It is enough to only take a look at one larger store for household goods to be amazed at the large selection of pans: large and small, shallow and deep, cast iron, Teflon-coated or stainless steel - hundreds or even thousands. How to find among them the one that we need?
Most importantly, the size of the pan should meet the diameter of the hot plates, which we will use it for. If the bottom comes off, the food will burn off in the centre and the sides will remain raw. And vice versa - when the pan is smaller than the heat source, that's not suitable either, because the handle will heat up which could lead to serious accidents.
According to professionals, the good pan should be heavy. Not to attack your drunken husband with it, no, but to be resistant and to distribute heat evenly. If it is difficult to choose, in this case feel free to orientate on price. The heavier the pan, the more expensive it will be, but also will serve you longer. Lightweight and thin pans easily deform, while the food in them burns off fast.
Quality pan has thick walls - about 4-5 mm. As for the height, it depends on what you will use it. Most universal are those whose walls are between 3-5 cm tall. You can perfectly cook meat, omelettes or fried products in them. The pan for pancakes must be only centimetre tall and have upright walls (which need not be thicker than 2 mm). Deep pans of the "wok" type are the perfect thing for quick and healthy stir-fry meat and vegetables, typical of the Eastern cuisine. Its narrow bottom allows to use relatively little amount of oil, while the products are fried deeply. The height of the walls creates a large volume in which the whole dish is prepared at once for mere minutes.
The main advantage of stainless steel is that it is absolutely inert material - that does not interact with other substances, so that food, cooked in a stainless steel pan, is completely safe for human health. Quality containers of this material are corrosion resistant and can serve you for a long time. Food in them, however, burns fast, while washing them afterwards requires effort.
Most hosts prefer to use non-stick pans because the dish does not need constant stirring, you cook with less fat and they are easy to clean. In most cases it's Teflon coating – a type of a polymer, which is non-resistant to high temperatures and begins to emit toxic gases. This process starts at 200 degrees and over 250 becomes especially intense. So if you fry at a stronger temperature or use a gas stove, choose a safe non-stick coating, such as ceramic. Ceramic pans do not emit harmful substances, and some manufacturers use special technology that prevents heating of the vessel above 240 degrees, regardless of the source of heat.
Yet, whether the coating is Teflon or ceramic, forget the metal cutlery and buy special stirrer – preferably wooden or plastic. But even with careful use, the coating gradually wears off, scratches appear and you will need to replace it with a new pan.
Cast iron pans have also quite a big fan base - not only because they are comfortable, but because the food cooked in them is extremely tasty. But what is the reason? The point is that this metal has unique thermal conductivity. It heats slowly and evenly, and can be used for a longer simmering as well as for faster frying. Cast iron pans easily withstands high temperature and doesn't deform. The disadvantage is that soon after preparation, the food must be moved to another plate to avoid metallic after-taste. Washing the pan also requires more effort, as the iron surface is rough and is prone to corrosion. Corrosion can ruin the colour and taste of cooked dishes, whereas iron salts that are released, destroy vitamins in food.
However, this should not make you give up the iron cast- the qualities of this material are time-tested. The decision is to buy a cast iron pan with some kind of coating (Teflon, enamel) or to "harden it yourselves" before first use. This preparation shrinks the pores of the material and protects it from corrosion and rusting. It is necessary to heat the oven to 150 degrees. Meanwhile, wash the pan by removing all labels and dry it. Then thoroughly coat the inside with vegetable oil, without missing any corner or curve and leave it in the oven upside down for an hour. Cool it to room temperature, wipe it with a rag and is it is now ready for use. As a rule, the surface of the pan should always have a thin layer of fat that protects it from rust and sunburn.