For those who are new to cooking, the first thing you need to know is this: you won’t get anything to brown in non-stick coated cookware. Stainless steel is the only way to go for beautifully browned meats, but there are some things to know about stainless steel pans. Temperature is important, so learning to use your stainless pans is a good idea if you don’t want to ruin your food and destroy your pots. If you don’t know how to use them properly or how to manage the temperature, your food will stick to the pan or burn.
Here are some important tips about cookware.
- Aluminum pans will actually leach into the food as it cooks. That’s why acidic foods such as tomatoes will keep your aluminum pans looking new.
- Copper pots are used by professionals but are very expensive and difficult to maintain, and they’ll react with acidic foods.
- Glass pots have poor heat distribution and food will burn.
- Cast iron pots are porous and trapped grease can turn rancid. They’re heavy and cook well, but they’ll react with food and rust if not properly “seasoned” and maintained.
- Coated pans, no matter how expensive or well made, will eventually chip off. What you don’t see before the actual chipping begins are the minute particles that wear off and lead to chipping.
- The right types of utensils are needed for all types of pans, including stainless.
- Stainless steel by itself is not a good heat conductor, so look for pans with copper or aluminum cores. Copper cores conduct heat very evenly, heat up quickly, and adjust to temperature changes quickly. Aluminum cores also conducts heat very evenly and is cheaper than copper.
- Stainless pots come in various thicknesses, so buy the best you can afford. Cheap stainless steel pots without a copper or aluminum core will cook unevenly, giving you hot spots.
- Stainless is durable and can maintain its appearance for as long as you own it (some stainless cooks have had their cookware for as long as 50 years).
- Stainless doesn’t impart any flavor or create a chemical reaction with food.
- Even the best stainless cookware will get tiny scratches if you use knives on them, but generally, stainless is resistant to scratches and dents.
What should you do when it comes to stainless?
Cooking is all about temperature shocks and exchanges. The reason a chicken is roasted at a higher temperature in the beginning is to shock the meat and create a nice, crispy and brown skin. The remainder of the roasting is done at a lower temperature. This same technique is used when cooking on the stove top.
So what’s the trick to finding the right temperature?
- Never place food or cooking fat in a pan without preheating the pan
- When you add your cooking fat, you should see it shivering somewhat in the pan. If your pan is too hot, the fat will smoke and burn. If this happens, discard the fat and start again. The pan will be very hot at this point so take it off the burner and let it cool a bit while you lower the burner and let the temperature regulate.
- It’s best to heat the pan slowly over medium high heat so it can heat up evenly.