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Thread: What's Hot, What's Not, in Pots and Pans...

  1. #1
    Gregory Morrow Guest

    Default What's Hot, What's Not, in Pots and Pans...


    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/08/dining/08curi.html

    October 8, 2008

    The Curious Cook

    What's Hot, What's Not, in Pots and Pans

    By HAROLD McGEE


    "I hadn't recharged my batterie de cuisine with a new pot or pan for a
    couple of years, so when I went on a recent reconnaissance mission through
    Zabar's, I was startled by all the choices. Every manufacturer seems to
    offer a different metallic mille-feuille, with layer upon layer of
    heat-conducting alloys and food-friendly surface coatings. There are a
    variety of nonstick coatings: supposedly more durable versions of Teflon,
    more environmentally friendly versions of Teflon, "green" alternatives to
    Teflon. Even good old cast iron has had a makeover. It now comes
    conveniently preseasoned.

    Pots and pans have a straightforward job: to deliver heat from the burner or
    oven to the food, and release the food to us neatly and cleanly when we want
    it.

    Are the differences in how pans heat and release really significant? Would I
    improve the odds of getting my favorite potato galette to slip intact from
    the pan if I used something other than my usual stainless-coated aluminum?

    To find out, I experimented for a few days with a dozen or so different
    pans, some old and some new. I learned that metals and surfaces do matter,
    but so do fat and heat management.

    I focused on five medium sauté pans. One was made of seasoned cast iron, one
    of heavy copper top-coated with stainless steel, one of aluminum sandwiched
    between two layers of stainless. Two were aluminum top-coated with new
    non-Teflon coatings: a ceramic material called Thermolon, and a
    silicone-based material called NP2. Like most Teflon pans, the NP2 pans come
    with instructions to use low heat, but Thermolon is said to perform well up
    to 870 degrees. That's charring, pizza-oven heat.

    The prices ranged from $25 for the new aluminum nonsticks to as much as $480
    for French copper.

    First I wanted to see what difference the kind of metal makes in how the
    pans heat up. Copper conducts heat twice as fast as aluminum, and five times
    faster than cast iron. But the copper and iron pans each weigh more than
    five pounds, while the thinnest aluminum pan weighs barely two. Is lots of
    expensive copper better than a little cheap aluminum?

    I started by timing how long it took the pans to bring a cup of water to a
    boil over the maximum gas flame on my stovetop. The copper and the cast iron
    each took 3 minutes, the aluminum-stainless combination 2.5, and the thin
    nonstick aluminum just 2 minutes. Light and cheap win for speed.

    Then I put the heat-tolerant all-metal pans and the Thermolon on a high
    flame until their temperatures reached around 600 degrees, measured with a
    hand-held, point-and-shoot thermometer. I dropped a cold steak on the
    surface, then checked the pan temperature under the steak after a few
    smoking minutes. All of them stayed up around 575 degrees, replacing the
    heat lost to the steak and browning it deeply. Light and cheap held its own
    with the heavyweights.

    But would these pans evenly distribute the heat? In a good conductor, heat
    will flow quickly throughout the pan; with a poor conductor, the heat should
    build up into a hot spot in the metal just above the burner. To make the
    pans' heat landscapes visible, I put a round of parchment paper into each
    pan, weighed it down with pie weights and put the pan on a medium-high
    burner. When I saw or smelled the paper browning, I removed the parchment.

    The heavy copper and the light aluminum pans produced evenly toasted heat
    maps. The stainless-clad aluminum did pretty well, too. But the cast-iron
    pan scorched a small area, and the pattern was familiar. For years I made
    risotto every week or two in my favorite enameled cast-iron pot, and always
    found a solid brown ring of stuck rice grains right above the flame.

    Still, I was surprised, because I'd always heard and thought that cast iron
    was a slow but even conductor. I wondered if it would perform better if I
    heated it more gradually over a low flame, or on an electric heating coil,
    which would contact more of the pan bottom than the gas flame. I was wrong.
    The low flame caused even browning over a small area at the center of the
    pan, and none elsewhere. The electric burner gave a pattern much like the
    flame's.

