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it's time for the crappy pots to go

hi all,

after the plastic handle on one of my pots caught fire, i've decided that this dollar-store-quality set i bought when i was a teenager (and still shamefully use) are getting tossed today!

i'm looking for a place in philly (center city or close by - thinking of taking out a phillycarshare for this venture) to buy some quality cookware... i don't want the non-stick stuff... i need something i can really beat up and that will last me a lifetime. i already have a really nice cast iron (and THAT i'm keeping!), but i could use a smaller sautee pan, a small pot and a medium-sized pot. any suggestions on where to go, and what (brand, material) to get? fante's and fosters - how are prices?

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  1. I have to say that I love my All Clad that I bought at Fosters. I have literally beaten the crap out of it over the last 10-12 years and it has served me well. I cook probably 5 nights a week, and for 5 or 6 years I did catering 1-2 times/month using my same pots. All clad is great construction (the all clad part refers to layers of material which I don't recall but it does heat evenly). AND a big thing for me these days is that all clad is a Pennsylvania based company that uses american metal and while I have not always been a "buy American" kind of girl, in these times I feel compelled. The same way I feel compelled to buy whatever from local businesses like Fosters and Fantes rather than large chain stores. But I digress, and must get back on point before the monitors remove me!
    The handles are "stay cool" so (except when you put them in the oven (duh!)) they stay cool. My non stick doesn't stick and my stainless hasn't warped. Can you tell I like this stuff?? The MC line is slightly less expensive (brushed stainless exterior) but works equally well as the other finishes (I have three different finishes).
    FYI - all clad use to offer promotions in May - they would be announced in April (10% maybe? I don't remember). Might be worth it to buy your most needed piece now and even ask at Fosters if All Clad will be doing a promotion this year.
    Good luck! And post later about how great it is to cook on better cookware!

    4 Replies
    1. re: Bigley9

      I can't tell you where to buy in Philly, but I can definitely 2nd the All-Clad. I have been gradually transitioning from the Calphalon Anodized Aluminum (not worth the money) to the original All-Clad Stainless - not any non-stick. I love it. I now have a 10 in fry pan, 2 qt. sauce pan, 3 qt. sauce pan, 3 qt. saucier, and the roasting pan. I love them, and they go in the dishwasher no problem, you can also scrub the hell out of them, soak them, whatever. Not the most well thought out set, but they were all gifts - I've been asking for a new piece every year for Christmas for a while now.

      1. re: centralpadiner

        I third the All-Clad.

        Cookware & More
        2586 Industry Lane
        Trooper, Pennsylvania 19403

        They sell factory seconds for significantly cheaper than retail. And as far as I can tell, after a few weeks of use, you wouldn't be able to tell the difference anyway.


        1. re: Boognish

          Hear, hear! Cookware and More is THE place. If you don't mind a wee scratch on the bottom or on the underside of the lid, here's where you can get top quality seconds of pots and pans that will last a lifetime - and never catch on fire. They always have a spring sale so check it out and wait to pounce.


      2. re: Bigley9

        There is a Foster's at 4th and Market in Old City.

        Another great place for all things kitchen is Fante's in the Italian Market - 9th between Washington and Christian in South Philly.

      3. All-clad is decent but way overpriced, you don't need to spend that much to get good stuff that will last a lifetime. Search the cookware board.

        1. Go to Bittman's past columns about pots and pans and where to buy them, how much to spend, etc. It is in the NYT archives.

          1 Reply
          1. re: mlplyons

            That's a good idea - I remember that article/review & it was good.

          2. I just checked the bottom of my pet non-stick pans: Calphalon all. Never tried theAll-Clad, although they sound great. A tip to save money on the best pots: check out the department stores on the net for sales/amazing prices. For example, Macy's, Boscov''s.

            For sure though, Fosters on 4th & market would have great selection, but not necessarily discounted pricing.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Bashful3

              I've heard great things about Cooks Essentials from QVC. Might be worth driving out to the outlet in Frazer and looking at the sets they have. I've heard people say they are best pots and pans they've ever had! Good luck!

