Basic Beginner Question

Discussion in 'Cooking Equipment Reviews' started by mrdecoy1, Jan 19, 2012.

  1. mrdecoy1

    mrdecoy1

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    Hi if I spent some money on more quality cookware seer pans, roast pans, sauce pans etc would I notice an improvement in taste? if so what should I get for just basic everyday at home meals? thank you.
     
  2. pcieluck

    pcieluck

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    While I don't think it appropriate to blame a bad meal on bad tools, any advantage you have will help you create a good meal.  In the same way a bad artist can't blame his brush, the right brush is definitely an undeniable advantage.
     
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2012
  3. mrdecoy1

    mrdecoy1

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    I've heard that quality equipment makes a difference in even heat distribution. Keep in mind my equipment is all Wal Mart junk any suggestions? All Clad I've heard of??
     
  4. phatch

    phatch Moderator Staff Member

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    Walmart sells Tramontina clad ware on-line at very good prices. Tramontina is a good quality brand. I suspect the Better Homes and Gardens brand pots they sell currently in-store are made by Tramontina, but I don't know that. All-clad is very good stuff, and the charge for it. In testing, Tramontina peforms very closely to All-clad

    But yes, better equipment doesn't necessarily mean better food. There is certainly an interplay between the cook, the equipment and the heat source, but the better the cook, the less the other two matter. Of course, the better the cook, the more likely they are to have better equipment too because of their interest and respect for what it can bring to the equation.

    In cookware, you want a number of things.

    Even heat distribution is probably the first thing. This is best achieved with a high conducting metal core. Copper has excellent behavior for this but is very high maintenance and expensive. Aluminum is a very good choice and is the  most commonly used metal either for the whole pan or as a clad core or as part of a disk bottom.  Quite often, recipes describe such a pan as a heavy bottomed pan. Cast iron is not that good at heat distribution, nor is stainless steel.

    Responsiveness. This cuts two ways. First, and related to the first point, a pan should react quickly to changes in the heat source. Some heat sources are better for this than others. Gas responds instantly to changes, an electric coil hob much less so. High conducting metals are more responsive.  However, for great sear, you want a pan that can hold the heat and deliver it consistently. Not drop temp too much when you add food to the pan. So the aluminum cores are "thick" so they have some thermal mass. Cast iron has very high thermal mass. Again related to the heavy bottomed description.

    Reactiveness. You don't want the pan to chemically react with the food. Stainless steel is very good for this purpose. Copper, aluminum, cast iron, carbon steel are all reactive.

    So you can see why clad stainless pans are so popular.

    For saucepans and skillets, clad is my recommendation though carbon steel and cast iron skillets are usefull too. I'd put them as useful options and not the required list.

    For a stockpot, a disk bottom is a good compromise in performance compared to cost.

    An inexpensive non-stick aluminum skillet is worthwhile as well.

    Now, as to the issue of flavor, using the right pan for the right purpose can simplify or promote flavor benefits. A heavy bottom pan is less likely to burn the food or the fond. It is also more prone to develop good sear and fond. Delicate foods such as fish or eggs are often more easily and properly cooked in a non stick pan, whether than be teflon, or cast iron or carbon steel.

    Lastly, I would look for induction compatibility in any new cookware I bought. You're likely to encounter an induction cooktop at some point over the life of the cookware.  
     
  5. mrdecoy1

    mrdecoy1

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    Thanks what is a stock pot? and what food is cast iron best used for?
     
  6. phatch

    phatch Moderator Staff Member

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    A stock pot is any large pot, usually for making stock or other big boiled items. Chicken stock, beef stock and so on. But the name is used rather loosely when you go shopping for them at the store. I wouldn't consider a pot of less than 8 quarts a stock pot but there is no set definition. A 12 quart stock pot is probably the most versatile size even if cooking for one person.

    Reactivity is mostly a problem for cooking tomatoes and wines. In other words acidic foods.  Those foods can change color and flavor when cooked in cast iron or aluminum and so on.

    I like to use cast iron for eggs, hash browns, pan cakes, frying. . When the seasoning or patina is well developed, it's quite non-stick. I don't like to use it for omelets or scrambled eggs though as it's not as nonstick as teflon.  I like to use it for searing steaks or chops, blackening fish. i like the cast iron reversible grills/griddles a lot too.

    Oh, that reminds me, only buy pans with all metal handles and knobs. You want to be able to go from the stove top to the oven or broiler. The stay cool synthetic handles can't take the high heat of the oven.
     
  7. mrdecoy1

    mrdecoy1

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    What large pot would be best for Itailian gravy? you know, red sauce. I plan on making braciole then drop in a large pan of sauce for a few hours. Any good Braciole recipes here? Thanks
     
  8. phatch

    phatch Moderator Staff Member

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    Some people would choose an enameled dutch oven. I'd probably do it in a 12" skillet. It depends on amounts some too, you know, how much you want to make.
     
  9. mrdecoy1

    mrdecoy1

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    Thanks for your help, any advice on what type pan and how I should seer the meat when it is rolled and tied up?
     
  10. boar_d_laze

    boar_d_laze

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    What pans do you already have?

    I'm not sure what process you're undertaking, so it's hard to recommend a "best" pan.  Also, I don't want to give you the idea that you need to run out and buy a specialty pan or otherwise spend a lot of money on equipment to do things very well. 

    But, if you're putting together a core set anyway, let's get down to brass tacks -- starting with your budget.   

    To sear you want a sturdy, well pre-heated pan (over medium-high heat usually) with a little, but very little oil.  Sometimes the best oil for searing is one with a high smoke point and very little flavor, and sometimes it's decent, extra-virgin olive oil.  It just depends what you're trying to do. 

    BDL
     
  11. mrdecoy1

    mrdecoy1

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    Thanks. What do you think of this as a starter set?
     
  12. phatch

    phatch Moderator Staff Member

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    As you've probably noticed, few if any of us have used Cuisinart pans to have an opinion of them.

    I don't recall any testing where they were stand-out products or even if they were included in the testing.

    Personally, I'd want to see the line of pots in person to form an opinion where I know so little about them. If you can't do that, go with brands and lines of more well known quality: All-Clad, Calphalon, Vollrath, Tramontina and so on.

    Certainly, i own some fringe brand pots and pans myself, but I made those purchase choices from seeing the products in person.
     
  13. davehriver

    davehriver

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    I havent used Cuisinart cookware but have found there small appliances to be lacking in quality.  That would steer me away from there cookware.