for melting butter, delicate sauces etc. etc OR the "try me" falk saucier

2 qt tall straight gauge saucepan - rice, porridge, warming/reheating liquids, boiling eggs etc.(6 diam by 4) - is this ok?

4 qt straight gauge saucepan(8 dia by 4 3/4) OR 4.5qt copper sautese evasee - whish is better(11 dia. by 3.6) - what do you think? saucepan or saucier? stay in the 4 qt range as above or drop to the 3 qt range? (you see i am kinda small and I have seen comments that suggest that the Falk 4.5 qt saucier is heavy)

12 or 16 quart tall stockpot (this I will get later but the previous 3 are really important)

2 1/4 qt LC buffet casserole(for shallow frying?)

Your comments about my previous purchases and future purchases are greatly appreciated.

Thank You.

CM


Edited by Cala Massey (log)

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A. What I already own:

3 qt AC saute pan

10 1/4" Lodge Cast Iron skillet

10" AC skillet

10" Circulon non-stick skillet

3 1/2 qt LC round French Oven

5 1/2 qt LC round French Oven(do I really need both the 3 1/2 and the 5 1/2? which should I keep and if you recommend that I keep both, why?)

8 qt. AC hybrid stockpot/dutch oven

I've done a little reordering of your list. What I see is that you have four pans that are around ten inches in diameter -- two straight sided pans (the All-Clad sauté and the cast iron pan) and two slope-sided frypans. I think you're pretty set in this regard.

Then you have three pans for liquids. As I will explain below, I think you should keep them both.

B. As I said above, I need stockpots/saucepans for porridge, rice, risotto, polenta, etc.

What I am looking at:

1 - 1.5 qt saucepan for melting butter, delicate sauces etc. etc OR the "try me" falk saucier

It depends. Melting butter doesn't really need a great pan. Are you really making delicate sauces and intense reductions? If so, this argues for the 1.4 quart "try me" curved sauteuse evasée from Falk if price is not a concern. But it would be a waste to buy an expensive pan if you'll be using it to melt butter.

2 qt tall straight gauge saucepan - rice, porridge, warming/reheating liquids, boiling eggs etc.(6 diam by 4) - is this ok?

Why would you want a straight gauge pan for these things? Total waste of money. Also, if you're going to have a 1 - 1.5 quart saucepan, it's not clear to me what use it is to have a 2 quart saucepan as well. If you have a 1.5 quart saucepan, your next pan should be at least 3 quarts or larger.

Here's my question: What's wrong with sticking with the 3.5 quart Le Creuset pan you already have? All the things you seem to want to do here, the 3.5 quart Le Creuset will do just fine.

4 qt straight gauge saucepan(8 dia by 4 3/4) OR 4.5qt copper sautese evasee - whish is better(11 dia. by 3.6) - what do you think? saucepan or saucier? stay in the 4 qt range as above or drop to the 3 qt range? (you see i am kinda small and I have seen comments that suggest that the Falk 4.5 qt saucier is heavy)

Why do you want a straight gauge saucepan at 4 - 4.5 quarts? What is it that you want to do with these pans that would make you want straight gauge construction? Huge portions of Hollandaise? Massive reductions of stock?

At the 4+ quart size, I think you're talking about a tall saucepan, which argues for disk-bottom construction. But again, what is it that you want to do with a 4 quart saucepan that you can't do with the 3.5 quart Le Creuset pan you already have?

12 or 16 quart tall stockpot (this I will get later but the previous 3 are really important)

Given the cookware you already have, this would be #1 on my list. What are you using to boil water for pasta? Get a good 14 quart stock pot with a past strainer insert.

2 1/4 qt LC buffet casserole(for shallow frying?)
Again, why do you want one of these? What is it that you want to do that you can't do with the pans you already own? If you want to shallow fry, I think you'd do just fine with your cast iron skillet, your sauté pan or your larger Le Creuset French oven... much better off than you would be with the 2.25 quart Le Creuset buffet casserole (which, at 8 inches in diameter and 2.5 inches tall is more or less useless for shallow frying).

Cala, here's the thing... The question you need to ask yourself is: What do I want to do that I can't do well with the pans I already have? Once you identify those things, you can then start thinking about the best pans to do those things in a way that fits with your style of cooking, strengths and limitations. The wrong way to go about it, and what you seem to have done, is to ask yourself: What kinds of pans are there that I don't have? When you do this, you end up with a bunch of pans you paid too much for and don't use. Having a straight gauge copper pan you use only rarely to boil water or make rice is like having a Ferrari in the garage you only use to drive to the mailbox every couple of months.


