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Pots and Pans - Which brand to buy?

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  • GEC Nov 28, 2008 11:09 PM
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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..

            1. Several of us (thank god I found that I'm not alone within CH on this) recommend the inexpensive but good stainless from Target or TJMaxx. Good stuff often from China, works as good as anything else, but no prestige.

              1. I agree with Sam and Mike, you don't have to spend an arm and a leg to get cookware that will do the job. Having a variety of materials gives you more options, as they all have their advantages and disadvantages.

                1 Reply
                1. re: chuckl

                  Word.

                  Don't let anybody in one of those home stores tell you that you need an $800 pot to boil pasta or make stock. Hogwash.

                  I've been getting a huge amount of mileage out of the Calphalon two-pack (large and small) nonstick I bought a while ago. I think I paid $50 for the two. I also use a big cast iron (no name) a big, heavy pot, and a stainless still pan that might also be Calphalon.

                  Save your money and buy one great knife or some great ingredients. Take a look at what the cooks on the line at even the nicest restaurants in town.

                  Wynton Marsalis could make a garden hose sound great.

                2. i've researched this recently and decided to get a couple all clad "every day" pans- like a covered braiser and maybe a saute pan and then a couple less expensive saucepans and a stockpot- probably cuisinart multiclad or kitchenaid 5-ply. I don't like the idea that the all clad doesn't have a pouring lip on the saucepans so the savings there is a matter of function as well.

                  12 Replies
                  1. re: qwerty78

                    I have many pieces from the Cuisinart Multiclad line and absolutely vouch for them. If used properly, food doesn't really stick to them and they clean up very easily. Definitely worth taking a look at!

                    1. re: chickster

                      Hi, chickster. This is my first post. I was interested in your post re the Cuisinart; I'm looking for a 1-qt. or 1-1/2-qt. sauce pan. I like pans with some heft to them. My larger sauce pans are All-Clad (not crazy about A-C, especially for the price; don't really want any more of them); Demeyere (love them); and Calphalon tri-ply copper (love these, also). But...the little guys...all I'll do in them is heat frozen veggies and melt butter now and then...so I can't see spending too much. I'm considering Cuisinart or Henckels. I'm cooking on a Viking gas cooktop and wondering how heavy the Cuisinart are, if you find them responsive to heat changes, and if the handles are balanced, comfortable, etc. TY.

                      1. re: Steady Habits

                        Another vote for Cuisinart Multiclad here. They may be a bit lighter than All Clad, but I don't notice a real difference (other than that the handles make way more sense).

                        1. re: pothead

                          Cuisinart (or for that matter, the heavier farberware) are fine for small saucepans. They're stainless, but the lack of heat conductivity really isn't much of an issue for the types of cooking you describe

                          1. re: chuckl

                            TY, chuck. That really is about all I use the small pans for, but that's an important point for OP to think about, with each pan (and why the common wisdom of not buying sets has come about).

                          2. re: pothead

                            Yes, pothead, the handles are one reason why, for me, the A-C falls short of my other workhorse stovetop pans. And, I don't know why, but I just don't find them as responsive to temp as the Demeyere and Calphalon (t-p copper), and they brown better, too. I think I must be a freak, since everyone, including CI, loves A-C so much. But I just don't. I have a stir-fry and the 13" skillet; I only bought that because I couldn't find any other brand in that size. But I don't plan to buy any more A-C. JMO.

                          3. re: Steady Habits

                            Hi Steady Habits,

                            Welcome to Chowhound! I think the Multiclad only offers a 1.5qt saucepan, not a 1qt saucepan. I have the 1.5qt and I like the shape...it's has a nice wide bottom and will be perfect for the tasks you described. I've used All-Clad before and I prefer the handle of Multiclad...it's fairly flat and smooth when compared to the V-groove of All-Clad's handle. I also think the weight is pretty comparable to All-Clad. All in all, it's a great pan. And it's available for $19.99 on Amazon so it's a great deal compared to other options. Hope this helps!
                            http://www.amazon.com/Cuisinart-Multi...

