Do you know what different parts of a pan are called and what the differences are? Dive into the anatomy of pans with us!
In general the thicker the base the more even the heat distribution which increases the pan's resistance to warping.
A ground base is a thick aluminium base machined to give a perfectly flat base. Prolonged exposure to heat can distort the base though and most manufacturers now make the base slightly concave so it flattens out in use.
A sandwich base is normally a layer of aluminium sandwiched between the bottom of a stainless steel pan and a second outer layer of stainless steel to improve the pan's thermal conductivity and cooking performance. Copper is sometimes used but its high expansion rate means it can buckle. Aluminium or copper can also be simply added as a disc to the base with no outer layer of stainless steel although this is not a sandwich base.
Bases are fixed either by brazing (a form of soldering) or by 'friction welding' - melting the two metals together by a process of heat and vibration.
An encapsulated base is a type of sandwich base where the outer layer of stainless steel is completely folded over the aluminium disc. This prevents the discolouration, corrosion and pitting of the aluminium that can occur with a sandwich base and which can be more of a problem if the pans are washed in a dishwasher.
Although aesthetically similar, encapsulated bases come in different quality levels. Hot forged or impact bases are the highest quality as the different materials of the base are fused together with no gaps using a combination of heat and extreme pressure. Next in quality are friction bases where heating and friction are used to achieve a similar bond of the base materials. The next quality is the brazed encapsulated base where the aluminium disc is brazed to the base of the pan before a stainless steel cover plate is pressed and brazed over it.
There are many ways of fixing the handle to a pan some of which allow handles to be replaced. Many handles are screwed or push-fitted onto a bracket or stud-welded or riveted onto the pan. Some metal handles are riveted on directly.
A flame guard is a metal insert between the pan body and the plastic or wood handle, designed to keep the handle away from the heat source.
Phenolic (plastic, Bakelite or melamine): the most common handle type. It will withstand temperatures of up to 180°C; latest designs, using modern phenolic materials, can withstand even higher temperatures. Usually dishwasher-safe but may go dull over time.
Metal: the most durable handles. Dishwasher-proof they will withstand any temperature but can get very hot even on the hob. Hollow handles stay cooler than solid ones.
Wood: a good insulator, but not oven-proof and may char with careless use on the hob. Not usually dishwasher-safe either.
Lids can be made of the same material as the pan or glass. Glass lids are made of tempered (strengthened) glass. A glass lid lets the cook watch the food cooking and usually has a reinforcing stainless steel rim.
Steam vent: a lid vent to allow steam to escape and thus prevent boiling over. A vent may be a simple hole in the lid or an adjustable vent incorporated into the knob.
Finger guard: a metal or plastic disc between the lid knob and lid to prevent the user directly touching a hot lid when removing it.
Non-stick coatings used for cookware have been traditionally based on polytetrafiuoroethylene (ptfe): a slippery plastic substance. There are many different grades of nonstick, from a low-cost single layer coat which may be only six microns thick to three-layer and four-layer coatings up to 40 microns thick. Some coatings do not use PTFE and are reinforced with stainless steel or ceramic particles.
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