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Q&A -- Understanding Stovetop Cookware


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I'm in the market for a saute pan, probably SS with an aluminum core.  Amazon is offering this Cuisinart 5-1/2 Quart pan for 47.95, which seems like a good deal to me if the pan is any good.  Almost all of the reviews from purchasers are positive, although a few were put off by the size (12") and the weight, but neither of those would be a problem for me.

OTOH, Cooks Illustrated recommends the All Clad Stainless at around 4 times the money.  They recommend the 3 quart but I would probably opt for the 4 quart.  Has anybody had any experience with these two lines?  Side-by-side comparisons?  Opinions, good or bad?  Any and all info much appreciated.

I'd recommend Sitram over the Cuisinart or the All-clad stainless. I've seen that line of Cuisinart in the store and it seemed less sturdy than Sitram, plus I don't trust any covered aluminum disk, since you can't really tell how thick it is. On the Sitram, you can see that it's actually 1/4" thick. We have the 3.3 quart sitram saute pan and like it alot. You can get the 4.5 quart model with lid (I believe that's the size) for about $70 on amazon.

As Sam and others have pointed out, All-clad is generally way overpriced. That said, if you are set on a single-gauge pan (as opposed to the disk bottom style like sitram and the cuisinart), avoid the stainless line, and look at the all-aluminum MC2 line, which is not only cheaper but better (but doesn't look at pretty). The best deals on any all-clad will not be on Amazon but on http://www.cookwarenmore.com/ which sells good-quality seconds for way less than retail. For example, the 4 quart MC 2 saute pan would be about $130 versus about $195 retail.

Think seriously about your intended use before deciding whether to pay extra for single-gauge. If you can get by with medium heat, then you will probably not experience the problem of hot edges with the disk bottom pans (it causes black spots around the "corners" that are a bit of chore to clean, but manageable). If you expect to do a lot of high-heat cooking, then it's probably worth the money to go single-gauge.

Hope this helps.

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Question:  Why do you want a saute pan?  What do you envision doing with it?

Right now, my go to pan for sauteing, browning (other than for stews), etc., is a 12" cast iron skillet. I love the thing, but for jobs requiring a quick response like browning fish or boned chicken breasts and suchlike, it is very slow to cool once the gas is turned off. I think a saute pan with either aluminum of copper would be better, and I'd probably go with the aluminum because of the cost.

"My only regret in life is that I did not drink more Champagne." John Maynard Keynes

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Why wouldn't you want a frypan for this?

I am a very messy cook (says my wife), and the taller, straight sides look like they might help me out a bit :raz:.

"My only regret in life is that I did not drink more Champagne." John Maynard Keynes

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Hmm. I don't know about that. What I do know is that the taller, straighter sides will make it more difficult to get a spatula in there. You don't want to be trying to flip a fish fillet in a saute pan.

What saute pans are designed to do is contain the food items and bounce them back into the pan when you shake the pan back and forth. They can also be useful for doing dishes that are going to be started at a fry and then finished covered with liquid, and for quick sauces that you would like to toss with pasta in the pan.

The things you describe wanting to do are things for which I, personally, would reach for a frypan.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Whew! This thread and related article were an investment, but I'm sure they'll pay off. slkinsey has given us all some invaluable knowledge. Now, to make some other investments...

Let me see if I've got this right:

  • Cast iron is slow with heating, but good at maintaining a lot of heat when it gets there, making it ideal for slow braises and roasts, in which case enamel-coated would win as far as reactivity goes (acidic liquids cooking for hours).
  • Copper, meanwhile, quickly heats and heats well, but doesn't maintain it like cast iron, losing heat quickly, as well; slow cooking would probably still turn out great, but not as great as good old cast-iron. So copper might be more ideal for pinpoint precision and general high-heat application.

If money is not a factor, and cast iron is Lodge and Le Creuset/Staub, while Falk is Copper (stainless steel-lined, of course), is there a real reason to get anything else?

If I already have a Lodge skillet and a Le Creuset dutch oven, should I go copper with the rest and make sure I get multi-taskers according to my cooking style? Is aluminum-clad ever more desirable? Or anything else?

And lastly, steak-related questions (because I love a good steak):

My method now:

  1. Preheat a cast iron skillet in a hot (520+ degree) oven under the broiler for about 20 minutes (sometimes more, sometimes a bit less).
  2. Move the skillet onto a big burner and heat on high for up to another 5 minutes, till it's smoking nicely.
  3. Take patted-dry NY strips, kosher-salt and fresh-grind-pepper one side and immediately begin to sear it for about 45 seconds.
  4. Salt and pepper the other side while it's searing.
  5. Flip the steak (notice the beautiful browning) and sear the other side for 45 seconds.
  6. Put back in the oven and broil it for no more than 2 minutes more to get a nice medium-rare to rare.

