08 May2007

This is reprint of an earlier post from April 2005. Many readers have asked about pans so I thought it would be good to put this up again. This post was heavily quoted (with permission) in a recent article by the Anchorage Daily News pertaining to pots and pans…

A recent reader looking to replace beaten up old teflon pans emailed me asking what kinds of pans I might suggest. Instead of going into a lengthy treatise on pans, I will share with you instead the pans that are actually in one of my kitchens. pan1I have not done any extensive research, but over time I have been very happy with the following choices in each of four categories: stainless steel, cast iron, enameled iron and copper. By the way, if your teflon pans have scratches and are starting to peel, change them immediately. You could be eating some pretty nasty material from the coating of your pans… First up, stainless steel. I have several pans (the back two in this picture) from Sitram’s catering line which is a sub-line of their classic commercial line. No nonsense, heavy gauge 18/10 stainless steel with straight sides and sturdy handles welded to the pan. This is my favorite line of pans. The base of the pots have a 2 mm copper plate sandwiched between the stainless exterior and interior of the pan. The copper plate helps to ensure the fastest and most even distribution of heat. Useful on a rangetop, it can be put in an oven as well. These also have a very nice weight and balance to them. Price ranges from $50-250+ depending on the size of the pot or pan. Sitrams are made in France. A second brand of pans I have are All-Clad (the front two pans in the photo) which I also like but sometimes find they are less balanced than the Sitrams. All-clads have an aluminium plate in the base as opposed to copper. These are more readily available in cooking stores throughout the U.S.

My second must have group of pans are good old-fashioned cast iron. Great for everything from pan-frying meat, hash-browned potatoes, to hitting a burglar over the head, these pans last a lifetime and serve you brilliantly. pan2Literally made of cast iron, they are wickedly heavy and if you drop one on your foot you could easily sever some toes. By the way, did you know that if you cut off your ten toes you would have a really HARD time balancing and standing up? But I digress… These pans require care. They have to be “seasoned” which means you coat them with oil and heat them up in a hot oven until they start to have a skin or sheen of their own. When washing, be careful not to scrub off your sheen. The pans in this photo are virtual babies, having been used less than 20 times and are barely developing their sheen. Because they are pure iron, they react with acidic ingredients so it’s best not to cook with tomatoes, vinegar, lemon, wine, etc. in these pans. But they are brilliant for burgers, deep frying, steaks, etc. These pans are AMAZINGLY cheap and very durable – they should last a lifetime. I found some (Lodge brand) at the Gourdos store in Fort Bonifacio a year ago and bought almost a dozen. I like to give them to newly wed couples along with other pots and pans as I know they will be used and most likely outlast most marriages. Furthermore, they are the perfect pans when you have staff because they are nearly indestructible. Be good to your cast iron and it will be good to you. Too much scraping and you will get more than your daily recommended dosage of iron minerals together with your food.

My third group of pans are enameled pots and pans. These are essentially iron bases that have baked on smooth enamel on the exterior surfaces. pan3The most well known brand and the one I like is Le Crueset but there are others such as Emile Henri, etc. I have loads of this line. They are heavy and great for stews, casseroles, soups, etc. They are great on a stovetop and you can put them in an oven too. They come in great colors for all those chi-chi people that must match their cookware to the color of their kitchen paint… I have white and blue ones. The one maintenance issue with these is that the enamel can scratch so you must use only rubber, wood or plastic utensils when cooking with these pots. They are available from Bacchus shops at the Shangrila hotels. I brought most of mine in from the States and France. I even have one casserole large enough to bathe a small baby in… One note on these pans, they can crack if dropped on the floor. And if the enamel or iron beneath it cracks, deadums.

Finally, there is copper. Many serious cooks have a love/hate relationship with copper pots and pans. pan4While they are ancient and conduct heat well, they are a pain in the ass to keep clean and sometimes the copper/tin coatings can wear off if improperly used or cared for. I use copper when I am doing “black-tie” cooking… like the twice a year I acquire a foie gras or if I sear some superb scallops or fish fillets. Copper is wickedly priced and I acquired most of mine in France but still felt like I was buying couture, not off the rack (pun intended). The pot that I am carrying in the picture here is a large oval shaped fish pan – highly unusual and this one has never been used, thus the brilliant shine. Copper pots often feature prominently in “show kitchens” where the pans are hanging above a kitchen island, all pristine and highly polished.

