Pan for cooking?

Joined Jun 30, 2010
Hello, everybody,

I have pans which I used since I was a student, and I want to change them. They are 8 " diameter and 4" deep. Main uses - make spagetti, boil some vegetables for a salad, porridge. In rare occasions I do chips in them. I would like to replace them with pans which are very easy to clean, quite lightweight and of a great quality that I did not ever want to get rid of them. Any suggestions?

I would like to get your expert opinion because previously I bought cast iron enameled Le Creuset pans for my wife, and to my surprise she did not like them at all because they were too heavy and food stuck to them (though she admitted they were noticeably easier to clean than other of our pans). I don't want to make another expensive mistake... 

Joined Jun 30, 2010
There are many different styles of pots and pans and many different price ranges.  It might be helpful if you can provide some more detail, including budget, styles of cooking, frequency of cooking, type of utensils you have available, stove type, do you intend to use them in an oven and whether or not you need non-stick pans.
Joined Feb 1, 2007
I'm surprised to hear that food stuck to your Le Cruset cookware. My first thought is that she's working at too high a heat.

That aside, we need more information, as jkeilson outlined, before making rational recommendations. The sizes, styles, and materials of pots and pans are determined by how you'll be using them, and the quantities of food being cooked. 

Some things to factor in your decisions:

Price: Although quality and high price usually go together, that's not always so. For the more-or-less casual cook, for instance, WearEver cookware can be a perfect choice.

Material: There are four common materials used in cookware: carbon steel, cast iron, aluminum, and stainless. Each of them has advantages and drawbacks, so, which to choose depends on---get ready for it---your cooking style.

Design criteria: Once more we look at cooking style, because the highest quality pot or pan doesn't do much good if you're not comfortable with it. With skillets, in particular, handle design can be crucial. Consider, too, that there are no standardized lid designs, and that might be a consideration when you buy.

BTW, just to get technical for a moment, the item you describe is actually a pot rather than a pan.
Joined Feb 13, 2008
8" diameter x 4" high describes a 1 gallon saucepan.  It's too small for making spaghetti, but appropriate for your other uses.

I don't know whether your Le Creuset was enamel-over-iron or multi-ply stainless.  They make both.  Neither poses much of a problem with sticking.  Were your last set of saucepans "non-stick?"

Choosing a basic set of saucepans is not that difficult.  The obvious choice for interiors is stainless.  Better saucepans of relatively shallow depth (like 4") have multi-ply construction which extends all the way up the pot.  Less expensive saucepans employ a disk on the bottom. 

Disks work well to promote even heating and prevent saucepans on the bottom of the pan and when the pans have an inch or so of liquid.  Multi-ply is much better when there's not too much in the pan.  The bottom disks are usually aluminum.

Some multi-ply are two layers.  They're usually aluminum outside with a stainless interior.  Others are made with three or more layers -- usually with stainless inside and out, and with a layer of aluminum in the middle.

For your purposes, you might as well forget about cast iron, and plain aluminum.  Each of these choices is too reactive to serve well for you.  The same is true about carbon steel, but there are so few carbon saucepans it's not really worth considering.

A word about copper:  Both disks and multi-plies occasionally employ copper as one of the interior metals.  Generally speaking it's not thick enough to be more than cosmetic.  Copper is a more efficient conductor than aluminum -- more so in terms of responsiveness than with even heating.  However, as an economic proposition it's advantages are not worth the cost.  If it's present as part of a multi-ply sandwich, don't pay extra for it.

Before making any specific suggestions, it would be helpful (as mentioned by everyone) to have your price range.

In addition to a couple of saucepans, you'd be well served to buy a relatively inexpensive, 8 qt, stainless-with-disk-bottom, "spaghetti set."

Hope this helps,

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Joined Feb 1, 2007
8" diameter x 4" high describes a 1 gallon saucepan. 

Well, 3 quarts according to the inscription on the bottom of one of mine with those measurements.

I don't know whether your Le Creuset was enamel-over-iron or multi-ply stainless. 

How come you're not paying attention? Omega cleary stated, above, that it was enameled cast iron. /img/vbsmilies/smilies/wink.gif

Disks work well to promote even heating

That's not always true. Some makes/models heat faster where the edge of the disk and sides of the pot meet. Don't know what that happens with some and not others, but it's been an on-going complaint about disk-bottoms. I have one that acts that way, others that don't.

Some multi-ply are two layers.  They're usually aluminum outside with a stainless interior.

Just out of curiousity, who makes that sort of cookware? I don't think I've ever seen it.

Another caveat the OP should be aware of: Other than boiling water, straight stainless is next to useless. So, while such cookware is inexpensive it's not very effective, and should be avoided.
Joined Jun 30, 2010
Thanks for comments.

My answers to the questions:

1. I do not have a specific price range in mind, but I usually like things with excellent warranty and which last for a long time;

2. Sorry, I do not understand what you mean by "style of cooking", my wife cooks home meals;

3. Frequency of cooking - we tend to cook once during weekends, freeze it and then warm up food in microwave as the week goes, this way we save time during the week;

4. Utensils - wooden, plastic and metal spoons and other related items;

5. Stove - gas cooker, we do not intend to use these pans in the oven;

6. Non-stick pans - my wife likes convenience of cleaning them, bottom of the pans we want to replace usually get stained after cooking;

7. Quantity - at the moment we cook 2-3 different meals for a week in one day, one pan is usually for one meal, these pans are mainly for making additional ingredients (we have larger pan for soups and use Le Creuset for stews and other non-liquid food).

I guess you may see I have very little understanding what type of pan is used for which purpose, pan for me is a pan, but I want something convenient.

Joined Feb 1, 2007
Were it me, given your requirements, I would opt for a couple of pans called "sauciers." This refers to the bowl-shape of the pan. Because of their shape they are about the most flexible design going, and can function as skillets as well as sauce pans. I'd get at least a 3-quart model, and have a couple of them.

My choice would be totally clad stainless, from a reputable company such as Calphalon. I'd avoid anything made by All-Clad, both because it's stuff is overly expensive, and because the company doesn't stand behind its warranty.

Making meals as you describe often involves handling various ingredients differently. So I would consider a skillet or two as well. That way, she could, for instance, be sauteeing onions while doing something else in the "big" pot. Same goes for a small saucepan, maybe in the 1-quart range.

I would also follow BDL's advice and get a pasta kit. Those consist of a kettle (usually about 8 quarts) with two inserts; a pasta insert and a steamer basket. The pasta insert (basically a slightly smaller kettle, full of holes) should extend as near to the bottom as possible.

By style of cooking I meant the physical relationship between the cook and the cookware. For instance, if she's the kind of cook who shakes, twists, and flips a skillet then the handle design and total balance are much more important than they'd be with somebody who plops the pan on the stove and lets it just sit there.

Should you opt for stainless, it is imperative that she learn to work over lower flames. Medium heat is about the highest she should ever be using. Stainless also works best if it's preheated for a minute or so before adding food the food.

There have been several cookware discussions here, over the years, and if you use the search engine you'll likely find several that provide insights towards helping you make a choice.
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