    When I spot-checked the cast iron with my thermometer, there was a
    consistent 100-degree difference between the pan center and an inch from the
    edge. That's easily enough to make the difference between browning and
    scorching. My cast-iron pan makes a much better potato galette in even oven
    heat.

    Sticking isn't a problem when you've browned the food and want to harvest
    the stuck-on flavorful brown bits by deglazing with some wine or water. In
    fact, it's good. It is a problem, though, if you're frying an egg or fragile
    piece of fish. It's especially likely if you've used the least oil possible
    and put the flame on high to heat up quickly. Oil plus high heat plus
    maximum exposure to air quickly produce oxidized, gummy residues that stick
    to the pan surface and to the food.

    TO see which pans are more likely to stick, I fried dozens of eggs, pounds
    of flaky white fish, and a dozen or so potato galettes, which are disasters
    if the spiral of potato slices doesn't release when you flip the pan over.

    The nonstick pans released with a minimal wipe of oil, a hardened Teflon
    type most reliably. The Thermolon needed more lubrication after its
    steak-searing ordeal than it did before, but its surface didn't mar as
    easily as the Teflon and NP2, which had tiny nicks and scrapes after just a
    few uses. All the other pans, metal-surface or enamel, behaved much like
    each other. They released foods reliably if they'd been greased with
    nonstick sprays or with butter, and usually - but not always - if they'd
    been oiled.

    Why does butter release foods better than other fats and oils, clarified
    butter included? After going down a couple of blind alleys, I realized that
    whole butter carries emulsifiers, substances that coat the droplets of
    butterfat in milk, separating them from direct contact with each other and
    from the milk's water. And emulsifiers, lecithin and others, are the active
    ingredient in nonstick sprays. Clarified butter and vegetable oils,
    meanwhile, contain few if any emulsifiers. I found that, by dispersing a
    pinch of soy lecithin in a little water and then whisking the mix into some
    canola oil, the resulting oil released foods easily.

    The problem with nonstick sprays and butter is that they all begin to break
    down at relatively low frying temperatures, around 350 degrees. To get a
    good deep brown on many meats and vegetables, the temperature needs to get
    up into the 400s. And it's the combination of a hot surface, oil and food
    that can get sticky.

    I was baffled by the occasional sticking of eggs and fish and potatoes that
    I saw in all but the nonstick pans, so I decided to go back to square one
    and think about the hot pan and the oil. I scoured a stainless surface
    clean, added some oil, turned on the heat, and just watched. I saw something
    I've seen many times before, but I saw it for the first time.

    As the temperature of the pan surface rose above 350 degrees, the oil began
    to move and form thick ridges and thin troughs, a stage that some recipes
    refer to as the oil "rippling." As the temperature kept climbing, the thin
    areas spread out and the ridges became fewer and higher. The pattern
    reminded me of the long drops that run down the inside of a glass of wine or
    spirits. Eventually the thin areas seemed to run completely dry, and most of
    the oil had collected in a ring around the pan edge.

    With some research, I soon learned that I had been observing
    Bénard-Marangoni convection, which is related to Marangoni convection in a
    wineglass. Uneven temperatures at the pan surface cause regional differences
    in the oil's surface tension, and this causes the oil to get pulled toward
    the cooler areas.

    I saw the same thing happen on each pan. The hot areas near the pan center
    end up with thinner and thinner coatings of oil. And the combination of high
    heat and thinning oil means food is more likely to stick. But the thinning
    and sticking are unpredictable: they depend on the burner heat, how the pan
    is placed over it, how much oil you start with, how much you even out the
    oil by stirring and scraping.

    What can we do to work around the curse of Bénard-Marangoni convection? Here
    's what I came up with, and if you have a pan that sticks at high heat, you
    might try it.

