HOW TO CHOOSE A FRYING PAN
Fed up with buying cheap frying pans where the non-stick comes off and you have to buy a new one every year? If this is you it's worth giving a bit of thought to what you really need and investing in a small selection of frying pans that will last for years and make cooking a pleasure.
Firstly you probably want a general purpose pan with a high quality non-stick surface – they're easy to clean and enable you to cut down on (or even eliminate) the fat. It may be worth having a couple of these – one for family cooking and the other for a solitary fry up or one person meals – trying to cook a small quantity of food in a large pan means the juices are spread too thinly and the food starts to dry up. Think also about the depth of the pan. If you go in for a lot of omelettes you'll need shallow sides to enable the food to slide out easily. If you want a pan to start off a dish and then perhaps add a sauce, you'll need higher sides, perhaps even a sauté pan. Whatever size or shape of pan you choose it should have a good heavy base. Non-stick pans come in a wide variety of materials, aluminium, stainless steel, titanium, diamond reinforced or ceramic reinforced but remember with non-stick you really do get what you pay for.
Stainless steel frying pans score well on looks but will not conduct heat well unless they include a sandwich of aluminium or copper in the base. You will also need to pay attention whilst cooking otherwise things can tend to stick and burn. A small amount of this may not be a bad thing though if you like mixing those lovely browned pieces into a delicious sauce – just don't overdo it!
A small cast iron frying pan can also be a very handy thing to have. It heats up slowly but holds its temperature once it has done so and conducts heat very evenly. If you like Eastern food and dry fry spices this could be the ideal pan. Be careful of buying a large cast iron pan though – they can be extremely heavy.
Finally, a very traditional alternative to non-stick would be untreated mild steel or 'blue steel' as it is sometimes known. These pans are inexpensive, give excellent results, really will last for ever and can be used with metal utensils. The downside is that they do demand some care. You will need to season your pan carefully before you use it. To do this first wash the pan in soapy water, then dry it and heat it. Use a heatproof brush to coat it with groundnut oil or corn oil. Do not use sunflower oil or olive oil as they will make the frying pan sticky. Heat the pan until the oil is smoking then allow it to cool, wipe it clean and repeat the process at least three times. After the final heating, cool it, wipe it clean and it can then be stored until you are ready to use it. Never wash the pan - just wipe clean each time you use it, re-season occasionally and over time it will build up a wonderful non stick patina. If you don't do this I'm afraid it will just go rusty!
Article courtesy of Salamander.
Salamander has been one of Britain's leading cookshops since 1993. Their philosophy is to bring you the best kitchen equipment – quality cookware, bakeware, knives, mills and other kitchen utensils and accessories – from around the world.