            2. I do not buy my cookware in "sets". I have found different brands offer me a pan or 2 that I like the feel of. I have some Calphalon, some All Clad, some Le Creuset. I would start by determining what is most important to your style of cooking. I have some Lodge cast iron too. I have done the non-stick thing. I do have a non-stick omelette pan. But that is it.

              For every pan manufacturer out there, you will find devotees. Pans are like underwear. A personal choice! ;-D

              2 Replies
              1. re: crazyspice

                Sound advice, Your Spiceness. Who says that pots and pans have to match? I have several different brands based on who makes the best of what. You can't beat Le Creuset for a heavy Dutch oven. You might want a glass lidded saute pan, a stainless stock pot, a Teflon lined omelette pan and a copper butter warmer. Think about what you make the most and what is the best tool for the job.


                1. re: Chefpaulo

                  Actually, you can beat the Le Creuset... I got a Lodge enameled cast iron dutch oven from Amazon for $50 a couple of years ago.

              2. Once you know what type you want, I recommend going somewhere like Home Goods first, because sometimes when I see the cookware they have, I regret having paid retail prices for mine. Go on a day when you're feeling lucky, and you just might find an amazing deal on some very high-quality stuff.

                1. If you're not looking for sets, TJ Maxx can be a great place to buy individual cookware pieces. They often have great deals, but it's hit or miss what they have at any given time.

                  1. Go to Target, TJMaxx, and/or WalMart and get high quality individual pieces for next to nothing.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                      I agree. I had read here that Ross in SF had a large LC Dutch oven for some insanely low price. When I checked in the Reno area they didn't have it but, boy, they had all kinds of good deals. I was especially tempted by a HUGE roasting pan for $10. Also loved the selection at Target --- wow, that store has really changed, hasn't it?

                    2. I love my new All-Clad, but the lids aren't as good as the Revereware stuff I used growing up (particularly for making rice). From All-Clad, the fry pans are perfect, the sauce pans incredible. We also love the petite cruset/casserole/paella pan as well as the asparagus pot (good also for corn). All Clad is pricey, but you can start at $20-50 for starter pieces.

                      We inherited 4 cast iron pans which we adore, and I need to request the cast dutch oven from my uncle. Cast iron, particularly old--seasoned or not--is better than any Lodge you'll find. You can cook anything on it, to clean--no soap, but clean off the dregs, heat, and then put a touch of oil on and leave to cool.

                      Enamel: my second favourite pot is a 2Q Copco Michael Lax enamel pot which I use to make stock. It' gorgeous and is so even for heating. Modern versions would be Staub or Le Creuset. Get 1 enameled pot and see how you like it. It's the classic, but pricey.

                      Seriously, what you need:
                      Fry pan: non stick (ick to me), cast iron, or stainless (chrome, not brushed steel)
                      Sauce Pan: how big is your family? If 1 person, size large enough for soup + 1-2 extra servings (2-4Q)
                      Stock pot or Dutch/French oven: large enough to hold a 7-8lb chicken
                      Roasting pan: we use an 10x8" (or therabouts) stainless from Ikea. It's for 2 people, and we usually do beer-can chicken (7lbs). Also the perfect size for pork and beef roasts, and can take the heat under the broiler for asparagus as well as steaks. $10
                      Crock pot (normal size): yes, I've been converted. We use this for making fresh stock from our chicken and other roasts

                      1. +1 to All Clad stainless (easy to clean, even when something burns a bit to the bottom)

                        1. A friend of mine has purchased nearly an entire set of All Clad over the last 2 years at Home Goods and TJ Maxx. The prices are about a third of what these pots cost at Fosters or the like. Another store that has frequent good sales on cookware is Boscovs or Macy's. But you can't beat the prices at HG.

                          1. You should check out the COSTCO Kirkland Signature set. For $200, you get a 16 piece set of heavy bottomed pots that would give restaurant supply stuff at 5x the price a run for the money! Once my kitchen remodel is finished, that's what I will be picking up.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: 94Bravo

                              I've read here that others have been VERY pleased with those also. I'm at the point where I know I won't be buy sets anymore, just individual pieces. But if I were going that route, I'd be looking at Costco also.

