Cookware – What Works Best

One of the popular methods of buying cookware is to select one of many sets of well known brands. Even the celebrity chefs are getting into this area by offering sets of cookware made to their own specifications but usually all made of the same materials.

However, if you watch those same celebrity chefs work, you will see that they use an array of products made of different materials and different shapes. The size and shape of a cooking vessel is typically determined by how it will be used. Cooking vessels are normally referred to as “pots” and “pans,” but there is great variation in their actual shapes.

So for your particular style of cooking, you should be aware of the various types of pots, pans and other cookware and you should know what applications suite hich pieces best.

Types of cookware

Sauce pans: These are one of the staple items in the kitchen. They are vessels with vertical sides about the same height as their diameter. Depending on the size, they usually have one lone handle. But as the get larger, many manufactures are adding a second handle to make them easier to move or use two handles or grips for the larger sauce pans. The sauce pan is usually defined by volume and typically range from 1 quart up to 8. The larger items are referred frequently and soup pots or sauce pots.

It should be noted that sauce pans are not the best pans to use for making sauces. The vertical sides are not as efficient as pans with sloping sides (Windsor Pans) or rounded sides (sauciers). These provide quicker evaporation and are easier to stir while reducing the sauce. One other thing to watch is the most sauce pans are constructed with a heat distribution disk which provides even heat across the bottom but does not spread heat up the sides. While the sauciers and Windsor pans usually are designed to even distribute heat across the bottom and up the sides.

Stock pots: These are similar in shape to Sauce pots but are larger (sizes big enough to serve a banquet). The size and shape allow the contents to simmer for an extended period without reducing too much. This allows flavors to be extracted from meat bones, chicken bones, vegetables and merged to make both nutritious and great tasting stock for cooking.

Skillets: These are also interchangeable referred to as frying pans, or frypans. These provide a large flat heating surface and have shallow sides. They are best used, as their name suggests, for frying. There are special variations with curved sides used for omelettes. Ribbed bottoms are used frequently for frying meats so the fat drains away from the food being cooked. This is another staple for the kitchen and having several sizes (8 inch, 10 inch and 14 inch) allows you to use a size that fits that amount of food being prepared.

Griddles: These are a large alternative to the skillet. Griddles are flat metal plates used for frying, grilling and pan breads (pancakes, tortillas, crepes, etc.). Stove top griddles cover two burners and have a ribbed side for grilling and a flat side for pan cakes.

Sauté pans: Pans with large surface area, somewhat like a fry pan, but with vertical sides to prevent food from escaping during cooking. Sauté in French means “to jump” which is frequently emulated by flipping the food during the cooking process.

Wok: A popular pan used for stir frying and quick preparation. Woks are wide, bowl shaped vessels with one or two handles. The deep bowl shape allows a small amount of cooking oil in the center of the wok to be heated to a high temperature and allows the food to be easily and quickly mixed with the hot oil for quick cooking.

Dutch oven: Dutch ovens are heavy, relatively deep pots similar in shop to sauce pans with a heavy lid. Unlike sauce pans, Dutch ovens are designed to retain heat to re-create oven conditions on the stovetop (or campfire). They are used for braising, stewing as well as chilies and soups, and a large variety of other dishes that benefit from low heat, slow cooking. Dutch ovens are typically made from cast iron but other materials may be used also.

Roasting pans: These pans (sometimes know as braising pans) are large, wide and shallow to provide space to cook a roast, chicken, turkey or other large items. They usually have two loop handles and a cover. They are made of heavier gauge metals so they may be used safely on a cooktop as well as in the oven. The shape of roasters are oblong (some may be oval).

Clay bakers: A traditional style of roaster is the clay baker produced by Romertopf and Schlemmertopf. This roaster originates from historic cookware. Food, protein and vegetables, is placed In the roaster that has been soaked in water. The top is put on and placed in a cold oven to cook. No oils or fluids are needed as the cooking process seals natural fluids and preserves flavor and nutrients.

Ceramic bakers: Ceramic bakers come in an array of shapes and sizes as well as different materials including glass (Corning Ware and Pyrex) and glazed ceramic. These are called casserole pans along with several other names. These can be used in similar applications to roasters and dutch ovens but usually in smaller sizes.


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