CHOOSING YOUR COOKWARE
Selecting new cookware is a very personal decision influenced by both design and function. Putting aside aesthetics the following may help you select the one that best meets your needs.
What type of hob do you have?
- Gas – everything will work on gas, which is very fast and efficient. The only thing to be mindful of is the amount of heat that can come out from under the pan. This could make the handles hot or even damage them.
- Electric Radiant Ring & Solid Hot Plate (Solid Fuel or Electric) – as with gas all cookware will work but the heavier pans with flatter bases will be more efficient.
- Ceramic – A ceramic hob is a sheet of glass over electric heating elements. Again the heavier flatter pans will give the best performance. Also be mindful that uncoated aluminium bases may mark the glass of the hob. If this should happen there are specialist cleaners for ceramic hobs available from supermarkets and high street outlets.
- Halogen – Although similar to ceramic this hob uses a halogen heat lamp below the glass instead of a heating element. Again heavy base pans are best but also be careful that the base is not shiny as this will reflect heat back from the lamp reducing the efficiency. Most pans even stainless steel ones have a matt finish on the base for this reason.
- Induction – Similar in appearance to ceramic but employs a magnetic field to heat the pan rather than the surface of the hob. They are very fast and efficient with the added safety feature that the hob remains cooler which in turns means fewer burnt on deposits. For induction extra care is required in selecting your cookware as only certain pans will work. The following are suitable; cast iron & Enamel on Steel. Others can be made suitable for induction provided they have a special base or disc fitted e.g. stainless steel, aluminium, hard anodised. In our ranges if it is suitable for induction we say ‘Suitable for ALL hobs’.
There are different materials that cookware can be made from:
- Stainless steel – is durable and hardwearing but a relatively poor conductor of heat so will have a disc of another material like aluminium hidden or fully encapsulated to overcome this problem. The best stainless steel for cookware is 18/10. This refers to the chrome and nickel content i.e. 18% chrome and 10% nickel which gives the optimum rust and stain resistance.
- Aluminium – excellent for cookware in that it is a good conductor of heat however it is relatively soft and will not last as long as stainless steel. Uncoated aluminium is very rare these days and will not work efficiently on ceramic or halogen hobs. Nowadays it commonly has a non-stick interior and either a paint or enamel coloured exterior.
- Hard Anodised – is aluminium that has undergone a special electro chemical process which makes the outside much harder. In fact it is said to be harder than stainless steel. The interiors are normally coated with a non-stick coating to prevent food sticking.
- Cast Iron – traditionally associated with solid fuel cookers like Aga’s and Rayburns and well suited to this type of cooking as the thick heavy material is slow to heat up and retains the heat for a long time after the heat source is turned off. i.e. good for long slow cooking.
- Enamel on Steel – is steel with a coloured enamel coating. This coating is either inside and out or just outside with a non-stick interior. Being thinner than cast iron it heats up more quickly but also will cool down more quickly. Being made from ferrous steel makes them excellent on induction.
A-Z OF PANS
Bain Marie: an insert for setting over a pan of boiling water to give a gentle heat for making custard, melting chocolate etc.
Blini pan: a very small frypan, traditionally made in cast steel, used for cooking pancakes.
Casserole: a round or oval pot, for use on the hob or in the oven, with two small handles.
Chip pan: a saucepan with a removable inner basket for deep frying.
Cocotte: French term for a type of casserole.
Crèpe pan: a one-handled frypan with very low sides.
Deep fat fryer: a deep, two-handled pan with a removable inner basket for deep frying.
Dutch oven: a large, deep saute pan or casserole.
Egg poacher: a shallow saucepan with insert for holding poaching cups above boiling water.
Fish kettle: a large, long two-handled pan with lid and inner lifting rack for boiling or steaming fish.
Fishpan: an oval fish frypan.
Frypan: a low-sided, one-handled open pan with sloping or curved sides. 24cm is the most popular size.
Griddle: a round or square sheet with no sides used for cooking steaks, drop scones etc. Often made in cast iron or cast aluminium it can be smooth or ribbed with a single handle, two small handles or a bucket handle.
Grillpan: a medium-sized frypan with a ribbed base which holds the food above the oil and gives it charred stripes. Grillpans are usually made in cast iron, steel or aluminium, and can be round, oval or square.
Maslin pan: a very large pan, with two handles or a bucket handle, for making jam.
Milkpan: a relatively shallow, one-handled open saucepan. Between 12cm-16cm in diameter it can have one or two pouring lips and is usually non-stick coated.
Milkpot: similar in diameter to a milkpan but with high sides to help prevent boiling over. It has a mug handle making it suitable for bringing to the table. Sometimes called a saucepot.