    Add enough oil to coat the pan surface and the food completely. As little as
    a half-teaspoon of oil will coat a medium sauté pan (for fat watchers, that'
    s just 20 calories) for cooking eggs and pieces of fish; for chopped
    vegetables, triple that to coat the additional surface area of the little
    pieces. Heat the pan until the oil ripples. Then turn the heat down, tilt
    the pan to even out the troughs and ridges, and wait until it cools just
    enough that the oil layer stays mostly flat. Then add the food, and let it
    cook for some time before turning the heat up again. If possible, keep the
    food and oil moving around.

    And another thing: clean pans gently, with enough pressure to remove stuck
    and gummy deposits, but without scouring down to bare metal. I noticed that
    as my experiments wore on and I got lazier about cleaning between tests, the
    pans were less likely to stick. This seasoning effect may be the kitchen
    version of the "hygiene hypothesis" in medicine: just as extreme cleanliness
    may leave people more susceptible to some kinds of illness, it may make pans
    more susceptible to malfunction.

    So what to do about getting pots and pans that work best? Choose the ones
    that you like, for their heft or their lightness, for cachet or economy, for
    finickiness or ease. Mind the rippling oil. And cook with them often..."


    </>



  2. #2
    Jean B. Guest

    Default Re: What's Hot, What's Not, in Pots and Pans...

    Gregory Morrow wrote:
    > http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/08/dining/08curi.html
    >
    > October 8, 2008
    >
    > The Curious Cook
    >
    > What's Hot, What's Not, in Pots and Pans
    >
    > By HAROLD McGEE
    >
    >
    > "I hadn't recharged my batterie de cuisine with a new pot or pan for a
    > couple of years, so when I went on a recent reconnaissance mission through
    > Zabar's, I was startled by all the choices. Every manufacturer seems to
    > offer a different metallic mille-feuille, with layer upon layer of
    > heat-conducting alloys and food-friendly surface coatings. There are a
    > variety of nonstick coatings: supposedly more durable versions of Teflon,
    > more environmentally friendly versions of Teflon, "green" alternatives to
    > Teflon. Even good old cast iron has had a makeover. It now comes
    > conveniently preseasoned.
    >
    > Pots and pans have a straightforward job: to deliver heat from the burner or
    > oven to the food, and release the food to us neatly and cleanly when we want
    > it.
    >
    > Are the differences in how pans heat and release really significant? Would I
    > improve the odds of getting my favorite potato galette to slip intact from
    > the pan if I used something other than my usual stainless-coated aluminum?
    >
    > To find out, I experimented for a few days with a dozen or so different
    > pans, some old and some new. I learned that metals and surfaces do matter,
    > but so do fat and heat management.


    [snip]

    Very interesting and informative article, which I am saving for
    future reference. Thanks.
    --
    Jean B., who generally prefers her OLD Revereware to her All-Clad

  3. #3
    Sheldon Guest

    Default Re: What's Hot, What's Not, in Pots and Pans...

    On Oct 7, 11:07�pm, "Gregory Morrow" <helpme...@brokeiniceland.is>
    wrote:
    > http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/08/dining/08curi.html
    >
    > October 8, 2008
    >
    > The Curious Cook
    >
    > What's Hot, What's Not, in Pots and Pans
    >
    > By HAROLD McGEE


    Unfortunately the article is not truthful, right from the gitgo the
    title is a lie, it only adresses pans but not pots. And then omits
    the three most popular genre of pans used by professionals and home
    cooks entirely; plain aluminum, stainless steel, and carbon steel.
    Professional cooks do not use cast iron (plain or porcelainized),
    solid copper, non-stick coated, or multi-clad, except on TV.


  4. #4
    jmcquown Guest

    Default Re: What's Hot, What's Not, in Pots and Pans...

