Pans that can take the HEAT
So many new, high-end pots and pans come with instructions that tell you not to get the heat too high, that they'll cook just fine at a lower setting.
All well and good for most cooking, I agree. But there are some various dishes and procedures that NEED high heat, in at least their initial stages. Roasting spices, Softening corn tortillas in oil. Probably browning meats (I'm just guessing, as I'm a vegetarian.) That's just a start.
I've ruined at least two skillets from such activities. They were both non-stick. Well, I don't know if they're really ruined; their cooking surfaces have become ugly and off-putting. One stainless steel skillet looks slightly browned/singed, but I think it's OK.
I have had better luck with Calphalon and my cast iron. They seem unaffected.
What do you use for high heat? Do you buy a pan and "sacrifice" it for such uses? Or do you have a recommended material?
In a nutshell, I don't use non-stick for high heat. If I'm doing something that requires high heat, I use either cast iron or stainless.
Cast iron. No worries regarding staining its pretty surface.
We don't use non-stick any longer, but when we did, it was primarily for making eggs.
cast iron, stainless and copper can all take the heat. It's my understanding that the coating on nonstick pans is the issue with high heat, since it melts. Others might know better than me, but my understanding is that once the coating starts peeling it might not be good for you. I like to use high heat on the stovetop to sear and then stick it in the oven for finishing, and i know that nonstick won't be good for that. Also, with cast iron, copper and stainless, you can make a sauce from the frond that remains in the pan, which you can't do with nonstick as well. If you're on a budget, you can buy some cast iron and season it and it will be pretty close to non stick. If money is no object, you can look at sitram, which has an aluminum disk at the bottom, or all-clad, which is sandwiched with aluminum or copper or copper. Stainless by itself isnt a very good conductor of heat
Go to Mexican/Latino grocery and buy a $10 (or less) steel 'comal'. Season it like cast iron. Excess heat will burn the seasoning off, but you can always renew it. It's a good tool for cooking and warming tortillas. I haven't used it for spices (I have a beater aluminum for that), but it should do that fine. I even use it as a pizza pan.
Cast iron is the way to go, especially for meat. It is not that it just is kind of bomb proof but it has a higher heat capacity, which transfers to the meat quickly, giving you a sear. However, there are limits to heat on a cast pan. The seasoning will burn off at too high a temp. There are some health concerns regarding heating teflon too high. Above 450 degrees there is reportedly some toxic outgassing.
As for toasting spices or nuts, I use a toaster oven. I have the timing down now so that I don't even need to tend it.