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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
          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
            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
                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.

                1. m
                  Martha Gehan

                  I love, love, love my all-clad pots, the oldest of which date back to the mid-eighties --they are still in top condition. And I'll second what Erica said--it's great to be able to run pots through the dishwasher. I'm especially fond of the saute pans, which are excellent all-purpose pots I use for almost everything except soup and pasta. I learned how to cook on my mom's Revere ware (did anyone get married in the fifties and sixties without getting these pots?) which I despised due to their tendency to develop hot spots. I think that the even heating you get from all-clad pans is their best feature. They are a bit heavy, but I am not a big person and I have no trouble hefting them. And on the occasions when I have not run them through the dishwasher I found them fairly easy to clean.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Martha Gehan

                    You're right, saute pans are great all purpose tools. Now that I live alone I even use a 12-13" saute pan for making soup and pasta. Water boils faster because of the greater surface for the flame, sauces reduce faster, etc. I find I now use it for lots of things I used to make in pots.

                  2. The problem with aluminum cookware is that high-acid food corrode it causing pitting. It also means that you are ingesting small amounts of aluminum.

                    My wife once bought me a complete set of French tinned copper and brass cookware for chistmas. It was about thirteen hundred bucks and it looked magnificent. Guess what? I made her return it. The tinned surfaces don't stand up to "real" kitchen use. They scatch easily and need to be retinned(read:expensive)lest the copper leach into your food.

                    Look for 18/20 stainless steel cookware with thick bottoms, preferably aluminum core, and riveted handles. It doesn't necessarily have to be ultra-expensive.

                    1. Buy Sitram, they are less expensive. Technically they might not be considered as good as Allclad because the aluminum layer doesn't run up the side of the pan, but I highly doubt you would notice this in the performance.

                      1. I vote for the Master-Chef series (aluminum core and exterior, stainless interior). I have pans of both the Master Chef and stainless exterior and find no detectable difference in their quality. What "sells" me on the Master Chef is (1) a little less costly, and (2) I don't have to worry about keeping up appearances on the exterior.

                        Also, as someone else noted, don't let stainless air dry -- minerals in the water may leave deposits -- so dry them immediately after washing.

                        You might also want to keep your eye out for sales on All Clad. My kitchen outfitter in Philadelphia has a Master Chef series sale once a year, which I presume is underwritten by the manufacturer. You've got to order in advance (not out of the retailer's stock), but the prices are excellent. My guess is other kitchenware retailers do the annual sale as well. Foster's at Philadelphia's Reading Terminal Market has its sale in the spring.

                        I also have some all-aluminum restaurant-grade pans I acquired at a supply house on The Bowery in the mid 1970s, and they have served me well. But an aluminum cooking surface, as you probably know, has its limitations when dealing with reactive foods. So while I still give my all-aluminums a workout for pasta cooking and other tasks that don't involve acid and wine, I rely on my All-Clads.

                        1. s
                          Suzanne Fass

                          All Clad Master Chef all the way! I have unintentionally done terrible things to mine (burnt on lentils, kale) and intentionally done things I'm told not to (putting them in the dishwasher, scrubbed with SOS), and they have come through with flying colors. I don't care what they look like on the outside -- so the SS ones are an unnecessary expense. I get them at Broadway Panhandler, and especially watch for their "Yard Sale" each summer.

                          1. j
                            Janet A. Zimmerman

                            Yet another opinion. I work at a cookware store and have tried a number of different cookware lines, and I have a couple of comments to add:

                            All Clad had "upgraded" its Master Chef line (the brushed aluminum exterior)-- it's now called MC2 and is no longer less expensive than All Clad's other lines.

                            KitchenAid makes cookware very similar to All Clad's, with a slightly different handle style and (in my opinion) a better fitting lid -- prices are comparable. The KA only comes in anodized and stainless exteriors, not the brushed aluminum, but if you're thinking about a set, the 9-piece KA set is a better selection (I think) than the 9-piece AC set for about the same price.

                            If you're interested in other lines, a Belgian brand called Demeyere has a line that's a copper core with stainless exterior and interior (called the Sirocco line). It's my favorite, but it's harder to find and there aren't as many pieces available as in KA or AC.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Janet A. Zimmerman

                              Let me guess....you work at Sur la Table?