                            2. If you ever get to the western part of the state, All Clad holds a sale twice a year, once in summer and right before Christmas. It's held at a racetrack called The Meadows, which is just south of Pittsburgh. The prices are anywhere from 30 to 70% off.

                              1. All clad and LeCreuset are my favorites. Go directly to Kitchen and Bar supply at 5th and Bainbridge. Great prices and selection.

                                1. wow! i'm overwhelemed to read so many valid opinions in less than a day!!! thanks all!

                                  while i digest all this, here are my initial thoughts...

                                  we're a household of 2, predominantly vegetarian.
                                  what we cook most frequently: various sauces, soups and chili, veggies and noodles in a sauteeing situation, frying tofu, making eggs and crepes. i would like to start making fritattas but haven't the right pan for this yet.
                                  what we have: a big le cruset cast iron pan (probably about 12" or thereabouts) and an absolutely huge stock pot we got as a gift; i don't know the brand but i do like it.
                                  i have zero counter and cabinet space in a small rowhome kitchen, so i'm definitely for individual pieces and only the bare essentials, making dishes work on what i have. i make crepes several times a week, but rather than a crepe pan i find my cast iron churns out some fantastic crepes. however the cast iron's too big for a fritatta, so i'm considering a cheapie (i.e. non le cruset) mini cast iron - which would also make frying up tofu easier too as i wouldn't have to waste as much oil.

                                  i am all for the buying local mantra, but i would have to question that if prices are 1/3 for the same item at a big box store! wow. i will have to do some price comparisons... i don't mind paying an extra $10 to keep it local, but much more significant cost differences i might find it hard to justify to myself...

                                  i think my general plan is to go out and do some price comparisons - i'll definitely check out that place down on bainbridge... and the big box stores and fante's and fosters as well, and start with the mini cast iron that i really want (cheap), and my big investment will be one piece of the all-clad - still haven't picked out which finish is going to work best, so i thought i'd start with one pricey piece - a medium-sized pot - and try it for a few weeks to decide IF i need anything additional. mmmm now i wanna cook!! :)

                                  5 Replies
                                  1. re: rabidog

                                    I have to throw this story out there because I think it's kind of funny. In our group of friends there is a couple (who I love dearly), but they are pretty snobbish about where they purchase items and they are extremely label and brand conscious. . Kind of drives me crazy, because I like to shop for items where I can get the best price on more expensive items. Anyway, our other friend, the one I mentioned who purchased the entire set of All Clad at Home Goods cheaply, is just like me. She's a sale shopper. We were at the 'only purchase these type of items at the best stores' couple's home last year when the subject of All Clad came up. The couple has an enormous ceiling rack and the pots are proudly displayed there. When my sale conscious friend started mentioning that she had almost all the same pots; she threw in what she paid for them at Home Goods. The look of dismay and bewilderment on the couples face was priceless. They were stunned! Who would believe that you could buy nice pots at HG instead of Bloomingdales!! Or, that you could get a beautiful set of sheets at HG or Tuesday Morning for $100 instead of buying the same set at Neiman Marcus for $500!! Yes, it's hit or miss, but it's worth it, imo. Right now, I am on the lookout for a 8" or 9" non stick omelet pan that can go from stove-top to oven for making frittatas. They did not have exactly what I am looking for at HG 2 weeks ago, but I have no doubt I will find what I am looking for at a good price given just a bit of time.
                                    Good Luck in your search!

                                      1. re: joluvscards

                                        In what area do you live? They are all over the place.

                                        1. re: joluvscards

                                          Home Goods only carries items for the home, no clothing. Often they are located right next to a Marshalls, the parent company, if you will. Sometimes, they are stand alone stores. Great place for any type of housewares, dishes, serving platters, pots, bedding. You can also get some great buys on rugs and small furniture items. Worth checking out.

                                          1. re: mschow

                                            Marshall's and HomeGoods are often under the same roof -- could they be considered different sections of the same store? I didn't think much about the distinction between the two before reading your post.

                                    1. Tuesday Morning also has some great buys on cookware, but like Home Goods & TJ Maxx, you've got to hit it on a good day. BTW, Home Goods is Marshall's with a new name.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: CindyJ

                                        I didn't know that! There's a new stand-alone Home Goods in St. David's where Bed Bath & Beyond (or was it Linens-N-Things? the one that was Filene's Bsmt previously) used to be. Lancaster Ave. just west of the Blue Route.

