We give you some help and advice on which pots and pans are the most optimal for you and your cooking
A fundamental part of creating delicious food in your home kitchen is the equipment. While the saying goes: “a bad workman blames his tools,” it is actually fair to say that if you’re not fully stocked with the right inventory, you are going to struggle.
An important part of your cookery arsenal is the pans: but what do you need, and how can you make sure you have just the right sizes, shapes, and types of pan?
Top tip: You should make you have secure, well-fitting lids for your pans – important for both cooking and safety.
The griddle pan
While many people immediately associate these with steak, a good quality griddle is just as useful when it comes to vegan cooking. These are heavy pans – and the weight helps them to heat up quickly, and retain heat well, making for consistent, speedy cooking. The quickness of cooking means your veg will retain their juiciness and flavour. The ridges ‘lift’ ingredients from the base of the pan, meaning that rather than ‘steaming’ in their own liquids, they keep their own moisture and freshness.
The ridges in a griddle pan mean you can create the typical ‘chargrilled’ look when it comes to meat replacement products (think seitan and tofu) as well as on grilled vegetables. The darker sections also taste different, meaning you can create more nuanced flavours in your griddled food.
When cleaning your griddle, never scrub – instead, let it cool down, and then leave it to soak.
A good griddle:
- Heats up quickly
- Retains heat well
- Is non-stick
- Should be fairly weighty (a heavy-duty pan will most likely be more durable than a lighter, weaker one).
The non-stick frying pan
One of the most versatile pans in the cupboard, your frying pan (or skillet) can be used for a multitude of foods. Perfect for sautéing, making pasta sauces, and even curries, it’s one you should always keep close to hand.
It’s worth bearing in mind that the more effective the non-stick surface is, the less fat you can use in your cooking. It’s also worth looking for a frying pan that has an oven proof handle, in case you want to finish recipes off in the oven or under the grill (but remember to be careful when using metal handles as they can get very hot).
Maintain the life of your non-stick pan by never scrubbing the surface. Like with the griddle, you want to soak rather than damage the non-stick surface, unless it is cast iron (see box). Not sure what size to buy? A good, basic pan that’s versatile and easy to store measures around 25cm (10in) in diameter.
A good frying pan:
- Has a handle that stays cool
- Has sleek design with any ‘dirt traps’ – easier to clean
- Should also be fairly weighty (and more durable than a lighter pan)
- Has even heat distribution
The 22cm (2-quart) saucepan
Everyone needs a good saucepan – from cooking pasta, rice, and other grains, heating up baked beans, and making sauce – these are incredibly important pieces of kitchen kit.
This size should be versatile enough to do all these things, but you should shop around, looking at what size is appropriate for the amount of storage space you have as well as how much you will be cooking (how many portions).
Before choosing what your pan is made from, consider the hob you have. All types of metal work on gas and electric burners, but induction hobs require an amount of ferrous metal (i.e. iron) to conduct heat properly.
A good saucepan:
- Is well-balanced (you don’t want a heavy handle that makes it topple over on the hob)
- Is easy to wash (especially if you accidentally burn something in it)
- Suits your hob type (if you have an induction hob, you need a pan with a magnetic bottom)
- Has even heat distribution
The benefits of cast iron
Many chefs and cooks recommend cast iron pots and pans. Why? Well, there are a number of reasons; some say cooking in cast iron makes food taste better and brown better – which means you need less added fat. Cast iron is affordable and durable – once you invest, these pans will last for years and years. Cast iron isn’t non-stick when you first buy it – first you have to coat it in cooking oil and bake it at 175C (Gas Mark 4/350 Gas Mark). After baking, you need to dry with paper towels, and your pan is ‘seasoned’ and ready to go. Every time you heat oil in the pan, you reinforce the non-stick coating.
You shouldn’t leave a cast iron pan to soak. You should always hand wash it (rather than using a dish washer) using a non-metal brush, then dry thoroughly using a tea towel. You can oil the pan regularly, but only need to bake it again if it becomes rusty – baking for an hour at 175C (Gas Mark 4/350 Gas Mark) should get the rust off. You shouldn’t attempt to boil water in cast iron pans, as this will cause the pan to rust. Cast iron takes a little longer to heat up than other pans, but retains heat very well, and evenly.
An added bonus is that cooking in cast iron increases the iron content in food – the longer the food is in the pan, the more iron it absorbs.
Top Tip: You should make sure you have secure, well-fitting lids for your pans – important for both cooking and safety.
The large soup pot:
Perfect for making stews, large portions of soup, mash, and bigger quantities of grains, many a one-pot meal can be thrown together in this larger pan. A good size is around 4-5 litres (4 quarts).
This is not an essential, but the deeper shape of a wok does have some advantages when stir-frying food, making it easy to toss veggies in its large bowl shape, requiring little oil, and
heating food quickly.
You can buy surface top electric steamers (which tend to be larger and require more storage) or tiered steamers for your hob – either works well for basic steaming of veggies.