What Type Of Cooking Pan For Veal Marsala?
This is my third post describing how to make the very best veal Marsala at home using my friend Chef Ricco’s recipe. You can find the the actual Veal Marsala recipe here and my post describing the various ingredients used in this dish called Veal Marsala Ingredients.
This post looks at best cookware for making this dish at home but these are only suggestions from Chef Ricco. They are by no means absolute requirements. If your kitchen is equipped with other cookware, don’t feel like you have to go out and by additional pans just to make this dish. Use what you have and adapt your cooking to the tools you own.
What type of cooking pan and what size?
Ideally, Chef Ricco recommends using an 8 – 10 inch sauté pan or fry pan and cook 3 at a time. You never want to crowd a pan when you are sautéing or the meat will steam rather than fry properly. Besides you are going to add the meat back to the pan to reheat when the sauce is done.
Why not just use a 14-inch pan and cook them all at the same time?
This was my question since I owned a large frying pan. Ricco responded:
The smaller pan holds heat better especially on a home cooks smaller stove-tops. The 14-inch pans are great for commercial kitchen with those giant BTU burning stoves, but most home stoves just don’t have the power to get those big pans hot and keep them hot.
All pans, like ovens, have hot spots. The bigger the pan, the bigger the hot spot and hot spots cause erratic cooking.
Smaller pans maintain the heat better for proper cooking. Don’t forget when you add the meat to a hot pan; the initial reaction is for the pan to cool down. And Chef Ricco tells me time and time again, “Heat is your friend when cooking.” A smaller pan will be less affected by any sudden additions.
On my stove-top, many of my larger pans just don’t fit the burner so until I can afford a new stove, I just have to try working with smaller pans.
What about non-stick coated pans?
Not a good idea for this dish. We want the pan to get hot and create a fond (the brown bits stuck to the pan after sautéing also called sucs) that will add flavor to the sauce. Doesn’t work that well with non-stick pans because nothing sticks to the pan to create fond.
Does the frying pan material matter?
Some really experienced cooks like working with copper pots and pans because of their superior heat conductivity. You crank up the heat and these pans heat up fast. This is great if you really know what you are doing but if you are not paying extreme attention, it’s easy to overcook or even burn your food in an instant.
Another reason experienced cooks like copper is because they don’t have hot spots. You don’t have to worry about one area of your pan being hotter than the rest of the pan allowing much more even cooking.
They also look great but take a lot of work to keep in tip top condition and they are extremely expensive.
A great choice for preparing this dish because the veal will stick some thus creating the fond. A lot of you don’t want anything you cook to stick and go the nonstick route. I can understand this for some foods like eggs and fish, but if I’m making a pan sauce, I want the stickiness.
Stainless steel is also a lot cheaper than copper and stainless doesn’t conduct heat nearly as fast as copper so it is more forgiving for beginner and intermediate level cooks. Plus there is much less maintenance with stainless compared to copper. You can even put many brands of stainless cookware into the dishwasher. Then there’s the versatility. Acidic foods don’t react to stainless steel as they do copper and pure aluminum.
The down side to cooking with stainless is less than stellar heat conductivity. More hot spots, more uneven temperatures come with stainless but if you are careful, you can make that work for you.
Aluminum and Hard Anodized Aluminum
So what’s the difference? Aluminum that has been “anodized” in less technical terms means the aluminum has been placed in chemical baths to prepare it to take an electrical charge. This will alter the aluminum by making the oxide layer thicker giving it more strength (harder), and less likely to corrode.
I love hard anodized aluminum pans because they have great heat conductivity, not as good as copper but better than stainless steel. They are extremely hard compared to aluminum (twice as hard as stainless steel) and will hold up better when tossed around both on the stove and in your cabinets.
They perform well by conducting heat evenly and quickly but not as fast as pure aluminum. And they are very easy to maintain. One of my first purchases of cookware when I started teaching myself to cook over 25 years ago were anodized aluminum pots and pans. I still have them although I’m slowly in the process of replacing them as they are starting to warp.
The problem today with anodized aluminum pans, in my opinion, is they are all nonstick. I have not been able to find a brand that sells these pans NOT nonstick. As mentioned above, I want my some of my foods to stick to the pan so I can make great pan sauces.
I don’t know that much about pure aluminum pans but I just found a source that sells mostly to restaurants and I purchased a couple of their pans to try out. I know they are great conductors of heat, are much cheaper than stainless and copper and used in most professional restaurants.
The biggest problem with pure aluminum pans is they react with acidic foods and there is a possibility the aluminum can leach into the food. There is a lot of research on both sides of this issue and I urge you to do your homework before purchasing any pan of any material. I’ll leave it at that.
I just purchased this very cool Vollrath 3 Quart Saute Pan from an online restaurant supply store that I’m loving. It has 3-ply construction with an 18-8 stainless interior and and aluminum core to provide even heat on the bottom of the pan and side walls. With a silicone coated handle that is oven safe to 450°F, it feels great in my hand, I can’t wait to see how it performs.
Another blend is copper with stainless steel and I’m sure there are others. Depending on your budget and cooking needs, there’s something for everyone.
The best pan for making this dish is the one you have in your kitchen cabinet. I think you’ll do better if you use a pan that is not nonstick but if all you have are nonstick, don’t let that stop you from making this veal Marsala perfected. If you plan to make a lot more pan sauces in the future, you may want to think about purchasing one of the pans I described above.
Next post will be prepping this dish and step-by-step instructions. Some of you will like my detailed instructions, others may just want the scaled down version at the Very Best Veal Marsala Recipe.