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Replacing Old Cookware--Recommendations Needed!

We moved and our new house has a smoothtop range. We now need to replace many of our very old pots and pans, because they do not have flat bottoms. Here's what we would like to get:

10" and 12" fry pans or similar size French skillets
2-qt. and 3- or 4-qt. sauce pans or similar size sauciers
4- to 5-qt. saute pan
8-to 12-quart stock pot
Already have a Le Creuset dutch oven

It has been a long time since we looked at cookware seriously. I've done a lot of research on this and other online cooking sites--enlightening, but also ultimately confusing. There is just so much to choose from. We'd prefer fully clad stainless steel for pieces where that matters. We'd also like to purchase individual pieces, rather than a set, so we can have the flexibility of being able to buy exactly what we want. I've read a lot of good things about All-Clad (except from people who hate the handles), but do not feel that everything we buy has to come from them. We don't care about ownng "prestige name" cookware," having all matching pieces, or being able to hand down our pots and pans to the next generation. We do, however, care about decent quality, durability and functionality.

We'd like to know what people would recommend for each kind of piece we have on our list. Are there alternatives to AC for some of these that are just as good, if not better. Less expensive options that are still excellent quality? (We don't assume that any one manufacturer is likely to be the best for everything.) Any suggestions would be most welcome.

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  1. I have a first-generation cooktop Amana so the flat bottoms are always an issue. Bed,Bath&Beyond, and other stores, periodically (and always near Xmas) sell 2-pk sets of Calphalon nonstick skillets. Sometimes 8 and 10 inch, others l0 and 12inch, essentially for what a single pan would cost. I always have an extra set in the closet since sooner or later I'll goof and ruin the finish, or warp the pan. They last 3-4 years, on average, with a lot of use.

    It seems as though Calphalon has stopped making their quality hard-anodized aluminum pots and pans, and several of them are available super-cheap from Amazon, with free shipping. There's a 2.5 qt shallow lidded saucepan and a big stockpot, among others. I have one from nearly 10 years ago - preheats fast and retains heat well. Note: their 12" everyday pan on Amazon now is NOT the same heavy thickness as their pots. Also, Amazon has one-day special prices on some items every Friday. Once you get to the category you want, look for the Friday sale button at the top right of the page.

    Many people feel that the AC lookalike set sold at Costco (Kirkland, their house brand) is very high quality.

    Never rely on eyeballing the bottom of a pan you're considering. Hold it against the edge of the shelf or another straight edge and look for daylight.

    8 Replies
    1. re: greygarious

      Thanks for your suggestions. We happened to catch a demonstration of the Kirkland set at Costco several years ago, but AFAIK, Costco no longer sells it. I'll check out Amazon tomorrow for any special prices they may have.

      1. re: cheesemaestro

        I believe they still do - I looked at a set several months ago.

        Re the chef's pan (AKA saucier) it is a flat-bottomed wok, roundsided and fairly deep, with a lid. It can be used for stir-frying, braising, stew, soup, etc. If I could only have two pots, they'd be the 4qt. chef's pan and a dutch oven.

        1. re: cheesemaestro

          i was at costco the other day and i saw the kirkland set for $199. i'm not sure if this is the same set that cook's illustrated rated as their recommended best value set. i think costco stopped carrying this set for a while and just brought it back. (i always check out their kitchen section to see what's new.)

          i picked up one of their frying pans to test the quality and i was very impressed with the construction. they were a lot nicer than cuisinart chefs classic and almost as nice as all clad. it seems like a very good set for the price.
          http://www.costco.com/Browse/Product....

          for the 4-5 qt saute pan, i highly recommend the 4 quart all clad saute/simmer pan from williams-sonoma. "this exceptionally versatile piece combines the attributes of a sauté pan and a saucier." it gets a lot of use in my kitchen.
          http://www.williams-sonoma.com/produc...

          1. re: malisa0607

            The Kirkland cookware isn't at the Costco near me. Perhaps only some of their stores are carrying it now.

            Thanks for the recommendation for the WS saute/simmer pan. I took a look at it online and will call my local store to see if they have it in stock. I like the shape--a cross between AC's straight-sided saute pan and the chef's pan, which is more curved and may not have a large enough flat surface at the bottom to be stable on a glass top range.

        2. re: greygarious

          <<Never rely on eyeballing the bottom of a pan you're considering. Hold it against the edge of the shelf or another straight edge and look for daylight.>>

          Better still is to turn one pan upside down and put another of the same type on top of it. It shouldn't rock in any direction.

          But if you've got gas it doesn't really matter.

