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Sep 15, 2009 06:24 PM

Skillets, sautes, and Julia Child recipes

So earlier this week I made Julia's boeuf bourguignon with its two auxiliary recipes: sauteed mushrooms and brown-braised onions. According to Julia, one should use an enameled skillet for both, and the onions require a skillet with a lid.

In researching pan shapes, I came upon this page referenced in an earlier thread: This page says that skillets are not well-suited to sauteing because their sides are too short to contain the contents when flipped. Also, I can't find a skillet with a lid. Some websites that sell cookware call certain pans skillets, which to me, they have a short flared side more like a frying pan. Although they have lids, according to the above website, these pans allow too much moisture to evaporate and thus the contents fry rather than saute.

So I was wondering if anyone could weigh in on this. I am trying to figure out the best kinds of cookware for what I like to

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  1. What about this?

    It's kind of like that Demeyere you liked, but much cheaper (which for this -- and most -- purpose is fine) and with a lid. While there's certainly nothing wrong with using cast iron for sauteeing mushrooms and onions, I can't see why it would be necessary. I guess you'd get marginally better browning, but I doubt if you'd taste the difference in a finished dish.

    I'm not sure I've ever seen something called a cast iron skillet with a lid. She's probably talking about something we'd now call a braiser or buffet casserole. Again, I think these would work just fine, but stainless would, too.

    2 Replies
    1. re: pothead

      Sauteeing mushrooms is one of the things I prefer to do in stainless over cast iron--well, clad stainless to be precise. I want to be able to adjust the heat relatively quickly (as compared to what you can do with iron). That way I can start out hot to sear the mushrooms, turn it down to sautee for a while and blend the flavors, then turn it up again at the end a little bit to finish the browning and evaporate any remaining excess liquid. But of course you can do what need to in other materials, too.

      1. re: pothead

        Actually, I have THREE cast iron skillets with lids: two are old Griswolds, with the large logo; a number 8 and a number 10. My other is a vintage Le Creuset--a 7" flame skillet--that has a matching lid.

        Check Ebay. Ebay is the friend to all seeking deals on good quality cookware. ;-)

      2. Here is an enamel cast iron skillet with a lid.

        I personally do not think the specific pan is necessary. I would use either a saute pan with a lid or my favorite all-clad saute/simmer pan with lid. (the lid also doubles as the lid for my 12" all-clad frying pan.

        1. I honestly think you're overanalyzing the whole thing. I've made that recipe dozens of times and prepared the mushrooms and onions in all manner of "skillets" (i.e., saute pans, frypans), and anything else that happened to be available at the time. It was delicious every time. Interestingly, the one thing I've never used, because I've never owned or wanted one, is an "enameled skillet."

          1. As for lids, why not just buy some simple wooden lids in various sizes? I use them all the time - and generally prefer them to the lids that come with the pots and pans I buy. They must have ones similar to this in the US.

            1. Like FlyFish, I don't think it matters what type of pan you use, as long as the bottom is large enough to hold all the mushrooms in a single layer if you want to brown them, rather than stew them. I just learned that from watching an old Julia demo. it was amazing how fast the mushrooms cooked, and how much better they tasted done that way rather than in too small of a pan to hold them properly.