What to Look For When Buying Chef Pans
- Thick metal construction is an indicator of a quality chef pan.
- The best chef pans are made from anodised aluminium or stainless steel clad aluminium.
- A 32 cm chef pan is generally large enough to accommodate most recipes.
- Nonstick surfaces require less oil and clean easier, but may not brown as well as metal.
- Stainless steel handles are sturdy and versatile cool quickly.
- A tight fitting lid is essential for braising and steaming as well as keeping food warm.
Something of a cross between a large skillet and a saute pan with stubby handles, chef pans are ideal for family cooking, transferring from the stove to the oven to the table with ease. Chef pans are great for reducing large amounts of sauce, searing and pan frying quantities of meat, baking paellas and frittatas, and cooking omelets. A good chef pan should have a solid base and thick sides, should heat evenly, and should include a tight fitting lid for braising and keeping food warm. Quality chef pans from All-Clad, Baccarat, Chasseur, Circulon, Cuisinart, Raco, and Scanpan are available here at Kitchenware Direct.
The Chef Pan
Aluminium chef pans are strong, lightweight, and heat conductive, but are also chemically reactive. Avoid solid aluminium chef pans as they will alter the taste of foods that are acidic, basic, or contain eggs and will pit in contact with salt. Anodised aluminum, an electrochemically treated aluminum, makes excellent cookware. It is extremely hard, heats fast and evenly, is nonreactive, and relatively non-stick, and is therefore an ideal metal for chef pans.
Stainless steel is a poor conductor of heat, and chef pans made of solid stainless steel do not cook well. However, stainless steel is an ideal cooking surface as it is nonporous, nonreactive, nontoxic, and highly durable. It allows for excellent browning, that crucial factor in developing flavour. Stainless steel chef pans with copper or aluminium bases are acceptable, but you will want to make sure the disk on bottom extends the entire width of the pan or it will develop hot spots around the edges. We recommend stainless steel pans with layered copper or aluminium cores as they best combine the virtues of each metal.
Traditional carbon steel paella pans are similar to chef pans, and although lidless, work great for cooking in quantity. Carbon steel retains heat well and is exceptionally responsive to the flame. Carbon steel will corrode if not maintained, but a well seasoned pan will resist rusting and provide an excellent nonstick surface.
Ultimately, the decision to purchase nonstick cookware will depend on your personal preference. Nonstick surfaces have their advantages and their disadvantages. On the plus side, they are easy to clean and require less oil than traditional pans to prevent sticking. On the downside, the surfaces can be delicate and they do not generally brown food as well as metal surfaces.
Although innovations have made Teflon coatings more durable than ever, Teflon will release highly toxic vapours if heated above 350 EC. Empty Teflon coated pans should never be left heating over a burner. Inexpensive coated pans will scratch and flake easily and should be avoided altogether.
Anodised aluminium pans are nontoxic and scratch resistant. They tend to stick more than coated pans, but they will not be damaged by metal utensils and they do a better job of searing and browning. Some manufacturers use an anodised aluminium that has been electrochemically “infused” with non-stick polymers and others use revolutionary ceramics to create truer non-stick surfaces. We recommend any of these as they are durable and effective.
Because you will most likely be using your chef pan in the oven, cool-touch handles are not as important as with other cookware. Plastic handles, although oven safe, are not suitable for use under a broiler and may limit the versatility of your chef pan. We recommend chef pans with stainless steel handles that have been riveted to the side of the pan. Although you will have to keep potholders handy, they are sturdy, durable and will cool quickly. Avoid handles that have been spot welded or attached to the cookware by means of a screw system as they will loosen easily and may break entirely.