I have no photographs of them but my kitchens are also stocked with teflon pans that are just downright practical. But I tend to change my teflon pans very often for fear of eating whatever teflon is made of. I also have clay pots and finally large aluminium stockpots or steamers.



  1. MegaMom says:

    Thanks MarketMan! Very timely as I am currently considering upgrading my kitchenware. I’m also a great fan of LeCreuset and realize how vulnerable the enamel is to ignorance. Like any good cook, I usually do the cleaning myself. But sometimes, I do rely on my househelp so I have given stern instructions to what utensils to use with and how to clean.
    Thanks again for re-posting.

    May 8, 2007 | 12:18 pm


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  3. Maria Clara says:

    It is always an advantage to have a good sets of pots and pans. Various cooking tasks require use of the right pot Рfor jelly and jam making I, for one would use the Le Creuset for nonreactive metal, for caramel making the good cooper is an excellent vehicle, for stew, saut̩ing and frying the reliable cast iron is the best choice and for making stock the ever reliable stainless with copper bottom pot is the best choice.

    May 8, 2007 | 12:27 pm

  4. bernadette says:

    Great learning all about the basics of cooking pans. I had my experience of cooking with large cast iron pans—I guess the mere act of bringing them from cabinet to stove then sink gave me broader shoulders afterwards. With this entry I now a have a good outlook on what type of pans to buy next time. My favorites are the stainless, teflon and of course the black palayok for cooking rice and pinakbet in. But I read that aluminum cookery is not good health-wise…!

    May 9, 2007 | 7:34 am

  5. Chinachix says:

    Hi MM,

    Le Creusets are the best; and we have non-stick All-Clads that we use alot as well…but this is the first time I’ve heard of Sitram stainless steel pans…will have to see if they’re available here in Toronto…

    May 9, 2007 | 2:47 pm

  6. corrine says:

    Thanks, I’ve been looking for this post. Funny why I didn’t find it.

    May 9, 2007 | 3:38 pm

  7. Apicio says:

    In the seventies George Jensen came out with thick copper pans lined with silver instead of the traditional tin and the much more recent stainless steel lining. They were the most beautiful pans I ever saw until about ten years ago when Alessi came out with their even more eye-catching ones, their Centuro di Orioni series, chef designed pans in thick copper lined with mirror finish stainless steel. But what really provokes astonishment and wonder in me are the cast aluminum calderos they sell in Filipinos stores here. Why in heavens name would one use unlined aluminum for cooking rice when there are very afordable rice cookers around?

    May 9, 2007 | 10:08 pm

  8. marosee says:

    thanks for re-posting this.. i have recently seen the inside of our teflon pans and so i plan to replace it asap. good to find out about sitram.

    May 9, 2007 | 11:04 pm

  9. fried-neurons says:

    This post reminded me, MM. I never got to thank you for talking about Sitram. A few months ago I was in the process of buying a lot of new pots and pans. I knew I wanted stainless steel, so I was looking at All-Clad. But it’s so friggin’ expensive! So I remembered that you posted something about cookware called Sitram. Long story short, I bought a Sitram saute pan from Amazon and loved it. So I bought three more pieces. The copper core works great! Heats up and cools down much faster than an aluminum core. The only thing (minor) I don’t like about it is that the coppper core doesn’t go all the way up the sides, like All-Clad’s cores do.

    Thanks again!

    May 9, 2007 | 11:37 pm

  10. mila says:

    A favorite columnist on the New York Times, The Minimalist, has come out with a practical guide to stocking one’s kitchen for $200. It doesn’t list a lot of brand name pieces, but focuses on what are the essential items to make most home-made meals:
    (not a single grape scissor/fish pan in the list!!!)

