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Cooking Pots/Pans: What is the best value out there?
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Fooboy
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2005
 
2008-08-02, 12:50

I just had a realization that my wife and I (mostly my wife ) have been using really crappy pots and pans since we were married 4 years ago. On some of them ... flecks of the "non stick" finish has come off ... I hope I haven't been eating it.

Anyways ... I need some purchasing advice. I don't want crap, I'm willing to spend some money ... but I don't need the best there is.

What should I look for? What should I buy? Where should I buy it?

Help!

Also ... don't know if it matters but we currently have a flat-top radiant-heat range.

Last edited by Fooboy : 2008-08-02 at 13:02.
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Kickaha
Likes his boobies blue.
 
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Hell
 
2008-08-02, 12:53

Flat top heat, or flat top induction? If the latter, you're stuck with stainless steel pans. (I don't think copper even works, IIRC, certainly not aluminum.)

If the former, you may want to consider Calphalon - we have a set, and love the crap out of them. The anodized aluminum is almost, but not quite, non-stick, which means you get a lot of the easy clean up, but you can also correctly brown dishes, which is almost impossible with Teflon. They hold heat wonderfully, and the coating is rock hard. We have a middle-level line, can't recall the name. It's not the consumer line, it's not the full on professional kitchen line. (Pro 1?) I wanted glass lids, my wife talked me out of it, and she was right. The matching metal tops mean, among other things, you can put the pans with lids in the oven. She uses the largest chef's pan for baking peasant bread, and it's just amazing.

Both my and my wife's cooking improved a lot when we got these - they just make cooking easier.

My other brain is hung like a horse too.
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Fooboy
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2005
 
2008-08-02, 12:58

I think it is flat top heat. It's a piece of flat glass and it gets red underneath.
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Kickaha
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Join Date: May 2004
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2008-08-02, 12:59

Is it hot to the touch before you put a pan on it? If so, it's radiant heat, and an aluminum core pan such as Calphalon will work fine.

Some induction stoves have a red light to tell you it's on - otherwise, since it only heats up magnetic metals, you don't have any way of telling without a pot on it.

My other brain is hung like a horse too.
#IRC isn't old school.
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Fooboy
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2005
 
2008-08-02, 13:02

Definitely hot to the touch before any pots are on it. So it must be radiant. Thanks for the help - you've given me some thinking points already (glass tops, aluminum > teflon coating).
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Banana
is the next Chiquita
 
Join Date: Feb 2005
 
2008-08-02, 13:06

I bought a set of anodized aluminum pots & pats from Macy's two years ago... can't remember the brand, but found them to be crap just like the majority of most nonstick cookware.

The only one that's lasted well for 20 years was my cast iron skillet, which I inherited from my mom. It's not nonstick, but I've found it easier to clean because I can just throw anything at it and not worry about scratching it. I also understand it's basically impossible to get any mileage out of nonstick cookware because they will get scratched, even if you use the proper cleaning tools because it still picks up the food particle that can scratch and so forth.

I'm thinking that my next set will be cast iron...
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Bryson
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2008-08-02, 13:15

Le Creuset.

Yes, it's very, very expensive, but they are absolutely worth what you pay.

Actually, you don't need loads. I have a medium casserole, a small saucepan, a large frying pan and a grill pan. And that's all I need - I never use any of the others.

Recommended.
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Banana
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Join Date: Feb 2005
 
2008-08-02, 13:25

Ooo.... and it's cast iron to boot.

I thought cast iron were always that fugly black heavy pots? I hope enameling doesn't make it less useful than plain jane cast iron.

BTW, looks like it should work on induction.

Can someone explain why induction is picky? I saw Kick saying magnetized metal, but isn't that supposed to be true of copper and aluminum?
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colivigan
Veteran Member
 
Join Date: Nov 2005
 
2008-08-02, 13:26

I'm certainly no expert, but my wife and I have had a set of glass Visions cookware for years now. It has held up really well, amazingly we haven't broken any of it.

I like being able to see the stuff cooking through the sides, and you can pop the smaller ones in the microwave for a quick reheat.

Probably not as heat-efficient as metal, but it's worked for us.
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Kickaha
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Join Date: May 2004
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2008-08-02, 13:45

I like the Visions for casual cooking, but I found them to be really difficult to get a good browning of meat or a roux going in.

