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Questions for Kaleo (or others, of course)

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I am directing this question at K because his disdain of stainless steel and nonstick cookware is well documented. However, everyone is welcome to chime in, if they have a (valid) opinion. Please, no arguments about induction, PTFE, PTOE, or any other P's, F's, or Q's.

Given that cast iron and carbon steel (things that require seasoning) do not necessarily mesh well with fish (residual odor) or tomato/wine braises (eating away at the seasoning), AND that tin has a melting point, in what kind of vessel would you cook the following (please let me know if my fish and wine points are not necessarily true on a NEW pan, as I don't have any old well seasoned ones):

* Pan roasted halibut, finished in a 375 degree oven
* Braised tuna with tomato (stove top)
* Braised chicken with tomato (stove top)
* Baked swordfish with a tomato sauce, finished in a 400 degree oven

...and in what kind of vessel(s) do you make crepes, pancakes, scrambled eggs, fried eggs, and omelets? Do you have a separate pan(s) for all of them/one of them/some of them?

...yes, I am in need of a fry pan/skillet. Maybe more than one. Trying to decide what to buy.

Thank you!

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  1. I would say stainless for the dishes you have listed.
    I use cast iron for any kind of browning, sauteing, or frying. I have a cast iron griddle that works great for pancakes. For eggs, omelets and such I have a nonstick skillet, which is basically used only for eggs.
    For tomato-based sauces and miscellaneous other things I use stainless.
    If you are looking for a skillet, I can't recommend just one type, since it depends on what you are cooking.
    Hope this helps!

    1. So, do you share a disdain for SS and nonstick with K?

      In my own collection (which has become a little too large) I would probably use SS lined copper, ECI or clad SS for any of your dishes with an asterisk. I have and love 4 and 6 qt sautes from AC (maybe not what you want) and a 5 qt ECI braiser and a 5+ qt SS lined copper brazier from Bourgeat. I've also got tin lined SS in a 3 qt saute that I might use. I think you're fine to use tin as long as you're not really getting it screaming hot to sear or blacken. The melting point is just under 450F.

      For eggs and pancakes dishes I'd use carbon steel or CI. I personally have a 10" and 12" CI skillet and a 9.5" carbon steel crepe pan.

      1. I was brain dead and pan fried some lime marinated chicken in my 1 year old carbon steel pan. Part of the pan turned silver.

        The bottom of my pre seasoned lodge cast iron griddle is showing a slight hint of rust. Please do not tell me the seasoning does not go away with wash. It replenishes when you cook, but part of it still disappears.

        My grandma didn't leave me with a well seasoned pan, I'm just out of luck.

        Another thing I read about tin is that you should avoid highly acidic items too, or else the surface will turn black. Cosmetic issue more than functionality issue. Want to make it shiny again with bkf? Forget about it.

        1. I've prepared similar fish dishes and have found an enameled cast iron braiser to be extremely well suited to the task. I use it for chicken dishes that are also finished in similar fashion.

          1. Personally, I'd reach for one of these. (For use in the oven, you might consider replacing the plastic knob with a stainless steel one.)

             
            1 Reply
            1. re: tanuki soup

              This LC braiser would be my choice, too, if you want a single pan for all four fish and chicken dishes. For the braises, use the lid; to roast/bake, leave it off. It comes in 3 sizes, 2.5, 3.5, and 5 quart.

              You could also use this pan for scrambled eggs.

            2. Thanks for your opinions. I will practice cooking fish in something other than non-stick.

              I am not against non-stick or stainless, but here's what I DON'T want:
              A cast iron for meat, stainless for meat with wine or tomatoes, a non-stick/carbon steel for crepes, a non-stick/carbon steel for eggs, AND another non-stick/carbon steel for fish with its lingering odors. So I thought that by asking someone who didn't even use two of those materials I'd get a condensed list.