Questions by number:

2. I'm damaging the seasoning here, huh?

4. Salting when it's in the pan...a bad choice?

By miscellany:

The steaks come out beautiful, but I wonder if copper could give a better sear and without the smoky consequences? I also usually deglase the pan with amontillado sherry and scrape the fond into it before reducing elsewhere, but I imagine it would be easier and with better results in a copper pan...am I reaching, here?

(If you care to know, the side dish is almost always half of a scored acorn squash with salt, butter, brown sugar, grade B maple syrup, and Chalula hot sauce. The heat and sweet and savory meld nicely.)

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  • 3 weeks later...

When you do use a cast iron skillet vs. a cast iron frying pan? I understand that in a frying pan, the rigdes would get the food apart from the oil or fat but I don't understand what the advantage to that would be. I guess I'd be mainly use the cast iron for pork chops and steaks but it seems like you were saying you could use either one, provided the skillet was large enough.

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leviathan, what do you mean by "cast iron frying pan"? Do you mean to say "cast iron grill pan" -- which is to say, a cast iron skilled with raised ridges on the bottom? If this is what you mean, I have to say that I don't find this pan particularly useful, except for marking meat with grill marks. And, really, who cares if your pork chop has grill marks on it unless it's because it was actually cooked on a grill? The transfer of thermal energy from the pan to the meat is nowhere near as good with a grill pan due to the reduced contact area, and they're always extremely smokey to use in the house. Although it seems like an interesting idea, in actual practice I don't think they really work very well, and I don't recommend them.

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Do you mean to say "cast iron grill pan" -- which is to say, a cast iron skilled with raised ridges on the bottom?

Oops. Yeah, that's what I meant. So, I guess I can finally go out and buy a cast iron skillet- I saw a cast iron skillet and cast iron grill pan and didn't know which one to buy, if there was any signifigant difference between the two.

And, let me add another question: when we're talking about nonskillet pans and how they need less oil than using a conventional skillet, isn't that a bad thing? I would think more butter or oil would add to the flavor and taste. And, that that the high boiling temp of the oil would encourage more maillard reaction than using no oil.

Edited by leviathan (log)
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How do you mean "nonskillet" pans? Do you mean nonstick pans, or regular uncoated pans that are in a frypan shape instead of a straight-sided shape like a cast iron skillet?

As for the second part of the question, sure there are times when using more oil is good. These days, however, we're more likely looking to reduce our consumption of fat rather than increasing it. Also, there are instances where having less fat seems to produce a more crisp result.

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How do you mean "nonskillet" pans?  Do you mean nonstick pans, or regular uncoated pans that are in a frypan shape instead of a straight-sided shape like a cast iron skillet?

D'oh!! I need to stop reading and replying so late at night/early morning.

What do you think about these pans specifically for eggs, ie omelete pans and egg pans? Does that specificity transalate to a better food product? Or, should I just stick to a more versatile tool, where I can use it for more than just making omeletes?

And, I know that you highly recommended pademo and sitram for sauce pans, but do you also recommend these brands for skillets as well?

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What do you think about these pans specifically for eggs, ie omelete pans and egg pans? Does that specificity transalate to a better food product? Or, should I just stick to a more versatile tool, where I can use it for more than just making omeletes?

There's nothing wrong with buying a reasonably cheap nonstick or French steel omelette pan. They make great omelets and they're cheap.

And, I know that you highly recommended pademo and sitram for sauce pans, but do you also recommend these brands for skillets as well?

I prefer a straight gauge design for frypans.

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I wondered if anyone has any experience with this eBay vendor? He's offering Falk Culinair pans at substantial discounts over the source I'm more familiar with, Falk Culkinair, which I understand is the US distributor. For example, he's offering the oft-recommended 4.5 qt sauciere for $217 + $31 shipping, which compares pretty well with the US distributor's $375 + $10 for the same. The pans ship from Belgium and he says they aren't factory seconds.

Tempting, no?

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  • 3 weeks later...

Forgive me if this question has been answered, I searched and couldn't find it...

I am in need of a new frypan, and it's been a while since I've shopped around. Are pan diameters typically measured across the base or across the top? I'd guess the former, because depending on the degree of flaring in the sides, the diameter could vary widely by manufacturer if measured across the top. I'm looking to replace a pan that's 8 inches in diameter across the base of the pan, 10 inches across the top.

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I'd say you have the right idea in your last paragraph:  Wait until you have the induction stove, buy a piece of each and see how they perform against each other.  There's no reason to have everything all from the same brand.  In general, if you're going to lay out big bucks on an induction stove, it seems a bit silly to buy cookware based on how you think it would perform over gas.  If you decide to replace the induction with gas, the cost of a few pots and pans will be the least of your worries (Mauviel Induc'Inox will be far from useless over gas anyway and, no, I wouldn't expect hot spots).

Why wouldn't you expect hot spots? If the Induc'Inox line is a carbon steel core clad with stainless, two of the worst conductors used in cookware as far as diffusivity, doesn't it follow that you would get hot spots?

