Head spinning about various cookware brands
Name's Tim, newb to the board, amateur cooking fanatic in the making. Just a quick background to help answer my question...
Got the cooking gene from my mom, who is a fantastic cook. Started dabbling in it through helping her at the age of 8 or 10. Cooked a few things here and there in my teenage years, but had more important things on my mind at that time haha. Started seriously cooking about 6 years ago (currently 26y.o.). Got a set of Cuisinart Multiclad three years ago for Christmas. LOVE my 10" skillet, it's my go to pan for everyday use. Use the 1.5 and 3 qt saucepans a lot for various sauces, reheating leftovers, etc...
Starting to get to a point in my life where I'm realizing what hobbies I TRULY enjoy, and being the "planner" that I am I'm constructing a "Kitchen Wish List" of things I want to start acquiring over the years. My line of thinking is, even if I have to save up just to buy one pan, if that pan outlasts me, well then it's money well-spent. I've got a good understanding of what I like to cook, and what kind of pans I will need. Dutch oven, cast iron, etc are all things I'm planning on but this post is purely for SS clad/disc bottom pans.
So I'm looking at slowly adding pans to my cupboards. At this point, I've done a tone of research and know that there are a LOT of good pans out there (Demeyere, AllClad, Calphalon/Cuisinart, Bourgeat, Sitram, Paderno, Mauviel, Falk, etc...). I know I'm looking for disc bottom for things like a saute pan, fully clad/copper for sauciers, fully clad/copper for fry pans, etc.
My eternal question however is this:
What are the real-world benefits I'll see by cooking with a $300 pan versus a $100 pan? My style of cooking is generally just good, old-fashioned cooking like Mom used to make. I'm no gourmet, nor do I aspire to be. I simply want to be a "good cook". I want to have friends over for dinner, and not wow them with a 7-course classically inspired French meal. I want to grill some ribs, or make a great seared steak with a pan sauce, or whip up a nice chicken alfredo. Or whip up a mole and braise some chicken in it for a Mexican feast. Things like that. Last night I browned some beef in my Multiclad skillet, whipped up a quick gravy, threw together some mashed potatoes, reheated some frozen corn from the farmer's market, and made some weird version of shepherd's pie that was pretty darn tasty. Obviously my skills will increase as I go along, but like I said, my goal is to just be a really good, homestyle cook.
I guess I just can't wrap my head around how much better the food will taste cooked in a Demeyere Atlantis pan vs a Sitram or Paderno pan. Or even a Calphalon or Cuisinart. I fully understand how cladding and disc bottom works, and how some have greater thicknesses with the core and whatnot.
I just don't understand where the real-world benefits come into play. Aside from copper's great heat conduction which makes it great for sauciers and the like (I definitely plan on a copper saucier, probably SS lined). So I'm good to go on that.
But for my saute pans, skillets, etc will I be just as well served with a $80 pan than I will with a $300 pan? Aesthetics and handles aside, I can cross that bridge after I get this other stuff figured out haha.
Long winded I know, but for those of you who made it through, thank you and I look forward to your help!
hi and welcome....
as far as brands and materials and things like that...
my personal set is calphalon..
and some lodge cast iron..and so far at least one le crueset...
my way of thinking is also buy at least the best quality you can afford..and decent enough quality that paying 300$ for a set that will last a long time rather than a cheap brand thats not going to last and paying 100$ every couple of years...
and u can try searching CH (using google-CH search sucks) site for brands as there have been endless discussions on the subject.....
i also have used Alton Brown's book "Gear for My Kitchen" as a guide for what to buy as well..
TL;DR what should i buy?
Yeah, I've done a ton of searching, which has only confused me more haha.
I just can't quite figure out what sort of benefit I'll see daily by purchasing a $300 saute pan vs a $100 saute pan, if construction is similar and aesthetics and so on are not the most important value.
Will a properly cooked chop taste the same, all variables accounted for, out of a Demeyere Atlantis vs my Cuisinart Multiclad? I think the answer is Yes, which is why I'm having a hard time. I've got no issue splurging for pans if its worth it, especially to have them for 50 years or so, but I don't want to foolishly spend money either if I can get the same performance and durability from something costing 1/3 as much.
I think there are a few things that many (not all) people look at when buying pans.
Construction of the pan, materials used, thickness of the various materials, country of origin, performance, longevity of the company, warranty, and appearance.
Then you have where the pan is going to be used, gas, electric, glass/ceramic electric, induction and what are the possibilities that this may change over the lifetime of the pan. A switch to induction means the pan has to be usable with induction. A switch to glass/ceramic requires a pretty flat bottom surface.