              Currently, I have two pans that are slated for replacement. First is my favorite tiny saute pan, about 7 inches in diameter, that unfortunately has plastic handles so I don't want to risk it in the oven. Second is my 8 inch non-stick that has a rubber handle and whose surface acquired a nasty scratch. I thought of replacing them with a scanpan while I search for more specified vessels. I have yet to find a carbon steel or vintage cast iron that feels comfortable in my hand.

              Tanuki Soup, so glad to see you here.

              2 Replies
              1. re: E_M

                I use the Staub version of tanuki's recommendation, it has a hexigon pattern in the bottom and things don't seem to stick they way they do in other pans, esp. SS. I do fish, chicken, anyting that cooks, gets browned, on the stove top and then moves to the oven that doesn't have an excess of liquid. The Staub version has a metal knob.

                I use a Scan Pan for eggs, I really like it for eggs, that's all it gets used for though. It requires no oil and I can use egg beaters which stick more than regular eggs do.

                1. re: E_M

                  If you're not against non-stick, I'd suggest that all of those dishes can be made in a decent quality non stick pan with metal handles. I make dishes similar to all of those in a calphalon non-stick, and it works well. Set you back maybe $50.

                  The only downside is that it will need to be replaced eventually, since no non-stick that I know of stays non-stick forever.

                2. I use all LC skillets (with lids) for those applications. Enameled cast iron browns gently, are fairly non stick, hold the heat well and are excellent for oven finishing.

                  9 Replies
                  1. re: sedimental

                    Where do you get a lid for an LC skillet? What material is it?

                    1. re: E_M

                      They are matching material. They come with them or at least...they used to! A quick search didn't reveal anything. Maybe they don't make them anymore?

                      Here is one on ebay as an example:
                      http://cgi.ebay.com/LE-CREUSET-FRYING...

                      I have all different LC sizes and shapes of skillets with lids and LOVE them.

                      1. re: sedimental

                        Wow. I have never seen them before. Thanks!

                    2. re: sedimental

                      Acknowledging Kaleo's reservations about CI (as below), I would be happy using enameled cast iron for all the applications. I'm quite enamored of LeCreuset's black matte interior -- braisers, soup pots and other piece. No experience with Staub's version. I find LeC's sufficiently non-stick that I can happily use it for cooking eggs, which I've never done with any success in their light-colored enameled interior pans. I have a LeC silverstone omelet pan which I use for omelets and scrambled but if I ever ruin it I probably won't replace it as long as the black matte treatment is available. I have a LeC crepe pan which has worked very nicely for fried eggs. (It's larger than the omelet pan, so I use it when I'm cooking in quantity.)

                      1. re: pericolosa

                        I have some of the black interior finished LC skillets as well. I have not used them as much (just because of space issues). But I want to get one out and use it to compare to the white interior ones.

                        The issues about not heating evenly have never presented me with ANY problems what so ever. I think that has to do more with the "way" someone cooks, maybe? Meaning, I rarely use really high heat (searing) inside on a daily basis. I roast, brown, braise, saute 99 percent of the time in my weekly cooking. I tend to use a grill, both inside and outside, for high heat applications. So, I have never noticed *once* that the ECI or bare CI doesn't heat perfectly evenly.

                        1. re: sedimental

                          Hi, sedemental:

                          The unevenness/hotspotting issue with CI skillets happens at all cooking temperatures. Obviously, the greater the cooking surface area, and the more uneven the heat source, the more pronounced it is.

                          If you haven't noticed a problem, you must have very nice hobs and size your pans just right. Or you have just adopted the workaround of moving the food within the skillet. Either way, it's been a good result for you; that's great.

                          Chem graciously provided the link to the thread about this phenomenon, which I'll repeat: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/738175 If you have access to an infared thermo gun, I encourage you to present your own results.

