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Non-stick pans vs. Stainless Steel

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
I just got done watching a cooking show on TV. The chef cooked onions and garlic in a stainless steel pan with olive oil in it.

She then cooked chicken burgers in a nonstick pan that also had some olive oil in it.

My question is what is the benefit of using the types of pans that she did for what she was cooking.

Thanks.
post #2 of 13
Ground chicken tends to stick a lot. It's not all that hard to cook it in a stainless pan and have it release well but s/he probably wanted it to work simply on TV without regard for if the burger was really done or not. It's all about appearances in TV. For many unskilled home cooks, the non-stick pan would be a more reliable tool.

For the stainless pan, heat the pan for a minute or two until HOT, then add the oil. Lay the chicken patty in the pan and leave it alone. When you start to see juices coming to the top surface, check the patty and see if it's ready to flip. That's a general visual sign for meat. The meat will release from the pan when it's ready. Not totally perfectly, but enough to flip easily and hold together.

Phil
post #3 of 13
Chicken is largely made of proteins and water. Ground chicken releases its water more completely than unprocessed chicken when heated. When ground chicken is cooked in a pan with a little oil, water is forced from the chicken and into the pan, where it displaces the oil by sliding beneath it. Meanwhile the proteins shrink and tense as a result of their exposure to heat; and also form a crystalline bond with the surface of the bond as part of a non-enzymatic process called the "Maillard reaction." The bond makes the ground chicken, stick to the pan. Because the ground chicken is so lean, so filled with water, and because the oil is displaced by the water, the chicken won't "release" from the pan the way a different meat would. Also, the processes resulting in the sticking are accentuated because, to cook the burger all the way through, the pan is at a medium rather than a medium-high heat. Note that when cooking most meats or vegetables, it's considered a good thing for a little of the bonding material stuck to the pan. It's called "fond," and is released and used to make sauces in a process called "deglazing." Fond is one of several reasons many good cooks find other ways and materials to keep food from sticking than the non-stick coatings ordinarily used in inexpensive cookware.

Contrast this with the onions and garlic. Vegetables brown according to a completely different process than meat, so any bond which is formed is more tenuous and releases both more completely and quickly. A non-stick pan is not necessary. In fact, it would slightly hinder the processes by which the aromatics sweeten and release their essential oils into the dish.

Hope this helps,
BDL
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post #4 of 13
Thread Starter 
The comments are very helpful. Wow - the chemistry involved in cooking is much more complex than I had realized, and a lot over my head.

So, if the cook wasn't as concerned about the appearance of the chicken, she could have used a stainless steel pan and maybe a little more oil?

One thing that did surprise me was how attractive the chicken pattys did get - with nice brown / dark spots from the pan, even though the pan was a nonstick.

A bit of a question about the fond / deglazing aspect. I'm trying to learn to cook a special, very restricive diet for my son - he has crohn's disease, a digestive ailment. I think the fond / deglazing coud be a great source of sauces for his food that would not contain prohibited ingrediants. Could you please tell me where I might find out more about how to create these fonds?
post #5 of 13
[quote=novice_01;223697]The comments are very helpful. Wow - the chemistry involved in cooking is much more complex than I had realized, and a lot over my head.

I didn't see the demonstration, so I can't give a good, straight answer to your question. If I've got the idea right, you're talking about adding enough oil to go from sauteing to frying. In other words, the hot oil will do most of the cooking rather than the hot pan itself. Yes, you could cook the chicken patty. It would actually look fine, and perhaps better. The surface texture and taste would be different.

Modern non-stick surfaces aren't as good as some other surfaces when it comes to creating an appearance. But they aren't complete failures either. It's all a matter of degrees. Non-stick really shines at cleanup, and handling difficult foods without good technique. Good technique -- heating the pan before adding oil, and allowing the oil to come to heat first -- covers a lot of ground, but is not perfect either. The best is some sort of combination of good technique with a high performance surface. I recommend simple, carbon-steel frying pans for most purposes, and stainless for the rest. Carbon steel, properly seasoned and maintained is as slippery as non-stick, but sautes and sears much better. We've talked about this.

Tell me what food classes and spices he's avoiding, what his favorite meat is, and I'll write a recipe for you that will teach you to develop a fond, deglaze it, and create a pan sauce. You can contact me by PM if you don't want to get too specific here. On the other hand, this might be instructive for others as well.