    Jean B. wrote:
    > Gregory Morrow wrote:
    >> http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/08/dining/08curi.html
    >>
    >> October 8, 2008
    >>
    >> The Curious Cook
    >>
    >> What's Hot, What's Not, in Pots and Pans
    >>
    >> By HAROLD McGEE
    >>
    >>
    >> "I hadn't recharged my batterie de cuisine with a new pot or pan for
    >> a couple of years, so when I went on a recent reconnaissance mission
    >> through Zabar's, I was startled by all the choices. Every
    >> manufacturer seems to offer a different metallic mille-feuille
    >> To find out, I experimented for a few days with a dozen or so
    >> different pans, some old and some new. I learned that metals and
    >> surfaces do matter, but so do fat and heat management.

    >
    > [snip]
    >
    > Very interesting and informative article, which I am saving for
    > future reference. Thanks.
    >--
    >Jean B., who generally prefers her OLD Revereware to her All-Clad



    I love my old Revere Ware. Mine is 30 years old, my mom's is about 60 years
    old From what I understand the handles on the new Revere are rather
    flimsy.

    Jill


  5. #5
    Gregory Morrow Guest

    Default Re: What's Hot, What's Not, in Pots and Pans...


    Sheldon wrote:

    On Oct 7, 11:07?pm, "Gregory Morrow" <helpme...@brokeiniceland.is>
    wrote:
    > http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/08/dining/08curi.html
    >
    > October 8, 2008
    >
    > The Curious Cook
    >
    > What's Hot, What's Not, in Pots and Pans
    >
    > By HAROLD McGEE


    Unfortunately the article is not truthful, right from the gitgo the
    title is a lie, it only adresses pans but not pots. And then omits
    the three most popular genre of pans used by professionals and home
    cooks entirely; plain aluminum, stainless steel, and carbon steel.
    Professional cooks do not use cast iron (plain or porcelainized),
    solid copper, non-stick coated, or multi-clad, except on TV.
    ---------------

    GM replies:

    Much of the food writing in the NYT and other papers has gotten to the point
    of being as lame as most of the shows on The Food Network, e.g. it's fairly
    undisguised shilling...

    The NYT "Travel" section used to be the best around but lately it seems
    their writing is done by a buncha high schoolers cribbing from an old volume
    of the _World Book Encyclopedia_...

    So goes the slide of US journalism in general...

    :-(


    --
    Best
    Greg




  6. #6
    bugbear Guest

    Default Re: What's Hot, What's Not, in Pots and Pans...

    Gregory Morrow wrote:
    > http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/08/dining/08curi.html
    > The heavy copper and the light aluminum pans produced evenly toasted heat
    > maps. The stainless-clad aluminum did pretty well, too. But the cast-iron
    > pan scorched a small area, and the pattern was familiar. For years I made
    > risotto every week or two in my favorite enameled cast-iron pot, and always
    > found a solid brown ring of stuck rice grains right above the flame.
    >
    > Still, I was surprised, because I'd always heard and thought that cast iron
    > was a slow but even conductor. I wondered if it would perform better if I
    > heated it more gradually over a low flame, or on an electric heating coil,
    > which would contact more of the pan bottom than the gas flame. I was wrong.
    > The low flame caused even browning over a small area at the center of the
    > pan, and none elsewhere. The electric burner gave a pattern much like the
    > flame's.
    >
    > When I spot-checked the cast iron with my thermometer, there was a
    > consistent 100-degree difference between the pan center and an inch from the
    > edge. That's easily enough to make the difference between browning and
    > scorching. My cast-iron pan makes a much better potato galette in even oven
    > heat.


    I created my own answer to hot spots; it's *very* effective.

    http://groups.google.com/group/uk.re...6a72a626d5308c

    http://groups.google.com/group/uk.re...f681d44c65f424

    Here's a picture for the non-thread readers:

    http://s48.photobucket.com/albums/f2...=hot_plate.jpg

    It's 150x200x6 mm of solid copper (6x9 x 1/4" for imperialists)

    BugBear

  7. #7
    HiTech RedNeck Guest

    Default Re: What's Hot, What's Not, in Pots and Pans...


