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How to Cook without a Non Stick

6th March 2021

Andrew Bluett-Duncan
Director 

I wrote to you a few weeks ago, having some concerns about how you were doing with your new Demeyere pan, if you were one of a quite large number of people who had bought one when we had a lot of “Seconds” back at the beginning of January. My concern was for you if you hadn’t used an uncoated pan, either ever, or in a long time, because uncoated pans require a different approach and excellent though Demeyere are (the same goes for Le Creuset uncoated as well) they can sometimes trip up the unwary.

Jane wrote to me the other day to say that she felt that she came into this category. So I discussed this with Babette and she recalled writing something about this a year or so back. This week it will be on frying and we’ll conclude next week by addressing Sauciers, Sautéing, Saucepans and various cleaning and maintenance tips .

And so if you are being challenged by cooking in your new Demeyere pan or indeed any uncoated pan, like say Le Creuset’s plain stainless steel 3 ply or their cast iron offerings, then just read on. 

"The general principle is that if food sticks in an uncoated pan, in 99% of the cases, it is because it is burning, and it is the burning that sticks. Most of us, having used non-stick coated pans for years have no knowledge of this type of cooking... so here are a few tips to help you navigate your way round them.

Frying pans: The more layers a pan has, the more leeway you will have. A 3ply pan is very good, a 5 ply is excellent, a 7 ply is bloody fantastic (pardon my French). The main difference is that the thicker a pan is the more room for error (in heat distribution) it will allow you. And remember that with uncoated pans, the worst that can happen is that you may burn the food and ruin it, but then you can try again and you have NOT damaged your pan.

Frying level 1. With oil on a medium high temperature. For frying sausages, bacon, onions, mushrooms, omelettes, when we put oil in a cold pan, it is rather thick and moves about slowly. As it heats up, it looks “thinner” and moves about faster. Bearing this in mind, put your pan on your hob at a medium to medium-high temperature, put some fat in your pan, when you see that the oil is moving quicker then add the food in. It should NOT spit and splash about, just gently sizzle. Reduce your heat accordingly if necessary. The official temperature of frying is 180c, which is not a lot. Some of us were led to believe, have been tempted to believe that higher heat will create quicker cooking... well that is not always the case.

Frying level 2. Dry frying meat & pancakes. To get a juicy steak, we need to sear it, in order to create an outer crust that hardens and keeps all the juices inside. To achieve this we need a very high heat to begin with.

Put your pan on the hob, maximum strength. Have a glass of water nearby, and as the pan heats up, check the temperature by flicking a bit of water in your pan. The water will probably evaporates in a mini cloud of steam, this is NOT hot enough, try again a few moments later, and at some point, when the water hits the pan, the water turns into little balls of water that do not evaporate but just roll about rather like mercury. This IS the right/highest temperature. Take your steak, or your chicken breast or your pork chop and put it in the pan, use a fork to press the meat to ensure it touches the pan evenly. Then, and this is the very important bit, REDUCE your heat by about 1/3, so on my induction hob with a max number 9, I turn it down to 5 or 6. (If you don’t the food will burn) At that stage, your piece of meat is actually completely sticking to the pan, but this is a good sticking. Don’t worry! Stay there, and observe your meat, after a few minutes, you will see the sides of the meat lift up gently, take a fork or a fish slice, and gently lift it, it should come away from the pan with ease. If it doesn’t, just wait a bit more, if the juices that come out of the pan are dark brown you definitely have too much heat, so turn the heat down, and wait for the lift. As you turn the meat over, you will see the lovely golden colour of a properly seared surface. Now cook the other side.

Pancakes: I always cook crepes in uncoated pans because the result is nicer. Put some butter in your pan and use a brush or piece of kitchen paper to coat the whole surface on a medium high temperature, pour a small quantity of mixture and WAIT, until the sides start to lift off. Use a fish slice to turn it around. Observe your pan, as if it is too hot, it will burn and then stick. I was always taught that the first pancakes tend to go wrong and that is because we need to find the right temperature.

Frying level 3. Fried eggs, fish and food coated in breadcrumbs. These are the situations where coated pans prove to be excellent. Remembering that the coatings are NEVER designed to be used with very high heat, they do have their place and come in so handy in these situations.

However, neither our grand-parents nor Auguste Escoffier had “non-stick” pans and they could still cook very well.

So here are some pointers, but do remember, as they are more difficult, to be kind to yourself and give yourself a little learning time.

Eggs are the natural glue of the food world, you definitely need to ensure that there is fat all over the cooking surface. Some like the white of their fried eggs to remain white, some like the white to be crispy and golden. The first one is easy enough, use medium temperature as in Frying level 1. For the crispy results, you do need enough fat in your pan, and very hot. You can then drain your egg on kitchen paper to remove excess fat.

Fish, unless extremely fresh off the boat, will easily flake away stick and break up as you try to unstick it. So it is easier to cook filets with the skin on. Use high temperature, enough oil and a bit of butter, and cook skin side down first. Reduce the heat when flipping over.

Food coated in breadcrumbs, easily some breadcrumbs will come off the piece of food and likely burn. If you want to cook these without any added fat, you need to use your oven, not your frying pan. In a fry pan I use a generous amount of oil or butter on a medium heat. 

If after reading you still have problems or questions, just email Babette with them on babette@artoflivingcookshop.co.uk.

In the meanwhile, we do have a few Demeyere seconds left. These are as follows and the stocks were correct when I looked it up the day before yesterday.

8 of the Atlantis Dutch Ovens 28cm
6 of the Atlantis Proline Frying Pan 32cm
2 of the Atlantis Proline Frying Pan 24cm
4 of the Wok 30cm
3 of the Atlantis Sauté pan and Lid 28cm

As well as these, we have firsts in stock from Le Creuset of their uncoated offering.

Le Creuset 3 ply Frying Pan 24cm uncoated.

Le Creuset 23cm Cast Iron Frying Pans with a black enamel interior and metal handles.

Le Creuset 26cm Cast Iron Frying Pans with a black enamel interior and metal handles.

Le Creuset 26cm Cast Iron Frying Pans with wooden handles.


I trust you have a pleasant and peaceful weekend.

Kind regards

Andrew

Andrew Bluett-Duncan
Director

1 comment

  • Carmen RiggMar 13, 2021

    YOU ARE A GODGIVEN COUPLE. I WOULD HAPPILY PAY TO READ YOUR COLUMN, IN FACT EVEN MORE (PAY I MEAN) FOR THE INTEREST QUOTIENT AS OPPOSED TO READING MARTIN LEWIS !
    ALL THE BEST.
    Apparently only uneducated people write in capitals but my computer does as it pleases and when it pleases. Apologies. love and thank you,
    Carmen xx

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