Recently, the folks at Man Pans asked me if I would be willing to do a review of one of their pans here on C3. I did some research into their product line and was impressed by what they purported to offer. Turns out that Man Pans is actually the recently formed consumer division of Lloyd Industries who have been providing professional lines of cookware to chefs and restaurants since the mid 1980′s. In fact, if you’ve ever had a restaurant pizza baked in a pan, it was probably a Lloyd pan.
I also discovered that all of Man Pans products are made in the USA using eco-friendly manufacturing techniques. None of their pans contain PTFE’s, PFOA’s or Fluoropolymer coatings. Obviously, I readily agreed … besides, I am always ready to play with a new toy!
They offered to send me the pan of my choosing, and that was all the invitation I needed to start scouring their product line for the perfect pan to do a review on. However, being that I was already in the market for both a new wok and a new steamer, I figured the 12″ Stir Fry Wok and Steamer Set was the logical choice – two birds with one stone, if you will.
I was a little hesitant to ask for one of their highest priced items, but they didn’t bat an eye. A few days after informing them of my choice, a package was left on the front porch containing everything you see here. Yep, they even threw in the makings for some St. Marie’s Wild Chicken Soup! Apparently, they send out some free gifts with most of their orders. I couldn’t wait to get my review going, and you probably can’t now either. So, without further adieu, here is what I found as I ran this puppy through it’s paces:
When I first removed the pan from the box, I was absolutely amazed at how light it felt. Usually, you expect pro-level pans to be a bit on the heavy side, conveying a feeling of sturdiness and toughness. While lighter pans have always seemed to be a sign of inferior quality and design. This was certainly not the case with the Man Pans Stir Fry Wok, as we’ll see. Though, as you can see from the picture, I was easily able to hold onto the pan with two fingers and applying very little pressure. I wouldn’t have dared trying this with my old wok, or even with my smaller Calphalon Stir Fry Pan.
I was also impressed by the rather large profile it exhibited. It was only slightly smaller than the wok it was destined to replace, while easily dwarfing my smaller Calphalon model. Usually, I end up making two versions of every Asian meal I cook – a carnivore rendering for the Cavekids and me, and a veggie-friendly version for the Cavewoman. So, two woks are a must in the Cavehold. It seemed as though the new Man Pans wok would easily be able to handle cooking the larger amounts of food needed to fill three Neanderthal palates.
The entire Man Pans line contains their proprietary Gem-X2 coating. It is a two layer sapphire/quartz-like natural mineral finish that is permanently bonded to the aluminum pan. It will not flake, chip or rub off and is metal utensil safe, and oven safe to 700° F. Man Pans claims that the finish is so tough you can rub a coin on the surface and not only will you not scratch the finish, but the coin will actually get worn down! I decided not to test that claim, though.
While the Gem-X2 coating does offer a stick-resistant finish, it is a good idea to coat any new pan with some Canola, or other vegetable oil. Other than that, no further seasoning is needed on the Man Pans. Interestingly, I also found that I didn’t need to use any more oil in the cooking processes than I would using any of the traditional non-stick cookware.
Of course, the first thing I was going cook in the pan was stir fry. I decided to just do one of my basic recipes, with a Pork loin version in the Man Pans wok, and a Tofu one on the smaller Calphalon. I figured that not only would I make my wife happy, but, I’d also get to run the pans side by side for a comparison of sorts. Both pans heated up quite quickly, though, the Man Pans Stir Fry Wok seemed to get there slightly quicker. Noteworthy, considering that it has much more surface area to heat. I placed my hand into the pan, without touching it, and could feel that the heat was very evenly radiated.
I put the oil into the pan and it deftly got to cooking level. I sauteed the chopped garlic and found that it cooked perfectly, while I struggled to prevent it from burning in the comparison pan. Turns out, that the Man Pans are designed to cook extremely evenly, and use about 40% less heat from the flame to achieve proper heat levels than most other pans. Making them very “green” in the cooking process as well as in the way they are manufactured.
Another nice feature on the Man Pans are the handles. Their unique CoolGrip handle design minimizes the amount of heat that can be conducted from the hot pan. So, while I always need some sort of mitt or potholder with my Calphalon, I was glove free and felt absolutely no heat as long as I kept my meat-hooks behind the “Hot” marker, even when using the high flame necessary for proper stir frying.
I put the pork loin into the pan to start the browning process. It quickly began to sear and it wasn’t long before I was ready to turn the meat. I was going to reach for the spatula, but the steep sides of the Man Pans Stir Fry Wok invited me to go for a flip of the meat instead. I wasn’t sure if the meat would release easily enough to complete such a move, though my fears were quickly assuaged. As you can see, all of the pork chunks readily released for a very easy flip … I just could have done a better job of completing the move!
I added the veggies to the stir fry, and wanted to give the food another flip. Again, it all released immediately and effortlessly. As you can see in the background, the spatula just sat there … I didn’t need to use it once while cooking in the Man Pans Wok. FYI, I don’t even attempt to try that move with the Calphalon, it’s sides are too slanted making it very easy to lose some of the contents when attempting the flip.
The stir fry came out perfectly. The meat was cooked to perfection, the veggies remained crispy and firm, and the sauce I added slightly caramelized the stir fry’s ingredients perfectly.
Plus, I didn’t have to use a separate steamer – saving a pan of water, the gas necessary to heat it, and the resources needed to clean it. Making the Man Pans Stir Fry Wok, once again, very Eco-friendly. Over the course of my weeklong examination I ended up making two more dishes calling for a wok: another basic stir fry and a batch of my Chicken Panang (Thai Red Curry in Coconut Milk). Both, ended up being cooked to perfection, as well. However, I wanted to also give the steamer a go. Unfortunately, it isn’t deep enough to steam larger vegetables, like an Artichoke (my lone negative note on this set). I had to give something else a try and decided to make some Veggie Wonton Soup. Rather than boil my Won Tons in the soup, which tends to tear them apart, I like to steam them first then add them to the soup when it comes time to turn things down to a simmer. By using this set, I was able to steam them while the broth and veggies cooked below. I think it helped add more flavor to the Won Tons.
I must say that cleaning the Man Pans Stir Fry Wok is almost as satisfying as cooking with it. Returning the pan to it’s pristine state is quick and easy with a little dish soap and some warm water. No heavy scrubbing was needed no matter what was cooked in it. Though, if you ever do need to give it a vigorous cleaning, it is recommended that you re-oil the pan before the next time you cook with it.
For years, I have been a Calphalon devotee. But, using the Man Pans Wok side by side with my old faithful has truly opened my eyes. Using a lighter pan certainly made things much easier in the handling department. Using less energy while cooking and achieving the same results is definitely an attractive quality. And, being made here in the USA using very environmentally friendly processes makes the Man Pans an exciting prospect. But, the bottom line is how they cook the food you are preparing … and on this level the Man Pans ran at least on par, if not better, than my trusty old Calphalon. My only complaint is with the depth of the steamer insert. Though, when you combine all of the pluses apparent in the Man Pans product, I feel as though I have found a new standard by which I will be judging cookware from here on out. The only other downside I see is that I now want to try out all of their other offerings!
©2010 Caution: Caveman Cooking/UHearMe, Inc. All rights reserved. This originally appeared on the Caution: Caveman Cooking blog at http://cavemancooking.wordpress.com authored by Caveman. This may be shared and reprinted as long as this entire copyright message accompanies it.
Thank you to ‘Caution: Caveman Cooking’ for allowing us to reprint this ‘wok reviews’.