Have you got a Smeg skillet or a cast-iron Le Creuset? Are you a copper cookware devotee — or do you only saute on ceramic?
Saucepan snobbery is everywhere, with posh pans now a staple of every middleclass kitchen. But with price tags of £100- plus, home chefs have to follow a very specific set of instructions to keep their pans in good nick.
Le Creuset — the famed French cookware brand which has sold more than 300million products — recently warned customers against cooking with olive oil, in response to complaints about their expensive pans becoming damaged after use.
Heat is on: Sarah Rainey with the Samuel Groves pan, left, and the diamond GreenPan. UK-based writer Sarah Rainey puts a selection of high-end saucepans to the test
And last month GreenPan, a staple of every upmarket home, launched a range of frying pans reinforced with real diamonds to make them scratch-proof against metal utensils.
So who’s using these high-end pans, do they make a difference to your food — and can it really be that complicated to cook with them? Sarah Rainey puts a selection to the test…
THE CLASSIC PAN
Le Creuset 28cm cast-iron frying pan with wooden handle, £195, lecreuset.co.uk
Like most Le Creuset cookware, this pan has an enamel coating. The ‘black satin’ interior (different to the usual cream) is designed to withstand high temperatures
BEST FOR: Sausages, bacon and other red meats; the enamel base gives these a caramelised crust. Celebrity fans include the Beckhams, Sarah Jessica Parker and Katy Perry. Available in 11 chic colours.
CARE: Like most Le Creuset cookware, this pan has an enamel coating. The ‘black satin’ interior (different to the usual cream) is designed to withstand high temperatures and only requires a quick wash with warm soapy water before use.
You should avoid olive oil, which Le Creuset says ‘may cause excessive smoking’ owing to its low smoke point. Instead, use vegetable, groundnut or corn oil. The pan must be completely cool before cleaning, then wiped with a cloth and soaked for 20 minutes in warm, soapy water.
TO THE TEST: Cooking with this hefty pan is a serious arm workout; it takes two hands to lift it off the hob. But the wooden handle is non-slip, and it’s got a hook so I can smugly put it on display.
It turns my sausages a lovely golden colour, scorching the skin like a fancy barbecue. The black inside makes burnt bits harder to spot, but otherwise it’s flawless.
VERDICT: A reliable pan. 4/5
THE RETRO PAN
Smeg 24cm Padella frying pan, £109.95, shop.smeguk.com
Sarah said that unfortunately, the steel handle is too long for the dinky pan and it gets hot quickly
BEST FOR: The cookware of choice for stylish housewives. The stainless-steel pan comes in cream, red or black, so you can match it to your kitchen.
CARE: Boil some water in the pan and dry it thoroughly before use. Avoid oil sprays, which Smeg says ‘may leave residues that can alter the non-stick properties’.
In fact, the maker recommends ditching oil and fat altogether when cooking. It may be dishwasher-proof, but Smeg says to hand-wash with a sponge and gentle detergent.
TO THE TEST: Unfortunately, the steel handle is too long for the dinky pan and it gets hot quickly.
The heat distribution isn’t even, either. My veg burns on one side but stays almost raw on the other. The cream exterior looks elegant but after a few uses is splattered with burnt bits and looks worn.
VERDICT: Nice to look at but doesn’t do the job. 1/5
THE PROS’ PAN
Ondine 24cm Platine skillet, £395, ondine.com
BEST FOR: The deep sides are good for slow-cooking Bolognese or a stew, and it’s one of the only frying pans that comes with a lid. A favourite of Michelinstarred chefs.
CARE: Wash it in hot, soapy water, dry thoroughly and rub a layer of vegetable oil over the surface to ‘condition’ the titanium-grade stainless steel. Ondine says you can use them without oil (or indeed water).
If you do want to use oil, vegetable or corn is advised. It is technically dishwasher-safe, but there’s no way I’m putting a £400 pan at the mercy of a machine, so instead I use warm soapy water.
TO THE TEST: With such a steep price tag, I’m nervous about using this pan — and the handle (which is a glitzy gold colour) gets extremely hot during cooking.