                                        1. re: Mawrter

                                          There's also a Home Goods in Broomall on Sproul Road. I find that the stores often have different items so sometimes I'll hit both in one day. They're really only about 15 minutes away from each other.

                                          And the St. David's BB&B is still there. The Home Goods is where a discount shoe store used to be, in the back, next to Geunardi's.

                                      2. Here’s a site that may tell you something about the semi-annual sales.
                                        Of course, you could check the place in Tropper. That’s probably 5 hours closer to you.

                                        When you’re looking at what to buy, check out these sauciers. Rounded off corners. Really nice.

                                        Did I mention that I’m talking about All Clad?

                                        Oh By The Way - Why didn't you post this on the Cookware board?

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: yayadave

                                          well, i was more set on discovering "the" store for shopping locally - and it looks like i've got some good leads now!

                                          as far as the materials go... i asked about those as an afterthought. it's good to get recs, but i think it's such a personal preference and i'd already read a ton on the cookware board about materials, and i'm still having a hard time deciding on what is really going to work for me. i almost just bought a le cruset pot wandering around new york city earlier today, but i stopped myself with the thought of lugging it around for the remainder of the day.

                                          1. re: rabidog

                                            I thought Fante's and Bridge in NY were THE places in your neck of the woods.

                                            1. re: yayadave

                                              Actually Foster's rivals Fante's in selection and price for cookware - it is just a newer store (about 10 years old)

                                        2. You can find a wide variety of name brand cookware, at great savings, available at Marshall's/HomeGoods stores. ...Le Cruset, Puck, AllClad, Emerilware, Cusinart, etc. It's hit or miss, but there's usually a good selection.

                                          1. a cheap but surprisingly worthwhile purchase - macy's in cherry hill (or maybe online) sells a multi-piece set by cuisinart that is actually very good. it takes a high heat, and while it discolors eventually (what doesn't??), and is very versatile. Set includes: 8" and 10" skillet, 1.5- and 3-qt. covered saucepan, 3.5-qt. covered sauté pan with helper handle and 8-qt. covered stock pot.


                                            current price $199

                                            fantes i love (friends with owner and past owner, grew up around the corner, etc.), and they might have this set too, but i wouldn't be surprised if not. fosters is too expensive for this stuff, and do not forget about kitchen kapers either. they are good for basics/essentials. also - up in central jersey (near hamilton?) there is a 2nd best le creuset outlet. if you have a cast iron pan you are probably set in this department, but if you feel like buying something nice that is slightly (superficially) marred, hit it up!

                                            1. Now to add my 2 cents to an already elongated thread, and to allow the inner geek in me to come out.

                                              When buying at the box stores as well as the discounters, you REALLY need to know your stuff. For instance: Calphalon (my personal fav, really happy with it both Teflon & traditional!) is manufactured in 3 places. Toledo Ohio, Argentina & China. The quality is about in that order as well and the origin is clearly marked on the bottom. Should you decide to pick a brand, vs individual pieces, you should get to know it. Sometimes the cheaper stuff is made to be cheaper. However, I have gotten Toledo Pieces at TJ Maxx at fantastic prices, they may have some outside scratches, but as long as the cooking surface is allright, who cares!!. I have also scored Toledo pans at Bed, Bath & Beyond.. for great prices.

                                              This may not be the case with All Clad, but I'm sure that there are plenty of other major brands that do the Calphalon thing...

                                              Good luck in your adventure, and I hope that we've not over complicated what should be a fun thing!!

                                              13 Replies
                                              1. re: RichieT

                                                haha, no worries! i was certainly entertained by philly's outspoken cookware opinions!!!

                                                i've actually had a slight change of plans and am leaving town for a couple months (and there's a whole thread in the general chowhounding topics about THAT!), so i chose to put off the cookware shopping excursions til i return in june. so my pot selection and review won't be until sometime in the summer! :(

                                                1. re: rabidog

                                                  Dog! In your upcoming travels, go see the kitchens in tiny places in remote areas and on the street. You'll notice that for millions, good to great food is not associated with good pots and pans. You'll see a lot of burnt, bent, blackened ware!

