Food52's Editorial Assistant (and college student) Brette Warshaw is curating her very own first kitchen -- and she needs your help. Today: why saucepans are a personal choice.
As we all know here at FOOD52, cooking – and eating – is about sharing, about collaboration, about community. It’s a way to connect with others, to express ourselves, to show our love, our care, our compassion.
But cooking – the physical act of cooking – can also be deeply personal. It’s a time where our own tastes rule over any others, where we control the fire, the heat, the salt, the spice. How brown should these onions get? It’s personal. How do you know when this steak’s done? It’s personal.
What kind of saucepan do you use? Yeah, that’s personal too.
It’s easy, from afar, to lust after the superlatives of cookware – the smoothest cast iron, the longest knife, the heaviest and most reliable saucepan. But does that smooth, preseasoned cast iron really feel like your own? Does that long knife fit on your counter, your cutting board?
Can you really pick up that heavy saucepan?
Saucepans – at least the ones I’m looking at for my First Kitchen – are made from at least two types of metal. The cooking surface is typically stainless steel, which won’t react to the foods you put onto it. But since stainless steel is a poor conductor of heat, a pan has a layer of heat-conducting metal underneath. For many people, it’s aluminum. For Amanda Hesser, it’s copper.
I’ve drooled over Amanda’s Mauviel saucepan for over the year I’ve worked at FOOD52. I’ve run my hands across the surface and gotten goosebumps (I’m weird like that). I’ve stewed beans in it, sautéed onions, steamed rice – and all were pleasures, joys, wonders.
But when I actually had to pick it up – to make this sherbet base – I struggled. I staggered. I stopped. It was awkward. It was sad. It was too, well, heavy.
Sorry, copper. It’s personal.
While copper pots are out of the question – happily, since they’re the most expensive – I know that I want a saucepan that’s fully clad. Fully clad means that the different metals – the stainless steel and the heat-conducting metal – are bonded together by pressing or rolling sheets together under high pressure, and that the entire bottom and sides of the pan are covered in these bonded metals.
The obvious choice, when it comes to cladding, is the All-Clad 4-Quart Saucepan ($219.95). It’s a beauty; it’s a workhorse. But there are less-expensive options, too – ones that are both fully clad and less expensive. Cook’s Illustrated, for example, recommends the Cuisinart Multi-Clad Unlimited 4-Quart Saucepan ($69.99). While it may have fewer layers of metal – which makes it cook things quicker – it still does all the saucepan-y things that saucepans do, and for a fraction of the price.
Saucepans come in all sizes – from a tiny one quart to a giant twelve quart (and even larger, in some cases). Since I do a lot of cooking for one, I don’t want one that’s too big – but I do want to be able to make a big vat of stew on a winter day, or a pot of grains to keep for the week.
As always, I’m ambivalent. That’s where you come in.
What kind of saucepan do you use, and what size(s) do you have? Let me know in the comments!
As usual, I'll be pinning everything I'm coveting to my First Kitchen Pinterest board, so check it out!
Email me at [email protected] with your First Kitchen recommendations -- your favorite tools, your favorite cookware. All wisdom is appreciated.