Buying a new frying pan - advice requested

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Cyllya
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Buying a new frying pan - advice requested

Postby Cyllya » Sat Jul 17, 2010 2:45 pm

I wanted a big non-stick skillet or saute pan because I had trouble fitting four servings worth of an entree into our medium one. When I got to the store, I wasn't sure which one I should buy, but I decided on the cheapest one since they all advertised the same features. It was Mainstays (is that a Walmart brand?), and it was terrible. I followed the instructions, but it didn't heat evenly. The food near the edge of the pan didn't get cooked, and there's a big burnt spot in the middle. (It's not even food burnt on, as far as I can tell. The pan itself is burnt.) It was rendered pretty much useless. :?

And on an unrelated event, our medium frying pan needs replaced. :(

Anyone have advice on what brand of pan to buy, or advice on how to keep a big pan from heating unevenly? (I have a gas stove if it matters.) I want it to be cheap since I'm unemployed right now, but I want it to last too. Should I sacrifice non-stick and just use cooking spray?

Thanks, guys.

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Jethro
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Re: Buying a new frying pan - advice requested

Postby Jethro » Sun Jul 18, 2010 12:59 pm

I have had several brands of non-stick hard anodized aluminum pans, and have found both Cuisinart and Emirilware to be good quality without breaking the bank. Both heat evenly and the nonstick surface has been fairly durable -- they heat almost as evenly as my high-dollar All-Clad stainless pans (the Emerilware is actually made by All-Clad).

I found the Emerilware pan at this website:
http://www.cookware.com/Emerilware-by-A ... C1090.html

Consumer Reports also rates Emerilware very highly.
If life gives you tomatoes, make pico de gallo.

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Re: Buying a new frying pan - advice requested

Postby DoingHomework » Sun Jul 18, 2010 3:10 pm

It's not about brand. It's about physics. A heavy bottom pan will distribute heat better and eliminate the hot spots causing things to burn on. Obviously heavy might also be less convenient and harder to cook with since it takes more work to lift it, shake it, etc. That's a tradeoff you will have to make. Aluminum is fine IF it is very thick to avoid hot print through spots.

And, it sounds like from your comments you are cooking on an electric stove. Electric stoves are notorious for being horrible to cook on because the heat can't be controlled very well. You probably don't want to buy a new gas stove so you will probably need to be prepared to learn to use your new pan by not just leaving it sit on the burner. Learn to pay attention to what is happening in the pan and lift it away from the burner to control the heat.

I personally use a couple of cheap Mainstays pans over a gas stove with excellent results.

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Re: Buying a new frying pan - advice requested

Postby kaitlyn142 » Mon Jul 19, 2010 7:02 am

I am in love with my calphalon pan. I got it at a 50% off sale. TJ Maxx will occasionally have them for very cheap.

Another thought is a cast iron pan. A good one that is well seasoned will last roughly forever.

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Re: Buying a new frying pan - advice requested

Postby DoingHomework » Mon Jul 19, 2010 7:21 am

As Kaitlyn said, cast iron is clearly the best type of skillet.

There is little debate among serious chefs that cast iron makes the best cooking surface for most tasks. This is because it is thick and heavy. When used properly it is almost nonstick.

The problem is that the rest of us don't want to clean cast iron and usually don't use it properly.

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Re: Buying a new frying pan - advice requested

Postby Jethro » Mon Jul 19, 2010 9:11 am

DoingHomework wrote:As Kaitlyn said, cast iron is clearly the best type of skillet.

There is little debate among serious chefs that cast iron makes the best cooking surface for most tasks. This is because it is thick and heavy. When used properly it is almost nonstick.

The problem is that the rest of us don't want to clean cast iron and usually don't use it properly.
When it comes to even heating, I will agree that cast iron is second to none, but I'm not sure that all chefs would consider it the ideal cooking surface -- most chefs prefer something that gets hot fast and can cool down fast if they remove it from the heat. What they want is control.