                                                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                    Lotta things like that, Sam. My plumber comes with a dinged up toolbox with a handful of rusty old tools, but, boy, does he do good work.

                                                    1. re: yayadave

                                                      for professionals, obviously looks don't matter as much. but for most of us home cooks, the looks of the cookware also works as internal decorations. :) so hanging up burnt, bent cookware on our pot hangers? i don't think so.

                                                      1. re: baekster

                                                        your post made me smile! while we've done some extensive googling on the copper pots that i loooooove looking at, and we seriously did consider purchasing some of them, one look at my house (tiny, crooked trinity, built in 1830) and very basic kitchen and i decided those pots would feel way out of their element.
                                                        i DO like the way my once-beautiful orange-red enameled le cruset cast iron pan has blackened on the outside. i tried several times to scrub it off, but then just decided it looked loved and well-used. :)

                                                        as long as whatever i get doesn't feature burning plastic handles. that is THE WORST smell, and even running the exhaust fan constantly it's been tough to get the aroma out of the kitchen.

                                                        1. re: rabidog

                                                          If I did hang out pots, they'd be my proudly and memorably beaten, bent, and blackened ones.

                                                            1. re: mschow

                                                              My All Clad IS beaten and blackened - only the lids are bent though....

                                                            2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                              Sam, baekster, I just don't understand. I figure pots and pans are what you cook with and then hide them in the oven.

                                                              1. re: yayadave

                                                                So true. When I built my current kitchen 15 yeaqrs ago, I made sure I had lots of storage and counter space and multiple sinks and...

                                                            3. re: rabidog

                                                              For what it's worth, I was at Home Goods in Moorestown today and they had quite a large selection of pots from All Clad to Scan Pan to Le Creuset. I found the 8" stove to oven non-stick omelet pan that I was looking for for $13.
                                                              I wanted to mention that I have a 15 year old set of Caphalon pots that I use every day and they are still in great shape. They're heavy and durable, though I found out the hard way that you cannot put the lids in the dishwasher! :-))

                                                        2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                          When we're in Rio, there's a man down at a corner every day soldering old pots and pans. They definitely don't have the disposable society that we have and I'm bettin' the food they turn out is damn fine :) Just remembered to share that ten or so years ago we were at a yard sale and I bought a set of something called Miracle Maid Cookware that's heavyduty aluminum (I think that's what it says on the bottom). I paid $15 for probably 10+pieces. I've never used the skillets but I use the sauce pans allthe time and they work just fine.So,yes, Sam, you don't have to have all the high-falutin' stuff by any means.

                                                        3. re: rabidog

                                                          I read your other thread and post an inquiry.

                                                      2. My May/June issue of Cook's Illustrated came today. You may want to check their article, "Should You Buy a Cookware Set?" - pp 25 - 27. The answer is "no," but they list their brand recommendations - All Clad comes in first, with a much less expensive brand, Tramontina 18/10 Stainless Steel triPly-Clad (I've not seen this brand at Home Goods or Ross, but haven't looked for it, either), ranking a close second and Calphalon Stainless Steel coming in third.

                                                        I love my All Clad saute pan; my Calphalon non-stick saute pan warped in a 350 degree oven, so I'm off Calphalon, though that's what my chef-nephew uses.

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: Elaine

                                                          Tramontina is a WalMart, Target,? product. I'm glad they rated it well because the price is very appealing.

                                                          I have a Calphalon hard-anodized saute pan that goes into the oven regularly. Hope that never happens to me :(

                                                          1. re: Elaine

                                                            On Elaine's note, there was a review in a recent issue of Saveur that I think you can view online. They were also of the mind that you should pick & choose "best-of-breed" for each function - not a whole suite of matching anything.


                                                          2. Le Creuset has an outlet up on 422 in Limerick. We just bought some cookware there. They also have stuff with a few minor scratches that is even cheaper. In West Norriton check out the All Clad outlet. I think it is called Cookware and More. Again, we bought some scratched stuff. The savings would be worth your drive out there.