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Apr 23, 2009 10:34 AM

Is Cooks Illustrated partial..

I've noticed Cooks Illustrated will test All-Clad against cookware they know it can beat. I saw their review on sauce pans and All-Clad was recommended. I know for a fact that solid copper out performs All-Clad in the sauce pan area. On their saute pan review (maybe test kitchen) they used a copper pan - yes All-Clad perform better there because, in my opinion, the copper does not fry well.

So you see, they compare All-Clad to copper on the items All-Clad can beat. Why not compare it to the sauce pans where good solid copper is the gold standard.

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  1. CI judges both performance and value - I've seen them recommend Forschner knives or Tramontina cookware as a best buy because it performs nearly as well as All-Clad or Wusthof, but is not nearly as expensive. With copper, I've never seen them ding it outright - often they'll say although its a great pan, its not worth the significant price increase you'll pay to get it..

    1. Cook's Illustrated cannot test every available item on the market so that their prejudice is not in the testing, but in the selection of items to be tested. For food items, they definitely skew toward those available on the east coast.

      I suspect they leave all copper pots out of the tests because they have a cost barrier for testing that copper cannot clear.

      9 Replies
      1. re: EdwardAdams

        What you are saying makes sense but All-Clad is just as expensive as solid copper.

        1. re: krbtv

          Uhhh... when was the last time you looked at cookware prices? All-Clad SS saute pan 6qt sells for $255 USD... A 2.5mm copper 11" saute pan (roughly 5-6qt) sells for $590 USD; the copper-core AC piece (a complete waste of money) is $500 (info from Sur La Table). Hell, an 8" copper skillet is $240, a SS AC pan is $85, the copper-core version is $110!

          1. re: mateo21

            You're correct. I was thinking about the All-Clad copper core costing the same as pure copper.

            An 11 inch 2.5 mm solid copper saute pan is about $295 without the lid. Add about $115 with the lids. I'm quoting the price from Falk;s web site at

            1. re: krbtv

              Actually, krbtv, the 11" Falk sauté pan is $375 without the lid. I think you were looking at the frying pan. Very beautiful, but very expensive stuff.

              Of course there is no need to get a matching copper lid. You can get a much cheaper, fully functional stainless lid from Sitram or Paderno Grand Gourmet.

        2. re: EdwardAdams

          Had I been the first to reply, I should have cited the points of both grant.cook and EdwardAdams; what I can add is that the two considerations work in tandem and cumulate. With hundreds of different brands, lines, and models of pots in the marketplace, Cooks Illustrated (or Consumers Union, or any testing organization) needs to apply filter criteria -- sometimes stated in the report write-up, but usually not -- to bring the test universe down to a manageable size. If I had to guess Cooks Illustrated's filter criteria, one that would be high on the list is whether the pot was a non-house brand carried in a nationwide chain store. If the pot is sold in Bed Bath & Beyond, for instance, it sails free and clear past the first gate. We do not visit BBY very often, but I do not recall ever having seen copper cookware there.

          Second, with no advertising, Cooks Illustrated has to make its test results sexy. One way to do that is, within every test group, to find a David that stands toe-to-toe with Goliath. To its credit, Cooks Illustrated seems to be able to pull that trick off with remarkable regularity.

          If there is a bias, then, it might be in making "exceptions" to the filter criteria, going outside the group of pots that might represent the prevailing sales and advertising popularity, that will allow the testers to identify a David. That bias, if it exists, would allow for a low-priced item to be added to the test suite, but would not allow an outlier on the high-price end to be added.

          1. re: Politeness

            That makes a lot of sense. The only thing is that Williams Sonoma as well as other chains carry Mauviel Copper. Americas Test Kitchen did compare a copper sauté pan for searing/frying against All-Clad. The catch is that I know from experience that a copper fry pan is not the way to go. Just seems like if they could use copper for the sauté (where All-Clad wins) then they should use copper on the sauce pan (where copper will win).

            I did notice when Cooks Illustrated tested Dutch ovens they select Le Creuset, but then put an All-Clad Stock pot as a choice for those who like lighter weight stuff. Of course they would have look ridicules putting an All-Clad Dutch oven against a Le Creuset.