          1. re: greygarious

            Warning on those two-fers from Calphalon. I bought a set and BOTH pans can spin like a top on my smooth cooktop when heated. There may be some Calphalons that are better, but the poor performance of these pans on a smooth top has pretty much affected my opinion of Calphalon. The best choice for a smooth top range is either high quality disk bottom stainless steel (think Cuisinart Master Chef, Sitram, Paderno, Demeyere, some Tramontina), cast iron or enameled cast iron (Lodge, LeCreuset, Staub etc.), and high quality clad like All Clad or Cuisinart Multi-Pro. Anodized aluminum does not seem to cut it for me, as I have even has previous issues with the All Clad anodized line (LTD). Like I said, others may have a different experience, but I have had problems with four out of four anodized aluminum pans from two different manufacturers being unable to remain flat. And before you ask -- No, I do not put hot pans in cold water. That is a sure way to warp them.

            1. re: RGC1982

              In the last decade, I've gone through 2 sets of the Calphalon nonstick saute two-fers, having overheated them or put them hot into cold water. But they started out perfectly flat. I've had the same cooktop stove for 30 years this week (knock wood!).

              1. re: greygarious

                Maybe you are luckier than I am, but I am not impressed. I have relegated those two-fers to eggs and omelettes because their instability makes anything with oil or hot liquid a little dangerous, IMO. Maybe there is a decline in quality, who knows. I bought these last year at Crate and Barrel, so they are not seconds. But they do spin, and they were spinning right away, starting from their first use. Hey, these things are all mass produced.

                What I would do, now that I have experienced this, is insist on taking the two-fers out of the packaging before buying and testing how flat they sit on the checkout countertop or table. If they are spinning or rocking on that surface, you know you have a problem. If they sit flat, it is worth a try,

          2. Great news - there are tons of options to fit any budget. Even middle of the road brand names are delivering great quality these days.

            In general - some questions to ask:
            1) How many people are you usually feeding (if more than 4, think bigger sizing)
            2) Nonstick or no? I say never in sauce and stock pans, but ok in skillets
            3) Is it worth it to buy a set? I say absolutely not. you already know which pieces are your workhorses, so invest more money in your workhorses. Sets usually seem like a great value until you realize that half the set you never use...Like a 1 qt butter pan!

            Feedback:
            10" and 12" fry -- skip the 10 and go to two 12s. One nonstick and one non-nonstick.
            8" fry - I'd add this. Amazingly useful.
            2-qt. and 3- or 4-qt.sauce - I'd go All Clad here. Stainless inside, no nonstick.
            4- to 5-qt. saute pan - do you really need this? I don't. Try a chef's pan instead.
            8-to 12-quart stock pot -- get a 6qt and an 8, or a 6 and a 12qt pasta pentola set.

            1 Reply
            1. re: kaysyrahsyrah

              Thanks. You recommend a chef's pan over a saute pan. I wasn't familiar with the former and looked at some photos online. They look very similar to saute pans. What's the difference? Sloping sides vs. straight sides?

            2. High-End $$$, High Quality Cookware
              Demeyere - Apollo or Atlantis lines
              http://www.demeyere.be/default.asp?SL...

              Medium $$, High Quality Cookware
              Sitram Profiserie
              http://tiny.cc/1jrcM (Link goes to Amazon product page

              )

              Low $$, Medium to Medium High Quality
              Cuisinart MultiClad Pro
              Cuisinart MultiClad Unlimited
              select Cuisinart Chef's Classic
              select Cuisinart GreenGourmet (non-stick)

              Everything I recommended is stainless with the exception of the Green Gourmet which is non-stick but non-Teflon.

              Both Demeyere and Sitram will have excellent options for your requests of fry pans, skillets, saute pans, sauciers, and stock pots. I am sure you are well aware of All-Clad's offerings. IMHO, I would choose Sitram over All-Clad (no rivets) but that is likely more of a personal preference; both seem to be relatively similar in pricing.

              In building my first cookware set, I have stuck with mainly Cuisinart products as I got several pieces under $100 (thanks Amazon) and a few others on clearance on HSN. In hindsight, I wish I would have not purchased so many as I really like the Sitram and Demeyere cookware lines. In the future I will slowly donate and replace the Cuisinart with pieces from the two aforementioned lines.

              Good Luck

              8 Replies
              1. re: cityhopper

                I'd second the recommendation for Sitram. The disk bottoms should work quite well on your new flat surface and they are good quality. I'd also recommend a 12-inch and an 8-inch cast iron frying pan. Once you season them, and it's not that hard, they won't stick, at least not that much. I'm not particularly enamored of non-stick. I also like All-Clad, though admittedly they can be pretty pricey unless you find a bargain. Recently they've been discounting their ltd products since they're introducing a new line, so you might be able to find some deals there.

