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Beginners Guide to Pots - Hotels and food in South Africa - Information on Hotels, the Hospitality industry, food, and food preperation in South Africa

Beginners Guide to Pots

Food and food preperation in south africa




Menu Planning for beginners
Beginners Guide - Small Kitchen Tools
Beginners Guide - Pots
Beginners Guide - Knives
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03 May 2005

Beginners Guide - Pots

In this article in the beginners guide to the kitchen we look at pots in the kitchen.

The material and size of the pot is closely linked to the manner of heating surface on which it is placed, solid top stoves or individual burners.

The size of the heating surface, determines the bottom area of the pot. Large pots can be placed on solid top stoves or large individual gas burners, while smaller size pots are best heated by individual burners or solid top elements. All pots and pans should be handled carefully, so that they do not fall. This causes the pot circumference to loose it’s round shape and makes the lid unable to close tightly. This makes the pot ineffective for it’s purpose, as it looses too much liquid by evaporation, causing the food to burn easily in the pot.
Never place an empty pot on a hot surface and wait for it to heat up. The heat will deform and warp the bottom of the pot, making it hollow. This has the effect,that the surface has no contact with the heating surface and the heat is not transmitted properly, causing the pot to cook very slowly or not at all. All pots, kettles and pans, must be stored upside down to avoid dust collecting inside.


This type of pot is excellent for gas burning stoves due to it’s excellent heat conductivity.. It is important that the bottom of the pot covers the heating surface or burner. Small pots go on small burners, big pots are for large burners or surfaces.
Only the bottoms of the pot or pan, should be heated , otherwise, the handles get excessively hot and so does the entire kitchen. Flames which are licking past the bottom of the pot are energy wasters and dangerous. These pots need to have constant heat control, so that their contents are not burning, as carbon steel conducts the heat very well and quickly. Wood and steel stirrers and whisks may be used to stir the pot. Carbon steel pots are cheap to make but they tend to rust easily. Not suitable for Micro wave but suited for electricity wood, coal and oil fired stoves.


Only fairly thick gauge aluminum pots should be used, as thinner pots deform and warp easily due to the heat to which they are exposed. Aluminum is an excellent heat conductor. Wooden and hard, heat resistant, plastic implements, are the only implements allowed to be used. Steel implements will discolor the food, due to the fact, that steel is harder than aluminum and scrapes off minute amounts of aluminum, which oxydise quickly and cause the discoloration and a bad taste. Aluminum pots are cheap and do not rust, but get pitted by food acids. Unsuited for Micro wave application but very useful with gas, wood, coal or oil burning stoves..

Stainless steel, is a bad conductor of heat. It tends to transfer heat directly on the spot, causing the food to burn, but a few centimeters beside the heated spot, the pot may be quite cool. It is for this reason, that stainless steel tilting pans tend to reflect the heat and warp or burn out the elements.

Stainless steel pots need to be provided with a copper bottom to spread the heat. A Teflon bottom and a Thick bottom with Teflon or a copper inset which is glued to the stainless steel will help to spread the heat evenly. Excessive heating of the empty pot will cause the thick, glued bottom to warp and separate from the stainless steel , making the pot totally unfit for it’s purpose.
Stainless steel pots are very expensive but do not rust and have a long working life. Not suited to Micro wave applications but can be used on electricity, coal, oil and wood burning stoves.

Copper is the best conductor of heat available. Copper pots are best for working with sugar. However, the pots, kettles and pans need to be heavily tinned, to avoid poisons which are formed between acidic foods and the copper, which cause verdigris to form which is green colored and poisonous. The pots are difficult to keep clean as the need to be burnished daily to keep their luster. Copper is very soft and easily dented and this can be a problem. Handles on copper pots, tend to be made from wood and need to be screwed or riveted to the pot, which can cause leakages. Copper is very expensive and labor intensive but very beautiful. Wood implements and stainless steel are the best to work with.
Cannot be used in a micro wave but can be used with electricity, coal, wood and oil burning stoves.

These pots and pans conduct heat very effectively and are excellent for braising, pot roasting and griddling or frying. A draw back it the weight which is very heavy and the fact, that cast iron cracks and rusts easily. Cast iron is also not cheap any more and is very difficult to clean. For storage, cast iron needs to be greased, oiled or sprayed with spray and cook. Wood implements and stainless steel whisks are the best to work with. Unsuitable for micro wave. Usable for oil, coal, wood and gas furning stoves.

These containers are very thin walled and cannot take excessive heat, they are also easily chipped, which makes them unsuitable for professional kitchens due to rust and metal interacting with food acids. However, these pots are relatively cheap. Unsuitable for micro wave, but can be used with a heat deflector on gas. Wood, coal and oil and electric heated ovens are also allowed.

These pots and pans are slow conductors of heat. They are very easy to clean and have the advantage that they can be taken from the oven to the table or the fridge without ill effects. Their cost is reasonable. However, they are not sufficiently large enough to be used in a professional, high turn over establishment, unless it is for small quantity desserts. They are Micro wave usable can be used with all types of ovens and stoves.

All the above materials are used for pans and the same rules and applications apply.

Choose your equipment according to the type of fuel and stove which you use in your kitchen.