Investing in good cookware is never an inexpensive project, and the choices out there in the marketplace can spin your mind to wild confusion. Grandma's pots and pans may have outlived her for their durability but that doesn't mean you have to follow her footsteps in picking a similar brand or make. Rather than purchasing a whole set of cookware, avid cooks prefer to own an eclectic collection of a variety of specialty cook pots, depending on their needs and frequency of use. Here are two special cooking vessels that you may want to include.
Old-fashioned as it seems, the double boiler remains an indispensable tool in many a good cook's kitchen, with current recipes still calling for it in making delicate sauces and glazes.
Today's modern double boiler with the same old-fashioned uses takes the form of Beka Simmertopf, a simmer pot from Germany that's distributed by Waba Co. in Irvine. A German inventor decided to get rid of the second pot, and in its place he revolutionized a double-walled porcelain-on-steel pan that uses water as an insulation to avoid direct heat. Like a water bath technique, cooking is maintained at a simmering point so there will never be boiling over or burning, the devilish culprits in making fine sauces and milk or cream preparations.
Here's how Beka works: Measured water is poured into the top of the handle lid, which fills the bottom and side spaces between the double walls of the simmer pot. The pot is placed over a stove and heated on high, and when a sizzling sound is heard and steam is emitted from the lid on the handle, the sauce ingredients can be added to the pan. To save energy and prevent excessive evaporation of water, the cooktop heat should then be lowered.
Aside from heating milk and sauces, the Beka simmer pot, which comes with a see-through glass lid, is ideal for cooking rice and pasta dishes, scrambled eggs, delicate soups, mulled wine; making chocolate glazes like ganache, mousses and puddings; melting chocolate; reheating baby foods, potato and other vegetable purees, and thawing foods.
The only precaution about using this water-bath pan is to never cook without water in the inlet. This is avoided with the easy-view water level indicator at the lower part of the handle. The Beka simmer pot is available in 1.5 and 3.3 quarts in stainless steel or in black, red and white porcelain. The suggested retail price ranges from $50 to $90.
Looking for the ultimate non-stick skillet? If you were offered a 10-year warranty on the non-stick coating and a lifetime guarantee against warpage, would you buy the pan?
Manufactured in Iceland and backed by a 25-year reputation for quality in Europe, the Look skillets could live up to these positive expectations. The line was recently introduced in this country by Look Cookware USA Inc. in Newbury Park, Calif.
According to company owner Dennis Sarna, the most impressive factor in the Look skillet is the way it is manufactured into a medium-weight yet superior-strength piece of cookware. "Instead of a cold-welded processing, the unique forge-cast molding method involves pouring the melted aluminum into a mold under 200 tons of pressure, which squeezes the aluminum into the shape of the pan," Sarna said.
Another feature is the non-stick coating called Excalibur. This is an absorbent mesh of stainless steel that acts as a sponge and soaks in the triple-thick layers of non-stick coating. The stainless steel mesh is welded to the pan for durable, non-stick, scratch- and stain-free properties. The manufacturer claims that Excalibur's performance lasts three times longer than any other non-stick coating, and backs up this claim with a 10-year warranty.
For those looking for a low-calorie angle, foods fried in the Look skillet tend to absorb less grease because the waffled design on the frying surface requires the use of less oil or butter. The pan can also be used in the oven because the handle is oven-proof up to 500 degrees. Although not generally recommended, a metal utensil can be used with the pan without scratching or peeling the surface.
The Look cookware line presently consists of an eight-inch omelet pan, 9 1/2-, 11- and 13-inch skillets and deeper 9 1/2- and 11-inch saute pans, all ranging in suggested retail price from $25 to $48. The domed glass lids, eight, 9 1/2 and 11 inches, range in suggested retail price from $12 to $24.
The Beka Simmertopf is available at Williams-Sonoma chain stores, the Kitchen World in Santa Monica and the Kitchen Things in Corona del Mar.
The Look skillet and omelet and saute pans are available at Harris chain stores in San Bernardino or by writing for mail order information to: Look Cookware USA Inc. , 3533 Old Conejo Road, Unit 104, Newbury Park, Calif. 91320; (805) 499-5855.