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Dec 26, 2012 07:09 PM

Saucepan recommendations

I am looking for a new saucepan to replace my old scratched up teflon one. I use it a ton to make mac n cheese, mashed potatoes, oatmeal, etc. most important to me is that it be free of chemical coatings. I want 2 or 3 quarts. I have a gas range and I hand wash my pots. Also, I want it to be under $50ish. Thanks!!!

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      1. re: GH1618

        Nice pan and a good value. I can almost taste the 2-3 pcs of chicken fried in it.

      2. First, let's get one thing straight. Everything is chemically coating because everything is chemical. So what I have interpreted is that you meant non-Teflon, non-PTFE, and non-silicone.

        Well, many things will work for you.

        A bare aluminum saucepan will work for you and it will be the cheapest. However, it will also require the most work. You have to handwash it, and you have to handwash it on a timely manner. It is soft and will easily get dented and scratched. You cannot put in it in a sink full of water for days. Still, it will work.

        An andoized aluminum will work for you as well. It will be a bit more expensive, but its tough surface make it a bit more durable. No, it is not what you considered to be chemical coatings. It is basically oxidized aluminum. This surface can take on acidic sauce better, but it is still not tough enough for dishwashers.

        A stainless steel cladded cooke will also work for yo. It will likely to be more expensive than the other two. Its surface is chemically very tough. It is stainless because it barely react with anything else. It is also dishwasher safe, and you can put in a sink for months and months (just saying).

        As for specific suggestions:

        Aluminum sauce pan:

        Any from your local restaurant supply store will work fine.

        Andoized aluminum sauce pan:

        the suggestion by GH1618 is great.

        Stainless steel cladded sauce pan:

        1 Reply
        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

          Cuisinart MCP is a good choice. I ended up buying an 8 qt stock pot, based on reviews by Fine Cooking, and am very happy with it. Especially since I have so much All Clad and can compare performance. MCP heats well, cleans up nicely, and is very reasonable in price.

          1. re: Barretts08

            The cheap and yet good quality stainless steel cladded saucepan would be of the following brands:


            Cuisinart MCP

            Calphalon triply

            Now you will have a good choice of finding good deal for these cookware in HomeGoods, Marshall, TJ Maxx...etc. However, it can be a miss-to-hit thing in these stores as they do not always carry them in the size you want. Good luck.

            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

              Agreed. The Simply Calphalon line is cheap and great quality.

            2. re: Barretts08

              I have some cheap restaurant supply saucepans from Update International. Stainless steel w disk bottom. I've seen the 2 qt saucepan for $15 online, and I am pretty sure that includes lid. I have been using them for several years and they seem comparable in build quality to tramontina or similar. I also have a circulon pro saucepan and it seems to conduct better and have a better handle, but anodized aluminum seems stickier and circulon has a ridged surface that is harder to clean. I use the update pans more often. Overall I am very happy with them.

            3. Go stainless.
              With stainless you have to season the pan with salt and oil. Metal/stainless pans have VERY porous surfaces. "But the pan looks so shiny". Look at the surface with even a cheap microscope and look at the rough surface. The oil and salt fills up the pores which means nothing can get into these food. Season with Kosher salt and oil made into a slurry paste and spread it on the bottom and sides of the pan. Heat the pan to very hot to open the pores and allow the salt/oil to fill up the pores. Remove from the heat and allow to cool gradually. Do it again if you are serious. Then when you use the pan heat it to medium before adding any fat. Let the fat heat up before adding the food. Put it in the pan and leave it alone until it's reached the same temp as the pan. Then stir it if you need to. NEVER wash any seasoned pan with soap. The chemicals in the soap WILL dissolve the oil in the pores and then you can start over agin. Just warm water and a wipe out with paper towel.
              Once you can cook food with stainless you have arrived.

              18 Replies
              1. re: Puffin3

                What reason is there to "season" a stainless steel pan? I use stainless, uncoated and unseasoned, every day to cook omelettes and fried eggs and they never stick. After cooking my non-sticking eggs, I wash the pan with soap and water, though usually there is little to wash off. It normally just can be wiped out.

                Stainless steel is not human skin. I don't believe you can "open up the pores" of stainless steel just by heating it on a hot stove. You may be able to smooth out the irregularities in the steel by cooking oil onto the surface, but I do not believe you are actually opening up in some way the surface irregularities.

                1. re: taos

                  I disagree, perhaps there's a better descriptor than pores, but metal does expand and contract, and only appears smooth to the naked-eye rather than with microscopic viewing.

                  The best common-sense evidence I can think of is the water droplet on a properly heated pan—nothing has been added to smooth the surface yet the water droplet beads. When heated the pan expands thereby flattening it's 'porous' surface, whereas oil functions moreso as an 'insulator' between the food and pan.

                  1. re: Custardly

                    The reason a water droplet beads up when dropped on a hot surface has to do with what happens to water when it comes in contact with something hot. It's not because the hot surface is expanding or contracting or has any special properties, other than being hot.

                    You can put the drop on a stainless steel pan or on a hot rock and it will do the same thing. You can google Leidenfrost effect and see what it's all about.

                  2. re: taos

                    The more I learn about cooking...I realize it's an art based on science.

