Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Learning to love stainless steel pots

After years of cooking with very old non-stick pans, we received a very generous Christmas gift from D's grandmother - a whole new set of stainless steel pots and pans.

pot + pan
{pot + pan}

They are gorgeous. Also, they had a steep learning curve. We have this set and it's perfect, but if you are buying a la carte, I think you could live without the 10" fry pan. We use the braising pan all the time instead. If you are only buying one pan - buy a straight sided braising pan (about 12 inches across, with sides 2 - 3 inches deep) with a lid. It's an all star (pictured below, browning short ribs).

new pan
{new pan}

Now that we're used to the stainless steel, it's a dream. We've adjusted our cooking a little bit, and here's the general outline, for those of you considering the transition.

- Get used to deglazing. Even plain old water will do, although I'll use whatever wine we happen to have open, or beer, or vinegar, or soy sauce, depending on what I'm making. I always deglaze at the end of a saute, and it means nothing sticks to the pan and cleaning is a breeze.

- Turn the heat down a little. You don't need it as high as you did with your non-stick skillets. These get hot, fast.

- Get used to using a little more oil. It's fine, honestly. If you're cooking at high temp, it won't even be absorbed, but you need a good sheen of oil covering the pan in order to get a nice sear. To get a sear, get the pan fairly hot, add the oil, toss the food in the pan and then jiggle it so that it doesn't stick. There's a great video demonstration of this technique here. (Ignore the fact that I don't love either of those chefs)

- Give up on a couple of things. Neither of us has managed to successfully fry an egg without making a huge mess of the pan. Ditto on veggie burgers or grilled cheese sandwiches. It creates a lot of smoke and you end up having to scrub the pan out, intensely. Luckily, we have a cast iron skillet, and we break it out for these types of things. Cast iron is the original non-stick.

My favorite part is transferring the pans directly to the oven. And the fact that they are really easy to clean (and easy to tell when they're perfectly clean, unlike our old pitted teflon guys).

I'm still learning, but I'm feeling much more confident lately. I definitely don't see us ever going back to non-stick.

27 comments:

  1. Fun post. We switched about a year ago and I am really happy using stainless. I love how I can get then perfectly clean.

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  2. I love our stainless steel pans! You can make a grilled cheese without making a mess...you have to keep the heat low and cover the pan. It takes awhile, but the grilled cheese comes out perfectly, and it doesn't make a giant mess.

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  3. Love this. We switched to all stainless steel when we got married (thanks to some very generous friends and family), and I can't imagine life without them. We use Bar Keeper's Friend to clean them. Not every time, but when they are starting to look a little grimy after a couple of weeks of serious use this miracle product makes them look brand new again! Also, we keep one nonstick pan on hand, just for making eggs :)

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  4. And they last forever! I've had mine since we got married 11.5 years ago and they are as good as new. As for eggs, your best bet is to keep the pan on a very low heat. It should take a while to make eggs. Actually, I think I heard a chef say that good eggs should take almost 20 minutes to make. (I think that is a bit preposterous, but there you go.)

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  5. Thanks for this post. Our nonstick pans that we got for our wedding are close to 12 years old now (in just 4 short weeks - yay!). I have been wanting stainless for years but am so darn cheap! I have actually been saving gift cards for over a year now (each birthday and Christmas my mom gives me $50-$100) towards my desired pans but I've yet to kick down and get some. Now is the time though, I finally had to throw one nonstick pan away because it just wasn't even working.

    One thing a chef told us at one of the cooking classes we take is to just buy a cheap non stick from the grocery store every couple of years to fry eggs and such. You're supposed to throw them away each time they get scratched, so with a cheap one you won't mind tossing it every couple of years. Something to consider

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  6. Great gift, in the future I will certainly be investing in some stainless steal ones when I set up a real grown up home and can afford a wonderful kitchen! Great tips to bear in mind, also!xxxxxxxxxx

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  8. Those pans are absolutely beautiful! It's funny - my mom is a chef and we never owned a non-stick pan growing up, so I'm trying to get used to cooking with non-stick since I can't afford stainless steel yet!

    http://justliveintoit.blogspot.com

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  9. We have the same set, a wonderful wedding gift. Another good trick is if they start to look a little dingy, mix some vinegar and baking soda in the pan, heat on low to make a paste. Scrub the paste around and rinse. They will be shining!

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  10. When registering for my wedding everyone told me to go nonstick. When I researched, all the chefs said stainless. I'm so glad I listened because they are the best pots ever. And I don't know how I would be able to do much of what I do in stainless in a nonstick since you have to worry about scratching the teflon.