I used to use cast iron exclusively until I got into more 'gourmet' style cooking that involved saute-ing, de-glazing, and reducing sauces. The cast iron simply took too long to heat up, and once hot, I didn't have the kind of instant temperature control that I wanted -- once you get cast iron hot, it stays hot. The advantages that copper, aluminum, or stainless clad (or tri-ply) pans have is that they are more responsive to temperature changes -- you can reduce heat or lift the pan off the burner to adjust temp, or turn the burner back up and get instant results.

Cast iron does have its place, but for most of my cooking needs, I'll stick with thick aluminum or stainless 'clad' pans. But I'd take cast iron over a pan with a thick disc in the bottom and then thin sides -- I hate those types of pans.
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Re: Buying a new frying pan - advice requested

Postby stannius » Mon Jul 19, 2010 9:17 am

DoingHomework wrote:The problem is that the rest of us don't want to clean cast iron and usually don't use it properly.


Once it's properly seasoned, cleaning it becomes pretty easy.

That said, I have a Calphalon pan I got at Marshalls which I use for most of my cooking. (Marhalls is similar to TJ Maxx; in fact I just learned they're owned by the same parent company. My wife loves Marshalls and TJ Maxx and even made me to to TK Maxx when we were in the UK.)

I only use my cast iron frying pan for, well, frying. I have read that it's not good to heat up non-stick pans to a very hot degree - it can cause the non-stick surface to deteriorate, both shortening the life of the pan and leaching chemicals and whatnot into the food. (I read this in Consumer Reports, so it's not a random internet rumor; at the same time I take all such statements with a grain of salt.)

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Re: Buying a new frying pan - advice requested

Postby kaitlyn142 » Mon Jul 19, 2010 9:53 am

stannius wrote:I only use my cast iron frying pan for, well, frying. I have read that it's not good to heat up non-stick pans to a very hot degree - it can cause the non-stick surface to deteriorate, both shortening the life of the pan and leaching chemicals and whatnot into the food. (I read this in Consumer Reports, so it's not a random internet rumor; at the same time I take all such statements with a grain of salt.)



This is true of Teflon-coated (PTFE - polytetrafluoroethylene) pans. At high temps, it breaks down and releases fluorocarbons (I'm pretty sure PFIB), which are very hazardous to your health. This is why I really would never recommend a cheap non-stick pan. More expensive non-stick pans are anodized aluminum, not PTFE-coated.

If you do have a coated pan and notice the coating starting to flake off, trash it. The actual coating is safe enough, but it means that the coating is breaking down, releasing the hazardous fluorocarbons.

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Re: Buying a new frying pan - advice requested

Postby tazdollars » Mon Jul 19, 2010 10:12 am

kaitlyn142 wrote:This is true of Teflon-coated (PTFE - polytetrafluoroethylene) pans. At high temps, it breaks down and releases fluorocarbons (I'm pretty sure PFIB), which are very hazardous to your health. This is why I really would never recommend a cheap non-stick pan. More expensive non-stick pans are anodized aluminum, not PTFE-coated.

If you do have a coated pan and notice the coating starting to flake off, trash it. The actual coating is safe enough, but it means that the coating is breaking down, releasing the hazardous fluorocarbons.


If you're eating microwave popcorn, you're getting consuming enough PVDF (which is the stuff that the teflon releases in pans) that the pan isn't adding significantly to your exposure. Actually, studies have shown the pan doesn't release anything unless you actually cut in to the surface with a knife of the sharp edge of a spatula.

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Re: Buying a new frying pan - advice requested

Postby kaitlyn142 » Mon Jul 19, 2010 10:33 am

tazdollars wrote:If you're eating microwave popcorn, you're getting consuming enough PVDF (which is the stuff that the teflon releases in pans) that the pan isn't adding significantly to your exposure. Actually, studies have shown the pan doesn't release anything unless you actually cut in to the surface with a knife of the sharp edge of a spatula.


My Google-fu is failing me trying to find PTFE breaking down into PVDF. I only found PFOA is used to make PTFE and PVDF.

I didn't know that about microwave popcorn, although I don't eat it. That stuff is all sorts of bad for you. I try to limit my intake of chemicals through food. I get enough of it at work (when I worked, sigh).

