I heard stereo recordings are better than mono, I dunno why though. My question is how would you go about recording in stereo without having everything panned to one side, assuming you're only using one mic. Also, wouldn't taking two mono tracks and panning them hard produce the same effect as stereo?
You are mixing stereo recording and output. The first can happen based on the instrument and mixing of it, while the latter can be done by taking multiple mono tracks (and stereo) and mixing them up.
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Recording Guitar Amps 101
Mics are mono by nature, they require one input but you can pan then L or R in the mono field. If you double the track and pan one L and the other R you get more of a true stereo effect and widening the effect can be done by EQing one of the tracks to make it stand out a little more.

When I get instruments with a L and R output such as my magicstomp I'll feed each output of the pedal to a L input of two mixer inputs and keep the pan centered on each track.