Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Path to Happy Cooking...

Unless you wear an animal skin for a robe, keep bones in your beard, and club your women you probably use some tools when cooking. Us humans are tool-users, opposable thumbs help, and we have gotten really good at making tools that we both need and don't need. Alton Brown, a food TV personality, shows his disdain for "uni-taskers". These are items that are designed to do one job only. Take the garlic press for example. It presses garlic. I can mince garlic with my chef knife just fine. And then go on to do a plethora of other tasks with said knife. So bottom line: there are a lot of tools that you just don't need. However, there are some crucial ones, and this post is talking about pans. And not Pan, the mythical goat man, although he is pretty cool too. Always has a rad goatee.

Why are good pans important? Would you prefer to drive a Ferrari or a Yugo? Play video games on an Atari or XBox 360? Obvious right? And yet people forget this easy decision when buying pans for themselves. Why spend $50 on a saute pan when I can get one at XXXX for $12? Well just like the Ferrari vs. Yugo it is all about performance. A crappy pan will cook crappily, and will make it very hard to cook properly. Important factors in cooking such as heat retention, heat distribution, and handling are abhorring non-present in poorly made pans. You need to invest a tad more moolah to get the goods, but the nice part is that they will last for your lifetime if you take care of them! And using nice stuff makes it more fun to cook. Cooking is fun and should stay that way. If every time you try to fry an egg it comes out looking like a Jackson Pollack painting, maybe you should fork over some bucks and buy a decent non-stick pan. Correct technique helps too, but that is a different topic.

My personal preferences for pans are Calphalon and All-Clad. If these were car brands they would be Honda and Mercedes, respectively. My non-stick saute pans are Calphalon and my stainless saute pans are All-Clad. As far as pots go I have about a 50/50 mix. I also have some flimsy pans from my early days that I use to boil water and hard-boil eggs. They bring me no joy though. It sounds silly, but I know some of you reading this understand. It brings me joy to heft my All-Clad pan onto a burner, bring it to temp, pour in some oil, see the shimmer, and then hear the sizzle as I lay the meat in it. Just that process alone makes me happy, I am simple.

Buying tip for all ya: I never pay full price. Between and TJ Maxx, Home Goods, and Marshalls you can find Calphalon and All-Clad pans on sale for up to 60% off. Carpe di-pan!


  1. Please don't look on me with derision and shunning next time you see me, name is Elisa and I cook with crappy quality pans. Like bought at Christmas Tree Store pans. Like the plastic handle gets hot so we had to buy one of those handle coozies to pick up the pot because I'm a delicate flower and the temperature was hot to my little hand touch.

    That being said, I will start building a better pan empire based on your recommendations. :)

  2. I was actually going to add a sidenote to this post, but you beat me too it. Most important of all is to cook no matter what you have for equipment. Cooking on a hot rock with a stick is better than never having the joy of making your own food. And as another note, I hope the post didn't come off as snobbish about pans. That wasn't my intent, but rather to encourage people to invest in their "pan empire" as you put it. :)