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  11. You probably already know this, but I didn't when I first got my set. Don't turn the heat on really high at first. You risk warping the metal. Turn it to medium, or low for a minute or so, then turn it up to the desired temp. Congrats on the pots and pans. Good quality cookware makes a world of a difference when cooking. A lot more fun =)

    - Sarah
    http://agirlintransit.blogspot.com/

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  12. These are perfect tips for me, as I'm receiving TODAY my new Emeril (ignore the fact that I don't love him, ha) stainless steel set in the mail for my birthday. Same story... old, cheap nonstick was gross and scratched. I've been using the free tri-clad pan that came with the purchase, and I'm loving it. Only going to get a new non-stick for eggs, as I have a ceramic cooktop and can't use cast iron.

    Question: Do you also get a certain small amount of discoloration on the inside bottom of the pan, even when it's been thoroughly cleaned?

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  13. Just read some of the other comments on keeping them clean; great!

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  14. I love my stainless steel frying pans. (The 10" is great for warming tortillas, haha.) I want to replace the rest of our nonstick stuff with stainless because they're getting scratched and I don't want teflon-induced cancer. It'll have to be a slow process because we aren't made of money. :) I'm glad to hear the Emeril pans are good, though, since all I ever hear about are All-Clad. Great, yes, but SO EXPENSIVE.

    I probably will get another non-stick for eggs & grilled cheese, but I'll definitely take better care of it than I have my current one. Though if cast iron works that well, maybe I should actually de-rust the one we have...

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  15. We received the exact same pots/pans as a wedding gift almost three years ago. They are A-mazing! They don't warp or discolor after use. I like to use Bar Keepers Friend to clean up the copper rings along the base of the pans. They look brand new every time! Congrats on getting a set!

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  16. I'm bookmarking this post--so much good advice! I found a great set of stainless steel cookware for $40 a few years ago (it was missing half the lids for the pots), but don't use it too often because of how hard it can be to clean--now I know why!

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  17. Beautiful. I wish I had the room for this many new pots. :)

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  18. for my 18th birthday my parent's gave me my first set of pots and pans and they were non-stick. as one might imagine i destroyed them ... hand wash them, um what? so over the years we've started a copper collection and it has changed our cooking. i wouldn't go back.

    oh and lots of butter at medium heat works like a dream for fried eggs. but when i say lots of butter i mean like 1 tbsp per egg.

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  19. I received a stainless steel pan from my dad at Christmas and I love it! I was afraid that it would be a pain to clean, but it's easy actually. The only other pan I have experience with is cast iron, so this is a nice welcome change to my kitchen.

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  20. Yes to everyone who mentioned Barkeeper's Friend! It's also amazing for cleaning grungy sinks.

    @ Jules - 20 minutes to cook an egg would kill me! Luckily, I usually prefer them poached. The pans do make gorgeous frittatas, and I start them on the stove on low and then finish them off in the oven at 350. They pop right out of the pan. Heaven.

    @ Kristy - I think technically the Emerilware is All Clad, but a lower line. I have NO IDEA how it differs and I'm really happy with my Emerilware. That said, I've never cooked with All Clad, so maybe it's 100x times better, but I can't imagine that it is. It is pricey!

    Thanks for all the helpful suggestions/experiences, everyone! I grew up with only cast iron skillets (and aluminum pots). We had one precious nonstick that we managed to destroy despite my mom's vigilant attempts to keep it safe. And then I transitioned to my set of hand me down non sticks and I destroyed them (but they were cheap to begin with and pre-loved, so I don't feel like I was starting from a very strong place!).

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  21. Love this post, like cooking for grown ups! I only own one stainless steel pan, but it was enough to convince me to start acquiring.

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  22. gorgeous! i can't wait to invest in some stainless steel pans. everytime i get a WS credit, though, i can't resist buying more le creuset. it's my obsession. lol

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  23. Costco has a great set of Kirkland brand stainless steel cookware. They some times go on sale for less than $140 for a set. I have a couple of All-Clad pans from my wedding and I can't tell the difference between the All-Clad and the Costco pans.

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  24. I love all of your photos. They are so clean and fresh and beautiful!
    ~Andrea

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  25. and you can be happy you aren't ingesting little bits of teflon that scratching off!

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  26. I just got my first set of stainless steel pots and pans back in January, and I must say, I've had a hard time with them. I totally scorched my little pan, leaving it quite ugly, even after many scrubbing sessions. I should have looked up how to cook with them...thanks for the tips.

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  27. I agree with you, stainless steel pans is what i think the best options right now. How to clean it, is what you should know to make it last longer.
    I use soft sandpaper and rub the surface gently in wet pan's surface. Don't forget after that to pour a table spoon of cooking oil and spread it to the whole pan surface before stored the pans.

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