Which All-Clad / Calphalon line to get?
Everyone seems to recommend All-Clad and Calphalon. But there are so many lines of All-Clad and Calphalon. How do I choose? And there seems to be a new line every year or two, just to add to the confusion.
So, which ones do you have (please be specific)? And how do you like it?
I have the All-Clad stainless pots and I love them! They are easy to clean and cook very evenly. I was having a hard time deciding on what line was best for me. It does get confusing. I found a great woman at Williams Sonoma who was extremely helpful and asked me tons of questions about what kind of cooking that I do. She then recommended the All-Clad stainless line, which isn't even the most expensive. I find the employees at WS to be very informative because most of them are cooks and really learn about the products, plus they are never pushy as they don't work on commission. Good luck!
Awhile ago, someone posted one of those "what utensil couldn't you do without in your kitchen" question. One of the more well known chowhounders, and I can't remember who, responded with "My All-Clad Copper Core cookware". I made a mental note of that and when my finances picked up, I began purchasing All-Clad Copper Core cookware from a discount site (see link below). Best cookware I've ever used.
I have a motley assortment of pieces from every A-C line, and they all work great. Functionally, every line except for copper core will cook very much the same. It's a matter of your budget and aesthetics.
If you use wash your pots & pans in the dishwasher, the stainless line is the only one to consider. The exterior of the Master chef, Copper chef (not copper core), and LTD lines will all discolor (corrode, actually) with the caustic dishwasher detergent.
If you have a magnetic induction stovetop, stainless and copper core are the only ones that you should consider.
Choosing cookware can be very intimidating, especially if you don't know from the get-go what you want. If you don't know what you're doing, you could end up spending a ton of money on stuff you barely use. Do yourself a favor and get Alton Brown's Gear for the Kitchen from your public library. He doesn't get overly specific about which brand (though he touts All-Clad a lot) but he does go through different materials, pro and con, which would be a very good starting point for you. He also has one great piece of advice: Don't buy sets; buy by the piece.
Really you only need about 5-6 items, most in different materials:
non-stick aluminum frying pan (10" or 12") -- heavyduty but cheap is fine
2 saucepans (1 1/2 qt, 3 qt)
saute pan (3 qt)
stock pot (8 qt) -- cheap stainless is fine
iron dutch oven (5 or 7 qt) -- Le Creuset is tops!
This is your core set, but you will add to it as you see fit.
As for the Calphalon vs. All-Clad argument, well... I wouldn't buy either. Both brands are popular but..
Calphalon is overpriced for the quality. Anodized aluminum is not my material of choice: too dark, aluminum can discolor, must be babied. You have to handwash, and the cooking surface can flake.
All-Clad is so damn expensive. No doubt quality is there, but if you are on a budget you can find better value. Clad material is harder to make, so they charge a lot for it, but you don't need it. (You will see All-Clad often on cooking shows, but keep in mind, it's only product placement.)
What do I have? I have the Cuisinart brand which is considerably cheaper. Mine is stainless with a copper core disk, which I got years ago when they first came out. I abuse them like crazy, but because they weren't superexpensive I don't feel bad about it. Now Cuisinart has a MultiClad and Chef's Classic line, which are both an upgrade from mine. Another brand I would consider is the stainless Sitram brand, a French co used a lot in professional restaurants.
Whatever you choose it's worth doing a little research. Try to get your hands on them, to test for balance and weight.
Once last resource is Cook's Illustrated, which tests out cookware.
Well, I tried to post a link to an article on eGullet about the differences in types of stovetop cookware. But the Chowhound moderators seem to have erased it without explanation.
If you go to egullet.com and search for "understanding stovetop cookware" you'll get the article. Use the quotes when you search to find it quicker.