High-heat cooking is popular for many reasons. Not only is it faster than cooking at lower temperature points, but also it provides that ideal “browned” or “seared” coloration that is often associated with delicious dishes. Moreover, cooking over high temperatures can impart a new flavor even to familiar meals.
As with all cooking techniques, there is an art to high-heat cooking. Get the art wrong, and you’ll end up with a dish that’s burned on the outside and raw on the inside. When things go right, you’ll have a flavor experience that you’re not likely to forget.
High-heat cooking may be referred to by many different terms. When a recipe directs the cook to “brown,” “saute,” “panfry,” “sear” or “stir fry” a dish, this implies cooking with high heat. Just as using the correct oil is essential, so is using the right pan.
Not every pan is built to withstand high-heat cooking. Accordingly, it pays to know your materials and how well they perform. Using the wrong pan can not only ruin what you’re cooking, but also destroy your pans.
Quick Comparison: Best Safest Cookware For High Temperature Heat Cooking
|Ease of Care
|#1. Cast Iron
Our Best Pick
|Yes, with seasoning
|Regular maintenance required
|#2. Enameled Cast Iron
|More expensive than cast iron
|#3. Stainless Steel
|#4. Carbon Steel
|Yes, with seasoning
|Regular maintenance required
Breaking Down Materials
If you’re feeling ready to try high heat cooking, then you’ve got to have the right equipment. Pots and pans with non-stick coating generally are not recommended. That’s because this coating has a tendency to melt in extreme temperatures.
Alternatively, pans without non-stick coating are ideal. Cast iron, enameled cast iron, stainless steel and carbon steel are all recommended for high-heat cooking. Copper and aluminum are not recommended.
Let’s take a closer look at each of the recommended materials for high-heat cookware.
1. Cast Iron
This is a timeless, reliable choice for high-heat dishes because it can actually used with open flames. Another distinct advantage is that cast iron can effortlessly move from the stove top to the oven.
Cast iron is fabulously durable, and it offers great heat conductivity. Nonetheless, many people who haven’t used it are wary of it because they have heard that it’s difficult to care for. This mostly is related to the need to “season” a cast iron pan.
Seasoning involves coating the cooking surface of the pan with oil, heating it up and then allowing it to cool down. This process is completed several times to break down the oil, thereby creating a slick surface that is virtually non stick.
Iron is a reactive metal, which can cause flavor issues when quite acidic or alkaline foods are cooked in them. However, when a cast iron skillet is properly seasoned, reactivity is not an issue.
Cast iron is affordable, and it’s safe to use with any type of utensils. It’s essential to care for it properly, otherwise it won’t last forever. Some cooks argue that cast iron is too heavy, so this may be an issue if you have arthritis or other health limitations.
2. Enameled Cast Iron
Pots and pans made from this material share many of the advantages of cast iron. However, they are covered with a ceramic coating that makes seasoning obsolete.
Enameled cast iron also is attractive. Most of these products come in a wide variety of colors. You can proudly display these pots and pans on your shelves.
Enameled cast iron excels at retaining heat, and easily transfers from the stove top to the oven. The ceramic coating makes these items non-reactive, so there’s no need to fear cooking tomatoes or lemons in them.
With their excellent durability, enameled cast iron pots are a solid choice. Plus, many of them are dishwasher safe. You may get longer use out of them if you wash by hand instead.
Keep in mind that enameled cast iron is heavy, often even heavier than traditional cast iron. Also, it is not non-stick, and since it cannot be seasoned, it does not develop a non-stick coating.
3. Stainless Steel
This material has so much going for it. It’s incredibly durable and always dishwasher safe. Plus, it’s non-reactive, so you don’t have to worry about any food that you cook developing an off flavor.
As an added bonus, these pans are hard to damage. They resist rust and scratches, and denting is highly unlikely.
One of the potential drawbacks of all stainless steel pans is that they don’t conduct heat well. That’s why most of the recommended versions have a core of either aluminum or copper.
Aluminum makes for a less expensive pan, but copper is the better conductor of heat. Keep these factors in mind when making your buying decision.
4. Carbon Steel
Think of carbon steel pans as a hybrid between cast iron and stainless steel. You’ll need to season them like cast iron pans, and this means that you cannot clean them in the dishwasher like stainless steel. Still, they have a pretty good non-stick coating, which means it’s not as hard to season carbon steel.
These pans are lighter than cast iron and are more affordable than stainless steel. However, rust can develop if they are not properly cared for.
My Pick for High-Heat Cookware
For my money, cast iron wins this contest. It does require seasoning, but it’s truly not that burdensome. Plus, once a cast iron pan is seasoned, it’s pretty much good for a lifetime as long as you keep taking care of it.
I love the versatility of cast iron. The weight is something that I’ve gotten used to, and I certainly appreciate the affordability. Additionally, I love the taste of food cooked in cast iron.