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Hey Sam:

Thanks for your response. You are correct that I should assess my cooking quantities and techniques before I make any more purchases. Based on your lesson, I have gathered that the material and shape of the cooking equipment is important.

1. From the frypan category, the only pan that I seem not to use much is the saute pan. All the others, I have found, I prefer for different things. Example, for high heat searing of say tuna steaks, I prefer the cast iron; for frittatas, pancakes, scrambled eggs, the non-stick works; for pan roasting chicken and making pan sauces, i use the stainless stelel skillet.

2. In the liquids category, I use the 8 qt AC stock pot as I only make 6 ounces maximum at any one time. I use a colander in the sink to drain the pasta. I am only thinking of purchasing the tall and narrow stockpot in a larger size in the event that I want to make stocks etc.

3. Also, in the liquids category, I use the 5 1/2 qt cast iron dutch oven for any stewing and braising like curries and fricasses. The 3 1/2 quart is the one I haven't used as much.

4. This brings me to the real dilemma in the liquids category. I do not have appropriately-sized non-cast iron pans for making rice, porridge, rewarming soups/stock, etc. So the real question is which material, shape and size should I get for this? Ok let's say, I go for 2 quarts in the small/medium category, is it better to get a saucier or saucepan shape, copper or stainless steel?( BTW, the 3 1/2 qt cast iron dutch oven is way too big for some of the quantities that I make)

The rationale behind the saucepan or saucier in the 3 - 4 quart range, was to have an alternative size for making large quantities of say risotto , polenta etc. I also wanted the 2 quart and the 3 - 4 quart to be different shapes for more vaersatility

what would you recommend?

2 quart saucier or saucepan?

3 or 4 quart saucier or saucepan?

what material and brand recommendations for both?

I just want to get thiese pot purchases over with now....then its over for a few years!

Hope I am making sense and that you can help me deciper this...

Thanks.

CM

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1. From the frypan category, the only pan that I seem not to use much is the saute pan. All the others, I have found, I prefer for different things. Example, for high heat searing of say tuna steaks, I prefer the cast iron; for frittatas, pancakes, scrambled eggs, the non-stick works; for pan roasting chicken and making pan sauces, i use the stainless stelel skillet.

Right. So it seems like you're pretty set in terms of that kind of pan. If you don't use the sauté pan, then maybe get rid of it (I love sauté pans and find them very useful, but different people have different cooking habits).

2. In the liquids category, I use the 8 qt AC stock pot as I only make 6 ounces maximum at any one time. I use a colander in the sink to drain the pasta. I am only thinking of purchasing the tall and narrow stockpot in a larger size in the event that I want to make stocks etc.

Ah. Well, if you're cooking for one, then the 8 quart pot is probably just fine for pasta.

3. Also, in the liquids category, I use the 5 1/2 qt cast iron dutch oven for any stewing and braising like curries and fricasses. The 3 1/2 quart is the one I haven't used as much.

4. This brings me to the real dilemma in the liquids category. I do not have appropriately-sized non-cast iron pans for making rice, porridge, rewarming soups/stock, etc. So the real question is which material, shape and size should I get for this? Ok let's say, I go for 2 quarts in the small/medium category, is it better to get a saucier or saucepan shape, copper or stainless steel? (BTW, the 3 1/2 qt cast iron dutch oven is way too big for some of the quantities that I make)

The rationale behind the saucepan or saucier in the 3 - 4 quart range, was to have an alternative size for making large quantities of say risotto , polenta etc. I also wanted the 2 quart and the 3 - 4 quart to be different shapes for more vaersatility

So, let's see what you have and what you want. You have:

3.5 quart vessel

5.5 quart vessel

You say: "the 3 1/2 qt cast iron dutch oven is way too big for some of the quantities that I make" which means that you want something smaller

You also say: "The rationale behind the saucepan or saucier in the 3 - 4 quart range, was to have an alternative size for making large quantities of say risotto, polenta etc."

