need advice re best skillet brands
Hi All! I am new to Chowhound, I am excited to be a part of this informative forum!! I currently have 2 Calphalon non stick skillets--8 inch, 12 inch.....well, i am fed up with Calphalon products!! I also have the classic Calphalon sauce pans, dutch oven. The finishes just don't hold up and I am tired of replacing them--i am ready for some good pans. I tend to use the skillets the most for sauteeing veggies and meats, as well as sauces so want to start there with replacements. My question is: if money were no object, what brands/type of skillets would you buy? I want these to last!! Thank you all in advance for your time and consideration....it is greatly appreciated!!
That's a nice wide range. I'd say that anything from cast iron to Demeyere would pretty much fit your parameters. There will be proponents and detractors of each, and someone will chime in about All-Clad's handles at some point.
If money were no object, a Falk stainless lined copper skillet would probably be high on my list.
But generally, I like to have different types and sizes of skillets... cast iron, carbon steel, stainless steel w/ aluminum and / or copper cladding, big, small. I think balance and what you can comfortably hold / toss is also important. If at all possible, buy something you can handle first.
All Clad is solid all around, and the original 3 ply line is relatively lightweight and comfortable (for me) to handle. I think the Viking, Mauviel (stainless line), and CIA stuff, is also pretty nice, though a bit heavier. I just got a 10" Vollrath skillet, which is quite heavy duty, though not at all luxurious... at $40, I think it's a pretty good buy.
If you are looking for a non-stick skillet specifically, I would give up on "money [being] no object" or looking for something that will last forever, and get something that's heavy duty, but cheap enough to replace down the road a few years. The food service stuff (look for the heavy duty, multi-layer coatings like Ceramiguard II, on top of a heavyweight aluminum pan) will stand up to abuse and last a while, and is lightweight and comfortable to hold. Or maybe look at the new Mauviel M'Stone (PFOA / PTFE free), however, I haven't read that much about how great the coating they're using really is.
I recommend cast iron skillets, which should not be terribly expensive. You have to learn to how to care for them. I've really enjoyed using mine, which I've bought from flea markets and antique stores. And, for non stick frypans, which I feel have a legitimate use in the kitchen, I fall back on advice I've read before; buy the cheapest non-stick fry pan that feels good in your hand. Use it on med heat--no higher, and expect 5 or 6 years of service. The finish on a non-stick will not stand up to cooking with high heat or the dishwasher.
For almost everything else, I like stainless. It goes into the dishwasher, and there are some fine stainless pans out there, at any price range you like. I don't require the most expensive pans, so I can't recommend a TOL pan, but if you are interested in good sold stuff that doesn't break the bank to buy, I'd look into Cuisinart and Tramontina. But do your due diligence first. Read the description of the pans, ask specific questions here, and pick up the pans you are interested in, and see how they feel in your hands. Are they balanced? Are the handles comfy? How easy are they to clean?
If money were no object, I'd probably buy some nice Tramontina, some expensive old cast iron, a couple of specialty pans, and a fabulous Vita Mix.
What do you use a skillet for? High temperature searing meat? Cast iron is good for that? Or do you want to use it for medium heat evening cooking? Then you will need either aluminum or copper based cookware.
I've been very happy with my T-Fal Professional non-stick skillets. I had a Calphalon Unison non-stick that I received as a gift, and it lasted about 2 months before it showed signs of wear. I sent it back and got another one as a replacement, but in the meantime got one of the T-Fals as recommended by Cook's Illustrated. They are pretty inexpensive ($30 or so), and after 8 months of regular use show no signs of wear and are still very non-stick.
I think the whole game with non-stick pans is the quality of the coating. Don't get too worked up over how the pan looks/feels/how heavy it is/how expensive it is, etc. None of that really matters - it's all in the quality of the coating. The T-Fal seems to be best, even though the overall quality of a Calphalon at first glance appears to be much higher.
For me, I prefer non-stick, even though I have other choices at hand. You can always go with stainless so there's no finish to wear out, but I like being able to flip the pan to move the ingredients around, and that always works with the T-Fal.
The T-Fals are easiest to find at Amazon, though I have seen them at Bed Bath and Beyond. The 'Professional' line, by the way, has a perforated stainless disc imbedded in the bottom of the pan. I don't know if that really makes much of a practical difference, but it does look cool!
As indicated by will47, non-sticks don't last forever, so expect to replace them every few years.
Get life time cookware, so you don't have to be searching for new nonstick every few years. For veggies and meats you can easily make the move to stainless steel. SS is guaranteed to outlast all of your nonstick cookware. For skillets, it's best to stick with a quality fully clad piece. A 10" is not too big or too small. So you can learn and experiment without having to use a lot of food. I would go straight to All-clad. They are expensive but their interior SS lining is one of the best. Once you get the hang of SS it will work just like non stick.
I found an All-Clad SS small skillet (8", Metalcraft, 3 ply) at TJ Maxx yesterday for $30 so decided to get it to get used to cooking with non-nonstick (is that a word ? :)) They also had several Lodge brand cast iron skillets, which i had many moons ago in my youth and had pretty much no idea how to take care of at that time and donated to Good Will. I am following a couple of Falk pans on ebay and am amazed how high the bids are for used (those of you ever considering selling any of your pans, this is good news regarding your return on investment :))
I am so much enjoying hearing from all you good cooks out there!!! btw, my brother-in-law, who is an executive chef at a resort in Barbados weighs in with the copper pans and/or pans with copper in them but doubt he pays attention to the brand or has ever had to buy his own actual cookware.
Nice find, an AC 8" SS for $30 is a bargain. I have the same piece at home. Its small enough to experiment making one person meals. There are tons of Emeril and Wolfgang Puck videos on youtube that you can learn from.
Take good care of the interior and be gentle. Don't use anything other than a sponge. And get some Bar Keeper's Friend for tougher stains... always with the grain. But if you clean it right away most of the time all you need is water and sponge. Keeping the interior clean and smooth as glass, the SS will cook just like non stick.
Gotta love TJMaxx. They had Mauviel in SS and copper. But it was way too expensive and a bit over rated I think. AC was thicker and a better investment.
I have a couple of Vollrath that I bought about 5 years ago. They are heavy and not beautiful but they cook wonderfully and clean nicely. I do not put them in my dishwasher and I only use wooden and /or plastic implements in them for cooking. I would highly recommend them.
I realize you say "if money were no object" but I'll give the same opinion I recently gave on a similar thread.
I recommend a set of stainless steel Tramontina tri-ply such as the set sold by Walmart.
I would also buy a 12" nonstick skillet and a smaller nonstick skillet just for frying eggs.
An enameled cast iron Dutch oven and a cast iron skillet would also be useful.