5.04.2010

wean your kitchen off non-stick cookware, cheap!


I was able to replace, all of my non-stick kitchenware for under €50 (about $65)! Pictured, are the pans I found at my local Euro (dollar store), bonus - they are made in Italy (the smallest pan in the set was €2.75, and the biggest was €15.50). To stay in the budget, I'm still using glass tops from my previous non-stick set, replaced two baking pans with Pyrex and got a new set of wood utensils!

But, changing the cookware is only the first step. You also need to change the way you use and clean your pans.

Cooking in Stainless Steel
These pans just work differently than non-stick so you will need to make some adjustments and tweaks to your cooking style:
  • Get back into preheating the pan (a big no no for non-sticks!). Then, in a couple of minutes, lower the heat and add cold oil or butter of your choice and start cooking! Do not be alarmed if the pan starts making little clicking sounds... that is the metal expanding and is completely normal.
  • Adjust the cooking temperature. The bottom of a stainless steel pan will heat a bit more, so lower the temperatures you've been using to force stuff to brown in your non-stick. If you were using high, go medium, if you were using medium go medium-low. You will just have to retrain yourself and experiment.
  • Stir a little more. Don't leave the tomato sauce simmering for too long without peeking and giving it a good whirl a little more often.
  • If things start to stick, add a tablespoon of water and watch them magically peel off the bottom!
  • Stainless can introduce you to the wonderful world of fond - a great way to use the little brown caramelized bits that you've never had before!

Reduce Cost of a new set, use pieces from the old!
Already have a nice, but scratched-up set of nonstick ware? Look at it carefully. Does it have super-nice glass or aluminum tops? Keep them! Measure them (both in inches and centimeters) and write it down. You will find that sets without tops, or individual pieces sell for a lot less than an entire set with tops. When in doubt, take the tops with you, and try them on the pans. Or, you can do as I did and keep a measuring tape in your purse with your little list of pan sizes.

Dollar Store Galore
What you find at your favorite dollar or bargain website might surprise you! So give them a shot, and look for these features:
  • 18/10 Stainless Steel will be less likely to rust or stain
  • A thick bottom, even better if there is aluminum or copper encased in the stainless steel (see illustration to the right)
  • Metal handles will let you toss the pan in the oven to finish cooking without worry of vaporizing the plastic handles.
  • Avoid a mirror finish on the inside, if you can. It will discolor immediately (with just boiling salted water for pasta) and you will be none too happy with your new pan. Personally, I prefer a brushed metal finish on the inside.
  • Dishwasher safe.
If your budget permits to splurge, look for pans with aluminum lining up the sides of the pan, though, these will cost about 10 times more than the ones with just the lined bottom.

Go Glass or ceramic for the oven
Of course, you could keep with the stainless steel theme for your ovenware... but why when there are so many inexpensive, beautiful solutions with oven-ready glass and ceramic? You could even go to the second-hand store and look for colorful retro solutions. An added bonus to ceramic and glass ovenware is that they conduct heat better than your old metal non-stick stuff and once the oven is off they stay hot and keep cooking. Also, if washing these is a challenge, line them with wax paper when you cook.

Plastic cooking utensils- cucina non grata
Plastic and nylon are the next things that you should consider evicting from your kitchen. With stainless steel, you will no longer be forced to use flimsy plastic or nylon implements. Now, you can get snazzy stainless steel or, even better, go to trusty, cheap wood utensils!

Cleaning your non-non-stick cookware
Your first experiments with stainless steel may bring burnt stuck-on stuff that may seem impossible to remove. With a few simple tips you should get those pots shiny and new.
  • If you have a dishwasher, stick your stainless steel pots, glass and ceramic cookware in it and watch with amazement as it comes out like new!
  • The little metal pre-soaped scrubbers, completely outlawed for nonstick, are fantastic for light discoloration, and black or brown sticky stuff on the inside or outside of the pan. If the steel is brushed (has little lines on it) go with the flow and scrub the sponge in the direction of the lines.
  • For particularly stubborn carbonized food stuck to the bottom, fill the pot up to the line where it is no longer burned with 50% vinegar and 50% water, and let it boil lightly for 15 minutes. Then, let it cool (even overnight if possible) and attack it with a little scrubby sponge and detergent.

How did you do it?
I'd love to hear tips and experiences from anyone else who has weaned their kitchen off non-stick or Teflon cookware!
Of Interest:
- Deglazing Technique

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