                            2. Thanks everyone. I really appreciate all the info. I'm off to Flemington NJ to buy some pots and pans today. Once again, for those in the market for AC. Flemington's sale (seconds) goes to Nov 11 and ranges around 50% . They're located halfway between Phila and NYC (nr Princeton). They also have Wusthof, Kuhn, and a few other lines.

                              The AC Factry store sale begins the end of November. It is located near Pittsburg PA. I dont know whether this is a seconds sale, too. Savings there are also in the 40-60% range.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: saucyknave
                                Pat Goldberg

                                Were you the blond leaving as I arrived? Somewhere between 12 and 1?

                                1. re: Pat Goldberg

                                  Nope. Not blond...didn't arrive til later in the afternoon...came from Mount Airy...ugh traffic on 31...behind a schoolbus...hate driving in Jersey.

                                  But I'm glad I went instead of ordering by mail. I made better choices there than I had done on paper.

                                  I saw the "new" masterchef someone mentioned -- it seems to amount to a shiny handle instead of the dull handle.

                                  I finally decided on the all stainless. The easy care...and if I ever were to switch to induction the aluminum wouldn't work.

                                  Flemington will be having another sale in January-February.

                              2. Bar none, my favorite pans are the Sitram Cybernox line. I've never seen them in stores, but you can order them from PCD (link below). They are pretty expensive, but worth it. They cook like stainless (i.e.: you get good heat distribution and browning in the pan), but they're almost completely non-stick, and you can clean them with steel wool (or dishwasher). Unlike Scanpan, which claims to be non-stick but isn't much better than anodized aluminum, Cybernox is about as non-stick as teflon, with more durability than steel. Get the ones with the steel handle and you can put them in the broiler. It's a new line, so they don't have all the shapes you'd want, but there are more on the way.

                                Plus, PCD has the best customer support of any company I've dealt with.

                                Link: http://www.shopping.cutlery.com/*ws4d...

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: Adam
                                  Erica Marcus

                                  I have to dissent. I found that the cybernox only approached nonstickiness at high temperatures but that at low or medium it was more similar to regular stainless. Thus it's a great pan to sear a steak in but not so useful for scrambling eggs or slowly sauteing onions.

                                  1. re: Erica Marcus

                                    I've had great success sweating onions in the cybernox. Oil is still required, but I find that I need to use less than I would with stainless because the oil doesn't stick to the pan - it sticks to the food. I can't really comment on scrambled eggs, since I usually use the wok for that. Omelets work fine over a medium heat, but I don't suppose that really counts, since I've not found the non-stick coating that can make an omelet without butter.

                                2. With all due respect to you and to all who choose to cook at home. I love the idea of cooking at home. It is great. BUT, when you choose to cook at home the cookware you choose to cook with should be an exprassion of you yourself. Most cooks I know are looking to buy or have bought All Clad pots and pans. Great. They should last a lifetime or two. BUT, most cooks don't NEED this type of cookware. If you cook like my mother-in-law you really need a cheap all purpose pan/pot. If you are going to cook as most do you probably place ingrdients in a pot and turn on the heat and "saute" then proceed. If you actually pre-heat your pans, or even your oven for that matter, most don't heat enough prior to adding ingredients. This is probably due to the fact that good quality cookware was prohibitavely expensive and nearly impossible to find a short time ago in history. The local hardware store was, and probably still should be, the only place one could purchase cookware. Depending on what part of the country you are from you would find good cast iron pans and pots and some thin cheap aluminum or if you were lucky and knew what to buy perhaps a thin cheap somewhat stainless steel pan or pot. If you try to pre-heat thses things(not the cast iron, the others) to proper temps, you would "burn" the pan before it would come to proper heat. Therefore we are trying to teach people "new" cooking techniques and delivering All Clad quality cookware to people that, unfortunately, don't need them. If you are among those that do know how to utilize quality cookware, All Clad is among the finest you can purchase. It is cheap(inexpensive) in comparison to the "disposable" stuff you can otherwise purchase for pennies.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Chewy

                                    Chewy, I think your underlying premises, which I agree with, that we should tailor our choice of pots and pans to our real needs and that we should learn how to cook with them gets lost in what appears to be advice to buy cheap pots because most household cooks, i.e., your mother-in-law, have no technique. Most Chowhounds who write about cooking food seem interested in expanding and improving their knowledge and techniques.