                1. re: chuckl

                  Thank you cityhopper and chuckl. Sitram and Demeyere (as well as Paderno) did come up in my research. As I understand it, all three have disk bottoms, rather than being a clad design. The one criticism voiced about Sitram and Paderno is that the disk is somewhat smaller than the bottom of the pan, which could cause burning of food around the edges on a gas stove or failure to brown around the edges with an electric heating element. I don't know if those of you who have Sitram have found this to be true. Demeyere is supposed to have addressed that problem by using disks that fully cover the bottom. In fact, everything I've read about Demeyere is glowing, but it's unfortunately beyond what we can afford.

                  My other concern about cookware imported from countries in the European Union is that the dollar has declined significantly against the euro in recent years. Five years ago, the dollar was approximately at parity with the euro. Discussions about Sitram from several years back often noted how much less expensive Sitram was than AC. Now Sitram is almost the same price, so the cost benefit has largely disappeared.

                  Lots of good reviews on the Cuisinart multiclad and certainly attractive prices. The hitch there for us is that it's not induction-capable. While we don't have an induction cooktop now, with the short life span of most appliances today, I'm sure we'll need to buy a new cooktop or range in several years. We'd rather not buy cookware that we know can't be used with induction, in case that's the way we want to go in the future.

                  1. re: cheesemaestro

                    I've seen those caveats as well, but I've never experienced any problems with the Sitram disk bottoms in terms of uneven heat distribution, burning, or failure to brown. As far as prices, check out bridge, which seems to have pretty reasonable prices and has a good reputation, though I've not bought from them personally.

                    http://www.bridgekitchenware.com/

                    1. re: cheesemaestro

                      On a smooth cooktop, I think the "burning edges" problem is pure mythology, unless the cook has a propensity to put small pots on big burners and then crank up the heat as high as it will go. I have never experienced this. In fact, I prefer my disk bottomed Padernos, which do not have disks that extend to the very edge like my Demeyere Atlantis pots, to cook big batches of tomato sauce because I never, ever get any burned sauce on the bottom of the pot. It's almost as though this Italian manufacturer designed these roundeax to handle this one particular cooking task. No hot spots whatsoever. I would recommend these without hesitation if you want to spend less than Demeyere will require. You can consider trying one or two to see how you like them.

                      I used to get burned spots on the bottom of my LeCreuset pots back when I cooked on a gas range, but I have never had that on my smooth cooktop.

                      1. re: RGC1982

                        I've used Sitram catering, cybernox and profiserie, all clad regular and copper core, le creuset and Calphalon, on gas, smooth top and electric element stoves.

                        Sitram catering is copper cored. Sitram profiserie is aluminum cored. Both burn around the edges on a gas stove. Both are OK on electric elements and smoothtops, but you will not get even browning where the edges of the disk end. Sitram catering is cheaper than All Clad copper core and for my money, works better. Heat seems to transmit better through the Sitram. I haven't seen a number on how thick the copper layer in the AC Copper Core is, but I'm betting it's not as thick as the Sitram. Still love my copper core pieces, they just look so cool with that band of copper running around it.

                        Let's not talk about the Cybernox. They're not available in the U.S. anymore, and good riddance from me.

                        Sitram has great customer service if you can track down the U.S. distributor (Frieling USA). I had to email France to figure out where to go for service.....

                        Sitram profiserie is cheaper than All Clad aluminum core. I think the AC aluminum works better than the Sitram Profiserie. Still a price advantage on the Profiserie vs. the equivalent All Clad.

                        I had the original heavy Calphalon before they multiplied the lines. I wore the anodization off the pieces because of my heavy use. No, I didn't use any metal utensils or abuse it in the dishwasher. Aluminum is also soft enough that it warps over time, so that's another strike against it. Calphalon has awesome customer service. They've replaced it no questions asked whenever I asked them to. My friends with Calphalon all report back the same thing - the stuff wears out, Calphalon customer service is awesome.

                      2. re: cheesemaestro

                        The Cuisinart Multclad IS induction-capable according to the description on the box.. Maybe the older model wasn't induction-capable but the ones I bought last winter all state that they are.

                      3. re: chuckl

                        Two other fabulous disk bottoms are Sambonet, which has a 7 mm aluminum sandwiched bottom, and the Paderno Grand Gourmet, which has a 5 mm aluminum bottom. They are very similar in quality to the Sitram Catering lines, although the Sitram has a copper core bottom, but is of similar construction.

                        1. re: RGC1982

                          How would tri-ply Winco pans from my local restaurant supply store compare to those?

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