Banana, when I say 'non-stick', I don't mean with a coating like you're probably thinking. There are Calphalon (and other anodized aluminum lines) with Teflon coatings. They're rubbish. The anodized Al just sticks less than stainless steel. You still have to scrub it sometimes, but not *everything* sticks to it. We've had our pots for 7 years now, and we have one (the one we use daily) that is just now starting to look like it has gotten some wear and tear. I'm going to hit it with some enzyme cleaner and see if it's simply a microthin buildup, or if the coating is thinning. If the latter, we can send it in for re-coating.

But yeah, we have a few inherited cast-iron pieces, and they rock. If you can get them properly seasoned (or better - an old one with a nice solid coating), they're wonderful. Lodge now sells pre-seasoned ones, since so few people know how to do it properly any more. They're not perfect, but they get you going. The enameled Le Creuset roasting pan is my wife's favorite for whole chicken and pork shoulders. We even have a MASSIVE Mauviel copper pan that was a wedding gift that I think we've used once. We simply don't have a stovetop that can handle it.

My other brain is hung like a horse too.
#IRC isn't old school.
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Banana
is the next Chiquita
 
Join Date: Feb 2005
 
2008-08-02, 13:50

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kickaha View Post
Banana, when I say 'non-stick', I don't mean with a coating like you're probably thinking. There are Calphalon (and other anodized aluminum lines) with Teflon coatings. They're rubbish. The anodized Al just sticks less than stainless steel. You still have to scrub it sometimes, but not *everything* sticks to it. We've had our pots for 7 years now, and we have one (the one we use daily) that is just now starting to look like it has gotten some wear and tear. I'm going to hit it with some enzyme cleaner and see if it's simply a microthin buildup, or if the coating is thinning. If the latter, we can send it in for re-coating.
Hey! Now that explains it! I think that crap set I mentioned probably had Teflon coating, and I could have been confused thinking that anodized aluminum basically made Teflon non-peeling, but it did anyway and I was totally disappointed because I thought anodized aluminum was what I was after (e.g. nonstick cookware that isn't coated at all)

Yes, I was thinking about Lodge ones; though I wasn't aware that one had to "season" cast iron? What's there to be seasoned? Wiki just told me why. Apparently, this is another benefit of inheriting the pan from my mom; she did all seasoning for me.

Should look into this further...

Last edited by Banana : 2008-08-02 at 14:04.
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turbulentfurball
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2008-08-02, 13:58

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bryson View Post
Le Creuset.

Yes, it's very, very expensive, but they are absolutely worth what you pay.

Actually, you don't need loads. I have a medium casserole, a small saucepan, a large frying pan and a grill pan. And that's all I need - I never use any of the others.

Recommended.
Seconded. They'll do some serious muscle building for you too since they're so heavy (being cast iron and all).

I sell such things for a living, actually (until next week when it'll be perfume and cosmetics)
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ezkcdude
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Join Date: Jan 2005
 
2008-08-02, 14:37

I've had Farberware 18/10 for years. My favorite pan is actually a Cuisinart 12 1/2" stir-fry pan. It was pretty cheap. Le Creuset are great for many things, but not everything. And they are certainly not cheap. BTW, for like $20 at Macy's you can usually find a great cast iron griddle/grill (2-burner size). I got one on sale for $10 and use it all the time for cooking pancakes on the griddle side and grilling chicken on the other side. Best part...I never have to clean it. Lodge also makes these and 12" skillets that are under $20 at Target. I would never spend more than that on a cast iron frying pan.

My dream is a set of All-Clad Copper-Core
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Windswept
On Pacific time
 
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Moderator's Pub
 
2008-08-02, 14:56

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fooboy View Post
I just had a realization that my wife and I (mostly my wife ) have been using really crappy pots and pans since we were married 4 years ago. On some of them ... flecks of the "non stick" finish has come off ... I hope I haven't been eating it.

Anyways ... I need some purchasing advice. I don't want crap, I'm willing to spend some money ... but I don't need the best there is.

What should I look for? What should I buy? Where should I buy it?

Help!

Also ... don't know if it matters but we currently have a flat-top radiant-heat range.
Go to Costco and see what they have. The last time I checked, they had an unfamiliar-brand set for $99, a Kirkland set for around $150, and another Kirkland set for $199.

Years ago, I bought the Kirkland set that was $138 at the time, with glass lids. Even though I have a fairly large collection of LeCreuset, I use the Kirkland set the most, by far. Just so easy to clean compared to dealing with the LeCreuset stuff. The Kirkland set I have doesn't have a 'coating'; rather, the material is through and through.