                                    I don’t like and never have used sets of pots and pans. I also manage to generally avoid non-stick cookware without my food sticking to the pan. Until recently, I haven’t used stainless either, preferring more specialized conductive materials. My interest in stainless now is its relative lightness and easy maintenance. My query was an attempt to determine whether I would get the heat conductivity I want in the all stainless. Different materials for cookware exhibit different qualities that benefit particular kinds of cooking, some good for braising, some for saute, etc. Over the years I have purchased all sorts of individual pieces as I have found need for them, ranging from LeCreuset and plain cast iron , some heavy copper and aluminum...to a $5. no-name but heavy guage 1 qt aluminum nonstick perfect for oatmeal or cocoa. It looks motley, but works well.

                                    Some of this good equipment is pricy. But not all. And, except for stainless, most of it has been around for centuries. Cast iron, naked and enameled, is old stuff. Naked cast iron is cheap new, cheaper used. Copper is old stuff, though not cheap (or does someone have a source for the thick stuff - 2.5mm?). Another posting about Asian ceramic pots (ancient and cheap) suggests one can be had for as little as $6. Glass, ceramic casseroles - cheap, etc. Restaurant grade aluminum works very well and can be found at reasonable price (and used). Even stainless with thick bottoms can be had without taking out a mortgage. (I saw a 20 + piece set advertised on TV for about $150. A couple times a year All Clad can be had at half price on sale at the factory or in Flemington.) And, it needs to be admitted that for simple boiling and steaming cheap aluminum or splatterware enamel on metal will do very well, though I wouldn’t want to make caramel in them.

                                    So why should anyone deliberately go out and buy inadequate equipment which makes cooking harder? And anyway, now you’ve told everyone the secret - get the pan hot before you put in the food. If anyone doubts it, experiment with eggs; see what happens

                                    In case people are interested, my experience at the AC outlet was very positive. The cookware is sold at approximately half price. They had a full supply of what is in their catalog as far as I could tell. They said they would backorder anything that wasn’t there. The amount of damage on these “seconds” is uneven. (Some pieces are clearly scratched or dented, others are barely so.) The personnel were super-helpful. They helped me find pieces with such small imperfections that one could even have given them as gifts. One of the saleswomen helped me find the best pieces in the sizes I wanted, and the other very kindly cleaned up completely a few marks that looked as if they might be permanent damage on a sauteuse to satisfy me that they were not permanent. Although I did not have time to go to it, there is also a LeCreuset outlet in Flemington. I advise checking the AC & LC catalogs before you go to be sure they have the pieces you are interested in.

                                  2. Hi there ; on this cookware. Surprisigly I found great cookware and on these tv home shopping shows I come from a resturant family and my family still caters. I have had excellent results with the pots. I got I got tired of paying so much for one pan for one use and I got a terrific set of 18/10 stainless that needs med heat after it is put on high to seal in juices or cook quickly, I had to get used to the bottoms which are flat and thick like any good pan is and with my carpel tunnel they are better for me to use ;;;my chef friends like them too and are excellent heat retainers they can be baked in nicely ;;; on my next round I will be getting the Wolfgang Puck set as I know someone who has it ;;;;and to buy being cautious I don't blame you, at the price of the set we ususally have a pan or two of good quality ;;;; but the issue here not only the quality of the pans, but the companys buying power to get and sell at these ridiculously low prices I have a another type of stainless set which I use to cook and serve in the has set with 24 k gold handles and pt cover knobs, they are beautiful to use and look great too ;;; but I want to reserve them more for the serving and heating in the future and get the WolfgangPuck set for every day; the handles are beautifully set on the pots with good balance and rivited in. Now I will even be getting his nonstick fry pan which I resisted till I had the wrist thing well that will be for eggs anyway ;;I hope this helps you in a choice