Well-Equipped: Frying or Sauté…Which Pan to Pick?

In this month’s Well-Equipped, you will learn all about frying and sauté pans and the best times to use them.  Best yet, this post features a rigorous road-test of the newest pans from the Calphalon/Williams Sonoma Elite Nonstick line!

Pans are pans, right?  Well, no, not exactly.  I’ve walked through many a professional’s home kitchen to find a wall (or two) dedicated to their arsenal of cookware, much like Julia Child’s famous and much-coveted pegboard system.

New cooks confuse pans for three reasons: pans are usually made out of the same materials, most are similar in size and, when you get down to it, they all do the same job.  Sure, you could make a frittata in sauté pan or cook chicken thighs in a frying pan but it won’t be easy and it will definitely be messy.

At some point you must put on the grown-up apron and learn which pan works for what you need.  Frying pans are flat-bottomed and low-sided with long handles.  They are best for quick cooking, especially searing and browning.  Recipes to try:  Sarah in the Kitchen’s Gourmand Cheese Steaks or Quinoa en Limóns and Saveur’s Tortilla Española.

Sauté pans have a larger cooking surface, taller sides and lids.  They are best for that big pile of kale from the farmers’ market, shallow frying and anything that requires a consistent, oven-like heat on the range top.  Recipes to try:  Sam Sifton’s Easy Sauteed Kale (from the New York Times), Sarah in the Kitchen’s San Diego Summer Fish Tacos, Alex’s Chicken and Mushroom Marsala on SmittenKitchen or Tastebook’s Shrimp and Chicken Etouffe,

Folks who come to my kitchen for lessons always ask why it’s so important that they need to know the differences…because knowing is the magical part of cooking.  I kept that in mind while road-testing pans from the new Calphalon Williams-Sonoma Elite Nonstick line.  I’ve decided that the three-piece set with a 10” omelette and 3-qt. covered sauté pans is a perfect starter for those serious about knowing their cookware.

New cooks can transition into best practices on these pans.  They are engineered to withstand use of metal whisks and spatulas, a big improvement since non-stick surfaces are usually delicate.  I whisk-scrambled eggs, turned omelettes with a metal flipper, pulled the sides of Spanish tortilla away from the sides with a knife then cut it…all in the pan.  Guess what?  All good.

They heat up evenly and quickly so there’s no need to exceed a medium-high setting.   The textured nonstick surface seals in flavor when browning or searing, something only reserved for tough-to-clean stainless steel pans.  I tested a few different oils, caramelized onions in a beef jus and even tried an apple cider reduction.  A soapy rinse worked every time or top-rack placement in the dishwasher when I was tired.  Super quick clean up, for sure.

The pans have some heft but feel good in the hand.  The ergonomic handles allow for practicing confident food flips like a chef and a comfortable grip when lifting that chicken and shrimp etouffee you had to make after watching a few episodes of Treme.  What’s nice about the lid is that it can be used on either pan.  Always have a potholder handy, though, because the lid handle gets really hot!

Want to buy this set?  It’s currently available on Williams-Sonoma.com and will be available in Williams-Sonoma stores starting September 27.

Sponsored Post – Calphalon/Williams-Sonoma.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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One thought on “Well-Equipped: Frying or Sauté…Which Pan to Pick?

  1. Great post, Sarah! I like the pans that have the little extra handle for easy handling and the glass lid to be able to keep an eye on the food cooking without letting any heat escape.

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