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Nov 28, 2008 11:09 PM

Pots and Pans - Which brand to buy?

I cook quite often, and for years I've been using the old pots and pans I inherited when I moved out on my own. I suspect that they are nonstick with much of the nonstick coating worn off. They heat unevenly and the stockpot is starting to pit. Anyway, I'm ready to upgrade!

I'm planning to get a Lodge pre-seasoned cast-iron skillet, and I need suggestions about what else to buy.

Typically I just use an eight-quart pot, a 2-quart saucepan and a 10-inch saute pan. Most of my cooking starts with a saute. I also make rice, lentils, etc. I would dearly love to be able to make hash browns from scratch without having the potatoes glue themselves to the bottom of the pan.

I do want to avoid buying anything with a nonstick coating. Aside from that, I need something that will stand up to my abuse (can soak overnight, be put in a dishwasher and survive the occasional cooking mishap), heat evenly, and be as stick-resistant as possible. Oh, and it should also last a long time.

I was looking at an All-Clad Copper Core 7-piece set. It looks like it would definitely meet my needs, and I don't mind paying the money IF there's not something out there that's just as good but much less expensive. I'm definitely willing to spend the money for something that is good quality and will last for a couple of decades or so.

So... please take this opportunity to air your opinions! Is All-Clad worth it? What brands would you recommend?

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  1. Your dishwasher requirement severely limits your choices.
    Otherwise I'd recommend almost any 8 qt stockpot, Calphalon makes a decent tri-ply. Take the money you save on the stockpot and get a Mauviel or Falk copper saute pan. Then cook with those for a month and see if you fall in love with the copper or not.

    I have copper core All-Clad, and it doesn't perform any better than the MC2 line, except that the copper core is dishwasher friendly.

    1. The opinion of most "experts" I've read is that the average person would scarcely notice the difference between copper and aluminum clad. But if you have the money, why not? For frying pans, BTW, stainless is about the "stickiest" surface you can find.

      1 Reply
      1. re: mpalmer6c

        There's not enough copper in the all-clad to make a difference. It's a marketing gimmick. If you've got the money, spend it on something you'll get some benefit from, or give it away.

      2. well, your dishwasher/abuse considerations would seem to rule out cast iron: you can't soak it or put it in the dishwasher or it will rust. Actually, I would be reluctant to subject any high-quality cookware to the harsh detergents in a dish washer. Also, keep in mind that stainless and copper will stick a lot of the time, which is not necessarily a bad thing, as you can build up a little sticky frond on the bottom of the pan and deglaze it with stock or wine to make a sauce. I think the advice to try out a copper (or clad or disk copper/stainless for that matter) is a good one. No need to buy a set, really, start with some basics, like a 3 or 4 quart saute, a frying pan, an 8 quart (need not be expensive), etc. and gradually add pieces as your cooking styles dictate. BTW, if you do get cast iron, which is a good investment in my opinion, I think that's the best sort of pan for hash browns. Be aware, though, that even though they are "pre-seasoned," I think it's a good idea to season them once you bring them home anyway. You also might consider an enameled cast iron like Staub or Le Creuset for going from stovetop to oven or for braising.

        1. Oh, yes, I do know that cast-iron has different requirements - I've done my homework as far as that goes.

          Sticky wouldn't bother me if it were reasonably easy to remove... my current pans sometimes require intensive soaking and scrubbing to get rid of whatever has stuck to them. (And I do try to cook properly -- add oil to heated pan, add food to heated oil, etc.) If, say, potatoes are left to brown over a stainless steel surface, and stick to it, would a simple deglazing take care of that?

          1. Stick with the plan of getting a pre-seasoned cast iron skillet (Lodge preferred). It really isn't that much work to take care of -- it will just be the one piece that you will use every day that you will have to deal with differently.

            Hash browns are NOT easy in cast iron, especially when it is fairly new. That said, cast iron can give superior results. Ignore folks who talk about cast iron being non-stick. You will have to use the pan a LONG time to develop the kind of seasoning that will let you do that. Until then, make sure the pan is HOT before putting in the oil, and make sure that the oil is HOT before putting the food in. Oil is not optional -- potatoes absorb oil like crazy, so don't skimp.

            Turn the heat down to medium/medium-high and walk away. If you wait long enough, and have the heat set right, the food should release on its own, getting nice and brown and crunchy without being burnt. A nice stiff stainless spatula will still be needed for "persuasion".

            The rest should be stainless, preferably stuff with a multi-ply bottom. I am thinking 2-3 sauce pans, a nice big saute pan, and a nice-size pot, all with covers. Add a stock pot (aluminum or stainless) and an enameled dutch oven, and you are good to go. The stock pot probably won't fit in a dishwasher. The dutch oven might be put in a dishwasher in a pinch, but I wouldn't do it. These aren't necessarily everyday items, so no biggy.

            The price of the stainless stuff can be crazy high. Shop around, hit the sales, hit the discount places, and I bet you can find something really nice for a decent price. Besides, if you really thought about how you used your stuff, you probably realized that the really high-end stuff was overkill. Good cooking technique and quality ingredients will more than make up for mediocre cookware. A look at a restaurant or commercial kitchen is helpful -- most of the pots and pans they use are fairly inexpensive.

            Add a piece of copper if budget allows, but only after you have everything else. It is expensive and does not tolerate neglect or casual handling, so might not be something you will want to deal with every day..