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cookware tips?

I am thinking about upgrading my pots and pans, in other words replacing the crap I now own.
The easy answer is of course All Clad. Is this the way to go?
Most restaurants put out quality food without all clad. Do I get to a restaurant supply store or shell out for All Clad.
A penny for your thoughts!!!!!

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  1. I have some All Clad, some Calphalon, some cheap target brand. I use them all. Honestly. Some of my best dinner are made with my cheapest pots and pans. However my roasters and dutch ovens are descent quality. By no means the best but good quality. I love cast iron for some. A simple non stick for others. To me it is the cook who makes the food not the cookware. My grandma used crap to cook with and she was great. Also a friend who ended up being a chef at a 4 star restaurant in Austria learned and still has sub par cheap cookware. It may makes things easier, but still the cook is what makes the meal. I would go mid range and buy what looks good to you. Don't buy the name!

    1. My penny's worth is to suggest that you look into Sitram, rather than All-Clad. Many years ago, when I started to teach myself to cook, I called Bridge Kitchenware to ask if they carried All Clad. The estimable Fred Bridge replied, "Madam [I was 24], we do not carry junk." He followed up by suggesting that I come in and look at Sitram. Mr. Bridge has died, and the store has moved to New Jersey (www.bridgekitchenware.com), but I have several pieces - both from that era, and purchased later - and have been very happy with them.

      26 Replies
      1. re: MMRuth

        $200 for the stock pot and then you have to pay another $38 for the lid???? I agree with kchurchill.... it's the cook that make the dish, not the pots

        1. re: janetms383

          Thx janetms383. Yes my pots are good not great. But damnit I make great food and so do a few of my friends. I would love the best but hey, my pots have served me for years. Here's to ya!! The cooks rule!

          1. re: kchurchill5

            a while back Mark Bittman wrote a piece in the NY Times, I believe, about how tiny his kitchen is and how he can function with the most basic tools. Having nice cookware is cool, but a good cook can do wonderful things with crappy equipment and a poor cook won't ever make anything great using even the best equipment. Check out the restaurant supply stores, you'll save some money and have very functional equipment. You might not want to hang it on your wall, but if you're a good cook or at least willing to invest the time and energy improving your skills, you can do quite well.

            1. re: chuckl

              I think my grandma if I remember had 4 cast irons pots or pans each and 1 roaster.... that is it. She was a cook at a great restaurant back in Detroit for years. She never bought a new pot in her entire life. I still have some of them and swear by them.

              1. re: chuckl

                I agree in principle with this, but some people are willing to work with crappy tools, whether cooking or repairing their house. I've found that cooking with good tools is a much more enjoyable experience. Mr. Bittman apparently does not share this view. He is a good writer, but I have not eaten his food.

                A lot of restaurant supply store cookware is awful quality because the restaurants are 1) cutting corners wherever they can; and 2) dealing with employee theft issues (this is especially true when it comes to knives)

                1. re: taos

                  Many times the knives are locked up and leave with the chefs, and better cooks, as they're personal property.

                  A decent cook can cook anything with any type of cookware, it's not all about cost cutting. But bad knives? Unless you want more clipped fingers and medical bills, they're definitely worth the investment. Dull knives are both useless and dangerous, while tedious. You can't get things done with crappy knives! But this is not always a cost issue--any crappy store in Germany sells paring knives which are sharper than 90% of the paring knives sold in the US, at about a tenth of the cost, and I regret leaving mine there when I left the dorm.

                  1. re: Caralien

                    It's been about 20 years since I worked in a restaurant kitchen, but it bothers me to hear the argument that cheap cookware or knives can be used because restaurants used them. The stuff used there is often cheap just because it's, well, cheap. The top guy may have his own knives locked up, but he's not the one spending all day chopping buckets of carrots.

                    The knives weren't dull, obviously. But they are often of poor quality.

                    There's a video online where Bittman takes a tour of a restaurant supply store to tell people what they need to cook. Half the stuff is crap. Yeah, you can cook a marvelous meal in it. A talented woodworker can also build a beautiful bookcase using crappy construction tools. Both of these tasks will be easier and more pleasant using better tools.

                    And to carry on with the grandmother story .... my grandmother also cooked marvelous food using what looks like from our 21st cent. perspective to be very crude tools. I guarantee, though, that if she came back to life now she'd be hopping in the car (after she learned to drive) and heading out for a food processor, a microwave, and a few nice mutli-clad pans.

