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About the company
Stellar are probably not the best known of cookware brands, but they do have a very wide range of products and they are known for creating fairly good quality products. Their tagline is ĎThe choice of professionalsí Ė Iím not sure about that but the products we own are certainly more than good enough to take anything a keen amateur chef can throw at them. According to the website, the Stellar range includes 15 cookware ranges, 9 Ďfamiliesí of knives and 11 cutlery patterns, so youíd imagine thereíd be something to suit most people.
Their products are definitely priced at the higher end of the scale, but with good reason. They are generally of very good quality and are made to last. Iím sure weíve all used those £5 frying pans from Asda where you have to tighten the handle back up every two weeks Ė well, thereís none of that rubbish here! If youíre serious about cooking, then Stellar are definitely a brand to consider when kitting out your kitchen.
Choosing this set of pans
Kitting out our kitchen has been something thatís happened very slowly. A lot of cooking is done in our kitchen and itís something that my husband especially enjoys doing as a hobby and as a way to wind down after a hard week. As a result we wanted to invest gradually in a number of high quality items that would last for several years, and give us the best possible results in the kitchen. Hence weíve acquired over the last couple of years a number of Le Creuset items, some Global knives and most recently, these pans. It came about because my husband is so into his cooking that he actually asked for a milk pan for Christmas. He had been looking for one with measurements on the inside and a lip for pouring, but hadnít managed to find one he liked. In the end my mum bought him the Stellar milk pan. We liked it so much that we decided when it came to purchasing new pans in the future, we would check this range.
After a bit of research, we found this set which includes a milk pan, three saucepans and a frying pan. Originally we had planned to purchase pans separately and build up our collection slowly so we didnít have to spend so much at once, but the set was so much better value, even though it included the milk pan as well, that we decided to purchase them all together.
Stainless steel pans
The advantage of stainless steel pans is that theyíre easy to look after and very durable. They can last for years and still look shiny and sleek. They wonít get scratched or marked very easily, and can be polished if they get marks on from anything like hard water. Compared to other pans, theyíre relatively inexpensive. However, they do have a marked downside which is that stainless steel is not the best conductor of heat. This can mean that unless you have a copper or aluminium core to the pan, your food may not cook evenly and you could get Ďhotspotsí in your food. These pans do not have a copper or aluminium core, but I canít say thatís affected our cooking or food in any way. Obviously you would stir most foods around the pan, so it wouldnít affect them, but even if I donít constantly stir something, Iíve literally never noticed any kind of unevenness to the cooking, and we use one or other of these pans at least three or four times a week. Perhaps if we were cooking on a professional level this would make a difference, but when weíre just making meals at home, itís not an issue at all. The Stellar website does claim that the pans have Ďthick, hot forged basesí to ensure even heat distribution, but I canít seem to find much evidence or science that really backs this up.
These particular pans are made with 18/10 stainless steel. This means that the steel alloy has high contents of both chromium (18%) and nickel (10%). The chromium protects the pans from stains and rust by reducing the reactivity of the alloy, whilst the nickel gives it more shine.
The milk pan
The smallest item in the set is a little milk pan with a 14cm diameter. It has a lip at either side of the pan, so you can easily pour from it with either your left or right hand. It has a basic measurement scale on the inside, opposite the handle, so you can see that you could get just under a litre of liquid, or one and a half pints, in the pan. Whilst this is obviously perfect for heating milk and making sauces, itís not really a bad size for general cooking, especially if youíre just cooking for one. You could very easily heat up a tin of beans or some soup in this if you were having a lazy night, or boil some vegetables up to go with a meal. Because itís quite compact it doesnít take up too much space on the hob, so if youíre doing a big meal itís nice to have a small pan that can squeeze on there whilst youíre using the other rings.
The only downside about this pan, Iíd say, is the handle. Because the pan itself is so small, itís not overly heavy; the handle is much weightier. Whilst it sits in the cupboard or on the work surface perfectly well, and it would be fine on an electric hob, we use a gas stove and the pan can easily overbalance on there. Often Iíll grab it out of the cupboard and place it on the ring where I plan to use it, and because itís still empty and I havenít put it at the right angle on the metal supports, it tips over. This isnít a problem most of the time but once I did this, and it fell off the front of the cooker and narrowly missed my toes. I know for a fact that if it had made contact I would have been in a lot of pain! Luckily, the pan and the floor tiles both survived the impact, but this is definitely something to watch out for, and I think itís a shame that this isnít better balanced, if Iím honest.