Omelette pan: a low-sided, open pan, usually with curved sides and smaller than a frypan. Often 20cm in diameter
Pressure cooker: an aluminium or stainless pan with a lid which clamps tightly in place. When it's heated the pressure inside rises above atmospheric levels and the food cooks very quickly.
Saucepan: a fairly deep, straight-sided or bellied pan with a lid. Saucepans range in diameter from around 16cm; large ones may have a helper handle in addition to the single, long handle. Saucepans may also be referred to as stewpans.
Sautè pan: a straight-sided or bellied pan with a lid deeper and usually larger than a frypan. It normally has one handle but very big ones may also have a helper handle. Sometimes called a sauteuse.
Skillet: a shallow or no-sided, medium size frypan usually in steel or cast iron. Often with an integral metal handle it is suitable for use in the oven and under the grill as well as on the hob. Some skillets have pouring lips.
Steamer: a perforated-base pan insert for setting over a pan of boiling water It can be supplied on Its own for use in an existing pan or complete with pan.
Stewpot: like a casserole but suitable only for the hob.
Stir-fry pan: a deep frypan with curved sides and flat base, with one or two handles, and with or without a lid.
Stockpot: a large saucepan. Often has two small handles to aid lifting.
Wok: a large, curved-sided pan for stir-frying. It can have a rounded or flat base, one or two handles, and come with or without a lid or accessories such as a tempura rack.
Porringer: Is a double saucepan similar to a bain-marie used for cooking porridge. The porridge is cooked gently in the inner saucepan, heated by steam from boiling water in the outer saucepan. This ensures the porridge does not burn and allows a longer cooking time so that the oats can absorb the water or milk in which they are cooked more completely.
ANATOMY OF A PAN
In general the thicker the base the more even the heat distribution which increases the pan's resistance to warping.
A ground base is a thick aluminium base machined to give a perfectly flat base. Prolonged exposure to heat can distort the base though and most manufacturers now make the base slightly concave so it flattens out in use.
A sandwich base is normally a layer of aluminium sandwiched between the bottom of a stainless steel pan and a second outer layer of stainless steel to improve the pan's thermal conductivity and cooking performance. Copper is sometimes used but its high expansion rate means it can buckle. Aluminium or copper can also be simply added as a disc to the base with no outer layer of stainless steel although this is not a sandwich base.
Bases are fixed either by brazing (a form of soldering) or by 'friction welding' - melting the two metals together by a process of heat and vibration.
An encapsulated base is a type of sandwich base where the outer layer of stainless steel is completely folded over the aluminium disc. This prevents the discolouration, corrosion and pitting of the aluminium that can occur with a sandwich base and which can be more of a problem if the pans are washed in a dishwasher.
Although aesthetically similar encapsulated bases come in different quality levels. Hot forged or impact bases are the highest quality as the different materials of the base are fused together with no gaps using a combination of heat and extreme pressure. Next in quality are friction bases where heating and friction are used to achieve a similar bond of the base materials. The next quality is the brazed encapsulated base where the aluminium disc is brazed to the base of the pan before a stainless steel cover plate is pressed and brazed over it.
There are many ways of fixing the handle to a pan some of which allow handles to be replaced. Many handles are screwed or push-fitted onto a bracket or stud-welded or riveted onto the pan. Some metal handles are riveted on directly.
A flame guard is a metal insert between the pan body and the plastic or wood handle, designed to keep the handle away from the heat source.
Phenolic (plastic, Bakelite or melamine): the most common handle type. It will withstand temperatures of up to 180°C; latest designs, using modern phenolic materials, can withstand even higher temperatures. Usually dishwasher-safe but may go dull over time.
Metal: the most durable handles. Dishwasher-proof they will withstand any temperature but can get very hot even on the hob. Hollow handles stay cooler than solid ones.
Wood: a good insulator, but not oven-proof and may char with careless use on the hob. Not usually dishwasher-safe either.
Lids can be made of the same material as the pan or glass. Glass lids are made of tempered (strengthened) glass. A glass lid lets the cook watch the food cooking and usually has a reinforcing stainless steel rim.
Steam vent: a lid vent to allow steam to escape and thus prevent boiling over. A vent may be a simple hole in the lid or an adjustable vent incorporated into the knob.
Finger guard: a metal or plastic disc between the lid knob and lid to prevent the user directly touching a hot lid when removing it.
Non-stick coatings used for cookware have been traditionally based on polytetrafiuoroethylene (ptfe): a slippery plastic substance. There are many different grades of nonstick, from a low-cost single layer coat which may be only six microns thick to three-layer and four-layer coatings up to 40 microns thick. Some coatings do not use PTFE and are reinforced with stainless steel or ceramic particles.