Coated pans can make life easier - which is exactly what they’ve been made for. The coating prevents food from sticking to the pan, especially helpful when preparing high protein ingredients such as fish or meat. And we’re not even talking about the cleaning part afterwards. Considering all the benefits, why do non-coated stainless-steel pans still exist? And why could they be the better choice for camping?
Coated pans usually are Teflon®-coated on the inside. There are different methods such as ceramic or enamel coatings, but the most common is probably Teflon®. All of them share the same purpose: prevent food from sticking to the pan.
The coating also comes with downsides. First of all, it is very scratch-sensitive. Metal cutlery, spatulas or harsh sponges can easily damage the non-stick surface. That might result in small pieces peeling off the pan which could possibly be inhaled or swallowed and might lead to noxious effects.
When camping, cookware is often stacked and exposed to shaking while driving, so damage to the coating can happen easily.
Stainless steel pans are way more robust and resistant than coated pans. Harsh sponges or other hard items cause no damage. Furthermore, the material is fully neutral in taste and odor, in addition to a high resistance against high temperatures.
On the other hand, stainless steel is an inefficient heat conductor. An even heat distribution is key for proper meal preparation, as it will lead to food being burned in the middle of the pan, while the food close to the edge will get no heat at all.
That’s why at Campo Libre, we add a “3-Ply ProCore” to our cookware ENZO. It is an additional aluminum layer that will distribute the heat evenly across the bottom and thus allows a uniform heat distribution on pans and pots.
Easy-care and sturdy
Ideal for gentle, fat reduced food at low-mid temperatures. Do not overheat!
Ideal for high temperature cooking and frying, will add tasty roast aroma.
Sensitive to scratches, only wooden or plastic spoons recommended
Requires certain practice and the use of more fat / oil
Appropriate for: Vegetables, pancakes or fried eggs
Appropriate for: Steaks, home fried potatoes or stew
So how do I cook in a stainless-steel pan?
General rule: Use more oil/fat than usual! Our choice: Butter! It is an excellent flavor enhancer and helps preventing the food from sticking to the pan.
Make sure to heat up the pan properly and that your meat (or whatever you plan to fry) has room temperature. A great indicator for the correct temperature is the “water drop test”. Splash a few waterdrops into the hot pan. If they “dance” and jump around on the surface, you are ready to go.
Stainless steel pans are ideal to fry meat (e.g. steaks) or home-made potatoes. The high temperature seals the fibers and the tasty juice remains within the meat so it will stay tender and juicy.
Be careful to not flip the meat too early! Wait until it comes unstuck by itself (should take 2-3 mins). You’ll pull apart the meat fibers otherwise, which will allow the juice to come out and make your steak dry and chewy. Pro tip: use a lid as splash guard. This will save you from painful cleaning afterwards ;)
Easy! A regular sponge with some drops of detergent will do the job. And if not, try soaking the pan over night with water. We wouldn't recommend the use of a steel sponge (even though you can use it occasionally if needed).
As you can see, both pans come with pros and cons. Our personal favorite is still the non-coated stainless-steel pan, as it is easy-care and super robust. It’s most reliable tool on your camper trip that won’t let you down. And let’s be honest: who has ever denied the extra portion of butter… ?
If you want to know more on topics related to outdoor cooking, have a look at this article: Camping kitchen - the essentials.
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