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Re: Buying a new frying pan - advice requested

Postby mskalinin » Mon Jul 19, 2010 12:42 pm

I have three very respectable brands of cookware that I can comment on: Cuisinart, Emerilware and Martha Stewart. Of the three, I like my Cuisinart pans the best, and think the Martha Stewart pans are of the lesser quality (though still better than walmart brands).

The cuisinart stainless steel pans and pots I use are excellent with heat distribution. The non-stick line will cook anything you need without sticking as long as you don't flash heat it (ie: put it food in at HIGH temps).

The Emerilware is also very good, and has a copper core, but they're a bit heavy and don't send the heat as well as my cuisinarts do. The Martha Stewart pan cooks very well but seems to get pitted more easily than the other two (for stainless) so requires more care. Also, it seems a bit thinner and doesn't perform as well on gas stoves in my opinion, or in the oven.

I have a Copco cast iron enameled pan and pot set that I swear by when I am not trying to stir fry. Anything that I want to bring to a slow but high heat and not lose the coating on (like salmon and breaded chicken) goes in my Copco! I out the food in and let it heat up with the pan, no oil but maybe some butter!

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Re: Buying a new frying pan - advice requested

Postby DoingHomework » Tue Jul 20, 2010 7:43 am

Jethro wrote:When it comes to even heating, I will agree that cast iron is second to none, but I'm not sure that all chefs would consider it the ideal cooking surface -- most chefs prefer something that gets hot fast and can cool down fast if they remove it from the heat. What they want is control.


True. And personally I threw out my cast iron stuff years ago because I did not like the heavy weight. But much of the control you mention comes from having a good flame - gas, HOT when you want it to be and low immediately when you turn it down.

I wouldn't call myself a gourmet, but I have learned to cook simple, healthy food of at least the quality you get in a restaurant - not talking the chains or greasy spoons here - and I have never had trouble getting any pot or pan to work great for me if I have a good gas flame. But our other house has an electric stove and I despise it, to the point that I only boil water on it (seriously). All my cooking is done over the gas flame of the auxilary burner on the grill. To me, using an electric stove is like driving a Volkswagon in a drag race - you might get to the finish but you just don't have the equipement to impress anyone!

The point is, I really believe the skills of the cook are far more important that the pots and pans you use!

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Re: Buying a new frying pan - advice requested

Postby Jethro » Tue Jul 20, 2010 8:06 am

Here's a great read about different cookware construction materials from another forum:

http://www.discusscooking.com/forums/f8 ... post275909
If life gives you tomatoes, make pico de gallo.

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Re: Buying a new frying pan - advice requested

Postby Malisa » Thu Jul 22, 2010 1:43 pm

Thanks for this. We've bought 'better' non-stick pans in the past (Henkels? It was one of the knife companies.) They didn't last. Probably mostly due to DH using inappropriate tools. We decided to replace with relatively inexpensive ones from Bed, Bath and Beyond (Tramontina 'restaurant' pans). We figured if we got a few years out of them, okay.

I've been looking to replace them (it's been about 2.5 years) as the non-stick isn't in tact, but more importantly the bottoms are no longer flat. Unfortunately, we've got an electric , glass-topped stove. The pans bow down in the center so the center burns and the edges don't cook well. Don't even get me started on what it's like to fry an egg or make pancakes.

I checked at BBB and they still carry them AND they have a lifetime warranty, which I paid no attention to or forgot if I knew it before. I tried to contact the company to get info on what/how etc. but haven't gotten a response.

So yes, I liked them for a while, but no, I wouldn't recommend them. I am thinking I'll give up (probably need a receipt from years ago etc.). I'll probably replace them with something better. Our other pots and pans are All-Clad but knowing DH's propensity for grabbing whatever is nearby, I couldn't see paying those prices for non-stick. I'll look into the Emerilware and Cuisinart. Thanks.

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Re: Buying a new frying pan - advice requested

Postby Blueberry Scone » Mon Jul 26, 2010 12:20 pm

This advice is great! DH and I need to replace our pans, as some of them are literally falling apart (we have a wobbly handle on one that won't stay tight; the lid for another one is broken, etc.).


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