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best pans for specific dishes

helena143 Nov 7, 2011 09:05 AM

Hey all, I need your help. No matter what I do, I seem to use the wrong pan for the wrong dish. Can you all tell me what kind of pan I should be using for what dish?

For example, yesterday I tried making bacon in a Le Creuset enameled cast iron skillet. It was a disaster; the bacon stuck to the pan and ended up in pieces when I tried to remove it from the pan.

The other day, I tried making a stir fry in a stainless steel All Clad work; another disaster: the bottom of the wok burned my ingredients, they got stuck (even though I used lots of oil) and the work had to be soaked and sprayed with Easy Off for days for the black stuff to come off.

Last week I tried to sear a flank steak; used a stainless steel saute pan (Cuisinart). It had a spice rub. The spices on the steak burned so bad I am surprised I didn't have to call the fire dept. from all the smoke. The steak did not really sear. It was more like burned spices, and undercooked steak.

I am trying not to rely on nonstick pans, but it seems like every time I try to use something OTHER THAN nonstick (stainless steel or cast iron), the results TOTALLY SUCK.

So what would you use if you are cooking:



veggie burgers

braised chicken/veggies

searing a steak or pork chops or chicken breasts

  1. w
    wattacetti Nov 7, 2011 09:31 AM

    Bacon: stainless steel pan, or carbon-steel pan (depending on quantity)

    Stir-fry: stainless steel saucier (I don't have a flat-bottom induction-capable wok)

    Veggie burgers: I don't eat these

    Braised chicken/veggies: stainless steel sauté pan

    Searing a steak or pork chops or chicken breasts: stainless steel or carbon steel frypan

    Maybe it's your technique and not your pans.

    1 Reply
    1. re: wattacetti
      jkling17 Nov 9, 2011 03:20 PM

      Bacon: Oven at 375 or 400.
      Stir fry. Cast Iron Skillet, 10" or 12" depending on how much I'm doing.
      Veggie Burgers: We love burgers, we love veggies .... we don't confuse the two
      Braised chicken: sear on stove using cast iron skillet or dutch oven then finish in oven. Could also be finished on stovetop
      - braised veggies ... for shame! veggies should be steamed to "just barely cooked" then seasoned to taste. You better stop this inhumane practice at once!
      Searing steak/chops/chicken/ANYTHING: Cast Iron Skillet.
      - also easily done in oven at high temperature for short time. Clearly a skillet isn't big enough to handle an entire beef tenderloin or roast beef or pork roast or ... you see where I'm going. So the oven is VERY easily used to sear ANYTHING you want. Just set to 450 or so ... and ... wait a bit.

    2. c
      cutipie721 Nov 7, 2011 09:39 AM

      May I ask what kind of stove you have?

      Usually I tell people to heat up the pan to screaming hot to avoid sticking. In your case, I have a feeling that your pans are waaaaaaay too hot.

      I also have an AC wok. I usually have to tinker with the heat setting depending on what I'm cooking.

      We don't eat steaks, but I'm going to assume it's pretty much the same as searing chicken or fish. If I preheat the pan on medium high, I'd lower it to medium or even medium-low after the first 30s to a min and let it cook for a few mins. I'd turn the heat back up to med-high right before flipping and turn it down again.

      1. Jay F Nov 7, 2011 09:58 AM

        I cook bacon in the oven (350) on a cake cooling rack set into a half sheet pan. The rack I use is also half-sheet pan size, so it fits perfectly. The easiest way to clean the rack when you're done is to let both pieces cool, then set the rack upside down in the sheet pan and let it soak in detergent-y water for awhile, then go at it with one of those kitchen brushes with a long handle.

        I don't stir fry. If I did, I'd buy a wok.

        Braised anything goes in the right sized Le Creuset.

        I don't eat steak, but if you're talking about boneless, skinless chicken breasts, I do those in an All-Clad SS pan, which I like, though I wish I'd looked at cheaper alternatives before buying.

        1. h
          helena143 Nov 7, 2011 09:58 AM

          I have one of those glass top electric cooktop things (I know, I know, but I couldn't get a gas line into my house).

          I am completely amenable to the idea that maybe I am doing something wrong (and it's not the pans), but I thought you are supposed to use high heat for stir-frys and searing steaks?????

          Oh so maybe I should never be turning up the heat to the highest setting? Not even to heat up the pan or for the first minute or two of the sear?