Also, I have trouble with the LeCreuset skillets sticking. What a pain. So, to me, they're expensive, weigh a ton, and stick. However, as I said, I have a big set of LeC, and intend to use them more than I do now.

And yeah, sorry, but you've been eating those teflon flecks all this time. Eek!
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Kickaha
Likes his boobies blue.
 
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Hell
 
2008-08-02, 15:02

Quote:
Originally Posted by Banana View Post
Hey! Now that explains it! I think that crap set I mentioned probably had Teflon coating, and I could have been confused thinking that anodized aluminum basically made Teflon non-peeling, but it did anyway and I was totally disappointed because I thought anodized aluminum was what I was after (e.g. nonstick cookware that isn't coated at all)
Naw, it's just that anodized Al is tough stuff, but less chemically reactive than stainless steel (ie, crap sticks less). It's also not reactive to acids like raw Al, so you don't get that metallic taste in your food. I have seen Teflon coated anodized Al, but it's worthless, IMO. Stainless (or cast iron) has better heat distribution, but food sticks in a heartbeat requiring more fat/oil; copper has *great* distribution (but is a bitch to keep clean); Teflon wears away with even casual use; borosilicate glass has iffy heat distribution and retention, but looks great.

I completely recommend a range of types of pans for different needs - we just like the Calphalon for everyday cooking.

My other brain is hung like a horse too.
#IRC isn't old school.
Old school is being able to say 'finger me' with a straight face.
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Windswept
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Join Date: May 2004
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2008-08-02, 15:15

If I remember correctly, the most expensive Costco pan set is heavy stainless steel. I'd love to buy the set and see what it's like to cook with stainless that heavy, as opposed to 'normal-weight' stainless pots and pans. I'll bet there's a big difference. Wonder if skillets made with that heavy stainless steel still 'stick', or not.
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Banana
is the next Chiquita
 
Join Date: Feb 2005
 
2008-08-02, 15:19

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kickaha View Post
Naw, it's just that anodized Al is tough stuff, but less chemically reactive than stainless steel (ie, crap sticks less). It's also not reactive to acids like raw Al, so you don't get that metallic taste in your food. I have seen Teflon coated anodized Al, but it's worthless, IMO. Stainless (or cast iron) has better heat distribution, but food sticks in a heartbeat requiring more fat/oil
Right. It's kind of ironic that when I was looking for a "built-in" nonstick instead of just coated nonstick, I thought that anodized aluminum was the answer, having bonded the Teflon, but the real answer was a properly seasoned cast iron skillet. Indeed, of all pot & pans I've had, I've always found my cast iron skillet to be the easiest to clean. Even if there's stuck-on food, I just scrape it without worrying about scratching the skillet, and apparently it works because when it's cooking with oils, it repairs itself. Now try to get Teflon to do that!

Quote:
I completely recommend a range of types of pans for different needs - we just like the Calphalon for everyday cooking.
I have to agree that you're right. However, I hate the idea of having a closet full of various pots & pans falling out and killing me. If there were such a set that represented the minimum numbers of pots/pans and the materials they use while providing the most range of utility, I'm all ears.
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Kickaha
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Join Date: May 2004
Location: Hell
 
2008-08-02, 15:33

Quote:
Originally Posted by Banana View Post
Right. It's kind of ironic that when I was looking for a "built-in" nonstick instead of just coated nonstick, I thought that anodized aluminum was the answer, having bonded the Teflon, but the real answer was a properly seasoned cast iron skillet. Indeed, of all pot & pans I've had, I've always found my cast iron skillet to be the easiest to clean. Even if there's stuck-on food, I just scrape it without worrying about scratching the skillet, and apparently it works because when it's cooking with oils, it repairs itself. Now try to get Teflon to do that!
Oh hells yeah, properly seasoned cast iron is fantastic, but there are some places it just doesn't work well. Like boiling pasta, or making soup. For situations where you need oil, intense heat, and even distribution of said heat, it can't be beat.

Quote:
I have to agree that you're right. However, I hate the idea of having a closet full of various pots & pans falling out and killing me. If there were such a set that represented the minimum numbers of pots/pans and the materials they use while providing the most range of utility, I'm all ears.
Cast iron griddle, enameled cast iron roasting pan with lid, anodAl sauce pans, copper or stainless for a big assed soup pot where the risk of burning or sticking is about nil.

