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Which pan to choose?

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
If you had to choose your first good skillet like pan:-
  • Would you choose a frying pan or a saute pan - possibly with lid?
  • Would it be non-stick or stainless steel?
  • What size would it be?
If you don't mind following links and would care to comment, I'm presently looking at these 2 options:-

Frying Pan 28cm - Le Creuset

Cookshop UK - Headcook and Bottlewasher Berndes Removable Handle Saute Pan 28cm with lid

Any other thoughts re. making the first step to a good collection of cookware will be more than welcome.
post #2 of 9
If I had it all to do over again, I'd start with a stainless saute pan with a lid. There are relatively few things for which the "sway" of a proper skillet are all that useful, and I doubt you're going to work on them for some time -- if at all.

I would not get in the habit of using nonstick. You only learn bad habits that you have to unlearn.

Preferred size depends enormously on how many people you usually cook for. If you're alone, 8" might be okay, but 10" would probably be better. If you cook for a whole family, 12" is your friend. If you're pan-searing, you need to be able to get everything in the pan without the pieces actually touching -- otherwise they'll steam around the edges. On the other hand, a huge amount of clear space will tend to produce scorching of juices and the like in that area, so that you can't do a pan sauce.

I'm not the one to ask about brands. Just be sure that every part of the pan is oven-safe: handle, lid, lid handle, etc. One of the great things about a saute pan is being able to start something stovetop and then finish in the oven.
post #3 of 9
I agree with almost everything Chris says. The exception: Even for somebody cooking alone, I wouldn't consider anything smaller than 10" for my first good pan, and, if feasible, would actually opt for a 12".

BTW, there is another option in addition to non-stick and stainless. Take a look at carbon steel pans as well.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
post #4 of 9
I agree with almost everything KYHeirloomer says. :lol:

Seriously though...

I wonder whether a biggish pan might be problematic for someone cooking single. I'd think you'd have terrible trouble with scorching, because you have all that bare metal. I could certainly be wrong about this. I just thought that bare metal in quantity had a tendency to scorch, and then the scorched material would end up making pan sauces bitter.

As to carbon, I came very close to making this recommendation myself. I didn't, because I think for a single multi-purpose skillet/pan, carbon has problems. Most particularly, you can't cook strongly acidic foods in them. I find that I use a lot of tomatoes, and I like to reduce wine. This is particularly the case with things I might want to cook in a saute pan stovetop, then cover and braise in the oven.

If, however, you have something that will do all your braising and oven dishes sufficiently, then learning to use carbon steel is an excellent idea. Cheap, too. In fact, a decent carbon steel skillet is so cheap that you might very well want to buy the stainless saute pan AND a carbon steel skillet, since the latter isn't going to set you back more than $50 at the outside and probably a lot less if you look around. Then you have the best of both worlds.
post #5 of 9
Thread Starter 
Thanks fellas, :)

Hehe, my cooking's bad, but it hasn't frightened my better half off yet. :D

Okay, so a largish stainless steel pan, preferably of the lidded saute variety - thanks, that's useful. I think the stainless steel meets with my need to start getting more heat into the pan and I'm not overly concerned about having to season my pans. From what I've seen, choice appears to drop with the larger saute pans, but I'm sure that won't be a problem.

Much appreciated.

Edit: Haven't ignored the carbon steel option, just need to find out more about them.
post #6 of 9
Your best choice for a pan depends on what you want the pan to do. There is no single, best choice. There may not even be a single best choice for you.

If you plan on making lots of omelettes, you defeat yourself with a saute pan (aka chicken fryer), or any other straight or high sided pan for that matter. In fact, if you plan on making eggs at all -- a straight sided pan is not your friend.

A slope sided pan makes it much easier to introduce a spatula -- especially around the edges. You could say I disagree with Chris and KY about the superiority of straight sides -- at least until you get into larger pans.

The best size pan is one that will closely hold the amount of food you want to cook, without crowding. The right size pan is VERY IMPORTANT for sauteing, searing, and a few other pan techniques.