          3 Replies
          1. re: helena143
            Jay F Nov 7, 2011 10:08 AM

            Here's a thread on burning everything on a glass stove top:


            1. re: helena143
              wattacetti Nov 7, 2011 10:10 AM

              I've done the ceramic thing and haven't had the issues you've listed.

              JayF has a great technique for bacon, and if you want to minimize the mess, line the pan with parchment paper.

              Bacon: I usually start with a cold pan under moderate-low heat, pretty much leave it until I see rendered fat, at which I start flipping the slices. Don't crowd the pan.

              Stir-fry: variable heat from high to medium depending on the stage of cooking. I oil the saucier and do not overcrowd the pan. I also cook protein and vegetables separately, wiping out and adding new oil as required.

              Braised chicken/veggies: medium to medium high to brown the chicken (, skin side down to start, not crowding pan, using high-temp oil), turn it down or pop in oven when it comes time to braise.

              Searing a steak or pork chops or chicken breasts: depends on the technique. If finishing a sous-vide steak/chop, I heat on high, use a high smokepoint oil (e.g. grapeseed) and sear. Meat will release itself. If I'm cooking the protein in the pan, heat on medium, add butter/oil and then turn up heat after I add protein since the temperature will drop. Flip meat when it releases itself (after it forms the Maillard crust you want). Also 1 protein, 1 frypan.

              1. re: helena143
                jkling17 Nov 9, 2011 03:09 PM

                Hi Helena,

                I took can't get natural gas, at least for another 2.5 - 3 years as my street was repaved before I bought and the town has a moratorium on cutting it. So ... I went out and got a two portable butane stoves and that's what I use. They are readily available for $20-25 at any asian market or chinatown. The cans are 4 to a pack for $5 and that lasts me for 3-4 weeks.

                When I redo my kitchen I'll put in a propane cooktop but until then, this gives me all the control that I need. You may wish to get one and see how you like it - to me electric ovens are great but I need to be "cooking with gas".

              2. r
                rasputina Nov 7, 2011 04:36 PM

                bacon- cast iron
                stir fry- carbon steel wok
                veggie burgers- the microwave and then the toaster oven LOL
                braised chicken and veggies- Emile Henry flameware tagine or enameled cast iron
                searing steak- the Big Green Egg
                searing pork chops or chicken usually stainless

                1 Reply
                1. re: rasputina
                  Chemicalkinetics Nov 7, 2011 09:55 PM

                  "veggie burgers- the microwave and then the toaster oven LOL"

                  That is pretty funny.

                2. Chemicalkinetics Nov 7, 2011 09:41 PM

                  "I tried making bacon in a Le Creuset enameled cast iron skillet. It was a disaster"

                  That should be doable. In fact, it should be possible for most cookware.

                  "The other day, I tried making a stir fry in a stainless steel All Clad work"

                  Many foods easily stick to the stainless steel surface. The hotter the worse if you don't have enough oil. If you don't mind seasoning , then definitely get a carbon steel wok or a thin cast iron wok.

                  There are several styles of stir fry techniques. In most cases, you should try to get your wok at high temperature.

                  When a carbon steel wok is properly seasoned, it takes on a very nonstick characteristic and it can handle high temperature. Here is a video which demonstrates this with fried rice. Please skip to the 1:00 minute mark:


                  For searing a steak or a chicken, I think either a cast iron skillet or a carbon steel frying pan is a good choice, but many other things will do, like a thick triply cookware.

                  1. s
                    sueatmo Nov 9, 2011 01:54 PM

                    Not sure if your technique or your pans are at fault. I have a glass cooktop. I heat almost all pans on medium. For woks and boiling water in a s/pan, I use high. Occasionally I use med high for doing a saute. My point is, don't cook on high, except in a wok. I don't know if I would use stainless for a wok. Carbon steel might be better, although there is a learning curve. My big wok has a non-stick anodized type finish, that I can use at high heat. I cook bacon on a cast iron grill pan daily--my preferred method. If I didn't do that, I'd put the bacon on toweling in the microwave oven. That's my next preferred method.

                    I'd do any sort of burgers on my grill pan, and I do; for braising, I would choose from several possible vessels which can go from stovetop to oven, including cast iron skillet, stainless braising pan, cast aluminum braiser. For searing, I'd probably use a cast iron skillet. For frying eggs, you can't beat a non stick skillet.

                    And nothing beats experience. Just keep cooking, no matter what.

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