When cooking, Iíve always had great results. Although the pan heats up fairly quickly, Iím very impatient and Iím always tempted to whack it up to the highest heat to get things going. This isnít good for the pan though, especially as this one is so small, so I do try to resist! The measurements appear to be accurate, which helps. The lip is well designed; I donít get sauces dripping down the side of the pan and ending up all over the worktop or me when I try to pour them out.
These come in three sizes: 16cm, 18cm and 20cm. Apart from the sizes, theyíre all very similar, so I wonít bother describing them all separately. As the pans get wider, they also get taller, so the 20cm pan is really a very respectable size. We do have a stock pot for big projects such as soup, stock and dinner parties, but as a general rule we donít get it out much because these pans pretty much cover everything we might need.
Each pan had two pouring lips on the left and right, so itís easy to pour out liquids you might be cooking. However, thereís also a second advantage to this which is that with the use of the lids, you can drain the contents of the pan very easily. The lids fit inside the pan, and each lid has an area on it with holes in it, like a sieve. Twist the holes to align with the pouring spouts and, ta da, you can pour water out without losing any of the food. Alternatively, if you want to keep all the steam inside the pan, just twist the lid again to cover the gap with solid stainless steel. The lids also have a clear top. To be honest, once youíve got something cooking away in there you canít see much for all the steam, but you can use it to check whether something has started boiling or not, for example.
All three pans are extremely sturdy Ė theyíre not lightweight in the slightest. The bases are thick and the handles are very solid and steady. Even though the handles are also stainless steel, they donít get hot so usually I can move the hot pan without any oven mitt or glove, unless itís been on there a long time. The fact that the handles are steel also means that these pans can be put in the oven, but I donít do this often.
The pans all have measurement markings inside them. To be honest I donít use these a great deal because itís not too often that Iím just adding liquids to them Ė if itís just a sauce Iím likely to be doing it in the milk pan, and for most other things then there are probably other things already in the pan. Also with something big enough to require one of these saucepans, Iím probably not measuring it that accurately, to be honest! It is useful though to know the capacity of the pans (1.5, 2.5 and 3.5 litres) so that if your recipe tell you it will produce 2 litres of soup, you know what pan to go for.
My main complaint with these pans has to be cleaning. The handles are fixed on with some sort of bolt system, and on the inside of the pan there are two smooth circles that are raised from the main body of the pan. I find that food can quite easily get caught in the edges of these circles and it can be quite difficult to clean it out, especially if it hasnít been washed straight away. Also, the lids can cause a cleaning issue. Theyíre glass with a stainless steel rim. The stainless steel part goes inside the pan but the glass goes over the edge of it at the top to make sure thereís a tight fit. Where the glass and steel meet, thereís a groove of probably half a centimetre wide that goes all the way round and is obviously perfect for collecting little bits of food. Itís also where a lot of steam can collect, and when it condenses the water drips off but it leaves marks behind. Because the gap is so small, itís hard to get in there to clean it, and because the top of the lid is glass, you can see any dirt or residue as clear as day. This is probably verging on nit picking, but considering one of the main appeals of stainless steel pans is their dashing good looks, it seems a shame to make them so difficult to clean. Itís manageable, but in no way easy or enjoyable!
The frying pan
This is probably my favourite item in the whole set. Itís 26cm so thereís not much you canít fit in there. Itís incredibly heavy and so obviously very well made. The pan is very solid and unlike the other items is lined with a non-stick Teflon coating. This coating is really thick and durable and so far we havenít had any problems with it peeling or being scratched. We are very careful with it though and we always use wooden or plastic utensils. Itís quite deep so you can marinate things or add a sauce to fried meat and you donít have to worry about spilling any. You can stir quite enthusiastically too and you wonít end up with bits of food all over your hob.
The handle, again, is really sturdy and durable, and itís fixed very firmly onto the pan so Iím always confident when I pick it up. Itís also made of stainless steel so you can pop it in the oven with no problems. We do this quite often to bake meats that weíve browned off in the pan and it works a treat. Iím a fan of anything that saves on washing up, so thatís brilliant!
