Oct 19, 2017

What the most versatile pan out there?

Cast iron? Stainless steel? Non-stick?
Maybe something else?
What do you think is the best pan if you had to choose one?

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I have to say I love my Calphalon pans but they can beat up pretty fast (not the old ones, the newer ones that come in colors). Le Crusets makes fantastic stuff but it's super expensive so I only have one of their  Dutch ovens but I use it for everything! I would love to go the cast iron route but just haven't done it yet.
A non-stick skillet is not actually that versatile, as high heat will harm the coating.

I have a cast iron that I use for a lot of things, but I find maintaining it to be a bit intimidating.

I have some nice calphalon pans, from before they went non-stick on everything. They're dark, they are layered steel and aluminum, and they are very very good.
Stainless steel 90% of the time. It’s really the most versatile imo. But iron is a close second. You will have to think about your cooking order more if you use iron due to flavor carry over if you have a discerning palate. Steel pans just need a quick wipe down or light scrubbing with steel wool and you’re good to go. Scorching can be an issue with messing up the evenness of heating, but you can certainly still use them. I’ve saved scorched steel pans before with some steel wool.
An enameled cast iron a Dutch oven or even an enameled cast iron pan with a lid. Heavy and lidded pans are great for stovetop braises, transfer to the oven, baking, and frying. Le Crusets are nice prestige items but Tramontina and Lodge make excellent and affordable alternatives.
My favorite and most used pan is my 11 inch All Clad d5 (clad) french skillet. 11inch large enough for multi serving meals and small enough if I am just making some eggs.....the 5 layers of steel and aluminum distribute heat really well. Also, heavy enough of a pan without being so heavy it's not comfortable to lift up. I'm a bit proponent of the size of a pan being almost as important as the material.
I am cast iron all the way. Virtually impossible to damage, they live an eternal life. They are basically the highlander of cookware. Learning curve...? If you have cooked with something, anything other than non-stick then you can cook with cast iron. All you need to learn is the seasoning process. Which is only difficult initially. After the initial season, you season lightly after each use and you and your descendants are good to go for the next century or two.

They can be used in the oven, they can be washed... Even with SOAP! GASP, the horrors. The beauty of cast iron is not even rust can kill it. I have picked cast iron pans out of scrap heaps and brought them back to life for people.

Do not be afraid, come to the iron side.
Come to the iron side!
On my way!
We welcome all, even BrainFlush!
All Clad Copper Core or Le Creuset dutch oven
I'm partial to clad cookware.........tri-ply or five layer. Heat distribution is great based on the mix of materials used and easy cleanup for me. I always, no matter what i'm making, add a touch of olive oil to the pan, which keeps the pan easy to use while cooking (as i haven't found the ingredients to stick to the pan as much as without). Also, the weight of the pan is heavy enough to feel substantial and steady on the stove without being so heavy that it's difficult to actually maneuver with.
Really loaded questions:

Cast iron? Stainless steel? Non-stick?
Do you want a fond for gravy? Do you want high thermal capacity to make up for a weak stove top burner output? Non-stick, not if I'm browning something like meat or want a hard sear. Good stainless pans are very similar to cast iron and don't have some of the maintenance issues you have with iron pans however, if you don't know to cook in them they will scorch, burn, and stick to almost anything you cook, with eggs being a classic horror story. Lightweight iron pans (DeBuyer, Mauviel, Mafter, etc.) work very well for many people too and basically split the differences between cast iron and aluminum.

Maybe something else?
Copper and aluminum are more responsive to heat changes in your cooktop so, for something like eggs I will generally choose one of those two.

What do you think is the best pan if you had to choose one?
"Best pan" really depends on what your cooking. A cast iron Dutch Oven and aluminum skillet are radically different.

Use the right tool for the right job! ;-)
jkiemele killin' it right now with answering questions.
I'm partial to carbon steel/black steel. It's similar to cast iron. Grab one of these sometime. https://www.massdrop.com/buy/matfer-black-steel-pans
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Exactly why I love them!
I use the Mauviel equivalents with satisfaction. The smooth surface and lighter weight are nice if you have a good stove that heats properly.
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