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help me: BEST frying & sauce pans???

I am a newbie to the chowhound and just bought my first cast iron pan this week (a vintage Wagner #8 on Craigslist, $20) and cooked my first steak - Wow! I am definitely going to buy more cast iron skillets!

Me: Cooking for family of four weekdays and 8+ on Saturday nights. Big on meats, vege's, rice, stir fry, curry. Looking to up my cooking skills and would like to learn to cook sauces and experiment with new fun foods.
Have a nice Viking gas (propane) 6 burner stovetop.

So I am ready to plunge into buying new pots and pans (my price range is preferably no higher than All-Clad - but I can spend more. I have spent about 14 hours this week reading about all the different brands and have compiled a list would like some input and advice to help clear up a little remaining confusion. Cheers in advance.

What I have: iron skillet, stock, 3 non stick frying pans, wok.
What I want to invest in this week:

2 Qt Saucepan -
4 Qt Saucepan -
8 inch Frying Pan -
11 and/or 14 inch Frying Pan -

Possible large Saute or Casserole???
Possibly butter warmer?

All-Clad versus Sitram. I have bird-dogged around and found that
http://www.dvorsons.com/
has the best prices for Sitram and
http://www.cookwarenmore.com/
has the best price for All-Clad (irregulars). Also notice I listed 4+ items so I can get the 20% discount if I opt for All-Clad.

My question and where I need help is deciding on the different lines of each:
It appears that in both Sitram and All-Cald, the copper is not all clad and is only a disc. The exception is the Copper Core. Plus, some of the feedback is that the copper is so thin - it is not worth it on the ALL-Clad. Chowhounds say the All-Clad LTD & MC2 appears to have a thicker Aluminum base than the SS and thus would be a bit better conducting heat.

I am almost sold on the Sitram SS, but I am not sure I understand the entire copper disc (licking the side of the pan) concept enough to buy it and not worry about it. For example - if I buy either SS set with copper disc - isn't this a negative for both fying pans and sauce pans as the temperature and heating/cooling speed be different above the disc on the sides?Also, I am confused on the different lines of Sitram and All-Clad now after reading so many opinions! I am open for any line - but would prefer the line that is most forgiving in the kitchen if and when I decide to get exotic!
I am a 6'5" 250 lb county bunkin so the heavy versus light doesn't really apply to me.

Last, but not least, I am OK buying different pans from different manufactures and looks mean nothing - only ease and performance in the kitchen. I need all the help I can get!!!!

I also read up on Vollrath Tribute and Falk. I can't really justifythe $$$ for Falk, however, they have a "try me" special for a saucier for $125 w/o lid. What is and why do I need a saucier? Can I use this for sauces too?
Open to Vollrath, Sitram, All-Clad.
Thanks in advance.
Wingman
Lafayette, California

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  1. The allclad cookware all do not use a "disc" or "base." The middle metal layer(s) is of constant thickness at the bottom and sides. The allclad SS has about a 2mm aluminum layer. MC2 and LTD has about a 4mm aluminum layer, and copper core has about a 2mm copper layer. The Coppr-Chef line has a 2mm aluminum core but only a 0.2-0.5mm copper exterior which doesn't do that much. I would recommend only the MC2 or LTD in the allclad lineup b/c you get better even heating and higher heat capacity (basically more aluminum so it can hold more heat) than the 2mm aluminum cookware. The copper-core lineup is decent but at their price point, you can find thicker copper cookware.

    If you are trying to learn how to make sauces I would recommend a pan that does not have a disc/base, and is cladded fully, or is a thick aluminum (4-5mm+) or copper (2mm+) pan.

    One of my favorite buys in the near past is:
    http://www.amazon.com/Calphalon-Comme...
    It is a thick, and heavy anodized aluminum pan (about 4-5mm thick) and perfect for sauces, or even sauteing one or two pieces of meat or braising small amounts in the oven. Only $30 normally on amazon, but sometimes every Friday it goes on sale for a $5-$10 discount.

    For your question on the disc bottoms and different heating/cooling speeds, yes it would make a difference for the saucepan, but for a frying pan, it wouldn't matter, b/c most of your cooking is on the bottom surface, not the sides. For sauces, the liquid will be touching the sides, and depending on the type of sauce you're making, you would want the eveness of heating on the sides as well. Some people will say discs are fine for most everything if you control your flame so it's not hitting the thin sides.

    I always like to recommend going to marshalls/homegoods or ross/tjmaxx and browse their housewares aisles. Sometimes you can find Allclad "irregulars" for cheaper prices than you find at cookwarenmore.com. For example, last week I found an allclad ltd 1qt saucepan for $20. There was also a 4qt allclad copper-core sautepan for $200, but I passed on that one.

