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Food52's Editorial Assistant (and college student) Brette Warshaw is curating her very own first kitchen -- and she needs your help. Today: what kind of casserole pan should a First Kitchen stock?
For many of us home cooks out there, cooking can get emotional.
I’m not talking about the kind of emotion that makes us sob at the sauté pan, bawl over baking sheets. (Though I have, on occasion, burst into tears as I shove whole Oreos and Hershey Cookies n' Cream bars into pans of brownie batter. But that’s a whole other story.). I’m not talking about our tears over chopped onions, or lumps in our throats as we throw a burned batch of cookies in the trash.
I’m taking about the kind of cooking that makes us feel whole again.
We all have our dishes. For some, it’s cakes: the pouring of the batter, the emerging, towering masterpiece. For others, it’s chili: the slow, even simmering, the way it melts together, the way one spoonful can hold everything -- the world -- it its tiny grasp.
For me, it’s anything made in a casserole pan.
Think about it. Macaroni and cheese is made in a casserole pan. Eggplant Parmesan is made in a casserole pan. Bread pudding is made in a casserole pan. (Can you tell my comfort foods are carbohydrates and cheese?) The mixing, the pouring, the spreading, the baking: for me, it signifies satisfaction.
So my first kitchen, then, needs a casserole pan to handle this -- to handle any fractured emotions, to keep them in, to turn them into something whole and new again. It’s a tall order. I’ll need your help.
Glass, ceramic, or metal?
When it comes to buying casserole dishes, I’m looking for something that is non-stick, durable, and something that won’t pick up that mac-and-cheese odor and meld it into my bourbon bread pudding. Something clean, easy, and strong. Pyrex glass dishes are usually the go-to; glass, however, is not broil-safe. (And I like the cheese on my gratins nice and browned, okay?)
Instead, ceramic or metal seems like the way to go -- although ceramic is known to conduct heat better than most metal dishes. It’s also easy to clean (always a plus, in my book). The Le Creuset Stoneware Baker is a solid, big ticket item -- and for a less-expensive-but-still-trustworthy ceramic casserole pan, I could go for the Emile Henry 3-Quart Gratin Dish.
Like sauté pans and saucepans, casserole dishes can be useful in many shapes and sizes. The majority of recipes call for pans either three quarts or one-and-a-half quarts; the latter could be doubled, of course, but it may make sense to go for both. Do you find yourself needing more than one casserole dish? And, if so, in what size?
And what kind of cooking makes you feel whole again?
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your First Kitchen recommendations -- your favorite tools, your favorite cookware. All wisdom is appreciated.