                    1. re: taos

                      My grandma is still around and still cooks with the same pots. I only have a couple of hers. No micro and no nice pots. 97 and still kicken and makes some kick ass food. She still cooks daily.

                      She was the chef of a great restaurant back in detroit for 35 years. Wouldn't use their pots. He used her own. She still has the same old pots and knives. She does however use a food processor with hessitation.

                      1. re: kchurchill5

                        both my mother and paternal grandfather used ancient knives, and there was even the spinning stone knife sharpener outside at my grandparents' house. Nothing was wasted, and new pans weren't often purchased, although there was a seldom-used microwave.

                        1. re: Caralien

                          I think my grandma would die vs using a micro, lol. Her knives ... OMG, I have 2 and love them but most people would never even try to use them. They are still great. I find it amusing. I have to laught when she tries to use the food processor. I have to help every time :)

                  2. re: taos

                    Another reason restaurants buy cheap cookware is the very high heats warps pans badly. Even the multi-ply ones. I'm reading more and more reports on the net of All-Clad pans warping even used on a standard home stove. I've read that some restaurants have to replace their most used pans twice a month because of warping on very high BTU stoves.

                    1. re: blondelle

                      Good point, Maybe I am just lucky and cook electric vs gas. I use my cast irons for high temps usually. Good mention however.

                      1. re: blondelle

                        I am honestly continually baffled by stories of what people manage to do to cookware at home.

                        1. re: blondelle

                          I've never had cookware warp (bakeware yes, cheap jellyroll pans do in the oven). Cheap, expensive, ancient, brand new. Even from the cheap nonstick pans when they were left on the stove so long that the place smelled like burnt rubber. Never saw it in my parents' or grandparents' houses either.

                          I don't doubt that it happens, but that's the exception.

                          1. re: Caralien

                            I had a (original '80's) Calphalon Saute pan warp.

                            1. re: Candy

                              Same here, not my saute but one of my small pans warp too. I still have one which is fine. Used them all the same.

                          2. re: blondelle

                            I really wonder if the "standard home stoves" that are causing warping are the higher BTU cooktops. It's really, really easy to find a 16K+ BTU burner on any higher end basic brand cooktop now (like a Kenmore or Whirlpool, for example), and if someone is going to drop the money on All-Clad pans, they likely spent the money to upgrade the cooktop if they replaced it.

                    2. re: janetms383

                      Well, my stock pot is a cheap one, not by Sitram - I wouldn't spend that kind of money on a stock pot. But the several sauce pans that I have, as well as the saute pan, have served me well. That said, I agree that one can cook wonderful meals in cheap pans.

                      1. re: MMRuth

                        And, FWIW, the All Clad four quart stock pot is $250 - http://www.williams-sonoma.com/produc...

                        Edit:

                        As compared to the 14 QT Sitram one, also with a copper core, for $172 (plus lid).

                        http://www.bridgekitchenware.com/brow...

                        1. re: MMRuth

                          I have a 40 year old cast iron... not sure but for 172 I could feet me and my son for 2 weeks easily and put some gas in the car and my pot works great. I know. Maybe a bit too thrifty. But I truly believe in my ol' pots and pans. They have been good to me.

                          1. re: MMRuth

                            That just so happens to be the most expensive 4qt piece that All-Clad makes. Look at a 4.5qt MC2 pan, $150-$160 -- the OP is coming for reliable information. A sitram catering 4.5qt is $102 without the lid, so it's another $25 or so for a lid. That comparison is starting to look a little fuzzy. My all-clad stock pot was $119 (disk bottom, similar to the Sitram -- minus the copper), but it came with a steamer insert, pasta insert and lid.

                            I'm certainly not going to tell you that all-clad is worth every penny -- you're certainly paying a decent amount of money for the name, but they do make some nice cookware.

                            Is sitram copper just on the bottom, or is it clad?

                            1. re: mateo21

                              The Sitram copper layer is wedged between layers of stainless steel, but it's not covered on the outside - i.e., you see the layer of copper - if that is what you mean by clad. I had picked the all clad pot that I did b/c it does have a copper layer as the Sitram does, and therefore seemed the more appropriate comparison, but of course AC does sell one for less money w/o the copper.

                              1. re: MMRuth

                                So the Sitram line is a disk bottom then? Just want to get my cookware right :) I don't know anyone around here that carries it.

