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Does heavy pan = good pan? Does light = not so good?


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  1. Depends on the application, the metal, and what "good" means.

    But overall, I would say No.

    Heavy pan = inexpensive pan.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Alan408

      I totally disagree. In general, the heavier the pan, the better. Inexpensive pans are usually made of lightweight aluminum only which, while a good conductor of heat, is not the best material to cook in.

      1. re: FlavoursGal

        Yes - a light pan is good, for example, for boiling water for blanching or cooking pasta.

        1. re: MMRuth

          I agree wholeheartedly, MMRuth. However, xnyorkr's question was about pans, not pots.

        2. re: FlavoursGal

          To me a heavy pan is a cast iron pan, usually very inexpensive.

          In my area, cast iron pans are less expensive than the inexpensive aluminum pans.

          The OP didn't ask about heavier, the OP asked about heavy.

      2. I COMPLETELY disagree. I would say 90% of the time a heavier pan is a better pan.

        For instance, go to the sports store and buy a little camping skillet/pan. Go to the high-end gourmet store and buy an All-Clad skillet/pan. Compare. All-Clad is far superior, of course, and undoubtedly much heavier.

        5 Replies
        1. re: HaagenDazs

          I have some All-Clad (not the copper core) and they don't feel particularly heavy to me.

          1. re: xnyorkr

            That's great... but they're heavier than a camping pan.

          2. re: HaagenDazs

            "a heavier pan is a better pan."

            Where do you draw the line, the heaviest pan I could think of was cast iron. I feel an All Clad pan is superior to a cast iron pan is many applications.

            Most commercial kitchens use light weight aluminum, is there something you know that they don't ?

            1. re: Alan408

              It's funny how you left out the part when I said 90%.

              Where do I draw the line: A cast iron pan is the heaviest pan I can think of too, but it's really in a class by itself. It kind of goes back to the whole 90% I mentioned before... And yeah, I know that your comparison of commercial kitchens is not necessarily valid either. I know that I, as a regular home cook will not be going through several pans per year during regular wear and tear. I know that when a regular consumer buys cookware, they are looking for something that will last.

              1. re: Alan408

                The aluminum pans used in commercial kitchens are specifically made for commercial use, and are not as lightweight as many of the tinny pans available on the market.

                You can get good-quality aluminum pans at restaurant supply stores. However, don't use acidic ingredients in them or metal utensils on them, as you'll end up with a metallic flavour (and greyish colouring) in your food.

            2. I prefer a heavier pan, I think a heaver pan holds the heat, and distributes the heat more evenly than a lighter pan. But I also prefer a heavy chefs knife vs a lighter one.

              1. For the most part, a heavy bottomed pan is superior to a lightweight one. All my cheapo lightweight pans never distributed heat properly and the bottom burned at one point or another.

                Here's an earlier Chowhound thread that covers lot of stuff about pans.


                1. I prefer heavier pans up to a point. I can't pick up my big enamelled cast iron pots when they're full of hot food, I'm afraid of dropping them or burning myself. Same with big heavy roasters. If there's a 20+ lb turkey inside, I'll ask DH to move it for me. And with my larger skillets I have trouble flipping food in them with my left (non-dominant) hand.

                  1. Depends.

                    My Calphalon takes a lot longer to heat up than my farberware. For pasta i go with the farberware, who cares about ditribution, just boil the water. I have my Mom's wedding present cast aluminum pot that DW makes her famous red gravy, and that's pretty heavy.

                    Onthe other side of the weight are the Creusets. I know people love them but they are just way too heavy for me. For a dutch oven i use a 7-8 qt calphalon and the smiles on the family's face tells me i do not need a $330/300lb pot for the meal.

                    1. I think the application is important. As one person pointed out, for boiling water a not-so-heavy pan is fine. Of course, the super-lightweight ones are likely to burn, so you'd want a *little* weight on the bottom.

                      For pan cooking, the reason brands like All-Clad are venerated is that their heaviness (and more importantly, the metals used) distribute heat evenly. They also hold heat very well.

                      For baking, Cook's Illustrated gives props to Baker's Secret, a lightweight brand of nonstick pans found in grocery stores. They're good but not long-lasting... the coating will peel off after a while. I'm transitioning to Williams-Sonoma Goldtone baking pans, which have this special kind of nonstick bonded coating. Lighter baking pans are supposed to cook things more evenly, although you don't want to go with anything shiny, which would reflect the heat away. Darker pans increase the browning effect... sometimes too much.

                      As for cast-iron pans, they're the exception to the rule about more expensive being better (if that's even a rule), kind of like the clay pots used in many traditional cuisines. I think they're even better when bought secondhand... you don't have to go through all the trouble of seasoning them. They're great for pan-frying (not sauteeing) and make peerless cornbread.

                      1. My many pots and pans--not a Calphalon or le Cruset among them--all look like they came from a dumpster. Weight tends to lightness. For a few things slow cooked it's good to have a bit of weight. But if I'm doing a lot of clanging and banging at speed, just heavy enough is enough.

                        1. It's not a matter of weight, but the type of metal and the thickness, for even heat distribution, Aluminum is the lightest metal commonly used in cookware, but cooks more evenly than the heavier, pure stainless steel. (Most people seem to think stainless steel with a copper or aluminum core works fine.).l.