As I remember it, one of the very first things I bought for my first grownup kitchen was a skillet. I think it was one of the first non-stick varieties and predictably I didn't really know how to use it and keep it in good shape. And Chef Jerry Pellegrino has made it clear, the wide world of frying pans is a lot more complex that it used to be. So many choices!
Jerry says that he can get by with three. First is the classic cast-iron skillet. Heavy and solid, it's not unusual for cooks to use one passed down from their mother. In complete contrast is the thin skinned stainless steel skillet. The thin steel heats up very quickly and disperses the heat evenly across the entire skillet. Finally comes a truly revolutionary cooking invention, the non-stick skillet. Things have come a long way since Teflon first hit the scene. Admittedly, Teflon worked, but it was very brittle and chipped easily. A few scratches on its surface doomed the pan to an early dismissal.
There are some rules when working with these frying pans. Let's start with the cast-iron skillet. Here are Jerry's suggestions for breaking them in and caring for them. Cast Iron – is a group of iron-carbon alloys with a carbon content greater than 2%. It is a hard, relatively brittle alloy that can be readily cast in a mold and contains a higher proportion of carbon than steel (typically 2.0–4.3 percent) Its usefulness derives from its relatively low melting temperature.
Seasoning Cast Iron –
· Scrub the piece well in hot soapy water.
· Dry thoroughly.
· Spread a thin layer of vegetable oil (or something high in unsaturated fat) over the piece.
· Place it upside down on a middle oven rack at 375°. (Place foil on a lower rack to catch drips.)
· Bake 1 hour; let cool until room temperature in the oven.
· Repeat one or two more times until the piece is dark and shiny
Caring for Cast Iron –
· After cooking, clean the pan with a scouring pad and hot water…using soap as a last resort is fine but not usually necessary if the pan is well seasoned.
· It is important to dry the pan thoroughly! Leaving even a drop of water will promote rust.
· Wipe the pan with a thin coating of vegetable oil.
Once you've got your cast iron skillet ready, you may want to whip up a batch of cornbread. Here's how.
½ cups coarse yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
5 tablespoons fresh lard melted
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 ½ cups whole milk with 2 Tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar added to it
Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Place a 10-inch cast-iron skillet inside.
In a bowl, combine the cornmeal, salt, baking soda and baking powder.
Combine 4 tablespoons of the lard, the egg and the buttermilk. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry until smooth.
Move the skillet from the oven to the stove top, over high heat. Add the remaining lard to the pan and swirl to coat. Pour in the batter; it should sizzle vigorously. Shake the skillet to distribute it evenly. Cook 15 to 18 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean.
Variation – add 12 ounces of grated cheddar cheese and one fresh jalapeno, minced to the batter before pouring it into the skillet.
Non-stick pans require a little "savoir-faire" in order to get the most out of them. Here are some tips.
1. Never use nonstick cooking spray. These sprays are not compatible with non-stick pans and create a buildup on the surface of the pan that, over time, is impossible to remove. If you need to use fat, use a minimal amount of butter or oil.
2. Skip the dishwasher. Even if a brand says its pan is dishwasher-safe, stick to hand-washing. The harsh soaps and high temperature and pressure of dishwashers can dull and damage the coating of the pan that is essential to maintaining its nonstick magic. 3. Don’t use overly high heat on the stove. There are a few pans that you can use over high heat, but, in general, low to medium low heat is recommended for nonstick pans. This is not only to keep them functioning properly, but also to keep them from releasing any harmful odors or chemicals.
4. Never heat an empty pan. This can release that awful odor that can be dangerous, and the high heat may be damaging to the pan. A thin coat of oil will be sufficient to prevent the odor.
Of course, once you have your non-stick pan ready to go you may want to try your hand at making an omelet.
3 large eggs
Kosher salt and freshly ground white or black pepper
1 tablespoon (15g) unsalted butter
In a medium bowl, beat eggs with a disposable plastic or reusable wooden fork just until last traces of white are mixed in; season with salt and pepper.
In a perfectly unscratched 8-inch nonstick skillet, melt butter, swirling over moderate heat, until fully melted and foamy but not browned. Add eggs and stir rapidly with fork, tines up, while shaking pan to agitate eggs; make sure to move fork all around pan to break up curds and scrape them from bottom of skillet as they form. Stop stirring as soon as eggs are very softly scrambled and creamy (but still loose enough to come together into a single mass), 1 to 2 minutes.
Using fork, gently spread egg in an even layer around skillet and scrape down any wispy bits around the edges. The top surface should be loose and creamy, but if it looks too liquid and raw, cook undisturbed for another few seconds. (If it still flows, you can swirl skillet to send loose egg to the edges, where it will set more quickly.)
Remove from heat, tilt skillet up by its handle, and, using fork, gently roll omelet down over itself until it is nearly folded in half. Using fork, push omelet to edge of skillet so that lower edge of egg begins to just barely overhang; use fork to fold overhanging edge of egg up, closing omelet.
Hold skillet right over plate and turn omelet out onto it. It should be almond- or cigar-shaped, with the seam on bottom; if it's not, lay a clean kitchen towel over it and use your hands to adjust its shape and position, then remove towel. Serve. (To make another omelet, wipe any eggy bits out of skillet and repeat.)
Steel Pans – It’s a perfect hybrid of a cast iron skillet and a stainless-steel frying pan. It has a cast iron’s heat retention, seasoning, and slick properties and stainless steel’s heat control, lightness and cooking speed. French foodies and professional chefs have been using carbon steel for centuries.