I have become somewhat of a pan snob over the past year. It’s not one of my finer qualities, but I can’t help acknowledging that I know what I like. Since I first equipped my tiny apartment kitchen all those years ago, I have put numerous pans through various cooking methods based on recommendations from those far wiser and more cuisineousy than I am. (Yup, I’m coining the phrase.)
Here’s what I’ve learned:
1) Non-stick cookware has its place, but that place is not my kitchen. Why? Because they flat-out don’t fit my lifestyle. And contrary to ANY marketing message, non-stick pans CANNOT go in the dishwasher, CANNOT be used with metal utensils, CANNOT go in the oven at any temperature, and CANNOT last without the coating coming off.
Case in point: My husband bought a fancy square non-stick pan several years ago with a very cool glass presser thingy for squishing hamburgers and stuff. The box said it was dishwasher safe, and we soon realized “dishwasher safe” was a term open to interpretation. We washed it once and when it came out, the non-stick surface was fine, but the whole outside of the pan was discolored and streaky. And I’m sorry, but “oven safe up to 350 degrees” is not oven safe unless you’re baking cookies. That said, I do have a few non-stick pieces that have hung around over the years, but have survived only because I’ve had to take special care of them due to their wussy, fragile nature.
2) Stainless steel is can’t-bust-’em material. I use these pans for everything, including the daintiest of egg-beater omelets. I’d marry them if I could. But that would be weird, so I won’t (can’t).
3) Cast iron. Let’s discuss. I have a few cast iron pieces and I always get so excited to use them because it’s a big honkin’ slab o’ iron! It’s the original non-stick pan without the frilly special care instructions! It’s a panini press! It’s the pan used by terrified housewives the world over when confronting a home intruder! It’s….OK, I’ll stop.
Lately, cast iron and I have been having some issues. Mainly, regarding this whole “seasoning” thing. I have been told that, to season, you rub oil on the pan and bake it in the oven for about an hour or so. This, along with general cooking over time, will build up a nice seasoned coat on the pan. OK, that’s wonderful, but what about those pans that say “pre-seasoned”? And what do you do when the seasoning starts to come off after cooking only one frittata?
Here’s the irony for me: I use cast iron because it’s no frills and time tested. But when I cook with it, I seem to chip away at the seasoned coating by doing the very thing that’s supposed to build up the coating in the first place.
Has anyone else experienced this problem? If so, I’d very much like some words of encouragement here. My poor pans will thank you.
Making Sense of Seasoning