Cooking with this pan is brilliant. It heats up really quickly and evenly, and itís perfect for all sorts of things. We donít have a smaller frying pan so we use this for little things like fried eggs or bacon as well as bigger things like frying chicken or browning off joints of meat. It gives really brilliant results and cooks everything off really nicely. Itís also great for a frittata because you can fry everything up then add the egg mixture and pop it in the oven or under the grill.
This one gets a lot more use than the saucepans and it doesnít retain its shine too well on the outside. Ours is starting to look a bit burned and singed, but I think that Iíll be able to polish it up again with the recommended stainless steel polish.
Looking after the pans and the lifetime guarantee
Thereís a very helpful care leaflet with the pans, which is also available online. If you want these to last, then you do need to have a read over these instructions. The pans have a lifetime guarantee, but if you have misused them in any way or not followed these instructions, then the guarantee will be void. The non-stick frying pan has a ten year non-stick guarantee, so as long as you use it correctly, then you can feel confident that it will still be non-stick in a decadeís time. This is great because in the past Iíve used some horrendous pans that Iíve bought purely because theyíre cheap, and then a year later I have to chuck them because theyíre barely usable. The peace of mind from this guarantee is brilliant because I know if the handle falls off one day then I can approach them to take care of it.
There are a few tips in the care leaflet that were new to me, so I was glad I read through it. For example, it mentions that you should not put salt in to cold water in the pan, as it can damage the stainless steel. Instead, wait until the water is hot before adding salt. It also advises that if you let a pan boil dry by mistake, you should let it cool completely before removing it from the hob. Other precautions include not letting flames extend up the side of the pan and not storing food in the pans. This is all good advice and itís worth looking over it, especially if you havenít owned stainless steel pans before, to ensure that youíre looking after your cookware as well as possible.
The pans are dishwasher safe, but personally I find that if theyíve been used for anything heavy duty, theyíll need cleaning by hand. Having said that, though, my dishwasherís rubbish! If youíve got a posh one that actually cleans stuff, then do give it a go.
Finally just a small point for those who have induction hobs Ė these pans are compatible with them but do read through these care instructions first.
Price and Availability
This is an item that youíre really going to want to shop around with as the price can vary considerably. You will find Stellar pans at most department stores and cookery shops. You can also pick them up at many, many online stores. T K Maxx often sell them at very reasonable prices, but itís not guaranteed that theyíll have the exact ones you need. At the moment this set is on Amazon for £124.95, but we got them from Peter Maturi, a reputable cookware retailer that trades in Leeds, Harrogate and (I think) Manchester, for £99.99. We were really glad they had the best price as we go in there a lot and like to try to give them our business. I think itís definitely worth checking in a few places or on a few sites as you can save yourself a decent amount of money.
Buying the items separately is possible and if youíre not sure that you will use every item in the pack, it might be worth considering this. Average prices for the individual items are as follows:
Milk pan: £20
16cm Saucepan: £25
18cm Saucepan: £32
20cm Saucepan: £38
26cm Frying Pan: £34
As you can see, unless you only want one or two of the items, itís probably going to work out better value to get the set. You could always consider selling an unwanted piece on or giving it as a gift.
Overall I have to say Iíd recommend this pan set. Theyíre working out a treat for us so far and Iím confident that theyíre going to last us a long time, and work out as excellent value for money. We get great results when we cook with them. Although there is a big initial outlay to buy them, I wouldnít say they were that much more expensive than brands such as Tefal or Prestige. However, they are cheaper than the professional sets, designed to take a real beating in restaurant kitchens. If you want a good quality pan set then I do recommend popping into your local kitchenware shop and having a look at these because weíve really liked using them. Alternatively if you donít fancy a set then each of the pans can be picked up separately, and Iíd recommend the frying pan really strongly.
These arenít perfect so I donít think Iíd feel comfortable giving them five stars. I do have a few niggles such as the balance of the milk pan and the cleaning issues with the saucepans. If I could give 4.5 stars I would, but since I canít Iím going to round down and give them 4.
A fantastic review here which left me with one question, which yo answered almost at the end - that these pans are indeed suitable for an induction hob. We regtretted installing ours the day we discovered that the majority of our pans collected over the last ten years simply didn't work on it! A more than worthy Diamond winner this. R.