Metals And Conductivity

A good cooking utensil distributes heat evenly and uniformly. A poor cooking utensil develops hot spots that are likely to burn or scorch the food being cooked.Two factors affect a pan's ability to cook evenly:

1. Thickness of the metal. A heavy-gauge pot cooks more evenly than one made of thin metal.Thickness is most important on the bottom.

2. Kind of metal. Different metals have different conductivity,which means the speed at which they transfer or disperse heat.The following materials are used for cooking equipment:

• Aluminum is used for most cooking utensils in food service kitchens. It is a good conductor, and its light weight makes pots and pans easy to handle. Because it is a relatively soft metal,it should not be banged around or abused.

Do not use aluminum for storage or for long cooking of strong acids because it reacts chemically with many foods. Also, it tends to discolor light-colored foods such as sauces, especially if they are stirred or beaten with a metal spoon or whip.

Pans made of anodized aluminum, sold under such brand names as Calphalon, have surfaces that are harder and more corrosion-resistant than regular aluminum pans. Although this is not, strictly speaking, a nonstick finish,it is less porous than untreated aluminum, so foods are less likely to stick. Also, it is more resistant to acids than regular aluminum, and it will not discolor light-colored foods. Its disadvantages are that it is more expensive than and not quite as durable as standard aluminum.

• Copper, the best heat conductor of all, was once widely used for cooking utensils. However,it is extremely expensive and requires a great deal of care. In addition, it is very heavy. Today it is used mostly for show, although a few high-end restaurants use it for cooking as well.

Copper reacts chemically with many foods to create poisonous compounds, so copper pans must be lined with another metal, such as tin or stainless steel.

• Stainless steel is a poor heat conductor. Cooking pots and pans made of it tend to scorch foods easily because the heat does not disperse throughout the pan quickly and evenly. Stainless steel is ideal for storage containers because it does not react with foods as aluminum does. It is also used for low-temperature cooking or holding equipment, such as steamer pans and counter pans, where scorching or hot spots are not a problem.

Stainless-steel pots and pans are available with a heavy layer of copper or aluminum bonded to the bottom. Heavy aluminum pans may also be lined with stainless steel on the inside, or on both the inside and outside.This feature gives the advantages of stainless steel (its hardness, durability, nonreactivity with acid foods, and nondiscoloration of light sauces) with the heat-conducting qualities of copper or aluminum.These pans are usually expensive.

• Cast iron is a favorite material with many chefs because of its ability to distribute heat evenly and to maintain high temperatures for long periods. It is used in griddles and heavy skillets. Cast iron cracks easily if dropped. It rusts quickly unless kept properly conditioned (see p. 795) and dry.

• Porcelain enamel-lined pans should not be used. In fact, they are forbidden by some health departments.They scratch and chip easily, providing good hiding places for bacteria. Also, certain kinds of gray enamel can cause food poisoning if chipped.

• Nonstick plastic-type coatings, known by brand names including Teflon and Silverstone, provide a slippery finish, but one that requires a lot of care because it is easily scratched. Do not use metal spoons or spatulas with this equipment. Many chefs keep a set of nonstick egg pans and use them for no other purpose.

Because more customers are requesting low-fat foods, nonstick coatings are increasing in popularity. They enable cooks to sauté foods with little or no added fat.

• Glass and earthenware have limited use in commercial kitchens because they are very breakable.They are poor conductors of heat but are resistant to corrosion and food acids.


1. Stockpot.

A large, deep, straight-sided pot for preparing stocks and simmering large quantities of liquids. Stockpots with spigots allow liquid to be drained off without disturbing the solid contents or lifting the pot. Sizes: 8 to 200 quarts (liters).

2. Saucepot.

A round pot of medium depth. Similar to a stockpot but shallower, making stirring or mixing easier. Used for soups, sauces, and other liquids. Sizes: 6 to 60 quarts (liters).

3. Brazier.

A round, broad, shallow, heavy-duty pot with straight sides. Used for browning, braising, and stewing meats. Sizes: 11 to 30 quarts (liters).

4. Saucepan.

Similar to a small, shallow, light saucepot, but with one long handle instead of two loop handles. May have straight or slanted sides. Used for general range-top cooking. Sizes: 1/2 to 15 quarts (liters).


Stockpot with spigot


Stockpot with spigot







5. Sauté pan, straight-sided.

Similar to a shallow, straight-sided saucepan, but heavier. Used for browning, sautéing, and frying. Because of its broad surface area, the sauté pan is used for cooking sauces and other liquids when rapid reduction is required. Sizes: 2/2 to 5 inches (65 to 130 mm) deep; 6 to 16 inches (160 to 400 mm) in diameter.

Also called fry pan. Used for general sautéing and frying of meats, fish,vegetables, and eggs.The sloping sides allow the cook to flip and toss items without using a spatula, and they make it easier to get at the food when a spatula is used. Sizes: 6 to 14 inches (160 to 360 mm) top diameter.