    6 Replies
    1. re: Cary

      Thank you for the thoughtful reponse Cary!
      After more reading and research, I bought the following today:

      Falk 1.4 qt Saucier - "the try me" for $125
      Calphalon 2.5 qt shallow sauce pan for $30 on Amazon

      Thinking about an 8" All-Clad Stainless Steel New through http://www.cutleryandmore.com/

      They seem to carry NEW All-Clad pots and pans for similar prices (on a few items) as the irregulars at www.cookwaremore.com.

      IF ANYBODY HAS THOUGHTS ON WHAT OTHER copper pan I should throw in for self-enjoyment and satisfaction whilst cooking in the kitchen - please chime in. I want to buy one more Copper Pan. Should I get a Splayed Evasee 9" maybe with lid?

      1. re: UltimateWingman

        If you are willing to spend the money for Allclad, why don't you take a look at the Belgian Demeyere cookware. It may be even more expensive than the Allclad, but it is a better product. The handles are not attached with a bolt that goes through the pan, for example.

        1. re: bcc

          I agree about Demeyere... if you really want the best. Not cheap though. I wrote about it here:
          http://www.jonvandalen.com/lte/?p=1236

        2. re: UltimateWingman

          I was eyeing some copper pots at Tuesday Morning for less than $150. Don't ask me the brand because I totally forgot.

          I've picked up several pieces of Tramontina TriPly at Tuesday morning for a song. Believe it or not, you can get the same product cheaper at WalMart's website and have it delievered to the closest store. I'm not a fan of WalMart but have been looking into buying the Tramontina TriPly because it's a REALLY good bargain (but not cheap construction).

          1. re: UltimateWingman

            Ultimate Wingman: "IF ANYBODY HAS THOUGHTS ON WHAT OTHER copper pan I should throw in for self-enjoyment and satisfaction whilst cooking in the kitchen - please chime in. I want to buy one more Copper Pan."

            Chantal Copper Fusion. http://www.parkers-pantry.com/product...

          2. re: Cary

            Cary: "For your question on the disc bottoms and different heating/cooling speeds, yes it would make a difference for the saucepan, but for a frying pan, it wouldn't matter, b/c most of your cooking is on the bottom surface, not the sides. For sauces, the liquid will be touching the sides, and depending on the type of sauce you're making, you would want the eveness of heating on the sides as well."

            Umm .. you kind of got it backwards, Cary. Disk bottom for saucepans, sandwich construction for sauteuses and frypans. That is why, across all of the Demeyere lines, for instance, all of the saucepans have disk bottoms and all of the sauteuses have sandwich construction. http://www.demeyere.be/default.asp?CI...

            Heat always flows from hotter to cooler. After a minute or two of cooking, the liquid inside the pot will be much warmer than the air art room temperature outside the pot, and the more efficient the sides of the saucepan are to conduct heat, the better the pot will serve as a radiator, heating the air of the kitchen by drawing heat from the liquid inside the saucepan; ideally, the sides of a saucepan would be an insulator, not a conductor. When liquids are being heated in a saucepan, convection of the liquid inside the pan conveys the heat throughout the liquid much more effectively and efficiently than any contribution the sides could make to the process, anyway.

            Sauteuses and fry pans usually have a rounded profile going from the bottom to the sides precisely so that the cook can take advantage of temperature gradients, as the food us moved up the sides and away from the immediate source of heat.

          3. This range is revered here in the UK:

            http://www.ciao.co.uk/SKK_Titanium_Co...

            Don't know about USA availability though.
            Don't agonise too much about what brand of butter warmer to get! Surely any small pan would work? A small dish in the micro works for me.

            1. I bought the new calphalon one infused anodized 12 inch frying pan and a 3qt tripoly stainless steel suate pan.

              I have fallen in love with the infused anodized (which is different then just anodized).

              Calphalon has a great web page which helps explain the different metals and their purposes. They also have an interactive guide to selecting the best cookware for your needs.

              http://www.calphalon.com/calphalon/co...

              1. I just put a post on http://www.chowhound.com/topics/443348, summarizing the various AllClad, Sitram and Mauviel lines.

                1. If your heart is set on copper, take a look at Mauviel, too. That said, if you're going to be using the pans on a regular basis for all those people, seriously consider sticking with the stainless steel All-Clad line. They have excellent heat distribution, can do things like pan roasting, and clean up very easily (they're dishwasher safe, too). Take a look at the thread on the best All-Clad cookware line.

                  If you like that cast iron pan, have you checked out Le Creuset? You mentioned a casserole. Take a look at the Le Creuset 5 quart buffet casserole. You can use it for braising and the bottom does double duty as a wok and cast iron skillet (without the handle). I wouldn't recommend Le Creuset's skillets - the interior finish is different from their pots.