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Nov 5, 2011 09:20 AM

Frying pans, sautes, what do the professional chefs use in restaurants?

I am looking for a new love affair. I want something for frying a whole chicken or several burger patties. I'm done with non-stick. I've had Circulon and Calphalon and the non-stick is coming off. Guess where it went?

When I go to restaurants where I can see into the kitchen, it looks like the pans they're using are stainless or aluminum. These pans must take a beating as they are used over and over all day.

I have cast iron and love it but I would like something a little lighter in weight (I'm not Pop Eye). A helper handle might be nice. I am a little hesitant about aluminum cookware as I was taken in by the Alzheimer's claims...What do the pros do???

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  1. "Guess where it went?"

    Your stomach. But don't sweat about it. Teflon is inert.

    Most restaurants use aluminum -- by far.

    The Alzheimer's claim is unfounded, but if you are scared, then use stainless steel cladded with aluminum. (not just stainless). Or you can use anodized aluminum -- aluminum which has been anodized, so it has a much more inert and harder surface.

    Again, the pros use bare aluminum cookwares. They are cheap to replace and they have provide performance. Who care if stainless steel cladded cookware last a bit longer (if that at all)? A bare aluminum cookware costs probably 1/3rd or even less than a cladded cookware.

    Before aluminum, I think carbon steel cookwares are the choice which they are lighter than cast iron

    1. Most Restaurants use the cheapest pans they can get there hands on since the help abuses them. Usually Winco frypans. If the restaurant isn't a cheapskate then they will go for the Wearever/Vollrath frypans.

      1. I am in agreement with Chem and Rudy (pardon my shortening you names). The only statistic on aluminum and Alzhheimers that I have seen concerns the amount of aluminum found in the brains of those who died of the decease during autopsies compared to those who died of other causes. While compelling, I don't believe the linkage has been 100% confirmed nor will it be. Time will tell.

        Because aluminum is soft, we always use wooden or nylon implements when cooking with it. This to avoid abrasions to the pan as well as possibly scraping minute bits of aluminum into the food, which might be a little farfetched. We are almost as careful, but not quite, when using the hard anodized variety. We still use non-stick for food that does not require high heat or searing for which we use the stainless or cast iron, and on occasion our aging magna pro (which is starting to lose its anodized appearance on the interior).

        If you pick you cookware based upon what you intend to cook in it you should do ok.

        1. Vollrath (they own the Lincoln Wear-Ever line too) instructs users to season bare aluminum before use. Not only does it provide a seal but makes clean up a breeze. When it wears off just re-season.

          1 Reply
          1. Pro kitchens do use a lot of natural finish aluminum as well as nonstick coated aluminum. Aluminum is light / holds and distributes heat pretty well, and is very comfortable to toss with. But you do also see carbon steel, pans with aluminum outside / stainless inside (I think Carlisle makes a line like this), tri-ply stainless (e.g., Vollrath Tribute, Mauviel M'Cook) or stainless with aluminum or copper disk bottoms (Sitram, Vollrath Optio, Mafter Bourgeat).

            Keep in mind, though, restaurants use stacks and stacks of skillets; you probably only need a few. They have 30kBTU/hr+ stoves, so less efficient cookware isn't a big deal. And non-anodized aluminum and carbon steel are reactive, so I don't think you want to use it for anything where you are deglazing with wine, or using a lot of acid.

            If it's just for cooking whole chicken and burgers, a mid-weight carbon steel pan is inexpensive ($15-30) and will be a good workhorse (keep in mind that the really heavy duty stuff like De Buyer's "Mineral" line can be as heavy as cast iron); bare aluminum would work well too, and should be even cheaper, at your local restaurant supply store. If you want something that's non-reactive and more general purpose, look at something with a stainless interior. In that case, you could look at Vollrath Tribute, All-Clad MC-2 or standard tri-ply; Mauviel M'Cook if you want to spend a bit more. All-Clad is usually a bit overpriced, but as far as skillets / frying pans go, and even sauteuses, there are some pretty good deals out there.

            2 Replies
            1. re: will47

              Thanks. Very informative. I'll stop by my restaurant supply. I'll wait on the All Clad till I get my own cooking show.

              1. re: SamVee

                The standard recommendation these days for All Clad, but actually having enough money left over to be able to purchase food is Tramontina's tri-ply line. As far as I'm aware they have some sort of weird deal where it's exclusive through Wal-Mart or something, but you can order online.

                In practice a number of different places have tested it and it performs close enough to All Clad that it's tough to tell the difference and looks almost identical. I just got a 10-piece set ($200) a few months back and I've been very happy with it.