Most indestructible cookware? Cast iron and ___?
What is the most durable (and safe) nonstick out there aside from cast iron that's well-seasoned?
Also, in general, what pans (not just nonstick) do you like for their ability to heat nicely and basically survive anything and clean up well - for instance being exposed to fire and being dropped from high heights, possibly at the same time?
I welcome your recommendations of non-pansy-*** pans.
Not sure about the questions. Most modern metal cookware
Is quite durable and will not shatter or crack if if dropped
on the kitchen floor. It’s not a good idea to leave any empty pan on high heat for a long time. Most non-stick pan interiors are made of
chemically similar materials. The Green Pan is apparently different, I but haven’t seen any verdict on its longevity.
If these matterss are a concern, cast iron probably is the best bet. But in 30 years or so of cooking, I have only had one pan break. That was an ancient, inherited Le Creuset on which the handle weld snapped.
Stainless steel. Not non-stick - just with a heavy bottom. I've accidentally let my pans boil dry, left on a burner over high heat, dropped them, banged them, scrubbed them with an SOS pad - the works. I can't say they look like new, exactly, but they don't look bad and they still cook the way they did on day one. Heat is relatively evenly distributed on the bottom. No fancy frills - just good, utilitarian cookware.
My 40 year old Paderno ... indestructible, elegant, heats up much faster than cast iron, takes heat evenly, no scorching or hot spots, no wobbling handles/uneven bottoms after all this time & constant use ... I bought various sizes & styles from Fred Bridge way back when...one of my best-ever cookware purchases.. In fact, I wish I'd bought more...
The problem with your premise is that you assume most pans are pansy-ass, but that's not the case. Look at what they use in commercial settings (i.e. restaurants, catering, etc.) -- they use aluminum, stainless steel, carbon steel, and so on. All of these pans suffer a tremendous amount of abuse, but they keep on performing.
Since you're looking for a pan that "heats nicely, survives anything, and cleans up well," I'd suggest a fully clad stainless steel pan. You can look at All-Clad, Demeyere, and all of the other big names, or you can take a look at some low-priced workhorses that will perform just as well at a fraction of the big-name prices:
http://www.vollrathco.com/catalog_browse.jsp?id=193 (my choice for fully clad)
http://www.bridgekitchenware.com/brow... (my choice for s.s. disc bottom)
As far as non-stick is concerned, I like to buy whatever Teflon-coated (no fear here) aluminum pans are on sale and replace them when they start showing wear. This is much cheaper in the long run vs. buying high-end non-stick pans (Swiss Diamond, ScanPan, etc.). And, all municipal recyclers accept Teflon-coated aluminum pans, so there are no worries about adding to landfills (this is a typical point of contention from some people, so I'm just adding it as a safety ;-).
re: Joe Blowe
Plain stainless is much better than aluminum. I have one Kitchen Aid set, which is great - but my favourite pan by far is a professional one that I bought used. It has no fancy name (Browne-Halco), but is excellent quality and seriously indestructible.
I have no experience with fully clad pans so can't comment on durability factor. I personally don't want to have to treat my cookware particularly carefully. If it gets nicked or dinged it's just a sign of experience and good meals. It shouldn't become yet another thing that I have to look after.
"Plain" stainless steel pans (meaning not clad, no disc bottom) are actually inferior to aluminum. See the following from Understanding Stovetop Cookware by Samuel Lloyd Kinsey:
"[Plain] Stainless steel holds the honor of having the worst overall thermal characteristics of all the metals used for cookware. It has the highest specific heat per cubic centimeter and the lowest thermal conductivity -- not a good combination. Needless to say, evenness of heat is out of the question and stainless steel cookware must be thin or it will never become hot. Hot spots are inevitable."
Fully clad s.s. pans offer the *superior* heat distribution of aluminum, and the *same* durability of "plain" s.s. pans (the layers are fused together). There's absolutely no reason not to buy one such as the Vollrath Tribute.