So... you want something smaller than 3.5 quarts for rice, porridge, reheating soup, etc. What are the considerations: 1. None of these things inherently requires a fancy expensive straight gauge construction; 2. Anything that is "too small" to be done in the 3.5 quart pan is likely in the area of 1 quart; 3. Depending on the size of your burners, a small standard disk bottom saucepan might catch some heat around the base and cause scorching. I'd suggest you buy the least expensive 1.5 quart pan you can find that either has straight gauge construction (i.e., All-Clad MC2 from Cookware and More or Calphalon Try-Ply or something like that) or that has an extended encapsulated base, like ScanPan Steel. Any one of these pans would be overkill for the kinds of things you want to do, so I would try to find something on super-sale (for example, I have a couple of 1 quart All-Clad stainless saucepans I bought for 15 bucks on sale from Amazon).

So... after you buy this 1.5 quart pan, you will have:

1.5 quarts

3.5 quarts

5.5 quarts

I just don't see that you need another pan. For things like "large quantities of say risotto, polenta etc." I don't think you're going to do substantially better than the pans you already have. I still don't understand your desire for a "saucepan or saucier in the 3 - 4 quart range" when you already have a 3.5 quart pan made by one of the best manufacturers in the business. For what it's worth, when I am making large quantities of risotto, polenta, etc. I use my 6.8 Liter Le Creuset.


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Hi Sam,

I appreciate your candid response. The "fog" is clearing.

1. I will definitely purchase a reasonably priced saucepan in 1.5/2qt. This will be a tall saucepan. When I start doing reductions and sauces, I will get a "try me" sautese evasee from Falk(this is a future purchase).

2. With regards to the saucepan in the 3 - 4 qt range, I will let that go until my cooking skills improve and I can better assess usage. You are indeed correct that I can use my 3.5qt LC oven for rice, polenta etc, as you do. I think that I was unsure as to whether I could use a cast iron pot for that. Relief!

Thanks again for your help.

CM

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Hi Sam,

I appreciate your candid response. The "fog" is clearing.

1. I will definitely purchase a reasonably priced saucepan in 1.5/2qt. This will be a tall saucepan. When I start doing reductions and sauces, I will get a "try me" sautese evasee from Falk(this is a future purchase).

2. With regards to the saucepan in the 3 - 4 qt range, I will let that go until my cooking skills improve and I can better assess usage. You are indeed correct that I can use my 3.5qt LC oven for rice, polenta etc, as you do. I think that I was unsure as to whether I could use a cast iron pot for that. Relief!

Thanks again for your help.

CM

Hi Cala,

One possibility for the inexpensive sauce pan you are looking for is the Cuisinart Chef's Classic hard anodized non-stick line discussed above. I understand why Sam and other folks do not like non-stick except for those old Calphalon Commercial n/s fry pans (and I agree), but it sounds as if your use of this pot may not put much stress on the non-stick coating. I also realize that you may not actually need n/s for this pot, but this line is otherwise suitable for what you need: 3mm single-guage aluminum, and not expensive.

We recently bought a 2-quart model from Amazon, and are so far pleased with it for the specific tasks we bought it for (cooking rice, heating soup). The 1.5Qt. version goes for all of $19. I'm having trouble pasting in the link, but you can find it on Amazon if you search for "Cuisinart Chef's Classic hard anodized sauce pan". It does have a glass top, which I normally dislike, but for the price, I can certainly put up with it. Plus, for certain tasks (cooking rice), it's better to be able to see inside without lifting the lid.

Hope this helps.

Jim Heard

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Hi Sam,

I appreciate your candid response. The "fog" is clearing.

1. I will definitely purchase a reasonably priced saucepan in 1.5/2qt. This will be a tall saucepan. When I start doing reductions and sauces, I will get a "try me" sautese evasee from Falk(this is a future purchase).

2. With regards to the saucepan in the 3 - 4 qt range, I will let that go until my cooking skills improve and I can better assess usage. You are indeed correct that I can use my 3.5qt LC oven for rice, polenta etc, as you do. I think that I was unsure as to whether I could use a cast iron pot for that. Relief!

Thanks again for your help.

CM

Spend the money buy the Falk now and be done with it, Because it will cloud your judgement on future purchases. In a good but expensive way. :laugh::laugh:


Bruce Frigard

Quality control Taster, Château D'Eau Winery

"Free time is the engine of ingenuity, creativity and innovation"

111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321

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Sam,

On a recent cookware thread on the cooking board, you were trying to help a member choose appropriate sized pots for sauces. As a relative newbie to cooking and cookware purchasing, I am quite challenged in choosing the appropriate size for any recipe that I am interpreting. Understanding this would also assist me in making wiser cookware purchases in the future. This may be impossible but can you try to offer some guidelines that will inform me in this case. You may use examples of recipes etc. using liquids and/or grains and/or veggies and/or whatever...Sometimes I am just confused and I start with a pan with a certain capacity and the contents cannot hold in the end and I have to switch pots or it turns out to be too big etc....Dilemma...Yeah, strange but true!