                            1. re: chickster

                              Hi -- mind if I get in on this? I think I'm in a similar situation to the OP, and Cuisinart Multiclad Pro sounds like might be just the ticket. Would Chickster or anybody else be able to comment on other pieces than the saucepan? I'm interested in the casseroles and also skillets, I guess, but also the line in general. (FYI, we rarely cook meat, but I like the idea of something pretty hardy that would adapt to changes in our cooking habits, if that makes sense.)

                              I find this topic pretty confusing, I've only begun my research, but lurking on some of the cookware threads has been helpful. Can anyone speak to why the great variety in prices? (That is, what are getting with all-clad that you're not getting with multiclad, for example? Longevity or what?)

                              1. re: mselectra

                                Most of what you're paying for with All-Clad is marketing (very, very expensive marketing). They used to manufacture in the US, which also accounted for some of the price difference, but now most of their stuff is manufactured in Asia.

                                I don't have any of the Multiclad casseroles or skillets, but I do use the 5 1/2 quart saute almost daily, and I don't know what I ever did without it. I also have a Calphalon Tri-Ply 10inch fry pan that was consistently available as a $40 special in BB&B and some other places for awhle (don't know if it still is). It works nicely, but for some reason it seems harder to clean than the Multiclad (this could be my imagination, since I can't imagine why this would be). I don't like the Calphalon sauce pans at all. They feel weirdly balanced to me -- I stick with the Multiclad for these.

                                1. re: pothead

                                  I'm not sure where you get your information, but All-Clad is made in the USA. What's your source for saying it's made in Asia?
                                  In point of fact, I do find that the sandwiched copper makes All-Clad a better heat conductor than plain stainless, but you get a similar result with pans that have a disk bottom like Sitram.

                                  1. re: pothead

                                    I'm not sure where you get your information, but according to All-Clad's FAQ:

                                    14. Is All-Clad made in the USA?

                                    All-Clad has a policy of manufacturing all of its bonded cookware in the USA. This means that it purchases its metals only from US suppliers, and bonds them at its own rolling mill on-site in Canonsburg PA, and then forms them at the same location into high performance cooking vessels.

                                    All-Clad is the originator of bonded cookware technology and is committed to investing in bonded cookware manufacture solely in the USA.

                                    There are areas in which All-Clad does not manufacture in the USA. These are:


                                    1. Where the bonding of metals is not required for superior cooking performance (E.g. tools, accessories)
                                    2. On regular non-bonded components where making in the USA would add to the retail price but not generally to performance (E.g. lids)
                                    3. Where manufacturing constraints exist at the Canonsburg plant (E.g electrical kitchen appliances)

                                    All-Clad’s tools, accessories, lids or electrical kitchen appliances, are manufactured by select partners overseas qualified carefully by All-Clad with highest quality specifications.

                                2. re: chickster

                                  Thank you, chickster. I've been reading along on chowhound for awhile and consulting it for advice on lots of things for a long time. I figured maybe it was time to jump in, so I could follow-up on all the good knowledge here and pick your brains for more info. :-) Thanks for the heads-up on the price at Amazon! That's the best I've seen for that size. FYI, I just went to check it out and it looks like the Multiclad 1.5 qt. weights 2.8 lbs., and the A-C, 3 lbs. I think you made up my mind for me; I'm going to go snap one up. Why not? If I don't like it, I'm only out 20 dollars and, as I said, I only use that size for the simplest of tasks. Thanks again.

                          4. Save the $$$ and buy Calpahlon Tri-ply or All-Clad aluminum, not copper.

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: HaagenDazs

                              Agreed, HaagenDazs; don't spend your money on AC Copper-Core. If you want copper buy copper, although that won't work for your dishwashing requirements.

                              I would look at Demeyere -- dishwasher safe! The company actually recommends you wash them in the dishwasher. Wonderful pans: more money than AC, but worth it.

