Cooking

When to Use a Cast-Iron, Nonstick or Stainless Steel Pan

Choose wisely, because it makes a difference
Cooking with Cast-Iron, Nonstick and Stainless Steel Pans
Photo: jjpoole/Getty Images

It doesn't matter how fresh or expensive your ingredients are, if you don't cook them properly, they are not going to come out tasting delicious and you'll end up wasting time, money and food. It's easy to assume everything can be cooked in the same type of pan, but different pans serve different purposes.

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The three cooking pans we're referring to are cast iron, nonstick and stainless steel. Here's a quick guide on when it's appropriate to use each one and what to cook in it.

Cooking with a Cast-Iron Pan

Since cast-iron pans hold a lot of heat, they are best used for dishes that require just that. It's the ideal option for caramelizing vegetables, frying chicken and cooking juicy pieces of steak. It's also a great choice for stovetop hashes and baking desserts. It's important to season before using (to protect the metal), and while you could fry a couple eggs or fish in it, it's not the best option.

 

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Cooking with a Nonstick Pan

If we're cooking delicate pieces of fish, eggs, frittatas, crepes or anything with fragile ingredients, we reach for a nonstick pan. The Teflon coating allows components to easily slide off the pan and onto your plate. Plus, they are painless to clean.

Cooking with a Stainless Steel Pan

The stainless steel pan is useful for searing and caramelizing meats (similar to cast iron), sautéing vegetables or when you're incorporating acidic ingredients. Make sure to always clean stainless steel after usage with hot, soapy water and dry immediately to avoid dried-on water stains.

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