With the right pans, you’ll cook up a storm, says H&G’s food editor, chef and restaurateur, Jane Strode.
I always look for a heavy-based pan.
A heavy base is important for even heat distribution. Copper is the best conductor of heat, but it’s hard to keep clean and copper pans are expensive. If you can stretch the budget, try to buy at least one saucepan that is made from copper or has copper on the inside – with a heavy base, of course .
Think about the food you cook at home. This will dictate the number and type of saucepans you need. Don’t, for example, buy a large stock pot because you think you’d like to make stock one day.
My favourite saucepan is a 2L all-copper saucepan. I don’t actually cook in it much, but I use it all the time for heating up sauces and soups. I recommend having two 2L pans because they’re such a good size – these can accommodate steamers too. You also need a saucepan that is large enough to boil pasta or make soup in. I like to use a 10L-capacity pot for this. A wide, shallow saucepan is a must – I have a 4L-capacity pan that’s 26cm wide and 10cm deep and is just perfect for bolognaise, making sauces and pan-frying fish. It works as a saucepan and frypan in one. It’s also good to have a saucepan that’s non-stick, and saucepans with see-through lids help you keep an eye on the contents.
In an ideal world
There are a couple of worthwhile extras if you have the storage space and budget. A small saucepan with pouring spout – a classic milk pan – is handy for making sugar syrups and pouring hot liquids such as melted butter. And I love my 20L pot for making stock.
Bigger’s not better
The bigger the saucepan, the less expensive a brand it has to be. Our large stock pots are of lesser quality than the smaller ones because when you’re cooking in volume, it’s not so crucial to have even heat on the base – the heat tends to even out naturally.
Keep it simple
When you’re test-driving saucepans in a store, keep it simple. You want as few bells and whistles as possible. You don’t want too many handles, you just want a good, weighty pan. Avoid pans with plastic handles because you might need to put the whole pan in the oven to finish off a dish – this is especially true of frypans.
In the restaurant kitchen, we clean the copper pots using lemon and salt to make them sparkle. At home, I clean my copper pans once a week, using copper polish. I don’t aim for that new, sparkling look, I prefer them a bit rustic-looking.