Caring for your cookware
Why are some pans cheap and some hugely expensive? We have the answers, plus how to make your investment pieces last a lifetime
Are you still using the frying pan your parents bought you for your first flat? Or are you a convert to the cachet of Le Creuset? Whether you want to spend $50 or $500 on a frying pan or saucepan, we’ve got the lowdown on what you get for your money, and how to take care of your investment.
Stevens has a wide range of great-quality cookware for all kinds of budgets. If you’re setting up a kitchen and want to know where to start, Stevens buyer Jessica Lepper says it’s worth splashing out if you can. “The top brands spend a lot of time developing coatings and finishes, and are constantly making improvements. There’s a lot of innovation in the cookware space and big brands are likely to be investing in research and development,” she advises.
Stevens stocks Le Creuset, Fiskars and Circulon pieces, and Jessica says pots and pans by these companies will typically have features such as thicker-gauge stainless steel, meaning a surface is less likely to warp over time with exposure to heat. Thanks to their three-ply bases, these sorts of pans will retain heat better and offer you a good solid base. Better-quality non-stick coatings will also ensure your pan lasts longer, and many of the top brands can be used on the stovetop or in the oven, making it easier to start a dish on the stovetop then finish it in the oven.
What are the major no-nos when it comes to high-quality cookware? “If you have a gas cooktop, don’t let the flame spread up the side of your pot or pan, as this will cause unnecessary heat on the side, as well as discolour it. It’s also important not to leave pans on the heat with nothing in them, as this can result in the cooking surface cracking, particularly with enamel-coated pans, such as Le Creuset.”
Finally, Jessica says it’s important to treat your pots and pans gently when cleaning them. While many pieces do claim to be dishwasher-safe, avoiding the high temperatures of dishwashers is always best if you want your pan to have longevity. Also steer clear of abrasive cleaning products and scourers, particularly with coated pans. If you have stubborn food stuck on a pan, try filling the pan with water then bringing it to the boil on the stovetop; you can then gently scrape at the coating with a wooden spoon, which can help to lift it. And use gentle scrubbing brushes (we like this Circulon cleaning brush, $29.99, that’s specially designed for cleaning non-stick pans).
Stainless steel pots and pans typically work well on the stovetop and in the oven (though double check that your pan doesn’t have any rubber areas on the handle). They’re great all-purpose pieces, good for everything from browning meat for casseroles to quickly frying a steak and sauteing vegetables. Look for pieces with reinforced, multi-level bases (typically three-ply). When you’re inspecting a new piece to buy, lift it up — if it’s good quality, it should be on the heavy side. This will mean it’s stronger, able to withstand higher temperatures, and that the surface is less likely to develop hot spots, meaning your food will cook evenly. We like the Le Creuset Classic saucepan, $239.99, which has an aluminium core.
This is what classic Le Creuset pieces are made of. As they’re so heavy, they ensure that heat is distributed evenly throughout the pan, allowing more even cooking. And once the heat source is switched off, you can leave food in the covered pot or pan for some time and it will stay hot — great if you’ve prepared a dinner party dish early. The enamel surface of the pans can crack if subjected to stress so Jessica says to be particularly careful not to run cold water on a hot pan; let it cool down before you wash it. Yes, they are expensive, but they really are lifetime investment pieces.
Ceramic cookware can be clay-based or have a metal body covered by the ceramic coating and is becoming increasingly popular. “There’s been some amazing development in this area over the last few years,” says Jessica. Pieces can typically be subjected to higher heats than pure stainless steel. Jessica says the Fiskars All Steel frying pan, $119.99, which has a Ceratec coating, is a great choice.
Non-stick frying pans are always a good choice - particularly if you’re trying not to use as much oil in your dishes. Generally these can’t be used in the oven, but for stovetop cooking they’re hard to beat. Two of Stevens’ best-sellers are the Fiskars Hard Face 28cm frying pan, $139.99, and the Circulon Genesis Plus Chef's 26cm pan, $249.99, which is a great multi-purpose pan that also has a lid.