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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?

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  1. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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

        1. 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.

          1. 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.

            1. As others have stated...cast iron can take any heat you can put on it.

              Commercial kitchens use simple "commercial" grade aluminium...I have taken to purchasing cookware from a commercial restaurant supply house....the heavy aluminium pans work great.

              As for non-stick...I think I have one pan left hanging in my rack...can't remeber the last time I used it. The idea of high heat and non-stick are incompatible...non-stick does not cook like a regular cast iron/aluminium/stainless stell/copper pan would.

              The "toxicity" of teflon pans are only an issue if the coating is worn/scratched/chipped and you are heating in excess of 500 degrees...must of the issue of teflon coated pans is overblown. I don't use them simply because I don't like the way they cook.

              A well seasoned cast iron pan or enamel coated cast iron (i.e. Le Cruset) will do the job quite well


              1 Reply
              1. re: Yellowshirt

                "The "toxicity" of teflon pans are only an issue if the coating is worn/scratched/chipped and you are heating in excess of 500 degrees...must of the issue of teflon coated pans is overblown."

                It's nice to see such great information being shared - I represent DuPont, and would like to help clarify some of the myths around Teflon-coated cookware. Yellowshirt, you hit the nail on the head with your post.

                The boiling temperature of water is 212°F (100°C). Normal temperatures for frying meat range from about 400°F (204°C) to 470°F (243°C). The highest temperatures used in baking – such as roasting poultry or vegetables – is about 450°F (232°C). Cookies or cakes are typically baked at temperatures ranging from 325°F (163°C) to 400°F (204°C). Temperatures of 500°F (260°C) to 550°F (288°C) are typically used for broiling. DuPont does not recommend use of non-stick coated cookware at those broiling temperatures.

                Please feel free to visit http://www.teflon.com for more information and some great recipes. Thanks!

              2. Stainless w/metal handles. The bottom is sandwiched with aluminum, but the cook surface is stainless. Stove to oven to stove again, never a problem.

                1. I think you may be mis-interpreting "high" heat and actually ruining your pans.

                  Check out this chart for the smoke point of cooking oils and the temperature at which they begin to break down.
                  You don't ever need to heat a pan above those temperatures - except maybe for a cast iron skillet or grill pan to get a really major sear on a steak (not a vegetarian's concern) but the temperature drops for that as soon as the meat hits it.

                  If you heat a pan above those smoke point temps, the broken down oil is going to start carbonizing/polymerizing,etc. and making the pans that ugly, brown, singed color that you have in yours.
                  You aren't noticing this on your cast iron or Calphalon because they're dark. Duh.
                  You don't need to do that to your food either.
                  You can cook successfully at more reasonable temperature. Below the temperature at which oil breaks down.
                  Trust me.
                  I have for decades.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: MakingSense

                    I appreciate your point, but for softening tortillas, the oil has to be pretty darn hot. If not smoking, then rippling. Otherwise, it makes your tortilla oily. In my experience, anyway.

                    1. re: comestible

                      Look at the smoke point chart again.
                      Assuming that you're using pretty ordinary oil, your don't need to get pans screaming hot.
                      Vegetable oil (Wesson, etc.) smokes at 360. Corn oil (Mazola) at 450.
                      It will "ripple" below that point.
                      Above that it starts to break down and your food will get an off-flavor, and if you keep going, you may have to call 911.

                      I have pans that are decades old and they don't look gross. This shouldn't be a problem unless you're overheating the oil. It should not be heated to the smoking point.
                      Use a high heat oil - like corn oil - if you think that you absolutely have to use extremely high heat.

                      1. re: MakingSense

                        I concur. Cooking oil will burst into flames before the pan is damaged by excessive temp. I speak from experience. I had to clean and repaint the kitchen, but the pan (stainless steel) is fine.

                        1. re: MakingSense

                          Just to play devil's advocate, I wonder how you feel about wok cookery, where getting the oil smoking seems routine, and I've read that the occasional flame-up is even desirable. Certainly it adds the desirable smokiness to the flavor, and I wouldn't consider that there is any "off-flavor." (Peanut oil is wanted here, which is a high-heat oil.)

                    2. Cast iron, hands down!

                      1. Don't forget black steel pans - those things can take a lot of thermal energy as well...you can pick them up at restaurant supply houses or online prettty cheaply

                        1. What about uncoated carbon steel? I'm looking for a wok like that now. In wok cookery you use high heats often, for instance 375-plus.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Cinnamon

                            You can't kill a carbon steel work. It will cook over an inferno. Cheap too. Just remember to buy a cover for those times when you might need one, in case your other covers are too small.

                            1. re: RGC1982

                              Though excessive dry heat can burn off the seasoning.

                              High heat can warp carbon steel. That is not much of a problem with the rounded bottom of a wok, but more of an issue with a flat griddle like pan (such as Mexican comal)

                          2. I think the other risk I've heard of is that some cheap "sandwich" type pans -- especially the kinds that have a disk on the bottom -- can delaminate under very high heat. I think you'd have to get way above 500F for that, though...so as long as you're not heating an empty pan you should be OK.

                            Of course, temperature shock can damage almost any kind of cookware; don't put cold water in a very hot, empty pan.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: dtremit

                              I think any pan, even triple-clad, could delam if you beat it up enough. I seem to remember, though that the restaurant-esque pans, for example those sold by Bridge Kitchenware, have really heavy duty discs on the bottom. Not sure if the sides are clad, though, so perhaps there are higher-end disc-base pans that can take a beating.

                              I do agree with the above posters that carbon-steel woks (or the black steel pans you can buy as well for not too much $$) could basically survive getting nuked. I suspect the only risk would be massive temperature change - e.g. dropping them into a sink full of water when hot..