Stainless steel will not "get more heat into the pan." Meaning no offense, that's just gibberish unless you were previously cooking in wood.

Stainless steel is useful at the heart of any pan set because it's non-reactive. That is, you can safely long cook highly acidic and reactive foods -- such as wine sauces, artichokes, etc. Other choices like pure aluminum, carbon steel, cast iron, may be used for cooking these foods, but only for fairly short time periods. Although I prefer carbon steel for most cooking, it's important to have something non-reactive at the core of my set.

Modern, multi-ply stainless steel is an excellent choice because it combines non-reactive stainless interiors with high-performing bodies. It is almost certainly your best choice for your core set.

Lids. You can get lids in pretty much any size you want a lid. It's nice to have at least one lid for every size pot or pan you own. Don't forget -- there are a lot of things hanging about the kitchen which make perfectly good lids -- plates, for instance.

I suggest a 12" saute pan, and a 10" and 8" skillet for your first pans. That covers most of the bases for these types of pans.

If you can only afford one pan, get the 10" skillet first. It's a pan that a single or couple uses almost every day. Unless you always cook for four or more, a 12" (or even a 28cm, for that matter) is too big to have as your only decent pan.

post #7 of 9
Thread Starter 
No offence taken BDL, I only meant that I believe non-stick surfaces are often said to suffer when using a higher heat, and so it serves my needs to not have that specific concern when trying to gain more confidence at working with higher temperatures.

If you do return to this thread and can find a couple of minutes to sum up the positive aspects of carbon steel pans, I'd appreciate it. From a consumer viewpoint, they don't seem as widely available as other options here in the UK, although it is not difficult to find a few options.

Your additional advice re. pan sizes, lids etc. is understood and welcomed. I understand some of the issues where pan size can impact on particular needs. I have also managed to convince myself it would be useful to have a skillet type pan that I can take directly from the cooker top to the oven, something my present frying/saute pans aren't suited to due to the handles. It's not something I have found crucial at this point and my skill level - just a consideration.

As always, any opinions/suggestions/questions are greatly welcomed.

post #8 of 9
Huge increase in utility with a handle that can go into the oven. I don't know what cookware you're presently using, I understand and second the urge and need to replace it. But ... most phenolic plastic handles are actually ovenproof up to 350F or so.

I forget offhand what gasmark that is -- which reminds me, if you want me to speak kitchen English, I can -- or we can continue in kitchen American which is easier.

Carbon steel ... hmm. It's strong, it doesn't warp easily, it's very light weight compared to cast iron, it's very responsive compared to cast iron, it develops a "cure" equivalent to cast iron -- in other words, the best release surface there is. It sticks a little when you want it to stick (developing a fond), but releases completely. It spreads heat very evenly -- not quite as good as copper, but about equal to modern multi-ply. And it's low cost. It's also widely available throughout Europe including the UK You just have to know what to look for.

On the other hand, it's not non-reactive, a thing your core set of pans should be. Best to start with that.

Multi-ply with an aluminum exterior or core, plus a stainless interior is probably the best overall material these days -- considering weight, strength, warp resistance, responsiveness, even heating, ease of cleaning, etc. There are other suitable materials like anodic aluminum, enamel on cast, as well.

Hope this helps,
post #9 of 9
Thread Starter 
My frying and saute pans are reasonable home quality tefal non-stick - I have no complaints, I have treated them well, probably too well, and they haven't warped or lost their finish. I feel as if I need/want to ask more of myself now - to be more adventurous, and so I have thought to look again at how well my cookware is likely to meet that goal.
I think I'm mostly okay, it's going to make my life easier once I learn the difference in terminology/conversion values anyway - thanks for the thought though. :cool: Thanks also for the additional notes re. carbon steel, I'll continue to investigate that option.

It all helps BDL, I understand there isn't a one size fits all answer. On the other hand, I know asking about buying sets doesn't necessarily fly very well either due to the potential for redundancy. Everyone who takes the time to post gives me something to think about, which is all very encouraging in itself.
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