If you are in the market to buy a new electric range, be aware that there is an additional cost to factor into the purchasing decision; you may need new cookware. If you have older nonstick or thin bottomed pans, the pans may have warped which makes cooking on a smooth top range more difficult than it should be.
Thin pan bottoms are an issue with all ranges, but warped bottoms are especially frustrating on ceramic stoves.
With my mother-in-law’s permission I took this picture to illustrate what happens when warped pans are used on a smooth top electric range.
Do you see the large gap between the bottom of the pan and the burner? While the pan will eventually get hot, it will do so in an uneven fashion with hot spots where the burner is in contact with the pan and cooler spots where there are gaps. Unless the food being cooked is stirred constantly it will cook unevenly and may scorch ruining the entire dish.
If you are the owner of a smooth top range and frequently find yourself burning food items, the fault may not be your inexperience. Take a hard look at your pots and pans. Do the bottoms maintain full and even contact with the burner or do they rock? Are they discolered in areas? Rocking and scorch marks are tell-tale signs of low quality or damaged cookware.
Consider investing in a new set.
It doesn’t have to be outrageously expensive, either. Decent quality sets may be found for around $200 and occasionally when lines are discontinued or rebranded they can be found at closeout stores for less. I know, I know, that sounds horrendously expensive to some of you, but it’s an investment. Once you get past the low end sets, quality cookware comes with a warranty, and often a lifetime one at that.
If you are making the jump from nonstick to stainless, be aware that there is a learning curve. Unlike nonstick skillets, stainless skillets usually need to be preheated before adding the food when food is to be browned, sautéed, or pan fried. If this step is skipped, food will stick and it will be a very frustrating cooking experience.
Cast iron may be tempting, but if you have a ceramic or smoothtop range, be aware that the rough exterior of the pans will scratch the cook surface. It may not be noticeable at first, but over time these scratches dull the surface and trap food particles making the surface nearly impossible to keep clean. If you’re dead set on iron, consider enameled iron,and remember it doesn’t have to be Le Crueset. There are other less expensive brands out there. Sometimes a great way to save a few bucks is to buy the offbrand pans and swap out the knobs. Why? The offbrand knobs are frequently not rated for as high an oven-safe temperature as the higher quality brand name knobs.
As always when purchasing knock-off brands, use your judgement and do a little research beforehand. Check to make sure the company hasn’t been cited for using lead in the enamel or other hazardous practices.
Just so you know, the alternate title to this post should be, Flat Bottomed Pans Make the Cooking World Go ‘Round.