Edited by Buckethead (log)
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2 mm of carbon steel is quite a bit. Carbon steel is conductive enough that I wouldn't expect hot spots to be a problem the way they are on thin stainless steel or thin enameled carbon steel. And keep in mind that, at 0.51 w/cm K carbon steel may have so-so thermal conductivity compared to aluminum alloy at 1.63 or cast aluminum at 1.21, but at it's still way better than stainless steel at 0.16, and not that far from cast iron at 0.80. I'd expect these pans to perform over standard heat somewhat similar to cast iron.

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Thanks, that helps. I don't suppose you know of a place where I can actually buy the Induc'Inox line? I've found exactly one vendor online ($270 for the 14-inch saute pan, if I'm spending that much I kind of need to handle it first) and Mauviel's website is no help. I can't even find a brochure with photos of the pieces, so I can find one with welded tubular handles.

The only other thing that worries me is that no induction range that I've seen has a heating element more than 10 or 11 inches in diameter. I'm looking at getting a 14" saute, which means the base would extend quite a bit beyond the heating element. I wonder if I'd be better off with an aluminum-disc bottom, which would distribute the heat to the pan's outermost edges a bit more readily.

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The problem with an aluminum disk bottom is thart aluminum is not affected by induction. So what part of the pan is heating up? Some pans have a thin magnetic steel layer on the bottom of the aluminum disk, but some simply have a magnetic steel body.

Anyway, if you're talking about a 2 inch overlap on each side of the induction hob, it's unclear to me that aluminum being heated by a thin strip of magnetic steel on the bottom of the pan has a great advantage over directly heated carbon steel in terms of moving heat to the overlap area.

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  • 3 months later...

I hope it's appropriate to bump this old thread rather than start a new one...

I'm wondering how the high sides of the saucier pans popular here work for browning meat, and making pan sauces. I have a Calphalon Commercial 4 qt "chef's pan," similar in shape to these sauciers, which I bought a few years ago with the expectation that it could serve as a saute pan. But it doesn't brown very well, even though I'm careful not to overload it. It's about 10.5" in diameter and I treat it like an 8" saute in terms of capacity.

I don't think it's an issue of Calphalon inferiority or my unfamiliarity with anodized pans, as I have Calphalon Commercial skillets that I think brown and deglaze very well. But the chef's pan just doesn't do as well here....I've always suspected the high sides interfere with evaporation, or hold steam, or something.

Any comments on how the large sauciers discussed here (like the Falk 11" or the All-Clad 5.5 qt) do with browning and deglazing, compared to a low-sided saute or a skillet? Hope this hasn't been asked before.....I've read through the thread but don't recall this issue being discussed in detail.

MT

---------------

Matt T

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You can't have as much meat in the pan compared to a frypan, because the taller sides inhibit evaporation. But so long as you don't overcrowd the pan, they work just fine. As you have observed, due to the shape, an 11-inch curved sauteuse evasee has a smaller cooking surface than an 11-inch frypan or saute pan.

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I'm wondering how the high sides of the saucier pans popular here work for browning meat, and making pan sauces.  I have a Calphalon Commercial 4 qt "chef's pan," similar in shape to these sauciers, which I bought a few years ago with the expectation that it could serve as a saute pan.  But it doesn't brown very well, even though I'm careful not to overload it.  It's about 10.5" in diameter and I treat it like an 8" saute in terms of capacity.

Matt,

If the sides are high (and I'm guessing from your info that they are over 3" high) it could be that the moisture being put out by the meat isn't able to be drafted out of the pan as steam. Lower sides seem to help in this department. I use pans with a height of maybe 2 inches.

My other question is if your 4 qt pan has a non-stick finish?

Porthos

Porthos Potwatcher
The Once and Future Cook

;

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It's a regular anodized pan (not nonstick) with sides about 3.5" high. That's about the same height as the Falk but lower than the All-Clad, which I think is 4".

I haven't tried that pan as a saute in a while, having pretty much given up and used it as a wide saucepan. Based on this discussion I'll go back and try again...that 5.5 qt All-Clad looks like a very handy pan for making sauce and then tossing vegetables or pasta but it'd be a lot easier to pony up the cost if it could serve as the effective 3 qt saute I need, as well.

Near the other end of the pricing scale, I saw an interesting pan in Target the other day: a 12" Kitchenaid shaped like these sauciers (I forget whether they called it a skillet or whatever) with a thick (apparently) copper-clad disk bottom. No idea how much actual copper there is (at $50 I'm sure the disk was mostly Al), and I'm going to hold out for a straight-gauge pan in this type in any case, but thought some might be curious.

MT

---------------

Matt T

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For serious browning I have a 12" Stainless Steel Revere fry pan with a 2 3/8 inch height and a 1/4 inch of metal on the bottom. It has a copper coating but I think that it's more looks that helpful. I find stainless or cast iron the best for browning. I do own cast iron skillets but I prefer the stainless because I can pop that into the dishwasher. I've only learned in the last year that trying to brown in my non-stick pans didn't work as well.

Porthos Potwatcher
The Once and Future Cook

;

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