Appearance for some is what grabs their eye and results in a sale but I never heard of food being concerned with how pretty the outside of a pan was. If the outer appearance of the pan is important, will it remain in that state 10 years from now?
I'm more concerned about construction, even heating, a decent response to changes in temperature if needed (I don't expect cast iron to respond quickly) and country of origin.
For many years a cast-iron skillet was my only skillet. Then a year or so ago I started using a tri-ply clad stainless skillet [a huge step up in ease of manipulation, responsiveness, and ease of cleaning]. In recent months I've acquired a stainless-lined 2mm copper one (which weighs just about as much as the similarly sized cast iron Old Faithful, but is many times more comfortable to use, even-heating, and responsive). I was reflecting the other day on what difference it might have made to learn to cook on the copper skillet, or even on the tri-ply, rather than the cast iron.
The great responsiveness of copper comes into play with skillets as well as sauciers, especially when you turn the heat down (or move the pan off the burner); that's the most noticeable difference in performance between the tri-ply and the copper. It's genuinely difficult to burn anything on the copper if you're paying attention at all.
In my cooking, the skillet's the most-used piece of equipment, so I love having something this excellent -- but I'd have more reservations if I'd paid full retail [this was an ebay score]. The handle is also a delight to use -- long, cast stainless that's curved and angled just right, and stays cool even during long frying sessions. Handles on some pans are purely an esthetic question; handles on skillets matter because of how much you manipulate the pan during use. The handle on my tri-ply skillet (Regal's American Kitchen, formerly Marcusware) is also long and comfortable and well-angled; I'd much rather use it, a $40 pan, than a better pan with a shorter or hotter or less comfortable handle.
IMO, the difference isn't in the quality of the food produced -- it's in the pleasure of the cooking process itself. Though it's also possible for increased confidence to result in more adventurous cooking, as well. Only you can know whether a given amount of money is providing adequate "return on investment". For me, two categories of pans that can be acquired for much less than typical retail cookware prices while giving better performance than most are used original Master Chef (All-Clad's stainless-lined aluminum line, produced from early 1970s until 2000) and copper of 2mm or better (preferably lined with stainless, but tin-lined are often steals). But only if they're comfortable and a pleasure to use, for _you_.
Hope that's helpful; I look forward to other hounds' thoughts.
It's not that food will taste better, it's that at some point, the characteristics of the pot/pan will begin to differ. A 12" Demeyere pan (with its copper interior) will allow even temperature across the entire surface of a 10" heat source, probably never warp, and last 50 years. The same pot in a lesser price point will probably have scorching on the outer ring and could eventually warp. Does this matter? Well, if you don't have a large or even cooking source, you might.
My advice to you is to make a wish list of the most outrageously-priced things you can think of, and being trolling Marshalls and TJ Maxx. I found my $300 Mauviel copper saute pan there for $10.
With the excess money I would take a cooking class. Technique, a warming drawer, oven thermometer, and clean-up crew will make 7 course meals much easier, far more than expensive cookware.
I'm going to give this my best shot, it's just something to think about and opinions may and likely will vary.
Cheap pan vs. expensive pan: You can cook in either one, and likely be successfull with either one, at least as far as the taste of the food is concerned. My mother was a great cook and did it all in old Revere pots and pans. Where I think you find the difference is in the ease of being successfull. You mentioned other hobbies, so let me use a hobby example, can you hit a golf ball with a $10 club, sure, if you could find one, can you hit it 125 yards with that club, maybe with some practice, can you get it on the green of a par 3 with that club, with even more practice you can. Now switch to a $450 Callaway Big Bertha driver, can you hit a ball 125 yards with that, sure, just about anyone can, can you get it on the green of a par 3, with a little practice you can. Someone with enough skill can use either club to get the ball on the green, it's just easier and more fun with the better club, and they can do it more consistantly with the better club. A cook with enough skill and attention to what's going on can cook a great meal with just about any pot or pan, but given the choice, they find it easier to prepare that great meal with a great pot or pan and do it with greater fun and consistancy.
My grandfather used to advise, "not to get a better brush than you are painter" and this applies to most any purchase decision you have to make. How good of a brush do you need to whitewash a fence compared to painting a piece of furnature, for example. There's no need for a $300 pan if all you're doing is heating up a can of soup. On the other hand, if you're making a delicate sauce, the thermal response of copper may be well worth the expense.