Frying some broccoli, the pan heats evenly. There are some singed bits, which — try as I might with a paste of baking soda and water — I can’t get off. But the pan still looks great; just a little well-used.
VERDICT: Expensive but worth it. 4/5
THE ECO PAN
Kuhn Rikon 28cm New Life frying pan, £99.95, kuhnrikon. co.uk
It’s amazingly non-stick, even when it comes to scrambled eggs, which turn out creamy and buttery, according to Sarah
BEST FOR: Eggs: scrambled, fried, or in an omelette — it promises failsafe results. Manufactured in Switzerland, this pan is made from recycled drinks cans.
CARE: The non-stick aluminium surface must be washed before use in warm, soapy water with a soft cloth. Any oil can be used, on any type of hob, and it can go in the oven up to 220c (430f). The coating is water-repellent, so stains and burnt bits glide off. You can put it in the dishwasher, but there’s no need; I’m done in under ten seconds.
TO THE TEST: This pan heats up and cools down quickly — and the Bakelite handle stays cool.
It’s amazingly non-stick, even when it comes to scrambled eggs, which turn out creamy and buttery. My fried egg has a crisp base and runny yolk, and my omelette is cooked to perfection.
VERDICT: This may just be the perfect pan. 5/5
THE COPPER PAN
Samuel Groves 20cm copper induction frying pan, £70, samuelgroves.com
BEST FOR: It’s great for cauliflower cheese, as you can transfer it to the oven.
CARE: Made in the Midlands, simply wash the copper induction pan in warm water before use. All good-quality oils are fine, but the makers say olive oil shouldn’t be used for frying.
To wash up, steer clear of the dishwasher (which could corrode the copper), avoid metal scrubbers and soak it in water and washingup liquid.
TO THE TEST: It’s easy to use and cooks nicely, with no hotspots or sticking. But the handle does get warm and the whole pan stays hot for ages after use.
Although it cleans easily, I notice it has started to discolour after one use. The makers say this is normal, and it comes with a lifetime guarantee.
VERDICT: Cooks well but loses its shine instantly. 3/5
THE DIAMOND PAN
GreenPan 28cm Premiere stainless steel ceramic non-stick frying pan, £76, johnlewis.com
The pan is annoyingly slow to heat up and, when it does, cooks slowly — even on a high heat. After washing up, there’s still oily residue all over
BEST FOR: This isn’t actually encrusted with diamonds, although it does have a pleasingly glittery interior. What it does have is Thermolon diamond coating, a sand-based layer reinforced with teeny-tiny traces of diamond, sprayed on to the stainless steel inside.
CARE: A quick wash with warm water and washing-up liquid and it’s good to go. GreenPan recommends using refined oils (such as avocado or groundnut), which have a high smoke point, and avoiding olive oil.
To wash up, use warm, soapy water — or the dishwasher, if you prefer. It’s important to let this pan cool before cleaning to avoid warping it.
TO THE TEST: I don’t have the fancy oils suggested, so plain old sunflower will have to do.
The pan is annoyingly slow to heat up and, when it does, cooks slowly — even on a high heat. After washing up, there’s still oily residue all over.
VERDICT: Fails to live up to its glittering reputation. 2/5
THE FOREVER PAN
Solidteknics 26cm Seamless Iron frying pan, £139.90, uk.buymeonce.com
BEST FOR: Perfect pancakes, every time (or so the manufacturer claims). It’s made from a single piece of wrought iron and guaranteed for a lifetime.
CARE: Requires serious preparation. Called ‘seasoning’, it’s designed to make the pan both rust-proof and non-stick. The makers suggest rubbing it with oil (vegetable, grapeseed or canola) and heating it in the oven for up to six hours, followed by 15 minutes on the hob.
To wash up, just water — no soap — is required to make it look good as new. Remember to dry it after use or it could rust.
TO THE TEST: With its seamless handle, this elegant pan is more like a piece of art. And the wrought iron is surprisingly light.
The seasoning process is timeconsuming, but I’m astonished at the difference in my pancakes. Not a single one sticks or burns, and I show off to my sons by flipping them on to their plates.
VERDICT: Pancake perfection makes this a winner. 5/5