Cast Iron, Non-Stick, and Stainless Steel: When to Use What (Slideshow)
March 19, 2014
Some metals can endure high temperatures while others can interact with acidic foods
Use stainless steel pans for searing meat like steaks, chicken, and chops. The heated surface will create a crust that locks in flavor. Use the caramelized parts, also called fond, that have stuck to the bottom as a base for pan sauces.
Be careful with high temperatures when cooking with non-stick pans. Toxic fumes can be released from overheating the chemicals that coat the pan.
Delicate foods like flaky fish and perfectly cooked eggs call for non-stick pans because they can be easily moved around the pan without breaking apart.
Once cast iron pans are seasoned, they’re a versatile and useful addition to any home kitchen. To season cast iron, first wash it with a scouring pad, warm water, and a little soap. Then dry the pan and coat it inside and out with cooking oil. Place the pan upside down — with a baking sheet for drippings underneath — in an oven heated between 300 and 500 degrees for an hour. Leave it to cool completely before wiping off excess oil.
Cast iron pans may take a long time to heat up, but they also retain heat the longest, and cook foods evenly.
For pans to be used on the stovetop and in the oven, the handle needs to be stainless, as plastic handles will melt and wooden ones will char at high temperatures. Plastic and wooden handles do keep cooler when used on a stovetop, so it's up to the cook to decide how the pan will mostly be used.
Preheating Stainless Steel
Preheat stainless steel pans over medium heat to create a less-sticky surface and then, once hot, add a thin layer of oil — enough to sizzle. When the oil is hot, you’re ready to start cooking.
Work in Batches
When food is overcrowded in a pan, it lowers the temperature and can cause unwanted steam. Leave the ingredients some space for them to cook through properly, and work in batches if necessary.
The Better Buy
Cast iron pans are a great buy because they’re not only inexpensive, but they’ll last a lifetime with a little tender loving care, and are versatile both in the oven and on the stovetop.