In any discussion about what is the best cookware to use, the subject of heat distribution comes up frequently. Why is heat distribution such an important consideration in cookware?
Heat is Not Evenly Applied When You Cook
When you cook, it’s rare that the entire surface of your pan is exposed to the exact same temperatures. In a gas range, for example, the flames make contact with a specific portion of the pan first, which takes a larger portion of the heat. The flames then spread across the rest of the pan at a somewhat lower temperature.
On an electric range, you usually have concentric round burners which distribute heat more evenly, but which still have gaps between the circles which are exposed to lower temperatures.
Even if the heating surface could be absolutely uniform, the pan itself might be warped or bowed, which would prevent it from lying flat against the burners. Plus, there are the sides of the cookware to consider, which do not come into direct contact with the heat. Therefore, some parts of the pan will always be hotter or cooler than the rest.
What Is Heat Distribution?
Heat distribution affects how well the cookware material passes the heat from warmer to cooler areas of the pan. Ideally, the transfer would work so smoothly that the entire surface of the pan reaches a steady, even temperature. In practice, flaws and imperfections in the metal can cause some areas to become much hotter than others.
How Heat Distribution Affects Your Food
When heat is not evenly distributed, your food can burn in some areas while remaining undercooked in others. This makes it very difficult to create an evenly cooked meal. For example, coatings may stick and pull away from breaded items, meats may become tougher than intended, or milks and sauces may burn and stick to the bottom of the pan, tainting the flavor of the entire dish.
Counteracting the effect of hot spots is a lot of work for a cook. You’ll need to stir liquids or turns meats and vegetables often to produce a well-cooked meal. A moment of inattention can easily ruin your cooking. Lack of good heat distribution also means you need to use higher heat to get the same effect, wasting energy.
Furthermore, since foods will be more prone to stick to the pan, cleaning up is more difficult as well. Scrubbing can damage protective layers of your cookware, reducing their longevity.
For all of these reasons and more, even heat distribution is among the most important features of high quality cookware. By investing in good cookware, you can get better results with less effort, while requiring less wasted energy and expense.