    "bugbear" <bugbear@trim_papermule.co.uk_trim> wrote in message
    news:[email protected] et...
    > I created my own answer to hot spots; it's *very* effective.
    >

    http://s48.photobucket.com/albums/f2...=hot_plate.jpg

    > It's 150x200x6 mm of solid copper (6x9 x 1/4" for imperialists)


    About the little finger like thingies on it. Does the cooking pan sit atop
    the fingers? Or are the fingers meant to turn downward to rest on the stove
    to straddle the burner?



  8. #8
    bugbear Guest

    Default Re: What's Hot, What's Not, in Pots and Pans...

    HiTech RedNeck wrote:
    > "bugbear" <bugbear@trim_papermule.co.uk_trim> wrote in message
    > news:[email protected] et...
    >> I created my own answer to hot spots; it's *very* effective.
    >>

    > http://s48.photobucket.com/albums/f2...=hot_plate.jpg
    >
    >> It's 150x200x6 mm of solid copper (6x9 x 1/4" for imperialists)

    >
    > About the little finger like thingies on it. Does the cooking pan sit atop
    > the fingers? Or are the fingers meant to turn downward to rest on the stove
    > to straddle the burner?
    >
    >


    As I said in the thread, they fit the support bars over the gas burner (at least
    on my hob, I checked via google images that many hobs are similar), holding
    the copper plate safely in place.

    BugBear

  9. #9
    blake murphy Guest

    Default Re: What's Hot, What's Not, in Pots and Pans...

    On Mon, 13 Oct 2008 16:41:27 +0100, bugbear wrote:
    >
    > I created my own answer to hot spots; it's *very* effective.
    >
    > http://groups.google.com/group/uk.re...6a72a626d5308c
    >
    > http://groups.google.com/group/uk.re...f681d44c65f424
    >
    > Here's a picture for the non-thread readers:
    >
    > http://s48.photobucket.com/albums/f2...=hot_plate.jpg
    >
    > It's 150x200x6 mm of solid copper (6x9 x 1/4" for imperialists)
    >
    > BugBear


    very clever, bug. must have cost a bundle, though, at current copper
    prices.

    your pal,
    blake

  10. #10
    bugbear Guest

    Default Re: What's Hot, What's Not, in Pots and Pans...

    blake murphy wrote:
    > On Mon, 13 Oct 2008 16:41:27 +0100, bugbear wrote:
    >> I created my own answer to hot spots; it's *very* effective.
    >>
    >> http://groups.google.com/group/uk.re...6a72a626d5308c
    >>
    >> http://groups.google.com/group/uk.re...f681d44c65f424
    >>
    >> Here's a picture for the non-thread readers:
    >>
    >> http://s48.photobucket.com/albums/f2...=hot_plate.jpg
    >>
    >> It's 150x200x6 mm of solid copper (6x9 x 1/4" for imperialists)
    >>
    >> BugBear

    >
    > very clever, bug. must have cost a bundle, though, at current copper
    > prices.


    17 GBP including postage.

    BugBear

  11. #11
    blake murphy Guest

    Default Re: What's Hot, What's Not, in Pots and Pans...

    On Wed, 15 Oct 2008 10:43:43 +0100, bugbear wrote:

    > blake murphy wrote:
    >> On Mon, 13 Oct 2008 16:41:27 +0100, bugbear wrote:
    >>> I created my own answer to hot spots; it's *very* effective.
    >>>
    >>> http://groups.google.com/group/uk.re...6a72a626d5308c
    >>>
    >>> http://groups.google.com/group/uk.re...f681d44c65f424
    >>>
    >>> Here's a picture for the non-thread readers:
    >>>
    >>> http://s48.photobucket.com/albums/f2...=hot_plate.jpg
    >>>
    >>> It's 150x200x6 mm of solid copper (6x9 x 1/4" for imperialists)
    >>>
    >>> BugBear

    >>
    >> very clever, bug. must have cost a bundle, though, at current copper
    >> prices.