                              1. re: mateo21

                                I love, love, love my Demeyere. I have the smaller Atlantis saute pan, but, something about the design, it handles more food than you'd think it would. I use it *all the time* and always wash it in the d/w. But, essentially, I'm only doing that to sanitize it, because that Silvinox surface is SO easy to clean; I don't really need to put it in the d/w to get the gunk off. It does a wonderful sear, the handle is always cool unless, of course, I put it in the oven. I also have the 5.5-qt Atlantis casserole, which serves right now as my pasta pot and stock pot (since I'm looking furiously but haven't been able to settle on a larger stock pot). I can't say enough good things about these pans. Yes, they're expensive, and they're heavy, but these are pans which, IMO, after heavy use, live up to all the promises the manufacturer makes. I haven't tried the other lines Demeyere makes, but I wouldn't hesitate if I were looking for something specific and Demeyere offered it.

                                1. re: Steady Habits

                                  At home I use and love my All-Clad and Mauviel. I love to polish copper and brass, so that is an added plus (for me) for using copper. I never put pots and pans in the dishwasher.

                                  For years I used my old Revere Ware in our vacation home, but about 6 years ago, I saw Martha Steward's pots and pans in KMart, and except for the cruder handles, they are almost identical to All-Clad, in appearance, use, and cleaning. I got a set of pans, one smaller and one sautee pan. several pots and lids, and a soup pot, for about $90, and I have never regretted buying them. A few months later the same set was on sale for about $60, but at $90.00, I still consider the set a bargain. There are other pieces also, all reasonably priced. Our vacation home is in a small Northern Cal town and KMart is the nearest 'big' store, so actually I find this stuff quite by accident as it was my first time in KMart. The handles are a little bulky, and not as streamlined as the All-Clad.

                                  1. re: Steady Habits

                                    Another Demeyere fan here! I also have the Atlantis line. Here's a link you might find helpful. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/549993

                                    1. re: cvhound

                                      Isn't it great stuff, cv? It does everything and never seems worse for the wear. I swear, I could use that saute pan in particular to cook the most delicate fish to perfection or jack up the car to change a tire. :-)

                                      Finding a pan you can fall and stay in love with is Nirvana.

                              2. I have been using Calphalon for about 15 years since I received 2 sets as bridal shower gifts. One set is their professional stainless line and the other is their professional non-stick line. My nonstick frypan and skillets are not holding up well. The non-stick coating is not as it was, it is worn. I like the stainless, but then I have to utilize lots of spray/oil/butter... I have one piece of Caphalon hard anodized line of cookware and I now wish all of my cookware was this type. It has held up wonderfully and it falls somewhere between my other two sets in terms of non-stick quality. I feel all perform quite well under high temp cooking and even heat conduction. Lastly, I have an All-Clad piece as well and see no difference between it and my Calphalons as far as performance goes. I haven't checked out pots-n-pans for 15 years so I have no idea what lines Calphalon is promoting now.

                                1. Save for the big wok, we've got the same 'everything goes in the dishwasher' rule for pots and pans. Our pasta/stockpot is a Chantal 9 quart, and we've been very happy with it over the years.

                                  Rice gets cooked in a Le Creuset saucepan to fairly good success. A soak overnight and then a run through the dishwasher if needed cleans it right up.

                                  1. AC stainless steel is the beautiful workhorse in our home and it soaks & goes in the dishwasher no prob. Every now and then, it'll need some BKF (Barkeepers Friend) for a nice shine. A couple burn instanced required Easy Off Oven Cleaner, but the AC was back like new.

                                    1. I used Calphalon for 25 years but a couple of years ago I bought a Kuhn Rikon Durotherm pot and really like it. Now I have four or five and use them a lot.
                                      Here is the sales pitch: http://kuhnrikon.com/products/duro/gr...
                                      and you can buy them here: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_ss_k?u...
                                      They are pretty expensive but they are built like tanks.