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Advice on cookware

  • s

I'm going to buy some stainless interior pans, pots --probably All Clad --but am having trouble deciding between all stainless and the aluminum exterior (not the anodyzed).

I'm particularly interested in 10 & 12" fry or chef's pan, a saute pan, smaller 1-2-3 qt pots. I love the responsiveness of copper, but the large pans are too heavy for me to shuffle on the stove with one hand.

I'd appreciate any feedback from others, particularly those who have used both. My other equipment runs the range of LeCreuset, naked iron, copper (tin lined, mostly, alas), and campfire enameled steel, etc. And a purpose for every pot.

And of course any suggestions about other brands would be appreciated. Am I being a snob in not considering a $150 Wolfgang 22 piece set advertised on TV (3 gauge bottom)? Or is there a reason a single large piece of AC is more than that set?

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  1. c
    Carolyn Tillie

    I love my AllClad Mast-R-Chef series (it is the one with the brushed exterior). Not at pretty at the others in their line, but truly excellent. After I bought just one pan, I through out my entire collection and dumped almost a thousand dollars to complete stock my kitchen with only that kind...

    8 Replies
    1. re: Carolyn Tillie

      Pretty isn't as important as performance to me and my instinct tells me that the aluminum exterior will be more responsive.

      But I'm also concerned with how much scrubbing the outside takes to keep clean. I'm not compulsive, but I hate using crud encrusted cookware.

      I still have (and still occasionally use) some all aluminum large restaurant grade (about 1/4" thic) pans and pots. Scrub, scrub, scrub. But there of course, the inside has aluminum, too. I do have a Bougeat non/stick aluminum frying pan which I admit only needs scrubbing ever so often.

      1. re: saucyknave

        I am very fond of my aluminum cookware for its lesser weight and responsiveness to heat - the only drawback is after a while the surface degrades in the dishwasher. I handwash my aluminum. Not an issue with stainless clad aluminum pots. So with the all-clad, I guess I would not bother with the exterior stainless coating, which would primarily add weight. I have posted this before here but I would caution on Sitram, Paderno and other rather expensive stainless lines which have the core of aluminum, copper whatever only on the base of the pot. I have several pots (from Bridge) like this (admittedly purchased several years ago) and they tend to overheat and burn the contents at the point where the base meets the wall of the pots. The core of the all clad pots go up the side of the pots as well, so these pots do not present this issue. Nor do simple commercial weight aluminum pans.

        1. re: jen kalb
          s
          Sandra Levine

          In case you need another reason to buy All-Clad (I agree, that Master Chef is the way to go)-- the handles stay coolenough to hold without a potholder, even if you have been cooking with a high flame on top of the stove. (In the oven, of course, the handles do heat up.)

          1. re: Sandra Levine

            I don't have the details with me right now (I'm at work,) but I know the factory (in a little town in PA) has a factory sale twice a year and one of those dates is in December. You can save BIG bucks. I know they will give you all the information if you call the factory. You can get that # from your retailer or the yellow pages on the www.

          2. re: jen kalb
            c
            Christopher Oliver

            I've not run into this much despite my using
            the Sitram Catering pots and pans for much of
            my cooking. I think this might be more a style/
            technique issue than a good vs. bad pan issue.
            What sort of cooking do you typically do? What
            sort of heat? I have some AC as well, but the
            Sitrams are my workhorses.

            I'll gladly accept donations of Falk or Mauviel
            if someone wants me to form an opinion about them. ;)

            1. re: Christopher Oliver

              I think its partly a not-staying-right-in-front-of-the-stove and stirring continuously and carefully issue mostly - I really notice this when I am making cream sauces, puddings or such when it burns or overcooks right at the pont where the pan side hits the base. The pan just seems to get extra hot at that point. I think its a design flaw. But perhaps the sitram you have isnt made identically. And hopefully you have better technique.

              1. re: jen kalb
                c
                Christopher Oliver

                Don't do that then. ;)

                I will freely admit to being pretty fastidious with
                thick sauces, cremes, and sabayons. I've read too
                many blood curdling (or were they custard curdling)
                tales. About the only cream sauce where my mind
                wanders at all is Marcella's Alfredo* at that time
                where you're simmering the cream with butter to
                enrich it, but I use very low heat and glance at it
                while doing the other chores.

                BTW: That's also good with 1/2 the recommended
                Parmesan, but simmering the cream with fresh sage
                (removed later) and tossing with shredded pros-
                ciutto in addition to the cheese. (Hmmm... lunch
                time already?)

                - Ciao... errr... chow!

