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need a little advice on buying a saute pan

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
Hi, I’m new here and I need a little help.

A little bit about me… I cook for my family (husband and kids 15, 4, & 2). I am trying to improve my cooking skills. (No more Hamburger helper!) I was inspired by a promo issue of Cooks magazine and now I also watch the food network. I cook on and electric flat top (ceramic maybe?) range. I currently have Analon nonstick cookware (about 6 years old) and (my newest addition) a 9qt le crueset dutch oven.

I LOVE my dutch oven. My Analon cookware is ok as long as the pot fits perfectly on the burner. The pieces that are bigger than the burner do not seem to cook evenly. It takes a while for water to boil but maybe that is just my stove top?

I would like to buy a new 3 or 4 qt sauté pan but I am not sure which one to buy. I am currently using my dutch oven instead of my Analon sauté pan for most jobs but it is heavy and the high sides sometimes get in the way. I want something that will heat evenly and last a long time. Cooks recommends All-Clad and Gourmet Standard Tri-Ply but the Gourmet Standard does not have the loop which I think I need (I am short and I feel more comfortable moving around the kitchen with kids with two hands on something hot/heavy). I would like to try stainless since I never have before. I have been to local stores and have seen the All-Clad, Rachael Ray, Caphalon, Cuisinart, and other brands of Stainless cookware. They all look fine to me but I am more concerned with how they cook. I don’t mind spending the money on the All-Clad if it worth it. I read somewhere on this site that Macy’s has and All-Clad Stainless 3.5-Quart Sauté Pan with Domed Lid for $100… are there differences in the quality of different All-Clad pieces?

Sorry this is so long. I thought it may be a little easier to give me some advice/recommendations if you knew the whole story.

I am so happy to have found this site. :roll:Thanks in advance for any help you can give me!
post #2 of 9
Hi Flora,

I have been using a flat top ceramic cooker for over 11 years now and what I've found to be the most important thing in a frying pan was that the pan sits flat on and makes good contact with the burner. Since I usually need the heat just from the bottom so clad constuction has limited benefit. I prefer the stainless pan that has a thicker disc sandwich, usually of aluminum or copper, on the bottom of the pan as these often will sit flatter, but you'll want to check each pan you buy. Things I would look for in a pan would be the diameter of the disc on the bottom to match the size of the burner you intend on using. It's better if the disc extends fully to the sides of the pan, but often this isn't the case and depending what you cook may not be an issue. Thicker bases heat slower, but usually more evenly. Lots of choices out there, and weight and handles vary greatly as do prices. You may want to check out some "try me" pieces before spending a lot of money to see how you like a particular style or brand.

I do have a few pieces of All Clad, but the frying pans aren't my favorites. When Cooks evaluates cookware they're using a gas cooktop and therefore they have different critera. A pan that the disc is smaller than the cooking surface will scortch if you turn the flame up, not an issue with a flat top. If the pan doesn't sit perfectly flat it isn't as critical to how evenly the pan heats, which is an issue with a flat top. One of my AC pans is convex and spins with the slightest touch which is a real pain, but I usually use that pan in the oven. The other doesn't sit as flat as I would like and while it does heat evenly there are spots that are hotter where it contacts the burner. If I had a gas hob, these wouldn't be issues. I also have a saucier, and this does work very well. It doesn't sit perfectly flat, but it is stable and using it for sauces and gravies where I want the heat from all sides , it controls the heat beautifully. For actual frying I use a cast iron or solid alum. pan. It really depends on what you like to cook as to what type of construction would be best.
post #3 of 9
All Clad makes several lines. Their differences are more in marketing and appearance than in performance. The more expensive lines use copper as the exterior metal or as part of the multiple ply sandwich, but to the extent that copper makes any performance difference it requires a thicker gauge than All-Clad employs. All All-Clad is well made and cooks extremely well. It may not be the best "bargain," but it's hard to find anything with a stainless interior that cooks better.

The 10" (3 qt.) Gourmet Standard Pro series (multiple ply) saute pan actually does have a helper handle: http://www.cheftools.com/prodinfo.as...047%20%20%2010

If you can afford the minimal extra expense and have room for an extra pan (about $25), I'd suggest getting a simple 10" carbon steel skillet as well. For most purposes they cook significantly better than stainless.

Much luck,
post #4 of 9
for what it is worth I'm VERY happy with my calphalon stainless tri-plys....I have both all-clad and calphalon and I like the handles on the calphalon MUCH better than all-clad for saute.

I have both sizes of sautes for calphalon.....and dad just picked up the same ones as well.

I picked them up at TJ Max or Marshalls for a GREAT price.

I also like the domed glass lids.

for stock pots and sauce pots, I like all-clad

check TJ Max and Marshalls....you'll have to "weed" through the other bullshit pans but there are some hidden gems.
post #5 of 9
Once again, BDL and I are in agreement. The Gourmet Standard is a very good pan and a very good choice for the money, especially with the helper handle. The All-Clad is also an excellent pan, although, if the outside stainless isn't needed or preferred, I'd go with the MC2 to save a few bucks and get a slightly thicker pan. My old MC is still doing yoeman duty after about 30 years. In any case, All-Clad or Gourmet Standard are both good choices.

I can't personally speak to the Calphalon sauté pan, butI do have a Calphalon stainless sauce pan which is very satisfactory. I'd not rule out the Tri-Ply Calphalon - just be sure it's comfortable for you.