Lean towards heavy and iron when needing intense heat (browning meats, searing, charring) or even heat (slow roasting), inexpensive stainless for boiling (good heat dist, almost no chance of sticking in those situations), and anodAl for everyday 'stuff' that's going to get knocked around a lot, is our philosophy.

My other brain is hung like a horse too.
#IRC isn't old school.
Old school is being able to say 'finger me' with a straight face.
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Fooboy
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2005
 
2008-08-02, 15:36

I'm getting more confused.

So would a good set of anodized aluminum work best for all around? ... without any coatings?
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Kickaha
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Join Date: May 2004
Location: Hell
 
2008-08-02, 15:37

Quote:
Originally Posted by Windswept View Post
If I remember correctly, the most expensive Costco pan set is heavy stainless steel. I'd love to buy the set and see what it's like to cook with stainless that heavy, as opposed to 'normal-weight' stainless pots and pans. I'll bet there's a big difference. Wonder if skillets made with that heavy stainless steel still 'stick', or not.
They do. It has to do with the material's molecular arrangement. Stainless is very 'rough' at that level, and offers all sorts of places for complex molecules to bond, ie, stick. It also is fairly reactive at cooking temps, so you end up with food actually bonding to the metal. The heavier the pan, the better the heat retention and distribution, but it doesn't alter the stickiness of the surface.

Now, that being said, you will sometimes have less sticking occur with a thicker pan simply because the chemical actions of browning meat, for instance, have a chance to happen more rapidly in a pan with better heat capacity. The meat doesn't cool the pan as fast, so it hits, sears, and then releases, all fairly quickly. But, this will happen with a thicker pan of any decent material, so a thick anodAl pan will still stick less than a thick stainless pan.

My other brain is hung like a horse too.
#IRC isn't old school.
Old school is being able to say 'finger me' with a straight face.
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Kickaha
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Join Date: May 2004
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2008-08-02, 15:39

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fooboy View Post
I'm getting more confused.

So would a good set of anodized aluminum work best for all around? ... without any coatings?
That's what we use. The only thing you have to look out for is jabbing it with a fork or knife. At operating temps, the coating can get a little brittle, and a sharp stab can cause damage. But, I can scrape the hell out of it with a spatula, and never hurt it. In fact, you'll end up with bright shiny streaks on the pan that look like scratches... but they're the metal from the *utensil* being left behind, and will wash off. Hard stuff.

But definitely look into alternates for more specialized cooking. Cast iron is great, Le Crueset is fabulous, etc, etc. Think of them as tools - the right tool for the right job.

My other brain is hung like a horse too.
#IRC isn't old school.
Old school is being able to say 'finger me' with a straight face.
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ezkcdude
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Join Date: Jan 2005
 
2008-08-02, 15:46

If you've got problems with sticking, let me share something with you. It's not the pan! It's your cooking technique. I never use that nonstick crap.
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judeobscure
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Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: Western MA
 
2008-08-02, 15:53

TJJ Maxx is good for most of the major cookware brands at much lower prices than the department stores. If you time it right you can even get seconds on the Le Crueset.
Target has their own brand of enameled cast iron cookware.
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Kickaha
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2008-08-02, 15:54

Agreed ezkcdude - the problem comes when you want to limit your fat intake, such as cooking eggs in cast iron or stainless steel. It can be done, but it requires a ton of butter to really do well without burning the eggs to the pan. With Teflon, you can do it with little to no fat, which is great for folks looking to reduce that in their diet... but then your pan is pretty weak for most other uses.

I have to admit, we have one small 6" Teflon coated pan that I use exclusively for cooking fried or scrambled eggs. I just don't use it for anything else. Hell, it doesn't even make a decent grilled cheese sandwich - the bread never toasts correctly.

My other brain is hung like a horse too.
#IRC isn't old school.
Old school is being able to say 'finger me' with a straight face.
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Windswept
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2008-08-02, 15:56

Quote:
Originally Posted by ezkcdude View Post
If you've got problems with sticking, let me share something with you. It's not the pan! It's your cooking technique. I never use that nonstick crap.
So, you can fry an egg on a stainless steel skillet and have it *not* stick?

