I am back from my week-long hiatus (which I thoroughly enjoyed very much, thank you!), having gained some new skills as a newly ordained mama and am ready to take on the world! Hoorah!
Alrighty, since my dear mother (who has been a TREMENDOUS help thus far in my transition from non-mommy duties to mother hood) has taken over my kitchen and I am not allowed to cook for a few weeks, these next week to two weeks posts will mainly be instructional tips and tricks from my experience and my very strong opinions on certain topics.
Today’s topic up for discussion: Stainless Steel vs Nonstick pans!
Duh duh duuuuuuuuuuuhn!
I’m sure this topic must have been talked about quite a lot by various people but I still hear this question quite often and feel like this particular topic ought to be discussed! Let’s share the knowledge people; ignorance isn’t always bliss.
Working in many professional kitchens, there is one thing I’ve noticed about the equipment we use, particularly with the pots and pans… There are mainly stainless steel pots and pans. The ONLY nonstick pans we ever use are our egg pans. Here are a few reasons why that I can think of:
Nonstick pans aren’t as formidable as stainless steel pans.
Let’s face it, in a busy restaurant, there is a lot of banging and slamming going on (not quite Hell’s Kitchen status but close) and stainless steel tends to hold up a lot better to the abuse than their nonstick counterparts. Now I know that the pots and pans in the average home cooks kitchen doesn’t go through nearly the use and abuse as professional pans do but let me pose this question for you all to mull over: How many times have you had to replace your non-stick pans versus your stainless steel???
Nonstick pans don’t get nearly as hot as stainless steel pans.
I made this observation once while someone was trying to sear scallops (Hell’s Kitchen status, oh yes!) and couldn’t get that nice, beautiful, caramelization that ought to be achieved while searing scallops. The pan being used: nonstick. The purpose of nonstick pans are to keep your foods from sticking or burning to the pan which it’s very good at but this also means that the pan can’t get hot enough to properly sear meats and what have you. This is best done with stainless steel pans. This leads me to my next point (strictly my opinion)…
Nonstick pans rob you of proper timing and cooking technique (again just my opinion)
Because of the purpose of nonstick pans (mentioned in the above paragraph), the non-stickness of the pans often tend to become a crutch to the home cook (why properly time out cooking when you’ll never have to scrub the pan clean, right???). I believe that because of how easy it is to cook in non-stick and not have to worry about scrubbing duty afterwards as opposed to stainless steel, we have become lax at home as far as properly searing meats and cookery in general because we don’t have to deal with the consquences afterward. Cooking with stainless steel pots and pans demands greater attention to detail, timing, and technique than nonstick.
Now I hope to not sound like “ban all non-stick from your kitchen!!!!” but rather I hope that I can show that you can cook wonderfully at home with stainless steel pans and not have to worry about a war zone of clean-up afterwards. Here are a few helpful tips to not completely ruining your stainless steels:
- Cook with a high enough heat for the project at hand. This allows you to properly cook your items with no risk to it sticking to your pan. Far too many times, people cook on HIGH and end up scorching their pan because the item being cooked burnt to the pan way before it was completely cooked through. You can certainly heat your pan over high heat and let the cooler temperature of the meat or vegetables or what have you, naturally cool down the pan but hardly ever do you want to actually COOK on high heat. Turn down the flame ya’ll.
- Cook with enough fat in the pan to act as a medium between the metal and the object being cooked. Now I’m not saying that we pan fry our zucchini because we don’t want it to stick. Nope, not at all what I’m saying. This is where proper cooking technique comes into play. I’m sure you all have heard the word “sauté,” yes? Alrighty! But do you know what that means? In French the word sauté means “to jump.” Now what that translates to in cooking is: high heat, low fat. When we sauté a thing to be cooked, we want the pan to be hot enough so that the cooked object doesn’t stick to the pan. When sautéing, we really only need about 1 tablespoon of oil in the pan. WHAT?! Yes you heard me correctly, with that little amount of fat in the pan and paying attention to what we’re cooking, you’ll never burn anything beyond recognition to a pan ever again. Now how many of you guys are excited to cook with stainless steel pans??? I thought so!
I will admit that there is a place for nonstick pans in a kitchen and it is very much patterned after what I’ve seen in the professional kitchens I’ve worked in over the years. Nonstick pans are great for cooking eggs! I will give them that. In the kitchens I’ve worked, we’ve always had designated egg pans just for cooking eggs, both single fried eggs (sunny side up, over easy, all that jazz) and pans for things like frittatas and omelets. These pans are priceless when it comes to brunch service. One screwed up egg pan and it can wreck the flow of a mostly pleasant brunch rush. It’s almost a crime worthy of capital punishment if you are seen scrubbing egg pans with anything but your sanitizer towel or a paper towel. Proper storage of these pans ensures that they last you a good long time. You don’t need anything fancy really. We typically use a sheet of paper towel in between each egg pan when we stack them on top of each other. The metal from the bottoms of the pans will scratch up the nonstick surface of your nonstick pans slowly but surely over time. Make sure that they never really actually touch each other; like the nerds and jocks in high school, they can be around each other but they never really mingle.
Some of you may be wondering: with this new found knowledge Marlee, how can I find a good stainless steel brand to buy??? What you’re looking for is super simple and I may just have to share with you my dream pot and pan set that I have just been dying to have… Seriously this set is beautiful!
You don’t need to have a super heavy pan in order to think it’s going to last a long time, you want it light enough that you don’t get a forearm work out each time you cook but you also don’t want to get suckered in to the “lighter-than-air” gimmick that a lot of those cheap pan salespeople use to sell their crappy pans. The bottom you want to have a nice thick bottom to it, this’ll make sure that your pan lasts a long time. You want a good, sturdy handle that won’t fly off after a few uses. If you’re able to pick up and shake the pan around in the store, I would highly recommend doing so! Gives you a feel for what you’d be getting yourself into.
Those are basically all that you need to look for when it comes to buying pans. Super simple. Now, behold my dream set… This comes from All-Clad (again, really no strong opinions on Calphalon or All Clad or what have you, they just happened to have this set I would love to have).
This is stainless steel pot and pan set from All-Clad and the reason I love this set is because of that lovely copper ring around the bottom of the pan! It’s more than just aesthetics my loves, this copper ring serves a purpose. As we all know, copper is an excellent conductor of heat and electricity, in cooking land that means: even heat distribution which leads to even cooking! These pots and pans have a copper core in them which means that you’ll never have to worry about hot and cold spots again in your cookware! Love love love it! I know, I know, in previous posts, you’ve seen step by step pictures that showcase my lovely nonstick pots… Confession: I’ve had this set since college and have been too poor to replace them. I would love to replace them tomorrow if I could but alas… that will have to wait for a later date.
Now we have been armed with knowledge of the uses of stainless steel and nonstick within our kitchens. Get rid of your crutch and try stainless steel pots and pans, I’m quite certain this will revolutionize your cooking in the future! Happy eating everyone!