            1. re: krbtv

              What's wrong with a copper saute pan? Just curious :-p and I've never been able to see that article, what did CI have against the copper pan?

              1. re: krbtv

                What were the specs on the copper pan they tested?

                I have a 2 qt and a 3qt mauviel 2.5mm copper saute. Both outperform the triplay stainless I no longer own.

                As mentioned, price is the main prohibitive factor for quality copper cookware. Definitely not performance.

              2. re: Politeness

                What an elegant post - a pleasure to read.

            2. I've been to their offices several times and recently was in a focus group - asking about their website. They use the products they recommend. You see the stuff around the kitchen: the Forschner knives, All-Clad, the baking sheets they like, etc.

              They seem to be quite rigorous. As in all recipes tested are sent to thousands of readers and they need a certain number of positive returns, etc. I can't imagine they'd pick things just to make a different sounding or sexy choice.

              4 Replies
              1. re: lergnom

                lergnom, perhaps I did not express myself felicitously. Because I cannot think of a noncontentious cookware example, let me use an example from a completely different field.

                The best motor oil sold in the United States is Schaeffer Supreme 7000. (You need not agree, but the statement is true.) The company that makes it, Schaeffer Oil, is the oldest oil company in the United States -- it was already 24 years in business when President Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address -- and is still owned by the founding family. It spends a high percentage relative to gross sales on research and it shows in the product. But by petroleum industry standards, it is a tiny company, and hardly anybody in the great unwashed populace ever has heard of the company or its products.

                Now, suppose that you are an automobile enthusiast magazine and you are going to choose the products to feature in a comparative test of motor oils. Your audience will berate you if you fail to include the products from ExxonMobil or Royal Dutch Shell or the big independents like Ashland (Valvoline) and BP (Castrol). Nobody (or very few) will criticize you for leaving out Schaeffer from the comparison.

                But if you are really interested in serving your readers you will include Schaeffer in the comparison, and if it should win the shoot-out, you would have an article that would gain some buzz -- if only you COULD include Schaeffer; but you cannot, because your economic model depends on advertising revenue, and the big guys who spend a lot of money advertising in your magazine do not want to look bad in your editorial copy. If they look bad, they may decide not to advertise in your magazine any more. So you leave Schaeffer out of the test, justifying your decision on sales figures. "We will test the motor oils that our readers tell us they buy already or have read advertising about."

                Cooks Illustrated, however, does not depend on advertising revenues, and it can include the Schaeffer equivalent. Not only CAN it include the little guy, but -- because its readers are its source of revenue -- it BENEFITS if it includes an obscure, cost-effective alternative to the big-sales, big-advertising alternatives. That is a very good economic reason to include an over-achieving bargain.

                However, the argument is not so clear when the question is to add a premium priced super-achiever. If your readers likely cannot afford to pay a super-premium price for an "off" brand, why make them feel inferior by including that product in a selection where otherwise it would not be included?

                That is why Cooks Illustrated will go outside the box to include Victorinox knives in a comparison of knives, but will not necessarily include all copper pots in a comparison of sauteuse pans.

                1. re: Politeness

                  "The best motor oil sold in the United States is Schaeffer Supreme 7000. (You need not agree, but the statement is true.) "

                  Not that you have a strong opinion about that right?
                  BTW I completely disagree based on my personal oil analysis and I could point out forums with thousands of others that would agree with me. In point of fact your fighting a loosing battle today suggesting any synthetic blend is the "best" or for that matter even deluding your self into believing that any one brand or line is universally the "best" whether we are talking about motor oil, pots, stoves, knives or just about any other product.
                  This product may be the best for you or the "best" in your opinion. But that's it.
                  CI provides a very useful guide and well thought out opinions. However in the end their opinion, like yours about Schaeffer is just that.
                  Another opinion to consider. ;)

                  1. re: Fritter

                    Fritter, if I am going to engage in a discussion of the relative merits of oils on Chowhound, it will be about whether any oil extracted from the Fantoio cultivar can ever taste as good as most oils extracted from the Moraiolo cultivar. That would be a discussion worthy of this forum. I had written that "you need not agree," and you have stated unambiguously that you "completely disagree," and if we were to continue that discussion about motor oils, then we should do so on (BITOG), where people who are truly passionate about motor oil, some of whom -- a small percentage to be sure -- actually ARE very highly knowledgeable on the subject, duke it out on a daily basis.