                      2. re: MMRuth

                        OMG! Sounds exactly like the crusty/curmudgeonly Fred. I bought Paderno cookware from him 35+ years ago & those pots & pans are still going strong. I also bought my first decent knives (Wusthof) from him & still use those, too. This was the time before brand extension, when things were made well & for daily use. Fred knew whereof he spoke! I miss him.

                        1. re: fauchon

                          I know - I became v. fond of him. I love his book on cookware and consult it pretty frequently. He signed it for me, which was sweet.

                        2. re: MMRuth

                          That sounds like pure, classic, Fred Bridge all right. However, as in so many things, technology has changed the equation from the days when Fred held sway. Sitram is great stuff, but there are many other ways to go that are a lot less pricy and will do the job. As always there is no "right" answer---it just depends on one's own values and preferences.

                        3. My All-Clad stainless (not brushed) is beautiful. Our favourite french oven is a retro enameled Copco. Calphalon--never liked any of it, eventually gave it all away. Inherited cast iron--we love these. Steel 2.5C measuring cup w/handle and tiny roasting pan from IKEA, used at least weekly. Inherited Revereware--with the domed, tight fitting lids, make better rice than the pricier cookware lids which allows too much water to escape.

                          We have a hodge podge of stuff. As pretty as the All Clad is (and some will argue for Calphalon, Le Creuset or Staub...), you may worry more about the pretty cookware than what you're cooking, at least until you forget about the pan and burn it twice in one week which gives it that well used patina.

                          Restaurant supply stores are a great bet for getting great, working pieces at a fraction of the cost of premium "professional quality" items. There was a post about this recently, but I couldn't find it.

                          3 Replies
                              1. re: mpalmer6c

                                Yes, that's the video and accompanying article I was referring to. What bothered me was the statement that because restaurant kitchens buy cheap chef's knives by the dozen, they're what a home cook should buy. Not necessarily so. As I mentioned, restaurants buy these because they're cheap, cheap and easy to replace and if they walk away, it's not a big loss. If you're looking to buy one knife that will last you for decades, you're better off spending a little more and getting a better qualify product. It will cost you less in the long run.

                                Also, I can't be sure, but I'd bet his cheap thermometer won't last as long as a more expensive one and will have to be replaced more often, again, costing more money in the long run.

                                I've been to restaurant supply stores and found that the stuff is a mix of quality stuff that's not much, if any, cheaper than at a regular store (I'm not talking over-priced cooking specialty stores), and a lot is just poorly-made junk, meant to be used and abused quickly and then replaced again and again.

                            1. My wife and I have quite a few pots and pans from a handful of makers but the backbone of our cookware is All Clad stainless steel. We have several sauce pots, a couple of saute pans, a couple of skillets (one with a non-stick interior) a roasting pan, a soup pot and some straining basket inserts. We never have any trouble with any of it, it looks nice, works wonderfully (heats evenly and quickly and holds heat well) and cleans up easily.

                              I think it's worth a bit of money for high quality cookware. It is not an absolute requirement for turning out good food by any stretch. Restaurants often use much cheaper and lower quality cookware and turn out good food. Of course, some of the best restaurants also use very high quality cookware. And many restaurants don't turn out good food regardless of the cookware. Most restaurants are also using ovens and ranges that pump out heat at a much higher rate/capability level than many home ranges which can make up for pots and pans that don't heat up quickly or retain heat well. Over time, whatever cookware you get, you'll learn how it works and how to compensate for whatever deficiencies there are between it and your ovens and ranges. If you've already got crap, though, why buy new crap? For the penny, I'd buy some long lasting high quality gear.

                              Check out http://www.cookwarenmore.com/ for discounted All Clad factory seconds. Sale prices on Amazon are also usually good deals.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: ccbweb

                                I too buy from factories or kitchen warehouses/outlets. Got some great deals for the good stuff I have.

                              2. It depends on whats important to you, performance, looks, brand name, quality? And how much you're willing to spend.

                                I replaced all the stainless clad cookware in my kitchen with copper.

                                I really like the way it cooks, heats faster and more evenly and retains heat better than stainless and somewhat better than aluminum. Most of all I like the look and feel of copper cookware.

                                Take a look at copperpans.com

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Demented

                                  I have two all copper plans from my grandma. Old and all scratched up but love them.