BDL is right on the money in suggesting you get a carbon steel skillet. I bought one a couple of months ago - onlyuse it for making omelets and egg dishes - and am thrilled with the results. No longer do I use a non-stick pan for eggs.

post #6 of 9
Thread Starter 
Thanks so much for the helpful replies!

Could you please recommend a good brand for a carbon steel skillet? Is it like cast iron & how is it cleaned? I have a Lodge Logic pre-seasoned skillet that I picked up at WalMart for $14. I have only used it for bacon and fried eggs (in the bacon grease) twice. I have trouble cleaning it. It just doesn't seem clean if I can't use soap.
post #7 of 9
then cast iron is not for you. but nor are todays cast iron pans...they just arent as smooth as grandmas.

I may be wrong but carbon steel is not a cookware material you want to look for in a pan.....again, I may be wrong but isn't it a poor conductor if heat and very reactive?

get a good stainless......like all-clad or my personal choice calphalon tri-ply (for saute and skillet, not sauce/stock)
post #8 of 9
If the cast iron pan is well seasoned it should clean very easily. I wash mine under hot running water and check it visually to make sure there is nothing left stuck to the pan. Then I place the pan on the stove and gently heat it to dry it and get it fairly hot. At this point I add a little cooking oil and rub it in lightly with a paper towel. Turn off the heat and let the pan cool. The heat will render virtually all pathogens--- dead :D.

I do agree with RPMcMurphy about the finish not being as smooth on the newer cast iron pieces.
post #9 of 9
Of the brands available in the U.S., the best are probably Matfer Bourgeat, DeBuyer, and Vollrath. Matfer and DeBuyer are made in France. Vollrath is an American company and I believe they make their carbon steel here. There's also an umbrella marketer, called World Cuisine, selling a lot of carbon steel -- most of which (I think) is DeBuyer.

There are three basic types of carbon steel. Black, blue and white. If it's not described as black or blue, it's white. The black and blue colors come from powders applied to the cooling steel during the annealing and rolling processes. It is not a "coating," and will not come off. Black and blue pans season a bit more easily and resist rust slightly better. If you remember one thing, remember this: For frying pans, the differences are simply not important. Time spent searching for or worrying about black, blue or white is time wasted.

These pans are available in several shapes regular round, oval, and "Lyon." The sides on the Lyon shapes have a slight roll to them, which supposedly helps make tossing easier. Again, a distinction without a difference. Oval shapes are very useful for some things. They're nice to have, but let's wait until we have a discussion about frying whole fish, browning roulades or something.

Matfer is a great maker. I like their classic, arched, cast-iron handles. Here's a link to a discount seller:

Here's another link to a slightly different, World Cuisine pan;
Carbon Steel Frying Pan from World Cuisine
Consider the different handle shape carefully. You'll want to use these pans for sauteing -- which means toss turning, and the pans are not particularly light; so, you need a secure, comfortable shape you can hold with a towel or pot-holder. I have very strong hands, shape doesn't mean much to me; but it may to you. If so, you may find these handles better than Matfer Bourgeat's.

Vollrath pans are available from lots of commercial providers. They look exactly like the World Cuisine pans, for whatever that's worth. I'll let you Google around for the best prices yourself. Nice guy, eh? What? Oh, heck. Kitchen Supplies » Cookware » Fry & Saute Pans » Carbon Steel Fry & Saute Pans Vollrath is one of the class manufacturers of cookware. I believe the handles on their steel pans are compatible with normal commercial silicone handle covers, but you'll have to check. (As an aside, Vollrath makes an outstanding line of multiple-ply stainless cookware called "Tribute," which I didn't bring up earlier because the saute pan does not have a "helper" handle. All-Clad prices (higher if you get the recommended top). For all Vollrath: NoBS-no marketing, ultimate quality; pro, and not pro-like.

Here's a link to decently priced DeBuyer:
Steel Fry Pans Steel Frying Pans
Slightly more heavy-duty than Matfer. Commercial quality, commercial heft.

The most useful and frequently used size for most people is around 10" diameter -- the right size for a 2 or 3 egg omelette. If you like it, you can add a larger and a smaller one. Unless you're used to old-fashioned French handles, you'll probably find a broader handle more comfortable.

There are several right ways to season a cast iron pan. Here's a link to a good method:

You absolutely can clean carbon steel and cast iron with soap -- detergent free if possible. And, if you're not comfortable with a pan that isn't cleaned with soap, you should by all means clean with soap. What you cannot do is scour or use the dishwasher. Use a pad or brush suitable for non-stick. Make sure you dry the pan immediately and completely on medium-low heat, then lightly oil gently re-season it for a couple of minutes. You'll end up with a clean pan while you build a world class season. This works for cast iron as well.

Your Lodge Logic came pre-seasoned, as you know. You can wash with soap and re-season every time, just as I described above. However, cast iron won't build a good season as fast as carbon steel will this way. The rough surface on Lodge Logic and some other cast irons is an attempt to prevent air pockets from forming between air and food, making certain foods easier to flip. It is not an artifact of cheaper or poorer manufacturing. The surface will season just as well as a smoother cast iron, though.

In case you want to know, the "season" itself is composed of molecules from well-cooked oil which have polymerized and bond nearly pure carbon (also cooked out of the oil) to the pan surface. A good season is composed of multiple layers, which is why you want to keep adding to it. Once a pan is truly seasoned, it is so slick, that from a cleaning standpoint, it may as well be coated with soap. However, I understand your desire to use soap for it's germicidal properties.

Good luck,
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