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Pots & Pans

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Want to know how to cook better? Start with good-quality pots and pans. Since thereís a wide variety of materials, styles, and durability out there, we take a look at what you should know to find the right set for your needs.

   BUYING TIPS

The Basics

  • There are a few different materials to choose from, all with advantages and disadvantages:

    • Stainless steel tends to be the most popular choice. It’s easy to clean, the metal doesn’t interact with food. Even though it’s not the best heat conductor, many manufacturers now add a copper or aluminum core base to help heat things up.

    • Non-stick pans are usually stainless steel sprayed with a non-stick coating. It’s easy to clean up, but most chefs recommend using uncoated cookware since the non-stick substance doesn’t allow you to brown or caramelize foods.

    • Aluminum is a powerhouse conductor and a great material for cooking. Unfortunately, it reacts with acidic or alkaline foods, which corrodes the material and can affect flavours. Anodized aluminum is harder and is best at conducting heat, and also provides a non-stick surface.

    • Copper pots have an old world charm and look great. They work great too because they are very responsive to heat, warming up and cooling down quickly. They must be hand-washed, however and they can be very expensive.

    • Cast iron pots are heavy and require carefully cleaning and care, but they’re inexpensive, heat evenly, and last forever. Enamel-coated cast iron is also available (e.g. Le Creuset known for their Dutch Ovens for producing the perfect stew.)

  • Many people buy a full set at once. If you buy individually, consider the sizes and shapes you’ll get the most use out of.

  • Before investing in a full set, pick one piece from a line you like and use it for a month or so. If it works for your needs, go back and add more pieces.

  • As with anything, price varies according to quality. But there are always deals and sales when it comes to sets. Don’t ever pay full price!

  • Carefully examine the construction of the pans. Look at how the handle is secured. Rivets are more durable than screws.

  • Feel the weight of the pot or pan and pay attention to the shape of the handle to be sure that it feels comfortable in your hand.

  • Glass, ceramic and stainless steel handles stay cool on the stovetop and are oven safe.

Other Considerations

  • Buy pots and pans that are the right size for the burners on your stove or you may end up with hot spots while cooking if the pan is too big.

  • The latest fad is celebrity-endorsed cookware. Even though they likely only put their name on quality merchandise, examine it carefully anyway.

  • When buying a set, the number of pieces includes lids.

   TEST CRITERIA

We got down to some serious cooking to see which set of pots and pans really sizzled.

  • Cuisinart (10-piece, stainless steel): $219
  • Wolfgang Puck (20-piece, stainless steel): $240
  • Jamie Oliver from T-Fal (11-piece, non-stick, hard anodized aluminum): $749
  • Lagostina (10-piece set, stainless steel): $1,199

Boil Test

We set some water to boil in a similar pot from each of our test sets to see which boiled first:

  • Lagostina and Jamie Oliver boiled within seconds of each other.

  • Cuisinart and Wolfgang Puck boiled more than a minute later than the first two.

Everyday-Use Test

  • We liked using the Lagostina, but our main complaint was that they were pretty heavy.

  • The Cuisinart set also worked well.

  • The non-stick and well-shaped pans by Jamie Oliver they were solid, sturdy and had great handles. The glass lids, however, proved to be a little tougher to clean than metal ones.

   OUR TOP PICK

The Jamie Oliver pans (by T-Fal) had us sizzling overall. They felt really good in the hand, were well-made, and good sizes.

 

 

 

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