I promised a post on pots-pans after being asked some questions on what are the best for a home kitchen. True buying any pot depends first on your heat supply, budget, and storage space. So, let’s start with what do you cook most often, and a basic lesson on the absorption of visible light, or does it matter? Yes, the closer the “color” to white, the more light energy reflected, hence undesirable for cooking surfaces. The darker the color closer to black, the more energy is absorbed.
My favourite cooking skillet/pan for cooking, and or spooning food is cast iron; https://mesubim.com/2017/04/20/tako-octopus-japan/ and I remember one time the head chef of Robuchon was visiting, he spooned the chicken using butter, garlic and rosemary on the stove top, and it wasn’t the first time I saw a chef using this technique.
I also enjoy using cast iron because it is 100% oven proof and these types of cast iron can handle almost all meat chores. The stewing of meat in a cast iron pan works perfectly: https://mesubim.com/2013/01/12/stew-it-tokyo/ and after all it is all a matter of science and how light works. Just pay attention to cleaning them well after use, light scrubbing, and oiling them to prevent rusting. Use a Japanese tawashi made from hemp palm, the most practical to clean pots and pans without destroying their surface. It may take some light detergent, but cast iron are easy to maintain.
Then we have stainless steel, a surface I cannot see why chefs uses them, but they are the most popular, heavy-duty, indestructible, and do not affect taste as they are sterilized to prevent bacterial contamination of the food.
Many stainless pots are inferior conductors and flail on any magnetic induction fields, and other are super, so finding the right mix works better, hence ferritic stainless. It cannot be strengthened by cold work to the same degree as austenitic stainless steels but they are magnetic like carbon steel.
Too often stainless steel poses issues because it can be made with a great variety of metals; a high nickel content will block the magnetic field. Aluminum and copper, will not work unless they have a layer on the bottom with magnetic properties. Many manufacturers add a magnetic layer to the bottom of pans to help them conduct. Bottom line, stainless steel is a not always a great conductor when it comes to induction, and for those who dislike sticky pans, they are a nightmare and have no place in my kitchen. Nevertheless, I do own a few to simmer over low fire can be practical.
After six years of testing aluminum pans they are not as scary as some think: https://mesubim.com/2013/12/07/neoflam-ceramic-pans/and while I understand the issues of soft metals and case studies showing a correlation between Alzheimer’s Disease and or cancer, I am not 100% convinced.
Aluminum is the number 13 on the periodic table, a mineral, the most abundant found in earth’s crust. It is found in your cooking pots to your baking powder, antiperspirants, food stabilizers, (sea urchin) and the municipal water supply. The long and short is, aluminum has its place in cooking and it boils down to quality of any utensils, be it aluminum or stainless, and how you use them. The longer food is cooked in an aluminum pot, the possibility of more is the leaching is apparent. The same with acidic of foods, more acidic is the food vinegar, tomato, it can happen more aluminum is leached. Nonetheless, Aluminum is a heavy metal that accumulates in the body and can cause toxicity.
Poly-tetra-fluoro-ethylene, referred to as PTFE started to be used as “The Happy Pan” in 1961. The non-stick coating, was magical and changed cooking forever. So, it makes good sense to use pans which are Teflon coated, it isn’t cheating, they are practical and non-stick surfaces are great for lots of reasons, just too many to describe.
Then there are coppers, and the idea of copper is basically all about conductivity and heat retention. I wouldn’t normally buy copper, a nightmare to wash and keep shiny. If you need conductivity use cast iron, it can do the job, and if it means warming a sauce, copper is marvellous. Buy some small coppers they look nice and are not prohibitively expensive. At the same time, you can buy copper with aluminum core and stainless-steel, a good combination.
Choosing the right skillet is dependant on technique, personal choice and budget. I recommend buying some small coppers for sauces, or slow simmering, and at least two sizes of cast iron, and Teflon as my first choice for multi purpose. But make sure whatever you but fits your food ideology as it is trial and error. Hopefully in the future we will have our own line, Marrone + Mesubim, and if you search the internet, you can find lots of options. Personal style preferences are what most people consider: https://mesubim.com/2013/12/07/neoflam-ceramic-pans/