Thank you for any insight here.

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Cala, this isn't really a question I can answer very well, unfortunately. When you begin a recipe, you have to have some understanding of what amount of food you are going to be making. In general, however, you will find that most any pot will do just fine when only half full. So, if you have a recipe that calls for two quarts of liquid plus some other stuff, you won't find that a 4 quart pot is too big.

In general, you never want to fill a pot all the way. For example, if I want to make a quart of something bechamel, I'll do that in my 2.5 quart saucepan rather than my 1 quart saucepan.

When it comes to purchasing cookware, this is where you have to really give some thought to the amounts you usually prepare. If, for example, you don't tend to make sauces (or melt chocolate, etc.) in the 0.5 - 0.75 quart range, there is probably little reason to have a fancy 1 quart saucepan. (A 1 quart saucepan is one of those pans that is used a lot on restaurants where dishes are prepared in individual portions, but most home cooking styles won't find it very useful.)


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hullo :)

i was wondering if a mod (if it was thought to be a good idea) might merge the "cooking confusion abounds" thread with this one.... i hadn't realized that it was acceptable to continue this thread. btw, before i had started the "cookware confusion abounds" thread, i had read both the egullet course and the follow-up thread. i'm now in the process of rereading it for the second time (which makes for three times in all).

on another note...aside from my own cookware needs and potential purchases, i have a question about cookware for someone who is of slight stature and build and has weak/painful wrists (she wears braces).

her anondized cookware is in pretty bad shape, and she's looking to replace it (probably not all at once). she +loves+ to cook, and loves to try recipies, everything from gourmet magazine to cook's illustrated, etc.

she does stews, roasts, frys (doesn't really saute, i think). i'm not certain, but i'm fairly sure she does braises. she does quite a lot of things, but nothing especially fancy (e.g., she doesn't do sauce reductions, 'tho she might make sauces).

good cookware that is on the lighter-rather-than-heaver side would be great...another thought i had were the pots that had helper handles. i've seen them on a few pieces from lines like cuisinart and all-clad.

she is very dear to us (my SO's mom) and treats us wonderfully well. mother's day and her birthday are approaching. cost isn't really a factor, as long as a single pan doesn't cost $300. if a helper handle adds $80 to the cost of a $120 pan, for example, we'll probably suck it up.

does anyone have any thoughts on this? we'd be most appreciative.

thanks and cheers :)

hc

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on another note...aside from my own cookware needs and potential purchases, i have a question about cookware for someone who is of slight stature and build and has weak/painful wrists (she wears braces).

In terms of good quality light cookware, aluminum is the way to go: either clad aluminum or stainless with an aluminum disk bottom, depending on the pan/application. Unfortunately, however, there is no getting entirely away from the weight issue. A casserole full of stew or a saute pan full of chicken is going to be heavy no matter what. To a certain extent, your friend's difficulties are probably more profitably addressed through some modifications in cooking technique rather than specific cookware choices. For example, it may be better to use tongs to transfer the chicken from the saute pan to the serving dish a few pieces at a time rather than lifting/carrying/emptying the whole full pan. Once the pan is on the stove, there aren't too many situations where one absolutely has to lift the pan.


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sam, thank you so much for the swift feedback. :)

will head for the aluminum/stainless (with the helper handles, where possible) and explore cooking techniques with her.

many thanks and cheers :)

hc

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What a great lesson...and thread. I am buying a few new pieces to replace my Revereware which I have had forever (grew up in the town where it was made). Unfortunately the stuff warps and probably isn't the best I could do for heat transfer either.

Anyway. I just ordered a 11" Sitram Magnum Pro saute pan for 99.99 at Amazon (less 25 for spending 125 this month). Any idea of the specs for that (as I reacall from the thread, no...but the price was right).

Also I am tempted to get a Falk 4.5 qt. saucier based on the reccomendation that it was best for stir frying. I would love to be able to stir fry well and never have been, especially on my old, small electric stove. Seems like a lot to spend for that but if it really is the way to go I would. Comments? (I like the Falk also because it is less likely to tarnish with that finish on it...right?)

