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If you could have only one NOT Non-Stick Pan which one would it be?

Hi Chowhounds,

I have been getting by for two years with a full set of non-stick cookware, and am more than ready to make the leap into cooking with something different. Given space and budget considerations, I'd like to start off with one pot/pan that will have the highest use and work my way from there. If you could have one pan that is NOT non-stick what would you go with and why?

My current thoughts are a 12" All Clad Copper Core skillet, but I'm awaiting advice!

Thanks much

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  1. 12" Lodge cast iron skillet. It's not good for everything but it's great for more things than anything else I own.

    1 Reply
    1. re: inuksuk

      Agree with the cast iron. Can made cornbreads, fry, roast. Good for both stove topo, oven, grill, camp fire. Almost indestructible!

    2. I agree with the 12" skillet concept - as is probably known by now, I'm very happy with my Sitram pans, but have never used All Clad.

      2 Replies
      1. re: MMRuth

        I realized - mine is not a skillet but a saute pan (straight edges) - which is deep enough for me to braise in etc. I have to confess that I am terribly lazy about doing proper clean up and maintenance of my cast iron pans and therefor only use them to make Tarte Tatin. I aspire to be better about it though, especially with all of the glowing recs here!

        1. re: MMRuth

          It looks like MMRuth and I are in the minority but I too will go with clad SS over cast iron IF I am limited to one and one only not nonstick pan -- my reasons are simple:

          #1 the heat reponsiveness factor is better for a high quality clad pan, lots of times I will tweak the heat up or down a wee bit while sauteing and cast iron just has too much lag

          #2 ease of cleaning /care when (not if in my house, as others use the pans besides me) something gets put in the pan that should not (such as an acid) OR something gets burned OR a 'helpful' person sticks pan in dishwasher it is no big deal to ss but cast iron, yikes!

          #3 sort of reverse cost/importance calculation -- meaning that something cheap but where use makes it better (like a cast iron pan) is oddly harder to replace than a costly but largely inert clad ss pan. Another way of saying this "If something happens to a clad pan "it is only money" put to a cherished cast iron pan "there goes a piece of my history....

          I like my AllClad pans and my Berndes, and I would be very happy with stuff from Viking too.

        2. Second Lodge cast iron - heavy duty work horse in the kitchen. As long as you don't wash it with soap or pickle Kimchee in it, it gets the job done well. But it needs strong arm to wield.

          Why consider All Clad? Do some research in the forum and you will see other options.

          1. I use a 1 1/2 quart Viking Saucier. It's super-heavy and has so many uses... deep enough for liquid cooking, sloped sides for sauteeing, comes with a lid if you need one. If I only had one pan in my kitchen, this would be it.

            1. my first foray into grown-up cookware was a 12 inch all clad sautee pan. still going strong, and i still use it the most. you will not regret it.

              can you make pan sauces with acids in a cast iron pan?

              6 Replies
              1. re: eLizard

                I have made gravy from a bottom round roast beef in the cast iron pan, with good results. And the gravy did include red wine. And I have heard some people can "taste" the iron when cooking certain items, but I have never noticed. Love my pan- it originally belonged to my grandmoter- and I am past 50, so that will tell you how long they last! I also have one of her revere ware copper bottom pans. That sucker is old!

                1. re: eLizard

                  I have the same question. I'd like to be able to not only get a nice crust on pan seared meats but be able to make french-style pan sauces. That's my biggest gripe with non-stick (besides not being able to heat them up dry) that you can't get a good pan "fond" to make sauces. Will cast iron work well for this?

                  1. re: ExercisetoEat

                    In the winter, I sear my steaks in the cast iron, and finish off in the oven. I also use it when making rack of lamb. Gives a nice crust. I have cooked pork chops, stuffed with an apple/bread stuiffing.. The pork chops come out nicely browned, and the stuffing keeps everything moist. And of course, bacon , eggs and home fries on the weekend are wonderful in the cast iron. For the price, you can't go wrong.
                    Most of the sauces I make involve the fond,broth, maybe some wine and butter.
                    Last weekend I made a gravy from my roast, and as the roast was resting, I put the skillet back on the stove top, added some butter and flour, a quick roux. then added a bit of red wine, S/P . Done. And best of all, the clean up was a snap. The only thing I do not like about my largest skillet is the weight of it.

                    1. re: ExercisetoEat

                      A good cast iron skillet will work great for this. You'll get a good fond, and if you've built up a good seasoning on it, you shouldn't have any problem cooking with acids for a pan sauce, as you're not cooking it for that long. Besides, deglazing is a great way to clean up a cast iron pan.