                    1. re: taos

                      <Stainless steel is not human skin. I don't believe you can "open up the pores" of stainless steel just by heating it on a hot stove>

                      A long long time ago, this topic came up. It wasn't about stainless steel, but rather cast iron. It is believed that heating a cast iron pan can open up the pores in a cast iron. I repeated this common knowledge statement. Someone said that this is not true, and that cast iron has no pores based on electronic microscope...etc. Long story short, I searched many scientific articles and I could not find anything about cast iron having real pores. Irregular surface, yes. True pores, I cannot find.

                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                        Cast iron does have pores, or tiny indentations in the surface of the cast iron, but they do not somehow open up when the cast iron is heated in an oven. What happens in seasoning is that oil is carbonized onto the surface of the cast iron, coating the surface of the pan and filling in any of the irregularities, or pores. Without this application, food will generally stick to cast iron. The carbonized fat creates a slicker surface and also provides a protection against rust.

                        I think the confusion comes in because people confuse pores in molded cast iron with pores in human skin. Pores in human skin can easily change shape and size by the application of heat. Pores in cast iron do not function like this.

                        Stainless steel is already relatively slick and obviously does not rust, so there is no need to season it. Carbon steel does require seasoning.

                        1. re: taos

                          Hi, taos:

                          I'm attaching a SEM photo of cast iron.

                          My experience is that, completely aside from the polymerization of the seasoning layer, heat *does* in fact play a role in stickiness. Witness the many recipes calling for high and dry preheating before adding fat. If you do it that way, you will have less sticking than if you start to preheat with oil in the pan.

                          I attribute some expansion and cooling-contraction of the metal (and therefore of its fissures and pores) to this seasoning-holding and non-stick effect. And I think it holds generally true for all metal cooking surfaces.


                          1. re: kaleokahu

                            If the "pores" (actually microscopic imperfections in the surface of the metal) were actually "opening up" or changing shape in any way, the pan would have to get a lot hotter than it gets on the surface of a stove or in an oven.

                            The reason it works better to heat a pan before adding the fat, has to do with the properties of the fat, not the properties of the metal.

                            1. re: taos

                              Hi, taos:

                              Well, it's pretty clear that common metals expand with heat--any heat. In the case of cast iron, the coefficient of linear thermal expansion is around 6(10-6 m/m F). The more interesting question (to me) is whether expanding these features works any increased physical bond between pan and seasoning.

                              "The reason it works better to heat a pan before adding the fat, has to do with the properties of the fat, not the properties of the metal."

                              Please explain the properties of fat to which you are referring. I know from personal experience with the same well-seasoned CI skillet with the same fat at the same temperature at the flop that the pan is far "stickier" if the fat is heated *with* the pan (as opposed to pitching the fat into the preheated pan). What is it about the fat that accounts for this?


                          2. re: taos

                            <Cast iron does have pores, or tiny indentations in the surface of the cast iron>

                            Indentations, yes. Uneven surface, that is for sure. Gas holes inside the cast iron also exist, but they may not be considered as pores like human skin pores. They are unlikely to expand and contract as some believe -- which is the argument for heating up the pan to open the pores. The heating is important for seasoning a cast iron cookware, but I am not sure about the whole "opening pores" thing. They are also not pores in the sense that they go deep down. Having a rough surface is not quiet the same as having pores. We cannot say sandpapers have pores, right?

                            1. re: taos

                              Skin pores do not change with heat. No data to support that. Don't believe all the crap cosmetics companies feed us.

                        2. re: Puffin3

                          You DO NOT have to season stainless steel!!!!!

                          1. re: C. Hamster

                            But can you, will there be a noticeable difference? Seems like a painless experiment for me to try.

                            1. re: Custardly

                              Hi, Custardly:

                              Yes, you should notice a difference, at least with frying and sautes.

                              Wash & dry the pan. Heat the pan, add oil, get it to just below the smoke point, wipe it around and turn the heat off. Let it cool completely. Pour out the oil. Heat it again, throw in 2T of salt, and scrub it around in the pan. Wipe out the oily salt, and use.

                              This works best if you don't wash the pan again--just scrub with oil and salt. But if you use soap and water to clean, just follow the instructions above again.

                              Unlike seasoning CI, you do NOT want polymerized fat building up on the surface. If you do it right, the surface will look clean and shiny all over.


                              1. re: kaleokahu

                                Kaleo, what purpose does the salt serve -- and would pitting ever be a problem?


                                1. re: iyc_nyc

                                  Hi, iyc:

                                  I'm not entirely sure. That's what Chef Stanish adamantly insisted on for his omelet pans, and my results following his instructions have been *incredibly* non-stick.

                                  My hunch is that the salt's abrasiveness takes away the beginnings of a polymerized layer... Which I freely admit begs the question of what is left that simply oiling the pan couldn't provide. All I know is that it works.

                                  Re: pitting... The salt is not left in the pan for any length of time. I've not noticed any pitting--if anything, my omelet pan's interior is of a brighter polish now than when I got it.

                                  Sorry not to have a clear answer for you.


                                  1. re: kaleokahu

                                    Super interesting - thanks for the thoughtful reply, as always! May have to try this.

                            2. re: C. Hamster

                              "You DO NOT have to season stainless steel!!!!!"

                              + 1,00000!