Remember the joy and sheer glee you felt as a toddler when Mom allowed you access to the cupboard with all those lovely, shiny and oh-so-noisy pots and pans? They gave you such a sense of freedom, from banging the pots, making uproarious sounds that were music to your ears to imitating Mom cooking, stirring and pouring your make-believe food from one container to another. You simply could not decide if you wanted to be a heavy metal musician or a chef from the Cordon Bleu. Such memories…
Thirty years later you have decided that cooking leaves much less of a headache than does a rock band. You have grown up to covet those magnificent pots and pans you see online or in a gourmet shop. Your time has come. Bring on the pots and pans!
One of the first things to consider when building your pot and pan collection is to determine how extensive a collection you want. Do you want the bare minimum or do you wish to create your own culinary Christmas, with pots and pans on every conceivable surface of your kitchen? How much time you spend in the kitchen and the ease with which you would like to turn out your creations will also play a part in your considerations. Oh, yes – if you are not a Lottery winner you will need to carefully plan your budget. Sometimes it is better to spend more for fewer high-quality pieces rather than grabbing every piece of cookware in sight on the bargain table.
What will you need to start? Everyone, from novice to master chef, needs the basics. The basics include ROASTERS, SAUCE PANS, and SKILLETS.
Roasters include the ROASTING PAN and the ROASTING PAN with HIGH COVER. A standing roasting pan is rectangularly shaped with low sides. With the low sides, the heat from the oven envelops the meat, giving it full coverage. A very important accessory to the roaster is a rack which steel bite pro allows the meat to be suspended above its own juices and fatty drippings. Several different materials can be incorporated in the manufacture of the roaster: stainless steel, nonstick-surfaced aluminum, anodized aluminum, and granite.
What sets off a roasting pan with a high cover is its familiar oval shape with deep sides and a domed lid. Again, a rack is very useful. This type of roaster can be made from any of the above materials. Speaking of granite, do you remember the black or dark blue roasting pan, speckled with “freckles,” that your mother used every Thanksgiving to give that roasted turkey a golden glow? I can still remember the turkey aroma wafting itself throughout the house, teasing my nose!
SAUCEPANS, and SAUCE POTS, are round pots which branch out into many varieties. Key identifying points of this category are high, straight sides and a flat bottom. Saucepans have many uses, from heating a can of soup to making a sauce, with an infinite number of foods in between. A WINDSOR saucepan starts out as an ordinary piece of cookware but has sloped sides. A SAUCIER has rounded ones. Both provide increased exposure; sauces are reduced more quickly and it is easier to whisk food away from a round surface. Heat-responsive materials such as lined copper or stainless steel with a copper core are commonly used in the fabrication of saucepans. Saucepans come in a variety of sizes and most come from the factory with a tightly fitting lid. Sauce pots are similar in appearance to Dutch ovens and have one long handle for the smaller pots; the larger-capacity saucepots have a long handle on one side plus a loop handle on the other to help balance it when lifting off the stove.
A SKILLET is the same as a FRYING PAN. They both have a flat bottom and short flared or sloped sides, allowing for ease in tossing and turning food. A frying pan should be made of heat-responsive, heavyweight material. such as cast iron (which must be oiled and seasoned prior to its initial use). Frying pans that have been coated with a nonstick substance such as Teflon can be used for frying foods or for sautéing. As with saucepans and roasters, skillets (or frying pans) come in an array of sizes and usually with a lid.
A plethora of styles of saucepans is available to enhance your cooking experience. Besides the saucepans discussed above, a chef will want to acquire several other types of pots and pans, including the following: CHEF’S PAN, DOUBLE BOILER, DUTCH OVEN, OMELET PAN, SAUTÉING PAN, SAUTEUSE PAN, STOCKPOT, and WOK.
A CHEF’S PAN is a saucepan of medium depth and has sides that can be flared, rounded, or even straight. The wide mouth, combined with a flat bottom, enables the accelerated evaporation of liquids. A long handle and tightly fitting lid are generally standard features of chef’s pans. Made of metal, a chef’s pan has a thick ground base allowing for rapid temperature changes. The high sides make room for ease of frying, sautéing, or steaming of foods without food accidentally spilling out all over the stove top. Chef’s pans and sauciers can be used interchangeably.
A DOUBLE BOILER is basically two saucepans, with the slightly smaller top pan nesting inside the lower pan. The construction is deceptively naive and simple, but once you have had a chance to cook with a double boiler, you will wonder why you had not already been an ardent fan of one. Hot water is placed in the bottom pan, providing the heat source for the ingredients in the top, anything from melting chocolate to delicate sauces. Double boilers can be made from many materials, including stainless steel, enameled steel, aluminum, or glass which allows you a close and personal view of the contents on top as they swirl and move about.