Choosing the perfect pan

Everyone has a personal preference when it comes to frying pans. Some insist on heavy, heat-retaining cast iron, while others opt for very light, non-stick affairs. Cast iron pans are fabulous, particularly for cooking meat like steak that requires searing on the outside. The downsides are the weight and the fact that things sometimes stick when you don't want them to.

Non-stick pans are are also brilliant, particularly for cooking things like fish when you want a crisp skin and don't want it sticking. In the difference, however, is where the problem lies. Sear your pork chops in a cast iron pan, deglaze it with a good cider and you've got the makings of a good sauce. Do the same in a non-stick pan and the results will be drastically different.

A happy medium is the pan beloved of most professional chefs - the black iron pan. With one of these you'll look the part, too. They are lighter than their cast iron cousins and can achieve very high temperatures. Added to this they are oven-proof - always a bonus when it comes to cooking meat or fish you want to seal then finish in the oven.

They do require a bit of TLC in the form of seasoning, though. Read on for a quick guide to seasoning your frying pan:

Warm the pan very gently and rub cooking oil into the pan, both outside and in. Pop the pan into a pre-heated oven at 180 degrees for an hour then remove and leave it to cool overnight. You could repeat after each use, but that's a bit much. If on subsequent occasions you wash it gently in warm water and then rub oil over it again it'll soon develop the perfect finish.

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