    May 10, 2007 | 11:06 am

  11. Pangalatok says:

    Thanks for the great information. LOVE the Le Creuset line. They have a discount outlet store here in Northern California that I always tryo to visit. I’m still deciding whether or not to purchase the Le Creuset tagine. All Clad’s is better, I think.

    One question though–what recommendation, if any, do you have for non-stick hard anodized cookware? Calphalon?

    May 12, 2007 | 1:40 am

  12. Stagiaire says:

    Just a few quick comments on some of the brands mentioned:

    Sitram is great for stock pots and stew pans and for most anything that will be cover the entire bottom of the pan. They’re awesome in terms of price/performance. Their fry pans and sautee pans don’t work as well though. The aluminum clad copper disk doesn’t quite go up the sides so if your flame is bigger than the disk, the portion of the pan where the disk meets the pan ends up a lot hotter and burns the food at the perimeter of the pan. I know it’s just a matter of being careful and temp control, but it would be nice if you didn’t have to worry about it. Their sauce pans suffer from the same problem. If you’re the type who’d offset a pan from the flame (in order to control the amount of heat the pan receives when reducing a delicate sauce for example), you’re better off with something without a bottom disk….

    Copper Pans:
    Copper work best for pans that require fast heat response…fry/saute pans anf pans you use for making emulsified sauces like hollandaise, bearnaise, etc. If you time you purchase right (during the one or two big sales they have annually) you may be able to get Mauviel pans at a more reasonable price. Try this website: http://www.creativecookware.com

    Enamel coated pans
    If you’re considering Le Creuset for braising, you might want to check out Staub as well. The lid has spikes to let the moisture drip back down to the food. Only dowside is its black, so you can’t use it for reducing you braising liquid cause it’s hard to judge color.

    Jul 7, 2007 | 10:39 am

  13. Marketman says:

    Stagiaire,thanks for those tips…

    Jul 7, 2007 | 10:45 am

  14. quiapo says:

    My father favours “Le Creuset” for his pots and pans. However he has worn out the enamel botom of one of his “Le Cruset” and he is careful never to scour or use harsh ingredients. Perhaps the fact that he is now 91 years old and has had the pan for a long time may have something to do with the wear and tear.
    When I was very young, tagalog “woks” = “karahai” were made of cast iron, which shattered if you dropped them. I enjoy using the sturdy Le Creuset cast iron wok, though it is a bit heavy to handle.
    My favourite pot is a “du feau” which is an enamelled round casserole, which has a receptacle for ice or water on the top surface of the lid, and inside projections for the liquid to drip back on the food. This is the pot that has worn away at my Dad’s kitchen, and efforts to replace it have been unsuccesful as it is no longer made. Le Creuset also make a cast iron Paella pan, which is deeper than Spanish pans, and though it is an inspired idea, does not make as good a paella. It is handy as a general pan, and is my favourite for frying. The finest Paella pan I have is made of copper with a tin lining. It is important never to use too high a heat with copper pans, as they tend to become permanently discoloured with the high heat.
    Another inspired pan from Le Creuset is a heavy enamelled cast iron braising dish, shaped somewht like a flying saucer. With the heavy lid, no steam escapes, and is wonderful for concentrating flavours. Its compact size makes it into a mini oven, resulting in a unique taste. I paricularly like using it for a Lebanese rice dish with pine nuts, cinammon, chicken stock and minced lamb; the flavour, and aroma, is unbelievable.
    The type of pan you use definitely contributes to the final flavour.

    Jun 2, 2008 | 9:39 am

  15. ces says:

    Hi MM! I don’t cook but for some strange reason I have been fascinated with old issues of Cook’s illustrated that I buy at Booksale. The stuff they write about reminds me about things / experiments posted on this fabulous blog of yours. I’m going through your archives to check if you did post on pots and pans… and I found it! People mentioned All-Clad, Caphalon etc. I think only Caphalon is available locally. My family and I recently moved into a new place and I want some new cookware too! But the thing is all the brands mentioned here are not available at my nearest Rustan’s or SM. hehehe.

    Sep 15, 2009 | 10:09 pm


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