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From the light touch to heavy metal – here’s how to select the right cookware for your kitchen needs
Answer us this: do you give serious thought to the pots, pans and saucepans you use when it comes to cooking up a storm... or do you just grab the nearest recepticle that looks 'about right' and crack into your culinary creations? If you're in the latter camp, well, you're missing out on a lot – so without getting too bogged down in the technicalities, here’s what you need to know about the different metals available in cookware, and why we use them when we’re Master Chef-ing at home.
Reactive and non-reactive
The first thing you need to know is this: cookware is divided into two categories - reactive and non-reactive. Non-reactive metals include stainless steel, metal, glass and ceramics. They don’t con-duct heat very well, which means it takes longer for them to heat up, but when they do they stay hot for a long time. These pots and pans don’t interfere with the look or chemical structure of the foods you’re cooking. Meanwhile, reactive cookware like aluminium, cast iron and copper can af-fect the taste of foods and even the appearance – but on the plus side, they heat up quickly and cook food thoroughly. A lot of modern cookware incorporates a mixture of metals to get the best of both worlds, creating specific hybrids for their cookware, but ultimately different reactive and non-reactive metals will serve different foods and recipes better in their own individual ways.
How it all works
When cooking with a pan or a pot on a hob, the heat is conducted from the oven through the pan, which then cooks the food. This method of cooking is called conduction, and how quickly it cooks depends on how quickly the metal heats up. If you’re boiling or steaming, the food is being cooked from heat via a liquid, which is known as convection, while if you’re grilling or broiling the method of cooking is radiation, where the heat is being transferred via microwaves in the air. Chef Troy at Roberta’s Dublin says, “In Roberta's we use a lot of conduction hobs and basic non-stick pans- they’re fast, the heat stays is constant and there's less burning and drying out while cooking. I use the same at home. Cast iron pans are great in theory but the need to be 'seasoned out" (cleaned with salt), so I will always choose a simple frying pan and wok for all of the basics”.
So, what pots and pans should you use in your kitchen and why?
Whether you’re a serious foodie or a basic cook, there are a few cooking essentials that every kitchen should have. A frying pan is your best friend - use it for omelets, your Sunday fry, or for searing a steak. This Prestige Moments Frypan in medium (€42.36) has a non-stick surface, which not only, makes it easy to clean, but also is a big help on the healthy eating front as little or no oil is needed when cooking. Remember those hybrid metals we mentioned earlier? Well, the Stellar Rocktanium 30cm frying pan (€59.95 ) is just that. It’s made of QuanTanium, titanium that is inter-nally reinforced with a nonstick coating, making it scratch resistant, super durable and dishwasher and oven safe up to 210oC. Better still it heats up quickly, too.
On to our next kitchen must-have – the stir-fry wok. Delicious and easy-to-make, the humble stir-fry is an absolute life saver of a meal on weekday evening, and for that, deserves a piece of cookware that is capable of consistent dinner-time use. The Stellar Sitanium Stir Fry Pan Non-Stick in medium (€24.98) is a no-fuss piece of hardware; it’s made in a high performance sitinium (non-stick cooking surface), comes with a guarantee of 10 years, has an air vented handle and is even dish-washer safe. Advanced stir-fry aficionados might even want to treat themselves to the Circulon In-finte Wok 36cm (XXXX). This is a high-tech piece of cookware, that’ll last you a lifetime of meals. Of course, Le Creuset is synonymous with the best in kitchen cookware, so if you’re out to invest, make it the Le Creuset Wok 28cm in black (€144). It’s made to serve Oriental, Asian and Europe-an cuisine, and is perfect for braising, steaming and boiling too.
The serious stuff
On to our trophy-grilling piece, the Prestige Grill Pan Square 28cm in black (€39.98). When you’re looking for a good grill pan, one point to always focus on is the ridges. You need to ensure that the ridges raise food higher above the pan’s bottom so that there is significantly less buildup of steam as the food sears. A grill pan like this beauty is perfect for cooking steaks, chops, burgers, bone-less chicken, fish and even thickly cut veg. For a lighter weight grill pan, look to the Stellar 28cm Cast Grill Pan (€49.95). It's non-stick, heats up quickly and if it’s expert presentation you’re after, its thin ridges add slick seared lines. Voilà.
Now let’s talk sauté pans. These are for the fancier cooks amongst you – basically, the wannabe master chefs. For many of us, when it comes to creating a sauce or a gravy a regular, pot will do. However, if you are looking for the perfect tool to help you with the reducing of a red wine gravy then here’s what you need. The Stellar 8000 Range 30cm sauté pan (€107.48) and the Stellar 5000 Range sauté pan 28cm (€84.95) both do the job to a tee.
Investing in a new piece of cookware can make the difference between a mere dinner and a meal to remember. Happy cooking!