I wanted to discuss cooking pans to help beginning cooks get the most bang for their buck. When you first start cooking, you may not have a lot of money or just want to spend your money on something other than cooking equipment.
Metal vs. Nonstick
For the most part, I use two pans for almost all of my cooking, a nonstick flat-bottomed wok with a lid, and a stainless steel 5 quart dutch oven with a layer of copper on the bottom. Here are the advantages and disadvantages of both.
1) Stainless steel lasts longer than nonstick.
I have to replace my flat bottomed nonstick wok every few years because the nonstick material wears out and stops working. I don’t mind replacing one pan every few years but I don’t want to replace every pan I own every few years. I bought my stainless steel pan set in the 1990s and they’re still in great shape.
2) Nonstick is easy to clean.
Since I use my flat bottomed wok as my goto frying pan as well, nonstick is ideal because it’s easy to clean. I know this sounds crazy but I don’t enjoy washing pans so I’m all about easy cleaning.
3) Nonstick Can Be Toxic
If I scratched my nonstick pan and some of the material came off, I would immediately throw it away. If ingested, nonstick material is toxic. So you have to be very careful and only use wood, nylon or silicone utensils to prevent scraping (no metal!).
I know people love cast iron and that it works very well. My brother-in-law loves his cast iron pans but I don’t have any because they’re too heavy for me. I tried to lift some cast iron pans the other day and it was painful. I guess I’m just lame like that, but I’m fine with being a weakling.
The 5 Quart Dutch Oven – One Pan Fits All
If I could only have one pan, it would be a 5 quart dutch oven.
I use it for soups.
I use it to cook pasta and I never have to worry if the pan is big enough.
And you can use it as a deep frying pan if need be, which I do all the time for my one pot soups.
Just remember, cooking great is not really about the equipment. Sure some of it is technique and experience but great cooking is really about love. Maybe it’s love for the people you’re cooking for (even if it’s just yourself), the love of cooking, or just the love of food!