Carbon steel (blue/black pans) â€“
This is another option for you who don't like Teflon. Carbon steel is a porous metal similar to iron but containing much more carbon. This will need to be seasoned like cast iron. Carbon steel will provide great heat capacity and, with seasoning, good non-stick properties. Carbon steel is the preferred choice for woks. The other carbon steel pans which can be found are paella pans and crepe pans. There is some confusion where blue or black steel is concerned. Blue steel is carbon steel where extra heat has been applied and an initial seasoning is begun, in other words one doesn't need to season, just maintained. Generally, applying additional heat to carbon steel makes it harder, but the amount applied here won't necessarily make the pan harder. Like copper and cast iron, carbon steel pans tend to be heavy.
Manufacturers â€“ deBuyer (in the USA I am not aware of other makers of non-wok carbon steel cookware). For woks I can't begin to list the names of all the manufacturers. The best sources are Asian markets, hardware stores or culinary shops. For the paella pans, I only know of Kitchen Companions and Myson. You will find them in culinary stores, Hispanic markets or online.
Uses - Generally these pans are used for frying and quick cooking. Also for paella or similar rice dishes. NOTE â€“ These will work on Induction cooktops.
Cast iron â€“
These are the old stand bys of the American culinary scene. Everyone has a mother or grandmother who owned one and tell of how she used it for years, and years. In fact, many inherited these pans. Cast iron pans are similar in use to the enamel coated cousins (see below). They have high heat capacity, meaning as mentioned before, they heat up slowly and cool down slowly. They also diffuse the heat very well providing even heating across the pan surface. Once seasoned they can provide a Teflon nonstick alternative. I am always amazed at how little things stick to them; particularly eggs. If you want to work away from Teflon, cast iron is your friend. You must treat them well and maintain the seasoning. The main manufacturer in America is Lodge and they sell mostly pre-seasoned pans. Although they do sell un-seasoned pans, most people find starting the seasoning a daunting task. It isn't that hard, but I have found it is still not something most want to try. The very best thing is that the pans are very inexpensive.
Manufacturers - Lodge, Wagner (Griswold)
Styles â€“ skillets, grill pans, dutch oven, rectangular grill/griddle pans that go over your burners or grill. They also make corn bread/biscuit pans of various sizes and shapes. There are also Aebleskiver pans and other small bakeware products. Additionally, there is camping cookware in various shapes.
Uses - They are best for high heat searing of meats and fish, making eggs, also pan frying, and baking. NOTE â€“ While these pans will work on Induction cooktops, I would caution you against it if you want a scratch free cooktop as the raw cast iron might be rough on the surface. You might consider their enamel coated cousins.
Enamel coated cast iron â€“
This line of pans has all the benefit of pure cast iron but none of the hassle of seasoning or rusting. These pans are typically very heavy but easy to clean. You will most commonly see them as oval or round bakers good for stovetop or oven use. There are even saucepans made of these materials. Most have smooth enamel coating inside and out. They typically come in attractive colors on the outsides, making for good stove to table use. Most will have a white or cream colored enamel interior, however Staub and some Le Creuset pieces have black mat enamel coatings that look like raw cast iron but are not. Enamel coated cast iron pans can be cleaned without risk of removing the seasoning.
Uses - They are most beneficial on stews and braises. Always good for high heat searing and sauce reductions. The skillets would be almost as beneficial as raw cast iron skillets with the notable exception being they will not be non-stick. Here one would cook as if they were tri-ply skillets; carefully managing the heat to prevent sticking or burning. NOTE â€“ As mentioned above, these pans can be used on Induction cooktops and due to the enamel coatings won't be as damaging to the surface â€“ unless of course you drop them. :-)
Heavy fired pottery â€“
This is a very unique line of â€œpansâ€. They are particularly or specially fired pottery that can withstand direct flame heat. Most oven bakeware, as you know cannot be placed on direct heat. These â€œpansâ€ from Emile Henry are shaped like the Le Creuset/Staub cocottes. We Americans call them Dutch ovens or French ovens. These pans are 40% lighter than their cast iron cousins. They will brown meats and perform very well. I have been very pleased with mine. If dropped, they can break more readily than cast iron cocottes, but even cast iron can have a handle break if dropped or even crack. These pans are also less expensive than the other French made ovens.
Manufacturers - Emile Henry, Piral and other brands.
Styles â€“ They come in various sizes and shapes (round and oval). They also make a Tagine and Fondue pots.
Uses - They are most beneficial on stews, braises and other slow cooked dishes. NOTE â€“ It should go without saying these will NOT work on Induction cooktops.
This cookware is similar to the Emile Henry cookware, terracotta which can withstand direct heat. However, not all styles do though. For instance, the Romertopf and Schlemmertopf ovens are only for use in the oven only. Tagines and some Portugese/European rectangular bakers have thick heavy fired bottoms that can be placed on direct heat before going to the oven. These â€œpansâ€ are known for providing flavorful results. The prices are usually very affordable. Some have glazed interiors, some not; some need to be soaked prior to first use, some not. Read the directions before use or ask the sales person where you purchased it.
Styles â€“ Tagines, rectangular bakers, round bakers, oven bakers
Uses - The best uses are roasting and slow cooking in the oven. The cooktop ready terracotta is best finished in the oven, IMAO (In My Arrogant Opinion). NOTE â€“ Again, it should go without saying these will not work on Induction cooktops.
I have found that Corning was the main if not only maker of glass cookware in the US. The cookware isn't found much anymore. There used to be â€œskilletsâ€, and saucepans. It was typically a golden or yellow glass, at least the last lines sold. I am not sure it is sold in any â€œbricks and mortarâ€ stores anymore, and I am not sure how easy it will be to buy online. The performance of the pans wasn't very good. Glass is one of the worst conductors of energy. I suppose if you are just boiling water or reheating canned sauces, then they would do the job ok, but there are better options. There is Corningware, which isn't ceramic, but specially fired glass that turns opaque when finished. Corningware is still readily available and an affordable bakeware option. They are designed with oven to table service in mind. Other similar products perform better and clean up more easily, but again these are great lower price options.
Styles â€“ They come in various bakeware sizes and styles.
Uses - I have some Corningware and use it somewhat interchangeably with my French made bakeware. I would also assume the souffle shaped dishes would perform just fine for that purpose. NOTE â€“ You guessed it, these will not work on Induction cooktops.
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