Monday, May 23, 2011

A Good Pan is Hard to Find

I have always gotten by with economical pans for cooking; mixed and matched pans, hand me down pans. During the move, I felt that I needed a fresh start. Most of the kitchenware went to Goodwill. I gave two good cast iron pans to my Uncle—I knew they would be in good hands. From him, I asked if I could have my grandmother’s cast iron flat tortilla pan. In Spanish it’s called a “Comal.” I also asked for her tortilla roller, so when the time comes for me to make home made flour tortillas. 

Surprisingly, one of my favorite non-stick pans to sauté in or cook large quantities of food in was purchased as a single pan from Safeway. It seems of good quality. The only thing is it doesn’t come with a lid. Other than that, it works really well and I can tell it will hold up.

The first set of pans we bought was a non-stick brand by Faberware. I think we may have gotten the most economical model. It looked so nice and I liked the red color. I should have known though when I saw that the non-stick coating was barely there and in the lightest gray. These pans started breaking down fast. I didn’t keep the receipt because I figured we would get at least a year out of these pans.  They didn’t even make it to the six month mark. What a disappointment. The pans were too light and somehow scratches appeared and the coating began to wear away with only using plastic cooking utensils.

We were on a mission to find new pans that were within our budget. There were many choices: Non-stick versus stainless steel. What brand? Buy individually or in a set? Pay a little more for quality that may last longer or pay less and not get as much mileage out of the pans. We started with Target, just to see what they had. We saw a set that seemed good. It was an Italian made set: Bialetti. We were excited, especially after tossing all of our cookware, all except our Safeway pan. It was another red set. When we got home, I decided that I didn’t want to take out the whole set just yet, but rather wash them as I needed them. The next night I started to get them all out. I started with the 10 quart pot and as I began examining it, I noticed that I could see the red color showing through into the inside non-stick coating. “Oh no,” I said. I handed it to my significant other, “Look at this.” My body slumped inward. We both felt defeated. That’s when we started questioning whether we should just get stainless steel pans. I understand they make good sets, so that sticking isn’t as much of an issue, but I really like a good non-stick pan where I don’t need to worry about sticking and I don’t need to use as much oil in the pan.

Tomorrow would be another day. I was thankful we did not take all the pots out of their wrapping and out of the box. It would have been a hassle that I did not want.

My significant other asked his cousin the following day if she had a brand she recommended. She gave him some names and over dinner that night we talked about what we wanted to do, where we wanted to go. We went to Macy’s that night after spotting a stainless steel set online. When we got to Macy’s we started looking around at the different sets on display. We knew that All-Clad was way out of our budget. I picked up a pan by Calphalon—the one that I saw online—it was too heavy for me. I wanted a solid, yet light pan. The salesperson came up to us and asked if we needed help. We began asking about non-stick versus stainless steel and also asked her about the Anolon set compared to the Circulon set. Those were the two that we narrowed down. Both sets looked almost identical. But from speaking to his cousin, we recognized the Circulon brand and it has been around longer. A few more questions for the salesperson, who was extremely helpful and seemed to know the products and pointed out the differences. The look of the Circulon, the circular ridges inside the pans, the larger handles on both the pans and lids, and the feel of the cookware in our hands was the selling point for us. I was hoping that whichever set we bought had clear lids and these did—and the set was black, not red. We bought the 10-piece set that came with a bonus soup pot. The price listed was $349.99, but the salesperson said that the sale price was $199. That wasn’t too bad and if we bought a pan here and a pan there, we would potentially be paying a lot more. We were able to secure an additional double discount because they were having a two-day sale and because the salesperson had a coupon, and I reactivated my Macy’s account, resulting in yet another additional discount. At the end of the sale, we only paid $186. I love a deal. She also said that if we have any problems with the pans, we only need to bring back the receipt and the pan. No need to bring the whole set in. I don’t think we’ll have problems with them, but it’s nice to know that we can go to Macy’s and bypass the manufacturer making it less of a hassle for us.

We’ve only had the set for a couple of weeks so far. It has inspired me to look in my cookbooks again and some cooking magazines I got a while back and to pay attention to recipes sprinkled in freebie magazines from Safeway or Whole Foods. I feel like a new woman with my new pans and I can feel more confident in the meals that I cook for my significant other and I. We could have settled, but instead we wanted to find quality that would last.


Vincent said...

I meant to respond earlier. My attention was drawn to pans by Delia Smith, prolific cookery author and TV chef, when she talked about the right kind of pan to fry an egg in. We have two frying pans but neither is good for sunny-side up.

In fact we have a motley collection of pans & I see the advantage of not having a co-ordinated set, for each has its own characteristics. A big aluminium one for soup, an enamelled cast-iron one for lots of purposes, several lighter ones for steaming, etc.

I managed to convert one of the frying pans to an improved shape for sunny-side eggs: with a hammer! Its base had gone convex, so that the oil guttered into the edge. I've almost made it flat, or a little concave, so it puddles in the middle.

How are you getting on now with the pans, in the interval since you posted this?

Rebb said...

Vincent, Ideally yes I think it is better to have several different pans of different types. I agree that they each have their own personality. I enjoyed hearing about your pan experiences and got a chuckle about you using a hammer to adjust a pan.

Thanks for asking I have been cooking more securely with the pans. They heat up remarkably faster and more even. I made a simple and delicious lentil soup with sausage; also made a pesto tossed angel hair, chicken and veggie pasta. Still trying to come up with more interesting, healthy recipes. I checked out a few healthy cooking magazines from the library.