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Oct 14, 2009 12:59 PM

Stainless or Anondized Aluminum: Which is easier to care for?

I'm deciding between the two sets at Costco.

One is the stainless set:

and one is the Circulon Anondized Aluminum:

I'm fairly comfortable with the performance of both. What is boils down to, is ease of use and clean up.
I have a few All Clad stainless pans that are a PITA to clean. I'm guessing this is b/c I've not been using them correctly.
But, the truth of the matter is that I have 2 very young children, and I often get distracted by their various hi-jinks while I am cooking. So sometimes food is left of a bit longer than it should be, and it burns to the bottom of the stainless pans I have, resulting in some serious elbow grease. I'm wondering if the aluminum would be easier clean up? We typically do not put pots/pans in the dishwasher, so that is not a factor for me.

Any guidance is most appreciated.

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  1. It's not a question of pan material, but the cooking surface. The Circulon will be much easier to clean because all the pans are nonstick. A metal cooking surface (whether All-Clad stainless or plain anodized aluminum) is going to take more time to clean.

    However, please consider that nonstick coatings are hazardous when too hot. Pet birds are especially vulnerable, but in general it is a very bad idea to let a nonstick pan burn. The nonstick coating will break down and poison you at the same time. Also note that Circulon Premier Professional are only oven-safe to 400 degrees F / 200 C.

    The wonderful thing about stainless steel pans is that you can clean them with anything. When something really burns on, I let it soak and then go after it with steel wool or even sandpaper!

    1 Reply
    1. re: wnissen

      I don't typically burn things to the point of being scorched, but it is more an issue of putting in the onions to soften, then my 2 year old climbs up on the dresser in his bedroom, and I have to run off to rescue him. So the onions don't get stirred, and some of the ones on the bottom are a bit browner than I would like.

      I'm not too concerned about the oven temperatures. I have some Le Creuset and I'm also buying the Tramontina 6qt Dutch Oven that I'll most often use for stove-to-oven dishes.

      Thanks for your help. I'm thinking I may get some stainless sauce pans, and the anondized aluminum saute pans, since that seems to be my main issue. But then I end up paying more to piecemeal my set.

    2. The stainless set is not fully clad; It's only disc-bottom-type cookware.

      While that is generally okay for a skillet or saute pan it can be an issue with a large stockpot or a saucepan where even all around heating is ideal.

      The hard anondized set also has a disc bottom but that seems just to make it induction compatible.

      Non-stick cookware generally cannot be taken to as high of a temperature as traditional cookware (neither can glass lids); also, the nonstick material will eventually wear off.

      Honestly, if it were my $200, I'd skip both sets.

      2 Replies
      1. re: monocle

        Hm. I didn't think about the disc bottom issue for the saucepan/stockpot.

        So for your $200, what would you get? I thought about doing piecemeal, with anodized saute pans and aluminum saucepans. But even just getting the Tramontina stainless set that CI rates highly at WMT, I'm only at 3 dishes and that puts me close to the $200 for the Costco set.

        I need: 3 qt saucepan, 10" saute pan, 8qt stock pot and a 4qt chef pan.

        I'm also purchasing a lodge 10" skillet, and a 6qt Tramontina dutch oven.

        The items I have which I will keep: 2 qt Le Creuset, 1 qt stainless All Clad Saute pan, 8" SS AC, LC grill pan, and a Circulon non stick skillet (for eggs, pancakes, etc.).

        1. re: dexters

          That's always a dilemma; and it really depends on the kind of cooking you do. You should be able to combine cooking tasks into a single piece of cookware though.

          There is not much difference between a saucier and a chef's pan and it works decently as a saucepan, though you get more evaporation.

          a saute pan is a skillet with straight sides(for more bottom area), a larger skillet can take its place almost every time.

          a large dutch oven works well as a stock pot (as long as it's nonreactive like stainless, enamelled cast iron or anodized aluminum).

          Faced with your setup i would probably get the following:

          3 qt all clad saucier ($150 on amazon).
          12" lodge skillet ($19 on amazon).

          if i needed the skillet to be nonreactive yet still be oven-safe:

          12" allclad skillet w/lid ($90 on amazon)
          3-4 qt anodized aluminum saucepan (3.5 qt analon is $40)

          But again, this all depends on the kind of food you like to cook. You mentioned two kids so I assume you will eventually be cooking for 2 adults and 2 ravenous teenagers so you might want to lean toward some of the larger items(if they are long-lasting, that is).

      2. I vote for Circulon. I like their stuff.

        1. If you have gas then I do NOT recommend the SS set. I have this set (plus another) and it suffers from the bases being too small and the flared out sides heat up to much. The smallest pan is unstable as the base is less than 4 inches across. On a typical gas cooktop there are places it can tip over. On the positive side the base does distribute heat well - no hot spots. If you use electric then I think they would be excellent.

          1. I have items in both materials, and the anodised gets reached for first for most things. It's usually easier to cook with and care for. However, it rarely lasts beyond about 5 years medium use, and none of my s/s has deteriorated at all in 25+ years (ok it gets less use, but it's like new!)