The joys and pains of cooking. Pots and pans that will make you blink!
Read time: 10 minutes
A big thank you to the testers at Scott Close in Norbury this week and Monica James House in Sidcup last month for having me along for a natter about the joys and pains of cooking and ageing. In these two sessions we were specifically looking at saucepans and what makes them a pleasure or a chore to use as people get older.
The biggest factor that concerned our testers this time was weight, which can be an issue for all sorts of reasons – arthritis, a stroke, a dodgy wrist after a fracture, or just reduced strength. What is the point of a pan you can’t lift to move to and from your hob? Add to this the need to tilt it and still maintain control and saucepans can be a pretty tricky affair. We heard stories of people who had previously been eager cooks who could no longer lift the casseroles they so loved. Or who were too scared to manoeuvre hot and heavy pans when they no longer felt fully in control of where the contents may end up. An all too common theme sadly.
So here’s what we found…
We started with the EaziGrip pans which claim to be useful for people with arthritis because of their special ergonomic design. This range claims to offer people maximum comfort and the tightest grip possible when holding a saucepan using the power of 42. No, not The Meaning of Life, but apparently the scientifically proven magic wrist angle for optimum grip strength for the widest range of users, calling upon the strong forearm muscles rather than stressing the wrist. So far, all sounds good. While there was indeed a great deal of love for the handle design, which with its strange swan-like curve and coated in silicone does look pretty pleasing and has a pleasing ergonomic shape and feel in the palm of the hand. However, for all this, even the smallest of the 3 pans was simply too heavy to lift off the table for almost all of our testers and that was without anything in it! The designers may have cracked the angle of the handle, but seems to have forgotten about the rest of the pan. All testers thought there was potential if only they had used a lighter material. These pans also have the lip at the front of the pan rather than side so you pour a little like you would a kettle, again to reduce wrist strain as well as pouring hot contents more safely away from the user. But again, the weight of the pan undermined this potentially very clever little feature.
Conversely this is why the enamel pans we looked at proved pretty popular. Enamel cookware seems to be having a bit of a revival at the moment with places like Bill’s Restaurant using it to serve their food on and shops like Utility celebrating the traditional, no-nonsense look for our homes.
This simple blue and white enamel Casserole Emaillee saucepan was the lightest of the lot, weighing in at an impressive 0.3kg without a lid, and there was lots of love for it in the room. However there were some concerns over the handle getting to hot and having to use an oven glove or a tea towel to pick it up, leading to a different set of safety concerns such as burning or slipping.
Sidcup testers preferred the Orla Kiely pan, which although also enamel had a wooden handle to protect the hand. This did make it a bit heavier, but alongside the kitsch 70s style pattern it made people smile.
The Norbury group liked the Ikea Kastrull pan for the same reason – all agreeing the combination of colour, slightly unusual mushroom-y shape and light wood handles made for a super cute little pan many could imagine in their kitchens. This Ikea pan also comes with a lid.
We did have a bit of a discussion about how enamel had gone out of fashion because it chipped so easily and looked a bit sad after a while, even rusting sometimes where the enamel was no more. However, unlike old pans, some of these newer versions are now suitable for hobs of all types, leading us to think there must have been some advances in material technology which may also solve the chipping problem. We resolved to do further testing (dropping it on the floor was suggested by Norbury group!) another time. In the interests of research I am going to cook using the Ikea pan instead of my own pans this month and report back on how it handled my cooking, washing and general manhandling.
Thomas Lock and Pour Saucepan
Both groups liked the heat-proof casserole style double handles of the Lock & Pour saucepan to give the pan extra stability when picking it up and wondered why more saucepans don’t have this extra handhold as standard. People also liked the concept of the lock function, which means that the lid stays put while pouring and straining the water and prevents slipping or scalding of hands, but due to the weight of the pan overall, sadly it required a little too much strength for the function to be particularly useful. We thought if there was a smaller version this would make it much better, as cooking for one or two doesn’t require a 4.5L capacity. The lock function could also be a little easier to open and close which proved a little stiff for some.
Kuhn Rikon Universal Multi-Pot (with removable steamer basket)
This Kuhn Rikon Universal Pot was a really unusual-looking (but not displeasing) pan – looking a lot more like a coffee pot than traditional saucepan. This has its uses though – taking up less hob space for one, but also utilising some of the ergonomics of the EaziGrip pans (see above).
The particularly clever thing about this pan is its inbuilt but removable strainer/steamer basket. This is a pretty revolutionary feature. Whether for your veggies, pasta or your boiled eggs (and especially tall things like asparagus or spaghetti), this allows you to cook your food and then strain it in situ without ever having to lift a pan of heavy water. Instead you can wait for the water to cool and deal with it later after you’ve eaten your delicious fresh cooked hot dinner.
We chatted about how lots of people already ‘hack’ their saucepans in a similar way using a chip fryer basket in their existing pans. This is a really cheap and neat little trick if you are struggling with lifting your pans. But in the Kuhn universal pan this just looked all round smarter and complete with a silicone handle to fish it out it ticked a lot of boxes for many in the groups.
However, there were a few issues too. The silicone handle coverings, while a great idea for protecting hands, just didn’t seem to cover all the necessary parts of the handles to offer full protection, with people’s hands naturally going to the crook of the handle and hitting bare metal instead as they lifted; it felt like asking for a burn. The silicone covered handle on the strainer too, was nowhere near big enough, and somewhat precariously sitting right in the steam rather than more safely elevated away from it.
The Universal pan is fairly mid range in terms of weight, but it was the lid that really let it down for us. We had a giggle as we all struggled to take the lid off even while hugging it in our laps (not exactly an option when it was hot!). The lock function was just too stiff for almost everyone to deal with.
Overall, not a perfect pan, but lots of interesting and potentially helpful features to work with that the groups were keen to see developed further – offering to their testing services anytime to Kuhn Rikon!
There was a lot of love for all of the pan lids that had holes in to allow safer and easier straining without the need for a colander or unsafely tilting the lid (Kuhn Rikon, EaziGrip & Lock & Pour). Several people noted that it is the lids that add a lot of weight to the pans overall these days, with many now made from glass to enable you to see what is cooking. This is why a number of people in the group were big advocates of microwave, hob or stand-alone steamers, which require no heavy lifting and draining at all, sometimes without even needing to use a hob, as well as being pretty healthy to boot. Something to think about.
How they stacked up (against one another – not in a pile!)
Here’s how the pans stacked up against one another and we hope you find this useful when making decisions about your own or your loved ones’ cookware.
If you have any suggestions of pans you like that we haven’t mentioned here, have any helpful hints about cooking or would like to let us know your thoughts on any of the pans we tested in these sessions, please comment below or get in touch.
If you are a product designer and would like us to test a product at any point from concept to market to get real life users thoughts, drop us a line. Likewise if you would be interested in becoming a product tester, or have an idea for something we should test, also give me a shout.
Til next time, thanks for reading!