                          Aloha,
                          Kaleo

                          1. re: kaleokahu

                            Oh, I totally believe you! I am just saying that it doesn't effect me in any significant way. At higher heat, like for "removing fond" by deglazing, I can always see where the heat has been higher on the bottom of the pan in spots...it just makes for nicer fond. I am saying it has no *adverse* effects for me. I suppose I may not need to stir as much with more even heat? Maybe? I can't see where it makes a significant difference at lower heat applications (unless you have really *significant* hot spots) and you might have significant hot spots at high heat- I just can't see it at "normal" daily cooking applications...unless "normal" means frying a steak in a CI skillet daily.

                            Also, I would say that there is a significant learning curve with using a ECI skillet (white interior kind). They cook "hotter" at a MUCH lower heat than anything else I have ever used. This takes some adjustment. A disadvantage is that some flames don't even go that low (to just keep things at a simmer) You get *alot* of heat out of the skillets, it is very surprising.

                            1. re: sedimental

                              Hi, sedimental:

                              For me, the classic "what-am-I-doing-wrong" moment with large CI skillets has been making more than one pancake at a time. So I am envious that you have no problems doing SIX pieces of French toast in one CI skillet.

                              Do you have any explanation for why the "white" LC skillets are so much more efficient than their "black" counterparts? Now I'll have to break out my large round LC braiser (white and probably never been cooked in) for a comparison!

                              As for fond, I prefer a larger quantity and distribution than just the central hotspot. But your concept raises an additional vice/virtue/workaround flourish: You can have the hotspot *dedicated* to fond production, and just sacrifice the morsel being perched there for that purpose, and then discard it when charred. I'm actually seeing this as a betterment of the I-cook-on-the-hotspot-then-move-the-food workaround.

                              Aloha,
                              Kaleo

                              1. re: kaleokahu

                                I have no idea why the white interior is different.

                                If you use your regular LC white interior dutch oven, you probably have done a "classic" style meal- where you heat it up, throw in some olive oil, brown your short ribs... take them out, throw in the onion, then herbs, deglaze with the leftover wine, toss in your tomato & garlic then put it all back together and cook in the oven. When you are doing all those things, you are using your dutch oven as a "skillet" really. If you like the way it works, you would probably like a real LC white interior skillet. I absolutely love them, and the sizes and shapes are unique, but for me, they match with *how* I cook most days. It looks like maybe they don't make them anymore....and I could guess why- they were expensive, heavy, and take up alot of room ( you can't just stack them or throw them on top of each other in the cabinet) and your roof would come down if you hung them all.

                    3. Oh, and mine are older and are all white inside. LC has some really fascinating skillets. I have one that is HUGE enough to fry 6 pieces of french toast in it (with a flat lid) and another round one that is 4 inches deep and comes with a dome shaped lid! I bet if you kept checking e-bay, they would eventually show up there. They are really great cook ware pieces.

                      1. Hi, E_M:

                        Away for the holiday weekend, so sorry for the delay.

                        For all four starred dishes, tinned copper would be ideal. The melting point of tin is 437F, so there should be no problems with the lining. What you want is a cooking surface that is non-reactive, and tin, SS and enameled cast iron are all good candidates for that surface. All stick to some degree, so your roasted halibut would have some fond for sauce.

                        It is what lies *beneath* the surface that differentiates the three, and the factors at work are discussed thoroughly in other threads. SS-lined copper would probably be my second choice for those dishes--but less so for eggs. Aluminum would also be fine, although it is a little more reactive.

                        As to what *vessel* for each dish, I'd say my preference would be:

                        (a) Halibut--an oval gratin or rondeau (or if the whole fish (!) a turbotier);
                        (b) Braised Tuna--a lidded rondeau or a poacher with internal rack;
                        (c) Chicken--An oval marmite or doufeu; and
                        (d) Swordfish--an oval gratin or rondeau.

                        I do not make crepes, but I'd like to learn! The 'cakes, eggs and omeletes I do in a copper skillet. I do not have specific-food-dedicated pans, but just different sizes. Having said that, I've always wanted one of the heavy aluminum omelete pans popularized by Julia Child (they were the sawn-off noses of WW2 torpedos). They are still made and sold by someone in the Boston area.

