Q: I see so many new nonstick pots and pans on the market but I hesitate to buy any because I had so many in the past that didn't last more than a couple months. The coating always scratched and then everything would stick. Is there anything that really will last?
A: I think most of us have had frustrating experiences with nonstick pans losing their coating.The new ones on the market, however, are greatly improved and, for the most part, last much longer than those available a decade ago.
Nonstick pans are in particular demand in these health-conscious times because of their ability to cook foods without sticking while using little or no fat. That's led to a lot of competition to develop the longest-lasting surface.
DuPont first came out with the Teflon coating and now there are five different nonstick surfaces, with the top of the line being Autograph. These surfaces can be found on numerous pots, pan and baking pans under labels such as Circulon, American Baker, Anolon, and Steelon.
Some overall advice for selecting pans: For best results and to prevent burning, choose pans that are heavy and strong with a thick bottom. An oven-proof handle is also a practical feature.
Q: Is there one brand of balsamic vinegar that is the best and are they different?
A: There are so many different ones, that your best bet is to ask at your local specialty food store for an explanation and background on the labels carried there. Ideally you'll even be able to sample some of the vinegars to help in your decision.
Q: I have several recipes that call for instant flour, but I can't find it in the store. Can I substitute all-purpose flour?
A: Yes, you can substitute all-purpose flour in equal measure for instant flour which can be found under the name Wondra. Your dough may look or feel differently than it does with instant flour, but results will be the same. Because Wondra disperses instantly in cold liquid, it's especially useful for gravies, sauces and batters.
Send your questions to: What's Cooking, c/o Food & Home, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278. Although personal replies are not possible, questions of general interest will be answered in this column.