Thanks in advance for the reply!

Evangeline

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Evangeline,

If you have a small, old electric stove, I am not sure an expensive piece of copper cookware will do you a lot of good. Your major limitation is the stove. I'd be inclined more towards heavy disk-bottom designs. In re to Falk and tarnish: Falk pans discolor with heat and use just as much as other copper pans. The difference is that they can be brightened easily with a Scotch Brite pad and some Bar Keeper's Friend due to their use of a brushed finish.

In re to Sitram Magnum Pro, while I don't have any specifications for it, it does appear to be one of their "Professional" lines (links to a PDF). So I would assume that the specifications are in line with their other high end designs: heavy stainless steel body with roughly 2 mm of copper or roughly 6 mm of aluminum in the base.


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Skinsey...you mean I can't justify spending $235 on another pot??? Such a shame! Well, I am glad I asked anyways.

The other thing I really want to replace is my 'soup pot' right now a 6 qt Revereware thing I suppose you would call a casserole. I don't make a lot of stock, but love soups. Was thinking of a 8-10qt pot...that would be easier to handle and store than a 12 qt stockpot. Can you think of any reason I should get a larger pot? I mostly cook for myself, but 'in bulk' making enough for 4-5 meals at a time (probably a hangover from cooking for our family of 5 as a kid). I hope that this pot will be that last one I need in that department so I am happy to spend a little more for what makes the most sense. Should I avoid the lower end cuisinart and calphalon (eg non disk types, cuisinart Chef's Classic™ Stainless and the sort?) any 'minimum standards' that you reccomend that I can browse for?

Thanks for the quick answer and great info!

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I'm going to be redoing my kitchen and gas is not an option so I'm thinking of putting in an induction cooktop. What brands and lines would you recommend?


Tony

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Absolutely. Demeyere only has a thin external magnetic layer. With Mauviel Induc'Inox the entire inner thermal layer is magnetic.


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Thanks so much. And it looks like La Cuisine here in Alexandria stocks it. If I want to try a piece out to get the feel of it, will it work on my current electric cooktop (I understand it isn't optimized)?


Tony

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Yea, it should work okay on your electric cooktop. If you were using gas, I think you might notice a reduction in responsiveness compared to aluminum or copper based cookware. But you won't notice with electric -- and, of course, one would expect the responsiveness on induction to be excellent.


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Skinsey...let me ask my soup pot question again...I think it got lost in the fray....

The other thing I really want to replace is my 'soup pot' right now a 6 qt Revereware thing I suppose you would call a casserole. I don't make a lot of stock, but love soups. Was thinking of a 8-10qt pot...that would be easier to handle and store than a 12 qt stockpot. Can you think of any reason I should get a larger pot? I mostly cook for myself, but 'in bulk' making enough for 4-5 meals at a time (probably a hangover from cooking for our family of 5 as a kid). I hope that this pot will be that last one I need in that department so I am happy to spend a little more for what makes the most sense. Should I avoid the lower end cuisinart and calphalon (eg non disk types, cuisinart Chef's Classic™ Stainless and the sort?) any 'minimum standards' that you reccomend that I can browse for?

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If you want a "soup pot" for actually making soup, I would recommend a casserole. You could always get one of the largest sized enameled cast iron casseroles. That would be good for braising and stews as well as making soup.

If you ever plan on making stock, though, and if you make pasta with any frequency, you are probably better off with the 12 quart stock pot. In this case, I'd go with a disk bottom design.


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Absolutely.  Demeyere only has a thin external magnetic layer.  With Mauviel Induc'Inox the entire inner thermal layer is magnetic.

Couple more questions. And thanks in advance for your patience :wink: . The InducInox doesn't come with a stockpot sized pot. Believe the largest is 11 QTs and it is shaped more like a slightly taller rondeau. Is there a stockpot you would recommend for induction? Second question: the InducInox has brass handles. I've never seen this before. Is there anything special re: cleanup? Can it go in the dishwasher? Do I need to use Barkeeper's Friend on the handles?


Tony

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For a stock pot, you should do fine with one of the disk-bottom designs that includes a magnetic layer on the bottom of the thermal pad.

As for cleaning Induc'Inox... afaik, there are Induc'Inox pans available with stainless handles. If all you can find are the brass handles, if you want them to stay pretty, my guess is that you'd better hand wash them.


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