                        Hope this helps.

                        Aloha,
                        Kaleo

                        12 Replies
                        1. re: kaleokahu

                          Man, finally, the protagonist (you) showed up.

                          1. re: kaleokahu

                            K, glad to see you. I wondered if you'd gone away, but then I thought, "Wait, he lives on an island. Where could he go?"

                            So, when would you use cast iron? The other things I have made successfully in my mini stainless saute pan are duck breast, filet mignon, and steak au poivre. These are things I wanted to try in a cast iron, but then again, they are finished with alcohol. The duck breast was a winner in the Staub skillet, which is enameled. But so many people here disdain the idea of an ECI skillet. I guess then it wouldn't be suitable for eggs, but I just may go non-stick for that as I am getting fed up trying to make a decision.

                            I don't make crepes either. A good friend of mine (French) makes them and every time I visit her I make her whip up a batch. But they are just. so. good. that I wanted to learn myself.

                            I could seriously go nuts and buy an oval skillet, too. Then I could have pan roasted asparagus. YUM. They don't fit properly in a round skillet, so I often roast them. But who wants to turn on the oven for a single small tray of veggies? An oval would also nicely fit TWO filet mignons, which could come in VERY handy. And let's face it, duck and chicken breasts are more oblong than round.

                            This will probably mostly come down to what nifty, inexpensive vessel I stumble across in an antique shop or TJ Maxx. Like my copper Mauviel saute pan for $10.....

                            Oh Chem. Haha. I didn't doubt he'd show up.

                            1. re: E_M

                              Hi, E_M:

                              I wouldn't use cast iron for any of the 4 dishes you starred in your OP, but many people do.

                              I use barenaked CI for very high heat searing and roasting (e.g., Tom Keller's Chicken Roti). I also use my round LC 5.5 Dutch Oven for stews, etc., but only because I'm holding out for the same size/shape in 3+mm copper. I also have an ECI grillpan I use in inclement weather when I want the marks on the meat.

                              One thing that doesn't get discussed a lot here vis-a-vis CI and searing/browning is temperature. CI and steel are very stable at high temperatures we *tend* to associate with searing, but what is the actual pan temperature when the protein is flopped in? If it's 600F on the stovetop or 1,800F under an infared salamander, it's one thing. But much of what we "sear" is actually done at much lower temperatures. My (evolving) rule of thumb is that if I want to or expect to see *smoke* at the flop, e.g., blackened ahi or steak, I reach for the CI, otherwise something more responsive.

                              Having said that, CI does have good specific heat capacity, so if storing a lot of heat in the pan (and not breaking the bank on the thickest, most expensive Cu or Al) is important, then CI can be a decent choice. Better to have half a chance at simultaneously searing 4 tenderloins in the same CI skillet than doing them serially or spending $500+ for a rare 4mm-thick copper skillet.

                              My disdain for enameled CI skillets has little to do with the enamel, and more for the base material. IF your hobs give even heat and are sized to your ECI pan, and you don't mind slow responsiveness, they can work well indeed. And inexpensively without reacting with foods. But if your hobs aren't dead even, or your skillet is larger than the hob (e.g., the new LC 15-inch skillet on an 8-inch hob) or you want tight turns, your cooking will either suffer or you have to learn workarounds.

                              I think you are wise to consider an oval, especially if it is in a conductive metal. You might also want to think about getting a double-handled oval gratin rather than a single-handled skillet. Even if you toss when you saute/fry, they can do that, often more securely (the more inventive pan guys sometimes call them "shaker pans" to get the point across). They also fit in crowded ovens/cupboards better, and can triple as roasters and serving pieces.

                              Your duck breast dish has me salivating!

