What’s the Finest Technique to Use and Clear Your Cookware?

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Knowing how to properly use and care for your cookware can mean just as much to your food life as knowing how to cook. However, memorizing rules of what types of pots to clean and how to clean can feel arbitrary if you don’t understand why. After figuring out what different types of cookware are made of – nonstick ceramic, cast iron enamel, and stainless steel – and how they conduct heat, we found it all a lot easier to understand. Below are the top tips (we saved you the unabridged version of the talk on thermal shock) as well as some of our favorite recipes when you’re ready to take out your favorite pan for a spin.

NONSTICK CERAMIC

What is it?

Most nonstick pans are traditionally made with synthetic plastic coatings such as Teflon. However, there have been many concerns about toxic PFOAs getting into food if the pan overheats or if you scrape off the coating with metal utensils.

Fortunately, nonstick ceramics are different. Ceramic is a sand-based coating that is applied to a pan and then cured for a non-stick finish. This coating adheres permanently and does not evaporate, chip or flake off.

How do i use it?

Ceramic is a great conductor of heat, so you don’t have to use more than medium-high heat to cook seriously. If you’re using heat that is on the high end, try an oil with a higher smoke point, such as avocado, coconut, or sunflower oil – it’s less likely to burn than oils or fats with lower smoke points. Also, avoid any type of spray oil, be it aerosol or even a pump spray. If you spray oil, it will pearl on the surface of the pan and cause carbonization (burning). Metal utensils are not recommended, although unlike traditional nonstick agents, they are not due to potentially toxic elements – they only cause damage to the surface of the pan over time. If your ceramic non-stick coating has an oven-safe handle, it should be able to go from stove to oven as well. Otherwise, use it the way you would normally use it with a nonstick agent: it’s great for all kinds of everyday cooking projects, and it’s especially helpful for anything sticky or delicate, like eggs, grilled cheese, and crepes.

How do i clean it?

Let the pan cool completely before cleaning. This will help you avoid thermal shock – if you shock a hot pan with cold water, which can cause damage and warping. Then hand wash (while the dishwasher isn’t inherently unsafe for non-stick ceramics, most detergents are quite abrasive and can damage the non-stick coating over time). Use warm soapy water and a gentle sponge. With proper care, your non-stick ceramic pans should last at least five years.

Troubleshooting

If you notice that your pan is sticking more and there are stubborn stains on the surface, you can suspect that the coating has deteriorated. However, this is due to the carbonation. This happens when the pan is brought to too high a temperature and the oil is essentially burning and sticking to the non-stick ceramic coating. You can avoid carbonation by being careful never to use more than medium to high heat and by using oils with a higher smoke point. If soap and warm water don’t cut, you can try gently heating some water over low heat to loosen some of the oils from the surface. If that still doesn’t work, a melamine sponge should do the trick.

In our kitchen

CAST-IRON ENAMEL

What is it?

Cast iron can be a joy to cook with. It’s probably the best in the business when it comes to heat distribution – which means the entire surface of the pan is heated evenly with no awkward hot spots – and heat retention. Ordinary cast iron is rustic and can look nostalgic or almost romantic if, for example, you have inherited your great-grandmother’s perfectly seasoned and well-cared for pan. It is not without its challenges, however. This spice layer, which with proper maintenance is comparable to non-stick coating, needs to be maintained. And the best way to clean cast iron is a point of contention – just google it and see how many articles come up with different pieces of advice. Cast iron can take on the taste of soap when soaked. Or rust if not properly dried. There are also some acidic foods that react with the unfinished iron surface, such as tomatoes, wine, citrus fruits, and vinegar. Neither of these problems is insurmountable, but they require commitment. If this sounds like a bit of a lot to you, there is an easier way: cast iron with an enamel coating.

You get all the benefits of cast iron cooking – that heat distribution and retention – and no problems or guesswork. Better still, choose cast iron with a dull enamel like dust. Other enamel surfaces are smooth and shiny, but the matte surface developed by dust mimics the surface of traditional cast iron, making it ideal for searing. Glossy enamel surfaces also tend to show any scratches and can discolour easily – Staub’s black matte finish looks chic even after years of use.

How do i use it?

Similar to non-stick ceramics, cast iron enamel doesn’t need maximum heat because it is so good at storing and distributing heat. Medium to medium high should get the job done. Additionally, there are so many ways to use it. Fast and hot cooking like fried or grilled steak or vegetables, long-boiled stews, slow stews, stew wonders, and oven-to-oven dishes like cassoulet work well with a cast iron enamel. Wooden utensils are preferred to keep this matte enamel surface intact for as long as possible.

How do i clean it?

Clean your cast-iron enamel pots and pans by hand as usual – with warm soapy water and a non-abrasive sponge. You can soak tough dirt without worrying about rust or the pan taking on a soap taste, as the enamel coating protects the cast iron. It’s always a good idea to let your cookware cool down before washing to avoid thermal shock, no matter how sturdy your pieces may appear. While dust-cast iron enamel is technically dishwasher safe, just because you can’t do that, this is one of those scenarios. Hand washing is a better way to protect and preserve your cast iron enamel cookware.

Troubleshooting

There’s really not much here to fix if you follow the usage and care steps above. The matte enamel finish eliminates most of the quirks of traditional cast iron so you don’t have to worry about maintenance.

In our kitchen

STAINLESS STEEL

What is it?

High quality stainless steel pans usually have an aluminum or copper core, which makes them even better conductors of heat. Stainless steel is loved by chefs and home cooks alike because it’s sturdy and durable: you don’t have to worry about chipping or breakage. It’s a real workhorse. It can be cooked with high heat, but again, a good aluminum or copper core ensures that the heat conductor is good enough not to have to be pushed beyond the middle height.

How do i use it?

Stainless steel is incredibly versatile – use it for roasting vegetables like in this pasta sauce or for seamlessly moving from stove to oven when roasting chicken. It’s not a non-stick surface, but you can get near-non-stick performance by properly heating your oil in the pan before adding any other ingredients and by making sure your ingredients are close to room temperature. Cold food in a hot pan is more likely to stick.

How do i clean it?

Allow your cookware to cool before hand washing with soapy water. You can soak heavier soiling in warm water or simmer with water over low heat for a few minutes and loosen the stuck on parts with a wooden spoon. Stainless steel cookware is usually dishwasher safe, but there is some disagreement among experts about the long-term effects of dishwashing detergent abrasiveness. Usually, if your manufacturer says it’s fine (the folks at Brigade Kitchen do!) You’re probably fine. However, washing your hands does not have any adverse effects on your cookware.

Troubleshooting

The problems that arise with stainless steel are cosmetic in nature. It’s prone to watermarks, calcareous calcium build-up, and slight discoloration. In most cases, this can be avoided by immediately drying your cookware with a cloth instead of dripping it, and using a gentle cleaner like Bar Keepers Friend on troublesome trouble spots.

In our kitchen