About Pans: Part II–Cast Iron, Enamel Coated, and Copper

Iron Pan Thumbnail 100x100 GelNext it is time to move on to the next family of pans, the iron and we will hit copper for good measure.  It is important to know that conductivity plays a large part in what pot is good for what cooking task.  We will cover that in detail on day three and break it out in the chart.

Leading off the charge today is something you will find hiding in your parents arsenal of tools.  The cast iron skillet is a classic that has stood the test of time, and for good reason, it works.  There is no better tool for getting a good dark sear on protein.  A very versatile tool, the pan, when properly seasoned, has properties of a non-stick.

Not a great pan for making sauces in, it has to market cornered on bringing color to your food, and there is no other tool if you like a Pittsburgh style steak.  Care of the iron pan is a little specific, you don’t want to use abrasives, and you want to be sure not to use any harsh detergents, as it will make the pan lose its seasoning.

Okay, timeout.  You can look up seasoning in my glossary, but you need to know what it is.  It essentially is breaking in pan with oils to seal the surface, this is what makes it non-stick-ish.  If you bought the pan recently, chances are it came pre-seasoned.  If not, you need to do this periodically.  Look for an article on that.

The advantages of cast iron is its ability to distribute heat uniformly over its whole surface.  It also holds heat very well, so it does not react instantly when you turn down a flame.  Make sure you never pour cold water on cast iron, unless you are trying to crack it!  Treated well, these pans will last a lifetime.

The enamel coated cast iron pan is pretty much what it says.  The iron makes the pan very easy to cook with, as it has great conductivity.  The enamel coating makes the pan non-stick as well.  Best used in larger, Dutch oven capacities, these offer great vessels for stewing or braising.

All of that comes at a cost though.  On average these pans tend to be the most expensive, but also, with the right care, they can last a very long time.  LeCreuset  is one of the best made and well known brands of these pans, and has turned into my favorite piece.

Care of these pans is a little tricky, one has to be careful of the coating, it can damage easily.  It can also stain at times, but with proper cleaners that is no matter.  Be sure not to use metal utensils with these pans, the will scratch them.  Also I have found the best way to clean up, after it has been used, is to put it with some water on the stove and boil it for about 5 minutes.  This loosens whatever was on there, right up, and believe me, when you make a risotto, you will use this trick!

Copper comes in a few forms.  Most of you will remember the Revelware with the stainless pots with the copper bottoms.  Well the thought was good, but the problem was that copper can be very conductive, and heats rapidly, which limits what is good for.  For instance, I would not want to cook a cream sauce or soup in one of the pans as it will be prone to scalding.

A true copper pan, one lined with Aluminum, which is common these days, are a nice combination of even cooking temperatures.  The pans are best used for sauces, and usually you will find them as a Sautuese. Older versions were made with Tin, and I would avoid those since Tin has fallen out of favor as a cooking tool.  Stainless pans with copper coating is also a great combination.

Cleaning the inside is pretty easy, and straight forward, it’s the outside that takes some work.  You can use a commercial product, but I have found a paste of lemon juice and baking soda to be just as effective, and cheap.

So now you know the basic types.  Stay tuned for the next installment when we can compare and contrast these different types.

About Pans: Part I–Aluminum, Anodized, And Coated

About Pans: Part III-It All Pans Out

Keep on Cookin!

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