The other consideration is as you mentioned, longevity. Good equipment will be constructed better and of better materials and will in turn last longer. You have obviously done the research, now you have to make the tough decisions. Keep in mind, your cooking preferences may change over time, and that "classically insppired French meal" may someday be on your list. You may want to wait for that to happen, before you shell out $300 for a pan.
Good luck with your decision.
Thanks for all the great replies guys, it's really helping me to turn this over in my mind.
So let me pose this question as a hopefully easy way to make some sense out of all of this.
In the grand scheme of pots and pans (durability, longevity, appearance, craftsmanship, etc) where would you rate something like my Cuisinart Multiclad set? Is something alone those lines close to the cut-off point for the "law of diminishing returns" as it would apply to cookware?
This is my opinion. Cooking is pretty much 95% skill and 5% cookware. This is not to say cookware are not important. They are, but most people are not limited by cookware quality. Just like most people are not limited by tennis racket quality in a game. If you loss a tennis match to your friend, you most likely lost because of your performance, not because of a poor racket. Conversely, buying a more expensive racket than his, is not going to make you win the next game.
Really, an expensive pan help, but it only help so much. Also there is a diminishing return as well. Let's take knives for example. You get a bigger jump of performance from a $8 Chef's knife to a $80 Chef's knife, than a $80 to a $800. ( a bit of a generalization).
Copper is great for thermal conductivity, but aluminum is not bad and is much cheaper. The thermal conductivity does two things to your cookware. It makes your cookware respond to heat faster. It creates a more evenly heated cooking surface. Nevertheless, these properties may not be very important for many styles of cooking and of cookware, as you have suggested.
Cuisinart Multiclad is a good line of cookware. You probably won't get any cooking benefits by upgrading to All-Clad stainless steel line.
I think cameras are a perfect analogy. If you understand composition and how to manipulate exposure, aperture, and shutter speed, you'll be able to take great pictures with just about any camera. If you don't understand these things, then a $20k Leica will not help you.
I waffle on this. A good cook will not be a better cook because of expensive cookware, but a middling to bad cook may NOT get better because of cookware limitations. The original poster has multiclad cuisinart, which is a lot better than most. . . but someone starting out isn't going to learn much of anything cooking on Teflon T-Fal.
Also, I find that I learn more the more different cookwear styles I try, as they lead me to cook differently.
Put down T-Fal if you like, but I never had better eggs (fried or scrambled) until I started cooking them according to Julia Child's method using my small T-Fal Encore 2 frying pan, which I had not used for many years (thus preserving its surface). My improved results owe more, certainly, to Julia Child than to T-Fal, nevertheless my T-Fal pan is perfect for carrying out her method.
*Sorry for the double post but I wanted to make this reply to the whole thread, not just a sub-reply to Mikie*
Thanks for all the great replies guys, it's really helping me to turn this over in my mind.
So let me pose this question as a hopefully easy way to make some sense out of all of this.
The law of diminishing return is real, but there is no real cut-off point since that is based on personal expectation and personal preference. So your cut-off point will be different than his. Think about cars.
I say your Cuisinart Multiclad set is very good for a cladded aluminum based cookware go. Most people on CHOWHOUND agree that "Calphalon triply, Cuisinart Multiclad and Tramontina triply" are high quality cladded cookware. Now, if you don't want cladded aluminum based cookware, then that is another story.
Let's face it. A stainless steel-aluminum cladded cookware will last a long time except for accidents, like turning on the stove and went to bathroom and forgot about it, but that is unlikely and really a more expensive cookware isn't necessary going to protect you from that kind of mistake.
Most cookware will last a long time.
Sounds great. And I understand the analogy about diminishing return and cars, thanks for that as it puts it in perspective a little more.
So for my cooking level and what I am doing (sauteing some vegetables, pan frying, etc) I would probably be just as well served with Calphalon Tri Ply over the more expensive Demeyeres and what not?
"I would probably be just as well served with Calphalon Tri Ply over the more expensive Demeyeres and what not?"
I thought you have Cuisinart Multiclad :)
Either way, it depends what you do. If you want to pan fry a piece of fish and you want minimal flipping and stirring, then the thicker Demeyeres may provide you a more even heating surface than the thinner Calphalon triply, and therefore a better cooked fish. However, if you are sauting vegetables and pan frying chicken... you are going to move the foods around anyway, so you don't need extremely even heating surface. You just need "good enough" which I think the Calphalon triply will provide you more than enough.
Another argument too. If you are going to upgrade from say Calphalon to Demeyers to get more even heating surface, then maybe it is more efficient and smarter to actually upgrade the stoves to get a burner which provide better heating source.