          3. re: saucyknave

            I, too, am a big fan of AC. I was disappointed, however, in trying to maintain the shiny interior finish and concerned that I might scratch it if I used too coarse a scrubbing sponge.

            Alas, the solution is on their web site. They recommend Bar Keeper's Helper. It's a very mild cleanser that works perfectly. BTW, you can't let the pans drip dry in your dishrack, they must be toweled off immediately or they'll stain.

        2. I used to work in a kitchen store, and we often were given free pieces to take home to use so that we'd have a good reference for selling to customers. As far as I can tell, your decision between the AC stainless exterior and brushed is simply aesthetic, and the brand is very well made. I have a pan that is stainless on the outside and I put it in the dishwasher (ooh, taboo!) and it looks and cooks just great. I also have a piece of KitchenAid stainless and I like it as well. I like that the lid is heavier---not as liable to bend if I drop it.
          And, as an aside, I would steer clear of calphalon. In my 2+ years in the store I had more customers come in with pans in ridiculously bad conditions because of reactions to the food cooked in them. For instance, I had a woman come in who had cooled her tomato sauce in the pan (I do that--fewer dishes to wash) and the sauce had literally eaten away the calphalon coating. Of course, she didn't notice until she got down to the bottom of the pan. Imagine the horror of eating calphalon.

          2 Replies
          1. re: sonja

            Do you mean calphalon non-stick specifically? I have a set of commercial nonstick that I received about a year ago and haven't had any problems. But I must say you have me worried.

            1. re: kevin

              I have a calphalon roaster which is terrific, except that I keep burning the back of my hand on the handles when I stir my roasting vegetables. No other problems with it. But I haven't gotten anything else in calphalon becauce I can't properly judge how brown the bottom of the pan is. Macy's does half price sales from time to time, so I've bought a few pieces for presents, too.

              Check the website www.calphalon.com where they promise a lifetime warranty and enjoy.

          2. Hey saucyknave -- I'm a huge fan of All-Clad and have a number of pieces from both the stainless and the Master-Chef line. I've found no real difference between the two, besides initial cost and maintenance of appearance of course. I doubt that most home cooks would notice any significant difference in heat transfer or in construction, but would like to hear any comments from anyone who has noticed a difference. Avoid the Emeril line at all costs, it's inferior in construction and is an unfortunately attempt to capture the mass market. A case could be made that his line is similar in many ways to his cooking skills. (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

            The 3-qt saute pan is probably my favorite overall piece of cooking hardware and is something that will last for years and years. In fact, all of my pans that aren't nonstick have been extremely durable and I'm a bit of a banger when I cook.

            If possible, handle the pans at a store before purchasing to make sure that they fit in your hand and are the appropriate size for you -- you'll have to mentally add the extra weight of the food that it will contain. I've had pans that just wound up annoying me because of the angle of the handles. That said, one of the most inexpensive ways to get All-Clad is through an online outlet store that deals in cosmetically-blemished but operationally-sound cookware. A link is provided below. The occasional good deal can also be found on eBay, but I think this site'll give you some great prices especially since everything seems to be on sale now.

            As for other brands, I also like the Sitram Catering line that Bridge Kitchenware carries.

            Link: http://www.outletsonline.com

            1 Reply
            1. re: Dennison

              Your link to Cookware & More is a good tip. I discovered it some months ago and luckily procrastinated about buying AllClad -- because now they're having a really good sale til Nov 11 (hence the timing of my query). In general the prices are about 1/2 the retail cost. I'm going there to make my selection. Since the All Clad is slightly blemished, I prefer to see it before I buy it.

              And then I may do a little Xmas shopping, maybe. They carry other household items.

            2. Dont bother with any other brands, all clad is the best.
              I have the solid stainless, and I really abuse them.
              As a chef you get used to cooking at high temps, banging and scraping.
              The worst is trying to cook at a friend's house with coated cookware. Just cannot go to the super hot temps I like to cook, sear, roast. Plus I am afraid of scratching the coating...useless errrr.
              I wonder can the aluminium clad hold heat as well?? I think they look very cool, and are a little less $.

              1. e
                Erica Marcus

                Go for the all-shiny, all-stainless. All Clad if only because you can put it in the dishwasher. I used to think that only lazy people who didn't care about their cookware put it in the dishwasher, but the knowledgable people who sold me my AC convinced me to give it a try. You will never know how clean your pots can get if you don't put them in the dishwasher. It seems illicit it's so great! Even if you don't currently have a dishwasher, consider that your All Clad will doubtless outlast your current kitchen.