    >
    > 17 GBP including postage.
    >
    > BugBear


    <consults google and calculator> so call it thirty bucks american? not too
    bad. well thought-out in any case.

    your pal,
    blake



  12. #12
    Jean B. Guest

    Default Re: What's Hot, What's Not, in Pots and Pans...

    jmcquown wrote:
    > Jean B. wrote:
    >> Gregory Morrow wrote:
    >>> http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/08/dining/08curi.html
    >>>
    >>> October 8, 2008
    >>>
    >>> The Curious Cook
    >>>
    >>> What's Hot, What's Not, in Pots and Pans
    >>>
    >>> By HAROLD McGEE
    >>>
    >>>
    >>> "I hadn't recharged my batterie de cuisine with a new pot or pan for
    >>> a couple of years, so when I went on a recent reconnaissance mission
    >>> through Zabar's, I was startled by all the choices. Every
    >>> manufacturer seems to offer a different metallic mille-feuille
    >>> To find out, I experimented for a few days with a dozen or so
    >>> different pans, some old and some new. I learned that metals and
    >>> surfaces do matter, but so do fat and heat management.

    >>
    >> [snip]
    >>
    >> Very interesting and informative article, which I am saving for
    >> future reference. Thanks.
    >> --
    >> Jean B., who generally prefers her OLD Revereware to her All-Clad

    >
    >
    > I love my old Revere Ware. Mine is 30 years old, my mom's is about 60
    > years old From what I understand the handles on the new Revere are
    > rather flimsy.
    >
    > Jill


    The bottoms also became progressively thinner. Do they even make
    copper-clad pots now?

    --
    Jean B.

  13. #13
    bugbear Guest

    Default Re: What's Hot, What's Not, in Pots and Pans...

    blake murphy wrote:
    > <consults google and calculator> so call it thirty bucks american? not too
    > bad. well thought-out in any case.


    Turns out there's a commercial version:

    http://bellacopper.stores.yahoo.net/index.html

    although what the difference between their "product"
    and a piece of copper from a metal merchant is, I don't know.

    I would worry that a 10" square piece of 1/8 (3mm) copper
    in the purity they state would be extremely prone
    to bending. Mine is 6mm and (happens to be) a harder grade of copper.

    Oh ye $DEITY!

    They do a silver one, which is ONLY 7% better, and is ...
    .... slightly more expensive.

    http://bellacopper.stores.yahoo.net/sihedidepl.html

    Since effective thermal conductivity is the product of area and specific
    conductivity they could offer the same performance
    by increasing the thickness of their copper product by 7% !!

    (mine is twice as thick as theirs, so my copper
    one is better than their silver one, and cheaper too)

    BugBear

  14. #14
    blake murphy Guest

    Default Re: What's Hot, What's Not, in Pots and Pans...

    On Fri, 17 Oct 2008 10:38:24 +0100, bugbear wrote:

    > blake murphy wrote:
    >> <consults google and calculator> so call it thirty bucks american? not too
    >> bad. well thought-out in any case.

    >
    > Turns out there's a commercial version:
    >
    > http://bellacopper.stores.yahoo.net/index.html
    >
    > although what the difference between their "product"
    > and a piece of copper from a metal merchant is, I don't know.
    >
    > I would worry that a 10" square piece of 1/8 (3mm) copper
    > in the purity they state would be extremely prone
    > to bending. Mine is 6mm and (happens to be) a harder grade of copper.
    >
    > Oh ye $DEITY!
    >
    > They do a silver one, which is ONLY 7% better, and is ...
    > ... slightly more expensive.
    >
    > http://bellacopper.stores.yahoo.net/sihedidepl.html
    >
    > Since effective thermal conductivity is the product of area and specific
    > conductivity they could offer the same performance
    > by increasing the thickness of their copper product by 7% !!
    >
    > (mine is twice as thick as theirs, so my copper
    > one is better than their silver one, and cheaper too)
    >
    > BugBear


    it does indeed look like you got away cheaper. still, great minds and all
    that...

    your pal,
    blake

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