If so, what are your 'techniques'?
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Banana
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Join Date: Feb 2005
 
2008-08-02, 16:00

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kickaha View Post
Oh hells yeah, properly seasoned cast iron is fantastic, but there are some places it just doesn't work well. Like boiling pasta, or making soup. For situations where you need oil, intense heat, and even distribution of said heat, it can't be beat.
Quite agree. In case of pasta and soup, I end using another pot handed from my mom as well. The funny (!) thing is that I totally have no idea what it is. It's thick, heavy, and is dull metallic color which is definitely much more darker inside than outside and darker on bottom than the top. It's not nonstick but very easy to clean as well and can be scraped without ruining it. I doubt it's anodized Al because it's too old (I am thinking 20-30 years old). It was made by LeWinter's Appliance Co, which I think is since defunct. Whatever it's made of, it was made very well and serves me well for those cases.



Quote:
Cast iron griddle, enameled cast iron roasting pan with lid, anodAl sauce pans, copper or stainless for a big assed soup pot where the risk of burning or sticking is about nil.

Lean towards heavy and iron when needing intense heat (browning meats, searing, charring) or even heat (slow roasting), inexpensive stainless for boiling (good heat dist, almost no chance of sticking in those situations), and anodAl for everyday 'stuff' that's going to get knocked around a lot, is our philosophy.
Makes sense. I'd just drop the big assed soup only because I already have a slow crocker pot, and I suspect that if I didn't want slow cooker, I can just use beforementioned pan in a pinch, so that just leaves me needing a enameled cast iron roasting pan (why enameled, and not plain jane cast iron, I wonder?) and a good anodAl saucepan for smaller amounts of food.
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Kickaha
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2008-08-02, 16:10

Quote:
Originally Posted by Banana View Post
so that just leaves me needing a enameled cast iron roasting pan (why enameled, and not plain jane cast iron, I wonder?)
Because I can wait for it to cool, put some water in it, let it sit for an hour, and then basically wipe it clean. The enamel lets go of roasted meat juice/bits easily with a bit of water. Can't do that as easily with cast iron.

My other brain is hung like a horse too.
#IRC isn't old school.
Old school is being able to say 'finger me' with a straight face.
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tomoe
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2008-08-02, 16:27

For enameled cast iron roasting pans (e.g. Dutch ovens), there's a Mario Batali 6 qt. that's a good value (I got mine on sale for $70 from Amazon) and comparable quality to the Le Creuset--with the added benefit of basting spikes, which are useful when braising.

A well seasoned cast iron skillet will work just as well as a teflon coated non-stick pan, and often costs much less (at least in my hands).

Though, I'll have to second Kickaha's recommendation for Calphalon. I've got a 1.5qt sauce pan, 5 qt stockpot, and 3 qt deep skillet w/ lid and they're all great (for the price point).

Seen a man standin' over a dead dog lyin' by the highway in a ditch
He's lookin' down kinda puzzled pokin' that dog with a stick
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ezkcdude
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2008-08-02, 16:58

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kickaha View Post
Agreed ezkcdude - the problem comes when you want to limit your fat intake, such as cooking eggs in cast iron or stainless steel. It can be done, but it requires a ton of butter to really do well without burning the eggs to the pan. With Teflon, you can do it with little to no fat, which is great for folks looking to reduce that in their diet... but then your pan is pretty weak for most other uses.

I have to admit, we have one small 6" Teflon coated pan that I use exclusively for cooking fried or scrambled eggs. I just don't use it for anything else. Hell, it doesn't even make a decent grilled cheese sandwich - the bread never toasts correctly.
That's pretty funny. I mean you're right (single use non-stick pan makes sense)...but I actually stopped eating eggs altogether about 15 years ago as part of a diet. Worrying about the amount of butter for cooking fried eggs is kind of like ordering a diet coke with a cheeseburger.

Can't you use some non-stick spray in this case? Or probably what I would do is aerosilize some olive oil. If that doesn't work, I'd cut in half butter/half olive oil. I actually do that sometimes when I make curries. Or you could just go whole hog like this blogger and fry the whole darn egg in EVOO (well, he actually uses non-stick, too).
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Yonzie
Mac Mini Maniac
 
Join Date: Sep 2005
 
2008-08-02, 17:39

I really like my Tefal "Jamie Oliver Professional Series" pans. They are just really well thought out. The grip is nice, the edge is rounded for no-drip pouring, it has the Tefal Spot to see when it's hot, the bottom is thick to ensure reasonably even heat distribution, it's Stainless Steel (heavy), and the non-stick coating is somehow more tough than our previous pans (various kinds).
And they play nice with our Induction stove, which I love to death

Converted 07/2005.
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