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"How does the size and shape of the cooking utensil affect what's being cooked?"

Dear Anne and Sue,

How does the size and shape of the cooking utensil affect what's being cooked?

 

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Thanks for asking this important question, as it's one that not many cooks think about. Yes, the size and shape of a pot does indeed influence what's cooking inside!

Here are a few examples that illustrate how the size and shape of various pots suits different types of cooking. If you're making a reduction sauce that involves boiling away part of the liquid, you need a wide shallow pan, as this exposes as much surface area as possible (in both the pan and the liquid) so evaporation takes place quickly.
A pan for sauces may be somewhat deeper, but it's also wide so it's easy to stir. Always keeping the liquid in motion distributes the heat evenly throughout, so as the sauce is stirred it thickens without lumping.

In contrast, a fat stubby bean pot that goes in the oven is equally well suited to its task. Its tight fitting lid holds moisture inside. During a long and leisurely baking as steam rises, it condenses on the upper portion of the curved sides, so the beans are always bathed in moisture. As many traditional bean pots are made of clay, the heat is transferred slowly and evenly—just what beans require as they soften and develop flavor.

In addition to differences in size and shape, cooking pots and pans are also strongly influenced by the type and quality of the materials from which they are made.
 

 

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