                    My point in taking an example from outside the food realm was not to establish a "best" in any category that Cook's Illustrated or Chowhound discusses, but merely to give an example from a field where (unlike anything to do with food), personal taste is secondary to technical considerations, and therefore it is more black-and-white to identify a reasonably priced but obscure product that outperforms the heavily advertised products that necessarily must populate any publishable comparison test of competitors.

                    The point was that, because of its unusual position of not accepting advertising, Cook's Illustrated is well-positioned to add an obscure product to a line-up of the Usual Suspects when narrowing its universe of products to be tested, because it need not worry about offending the advertisers upon whom most publications depend for their operating revenue. Moreover, it makes economic sense to add relatively inexpensive giant-killers to the mix because that makes the articles more attractive to readers, and thus helps to sell magazine subscriptions. There is nothing dishonest about that, and it performs a service for frugal readers.

                    1. re: Politeness

                      I agree with a lot of what you are saying.

                      In the 4 quart category of sauce pans, All-Clad with a helper handle is $205 ($10 less without the handle)

                      The competitors to All-Clad 4 quart sauce pans should be:
                      Demeyere Apollo Silvinox, $135;
                      KitchenAid Gourmet Excellence, $140;
                      ScanPan Fusion 5, $100
                      Viking, $205;
                      Cuisinox Elite, $102;
                      and either solid copper Bourgeat, Mauviel, or Falk. abt $295

                      None of the above are used in their comparison test. Let's remove the solid copper since we are doing the stainless steel test. Still none of the above are used in their comparison test. Instead they use items less than half the cost of All-Clad then says All-Clad is clearly the winner. Heck it should be the winner at less than half the cost. Look for yourself at their reviews. You'll see what I'm talking about.

                      Also, they list all the products in alphabetical order and guess what's always at the top? All-Clad. Why not list in reverse alphabetical order?

              2. The problem with CI and others that do similar testing is that they attempt to interpret "value" which is subjective at best. Their cutting board suggestions would send some folks here into rigor fits.
                Personally I think All Clad SS is a horrible value. The price has sky rocketed. A 3 qt SS All clad is $165 now and the quality has declined.

                9 Replies
                1. re: Fritter

                  can you be more specific about your comment regarding the decline in quality. what are you basing that on?

                  1. re: chuckl

                    The current standard All Clad SS line compared to the same standard SS pans I have from just a few years ago are much thinner and are not finished as smoothly on the inside.

                  2. re: Fritter

                    I have to say that I doubt I would ever have paid full price for all-clad pans. Fortunately I purchased all my All-Clad SS pans for 40% off when there was an outlet in my town (and the only reason any of them got marked as seconds were some light scratches - which they polished out for me anyway.) I bought them all a few years ago now and at that price they were a GREAT value and I love them.

                    1. re: flourgirl

                      I personally really like All Clad, but not the stainless line. I prefer the Master Chef 2 (MC2) line. Much better cookware than the stainless for a lower price.

                      I have to wonder if the average home cook would see the difference in cooking responsiveness between copper and tri ply stianless?

                      1. re: citizenconn

                        Yes, the responsiveness is just that great when using saucieres and any of the copper pots for making sauces.

                      2. re: flourgirl

                        A few years ago I would have jumped at 40% off on All Clad. Today I'm not so sure. Even a 3 qt sauce pot would still be $100 and they are a lot thinner than a few years ago. I'm lucky in that here we have a Calphalon outlet. Last week I picked up an 8 quart anodized stock pot for $30.

                        1. re: Fritter

                          Lets put a bit of the onus on the user as well.. no pot will make your sauces perfect, no knife will dice your onions for you. The benefit of a review is based on the ability of the reader to have enough skill to bring out the features useful to their cooking. If you make hollandaise sauce okay in a crappy pan, you'll appreciate the upgrade... if you are breaking sauces in a Mauviel saucier, don't blame CI. If you are breaking sauces in a KitchenAid, don't go buy Mauviel.

                          Its enjoyable to read Bittman or Bourdain or Thorne - the equipment comes alive once you are skilled enough to really bring out its design in your cooking. .