7. Cast-iron skillet.

Very heavy, thick-bottomed fry pan. Used for pan frying when steady, even heat is desired.

8. Double boiler.

A pot with two sections.The lower section, similar to a stockpot, holds boiling wa-ter.The upper section holds foods that must be cooked at low temperatures and cannot be cooked over direct heat. Size of top section: 4 to 36 quarts (liters).

9. Sheet pan or bun pan.

A shallow rectangular pan (1 inch/25 mm deep) for baking cakes, rolls, and cookies, and for baking or broiling certain meats and fish. Sizes: full pan, 18 x 26 inches (46 x 66 cm); half pan, 18 x 13 inches (46 x 33 cm).

Bake pan.

A rectangular pan about 2 inches (50 mm) deep. Used for general baking. Available in a variety of sizes.

Straight-sided sauté pan

Straight-sided sauté pan

Slope-sided sauté pan

Cast-iron skillet

Slope-sided sauté pan

Cast-iron skillet

Double boiler

Sheet pan

Bake pan

Bake pan

Roasting pan

11. Roasting pan.

A large rectangular pan, deeper and heavier than a bake pan. Used for roasting meats and poultry.

12. Hotel pan, also called counter pan, steam table pan, or service pan.

A rectangular pan, usually made of stainless steel. Designed to hold foods in service counters.Also used for baking, steaming, and subsequent serving.Also used for storage. Standard size: 12 x 20 inches. Fractions of this size (/2, V3, etc.) are also available. Standard depth: 2/2 inches (65 mm). Deeper sizes are also available. (Standard metric pan is 325 x 530 mm.)

13. Bain-marie insert, usually called simply bain-marie.

A tall, cylindrical stainless-steel container. Used for storage and for holding foods in a bain-marie (water bath). Sizes: 1 to 36 quarts (liters).

Roasting pan

Bain-marie inserts

14. Stainless-steel bowl.

A round-bottomed bowl. Used for mixing, whipping, and producing hollandaise, mayonnaise, whipped cream, and egg white foams. Round construction enables whip to reach all areas. Available in many sizes.

Portion scale
Instant-read thermometers
Liquid volume measure


The following equipment is discussed in terms of U.S. measurements. Comparable items in metric units are also available.

1. Scales. Most recipe ingredients are measured by weight, so accurate scales are very important. Portion scales are used for measuring ingredients as well as for portioning products for service.The baker's balance scale is discussed in Chapter 29.

2. Volume measures used for liquids have lips for easy pouring. Sizes are pints, quarts, half-gallons, and gallons. Each size is marked off into fourths by ridges on the sides.

3. Measuring cups are available in 1-, /2-, V3-, and ^4-cup sizes.They can be used for both liquid and dry measures.

4. Measuring spoons are used for measuring very small volumes: 1 tablespoon, 1 teaspoon, teaspoon, and teaspoon.They are used most often for spices and seasonings.

5. Ladles are used for measuring and portioning liquids. The size, in ounces, is stamped on the handle.

6. Scoops come in standard sizes and have a lever for mechanical release.They are used for portioning soft solid foods. Scoop sizes are listed in Table 3.1. The number of the scoop indicates the number of level scoopfuls per quart. In actual use, a rounded scoopful is often more practical than a level scoopful, so exact weights will vary.

7. Thermometers measure temperatures.There are many kinds for many purposes.

• A meat thermometer indicates internal temperature of meats. It is inserted before cooking and left in the product during cooking.

• An instant-read thermometer gives readings within a few seconds of being inserted in a food product. It reads from OF to 220 F. Many chefs carry these in their jacket pocket like a pen, ready whenever needed. Instant-read thermometers must not be left in meats during roasting, or they will be damaged.

• Fat thermometers and candy thermometers test temperatures of frying fats and sugar syrups.They read up to 400 F.

• Special thermometers are used to test the accuracy of oven, refrigerator, and freezer thermostats.



Meat thermometer

Table 3.1

Scoop Sizes

Table 3.1

Scoop Sizes

U.S. Measure

Metric Measure










% cup

5 oz

160 mL

140 g


V2 cup

4 oz

120 mL

110 g


3 floz

3-3/2 oz

90 mL

85-100 g


% CUp

212-3 oz

80 mL

70-85 g


/4 cup

2-2/2 oz

60 mL

60-70 g


112 floz

1/4 oz

45 mL

50 g


113 floz

IV3 oz

40 mL

40 g


1 floz

1 oz

30 mL

30 g


0.8 floz

0.8 oz

24 mL

23 g


12 floz

/2 oz

15 mL

15 g

Note: Weights vary greatly with different foods,depending on how compact they are. Best practice is to weigh a scoopful of an item before proceeding with portioning.

Note: Weights vary greatly with different foods,depending on how compact they are. Best practice is to weigh a scoopful of an item before proceeding with portioning.

Continue reading here: Knife Materials

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  • Heike
    What is the conductivity level of pots and pans?
    8 months ago