                              Hope this helps,
                              Kaleo

                              1. re: kaleokahu

                                kaleo: "IF your hobs give even heat and are sized to your ECI pan, and you don't mind slow responsiveness, they can work well indeed. And inexpensively without reacting with foods. But if your hobs aren't dead even, or your skillet is larger than the hob (e.g., the new LC 15-inch skillet on an 8-inch hob) or you want tight turns, your cooking will either suffer or you have to learn workarounds."

                                What constitutes the "hob" on a gas stove? Is it just the circumference of the ring of fire, or does it extend out to the longest metal parts on what I (incorrectly?) call the grate, i.e, the metal thing the pot actually sits on?

                                I hadn't heard the word used in the US much, and I had never heard about not using a pot that's too big for your hob, until whenever I started posting here.

                                1. re: Jay F

                                  Hi, Jay:

                                  I use 'hob' pretty much synonymously with 'burner', but the latter just doesn't sound right to me without an actual flame, i.e., on electric, induction, solid cooktop, etc.. To my way of thinking, a gas hob includes the ring(s) of flame, maybe also the penumbra of the flame depending on how the jets are oriented.

                                  'Grate' works. Some people call it a spider.

                                  What I was referring to in terms of matching size had mostly to do with ECI skillets. CI is such a terrible conductor of heat that you can easily have >100F temperature difference at the periphery (or even the center, if it does not receive even heat) of a skillet if the skillet is too big for the hob. There is a thread here somewhere posted by a really smart person with an infared thermometer that demonstrates this. Some people say this is an advantage, because it gives you the ability to move food from hot to warm areas of the same pan. But I like to have the whole pan interior at roughly the same temperature.

                                  The sizing thing has several variables. Generally depends on what you're cooking and what it's cooking in.

                                  Cheers,
                                  Kaleo

                                  1. re: kaleokahu

                                    Kaleo,

                                    Here is the post you were referring to:

                                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/738175

                                    If you like this post, you can add it to your profile for future citation. To add to your profile, go to the top of the original post, and click "save to profile". Of course, there is that famous "flour test"

                                    http://www.cookingissues.com/2010/02/...

                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                          Ah, Chem, my heart is always i n Hawai'i nei. Was a time when there were more native Hawai'ians in WA/OR than haole.

                                          And the preferred nomenclature is "Braddah", "Moke", or "El Duderino", take your pick. ;)

                                          Kaleo

                                2. re: kaleokahu

                                  I used the Griswald the other day to fry bacon. I made two observations: one, I was finished before the handle got too hot to hold without an insulator, two, the bacon cooked more in the middle than it did on the edges. I latter browned some diced onions in the remaining bacon grease and by then the temperatures had evened out some and the handle was hot to the touch.

                                  1. re: mikie

                                    Hi, mikie: "I was finished before the handle got too hot to hold without an insulator, two, the bacon cooked more in the middle than it did on the edges."

                                    That's pretty much it, in a nutshell. CI--because it's such a crappy heat conductor--is what the handles are made of for good copperware, for that very reason. You can often do a quick sauce without reaching for a towel or potholder.

                                    Here's an old cast iron tip for your bacon (and pannini). At the next antique shop you come to, buy one of those 4lb cast iron laundry irons (fancy detachable handle optional). The iron goes in a high oven while your pan is evening out. In goes the bacon and on goes the hot iron. Flatter, more even cooking. Another workaround. I use these for grilled sandwiches and steaks, too.

                                    Please... No one start a "Seasoning Your Laundry Iron" thread!

                                    Aloha,
                                    Kaleo

                                3. re: E_M

                                  I don't find that using alcohol when making a pan sauce in a plain cast iron pan causes any noticeable reaction, so it's something you may want to try for yourself to see if it works for you.
                                  Braising with alcohol or acidic ingredients eats the seasoning right off, so I generally use enameled CI for those applications, but even so I haven't noticed any metallic flavor in my ribs or the accompanying sauce. Maybe I'm just insensitive to it.