BDL
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post #6 of 13
[My question is what is the benefit of using the types of pans that she did for what she was cooking.
[/QUOTE]

I have long ago given up using non-stick pans as the non-stick coating (which contains teflon based materials) is claimed by some, in the long run, not to be good for health. I use stainless steel or "vision" which is glass based.
Also, olive oil cannot withstand high heat and therefor, I would not use it for cooking burgers. I would use canola or 100% groundnut oil.

melan
post #7 of 13

chefedb

Stainless steel does not conduct heat evenly and forms hot spots in the pan. It looks great but thats it . You are better off with a stainless steel clad aluminum bottom pan which conducts heat evenly. For me the only good teflon pans are omelette pans. Teflon is ok for house wives but cannott stand the high heat of commercial cooking. Most pots and pans sold in stores are great for the house but if you want one that last for years, go to a rest. supply co. You will probably pay a bit more , but it will last forever.
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post #8 of 13
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the advice. I noticed that my favorite pan (of the limited assortment I have right now) has what appears to be a clad aluminum bottom.
post #9 of 13
Thread Starter 
[quote=boar_d_laze;223718]Thanks for your very generous offer. I am trying to learn a diet based roughly on a diet called the "Specific Carbohydrate Diet." It basically consists of animal protein (meat, fish, etc.) and non-starchy carbohydrates (most vegetables, except for the starchy ones like peas, corn, etc.)

No dairy, no added sugars and no grains containing gluten. An even stronger version of it has not grains at all.

My son likes meat - likes hamburgers a lot, for instance. A good meatloaf recipe might be pretty good.
post #10 of 13
There are a bunch of low carbohydrate / Atkins type cookbooks running around. Since the fad is well over, they're available used and remaindered. Cheap is good. These should go a long way towards helping you cook the way you want.

Re the meatloaf -- replace the breadcrumbs from your favorite meatloaf recipe with crumbs made from pork rinds by whirling them in the blender, and simply omit any dairy. Because the rinds are fairly high in fat, you'll want to use leaner meat than you might otherwise. Because the rinds are very "porky" you might want to boost the "beefiness" quotient by adding some highly concentrated beef stock or broth. Using green onions (and plenty of them) will also help balance the strong flavor the rinds bring. Finally, don't add salt until you've "tried" (cooked a little miniature patty and tasted) the mix. Go nuts on whatever other spices your son tolerates well and likes.

BDL
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post #11 of 13

Seasoning a pan with an Induction Cooktop?

Question 1: Can an induction cooktop season a carbon steel pan as well as a gas cooktop?

Question 2: I am redoing my kitchen and am going back and forth between Induction and Gas. I would normally go with gas, however I live in the country and only have propane available. Given a choice, which is the better cooktop? (Although I may not be a pro chef, I do take my cooking VERY seriously.)
post #12 of 13
Johnvos,

With a properly installed stovetop, it doesn't matter whether you have natural gas or propane. They'll cook the same.

Adjustments have to be made to the venturii valves because natural gas is a low-pressure system and propane a high-pressure one. Those valves (which are built-in to the stove) act as regulators, so that the burners perform as they're supposed to.

Used to be that you had to buy a conversion kit. But modern stovetops are all adjustible. And high end models come from the factory preset to the type of gas you have.

I've lived in the country for 20 years. First thing I did was throw out the electric stove that was here and replace it with gas. Never noticed that porpane affected my cooking style any differently then when I lived in the city and had natural gas.

What I'm saying is simply this: If you prefer gas---as many serious cooks do---don't let the fact you'll have propane stop you.

One other point. If all you'll be doing with the gas is cooking, I suggest you install a dual rig. Instead of, say, one 250 lb tank, install two 100 lb tanks. That way you're assured of never running out.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #13 of 13

Induction vs Gas

KYHeirloomer,

Thanks for the propane advice (and the two propane tank suggestion). I think, from your having the experience that I was asking about regarding propane, I'll be shifting my purchase back to a gas cooktop.

Yes, I have been intrigued over the efficiency and technology of Induction cooktops, but their fussiness could prove to be an aggravation (at least, at times). Besides, I know I'll just never become totally used to digital controls.

John
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