                      1. re: kerdragon

                        Are there any enameled cast iron skillets that work well? I am crazy about my Le Cruset dutch ovens and they clean up so easily. I think a cast iron skillet would be wonderful to own, I'm just a bit nervous about the "seasoning" somehow flaking a bit and affecting the flavor of the deglazed sauce? Maybe I really need one of each...? =)

                        1. re: ExercisetoEat

                          Don't be scared about any talk about seasoning. TO make it easy- when you first get your cast iron, just cook bacon in it for the first few times. Rinse with hot water, and dry thouroughly. There should be no flaking. When I bought a new one, I used it for bacon, and did not do anything else- no rubbing with oil or crisco- just bacon. You will know it is seasoned when things don't stick! i think a lot of people are afraid but rememebr this is the kind of pans they used on wagon trains- so they had to be dependable, versatile and easy to care for.

                  2. A 12" saute pan is a great idea. I'd go with the all clad. Its amazing how well they distribute and retain heat, although I have not cooked on iron so can't compare.

                    But the one pot I use more than any other is a 4Qt Le Creuset Dutch oven for braising, deep frying, casseroles, etc.

                    1. I am getting in line with everyone else it seems here and voting for CAST IRON...I have the Lodge pot and the skillet (skillet doubles as the lid for the pot) and quite frankly the only thing I dont cook in it is mac n cheese for my 5 year old. For that I use a Caphalon pot. My cast iron is what I always grab for without thinking. You will always have space for these because most ovens come with a bottom drawer...perfect for my cast iron pieces! Once you season them...which doesnt take forever....you can cook anything in them! As for the budget concerns, I bought my 10in pot and matching skillet/lid for less than $25 at TJ MAXX...and ya cant beat that!

                      Good luck!

                      1. Agree with the cast iron (and you can get a pre-seasoned lodge one w/o lid for very cheap.

                        But I would also suggest a 3.5 or 4 qt saucepan - just because cooking pasta, rice, soup, etc. in a nonstick pan seems unnecessary. I have a 4.5 qt Sitram one (see below), which is great, though I'd like to have a slightly smaller one too at some point.

                        btw, I have the All Clad copper core chef's pan (a saucier type pan, almost wok shaped), and it's a pretty good multi-purpose pan, though very expensive.

                        Check out the Sitram "Catering" series stuff - comes recommended by a lot of folks on the board, and much cheaper. You can get a whole set of the Sitram stuff for the price of the All Clad copper core chef's pan:

                        1. You can put me down for one of these....


                          ....because Julia Child said so.

                          1. Stainless. Inexpensive or expensive doesn't matter.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                              I can't really cut it to one. I'd go for three, two of which are cheap or cheapish. A cast-iron skillet (I've bought two lovely ones at garage sales and charity shops, for $2 and $3 repectively (Canadian, of course); a wok and an enamelled dutch oven or similar pot, from Le Creuset or another good brand - you will find threads here on all those things.

                              I only own one non-stick pan - a Joyce Chen wok, and I'm disappointed in it as the non-stick does not really hold up at wok heats, but I guess I was naïve to think it could. I bought an identical carbon steel one. Used to have a nonstick crêpe pan, but I threw it away as it buckled.

                              Hide your pans if you don't want the culinarily ignorant to wreck them. I had a student rooming at my place who wrecked a good knife as well as a couple of pans...

                            2. Cast aluminum, if you can find it

                              1. Either a four to six quart stainless steel saute pan or a LeCrueset dutch oven. The saute pan is extremely versatile, is a much better choice for browning and deglazing, and can go in the offer up to 400 to 600 degrees, depending upon the brand. I have both expensive Demeyere and moderately priced Cuisinart stainless steel, and I use them constantly for things like paella and braises. My LC dutch ovens are nearly twenty years old and are constantly in use too -- they clean up well with their enamel linings. I also think the cast iron skillet is a good way to go. It all depends on what you like to cook.

                                1. I am in the 12" all clad (SS clad aluminum core-this is the pan everyone raves about, not the copper) saute pan camp. I definitely taste a metallic flavor if I use acid in cast iron (most recently, in a rhubarb recipe that actually specific using cast iron. It was inedible). But why is this an either/or? Cast iron is cheap. Get them both.

                                  1. Analon Titanium Wok. Deep enough, wide enough, very versatile.

                                    1. Before I even clicked to open the thread I was thinking "12 inch stainless All Clad skillet." Amazingly versitile, dishwasher safe, easy to clean up, quick response to heat and not super heavy, comparatively. A cast iron skillet would be my second choice, but if limited to one, I'm going with the 12 inch stainless.

                                      Now, the other way to go entirely, as has been mentioned, is a dutch oven. It really has a lot to do with how you cook. If the larger pot that is certainly a part of your set is sufficient for what you do, then get the skillet. Otherwise, the dutch oven would allow a lot of flexibility just as wak noted.

                                      1. I'm in the All-Clad camp - and although I adore my big skillet I would recommend the saute pan with the lid - you could use it to saute, of course, but with the cover you could also braise. I have a cheaper stainless saute pan which I'll be replacing with All-Clad or something of similar quality.

                                        I do like cast iron, epecially for frying, but since I use tomatoes and lemon a lot it is limited in its usefulness.