Airbags are important, but the same (probably more) amount of focus should also be placed for the tires and brake disc.... :)
Tossing in thousands of dollar to get "better" cookware on bad stoves is not very efficient. Just like upgrading airbags without changing your worn tires. :P
The only place I think you see the biggest benefit from spending a little extra on cookware is where the handle attaches to the pan. I've owned a lot of cheap, non-professional cookware, and that seems to be the weak spot. Plastic handles that are screwed to a simple mount will eventually loosen, and their ability to go in the oven safely, or under a broiler, is questionable.
That said, you can go to a restaurant supply shop, and find plenty of cheap aluminum pans with metal handles securely riveted to the pan.
The only All-Clad pans I own are ones I bought at steep markdown (like, more than $100 off the normal price), and one of those was only because I wanted a high-quality nonstick skillet for some special uses.
My workhorse pans are two basic cast-iron skillets I've used for the past 25 years. I use those more than anything else. The heat conduction is awesome.
I have not used Cuisinart Multiclad, but let me offer a couple of observations that may help you form your own answer.
First, clad in general is a compromise--performance usually drops, but with gains in convenience by virtue of the stainless inner and outer layers. The inner layers--if they amount to much/anything--are there because SS is good for nothing *but* convenience; the "good stuff" inside is merely an effort to reduce the performance drop (and to give the maker the opportunity to brag/exaggerate how special/unique/patented/multilayer their pans are.
Second, the "good stuff" inside, being hidden, is generally an irresistable invitation for the makers and jobbers to scrimp and make stuff up. It's a big *trust me* they typically ask from consumers. Now, circa 2011, those makers have a very good bet that virtually all of their target market already cooks on clad--and mostly clad--and so may not know what questions to ask and probably don't have high expectations. Not that many of the manufacturers will *answer* the questions, even if you ask--they typically conceal this basic information even from their retailers! But if Joe Public, who has cooked on exceptionally light and crappy clad all his life, gets a shiny new set of Brand X that is a little less crappy, he'll attribute it to the unknown "good stuff" inside, and likely be happy that he bought so wisely. Even Demeyer succumbs to this to some degree--the "silver" layers in Atlantis are invisibly thin. Helpful little hint in deducing what's inside: the even-numbered layers are almost always insignificant for anything except bonding the odd-numbered layers.
Third, the profit margins are so huge in clad that most everyone who has (or used to have) a credible name in cookware wants in the game, wants their share. Without commenting on their quality, Cuisinart is one example--I don't believe they even *make* cookware. Before the curtain drops, I expect we will see Harley Davidson clad pans. My point here is that Paula Deen may know less than you or I about cookware construction, but that's not going to stop her from jobbing out her pans to Asia and slapping her name on them.
Fourth, I'm not sure anyone can intelligently judge the cutoff point/law of diminishing returns without actually trying a bunch of different pans. You need a basis for comparison, grounded in *usage*. I suggest to you that the trend over ambitious cooks' evolving culinary lives is that the cutoff point is a lot closer to the $300 pan than the $80 pan (at least across the entire range of vessels/uses--there are obviously some exceptions, liked the cheap cast iron skillet for searing and high-oven roasting). Unfortunately, unless cookware itself becomes a hobby, all those "trust me's" and lowered expectations conspire to make people feel like they've bought a great clad product, when perhaps it's not so terrific. But in their defense, it's hard not to be played for a fool with clad. Still, there are reputable makers, real makers, like Demeyer who have integrity, who supply cutaways because they're not afraid to show you the "good stuff" inside.
I am somewhat notorious here for touting copper; I now have many fine pieces. But, I have only ONE I ever paid full retail for (a travel memento), and I've NEVER paid $300. I doubt I ever will, because I don't need to.
Anyway, your original question was a good one: Does expensive cookware make your food taste any better? With very limited exceptions, my answer is "no" if the food is cooked perfectly in each. Jamie Oliver routinely turns out astounding dishes cooking in the worst pans imaginable; my best dish on my best day in the greatest pan in the world will probably never compare. But is it worth it to *me* to take limited advantage of the things better cookware offers? Yes, absolutely.
Hope This Helps,
What don't you like about the pans that you currently use? What is your heat source (gas, electric coil, flattop, induction)? Are you bothered by uneven heat, hot spots, or slow response?
Most of the more expensive pans claim to offer faster response and/or more even heat. But the response issue won't matter much if the stove does not respond quickly. And even heat might not matter much if you mostly use an 8" diameter pan that roughly matches the burner size. And it is hard to evenly heat a 12" pan with an 8" diameter electric burner.
"But the response issue won't matter much if the stove does not respond quickly. And even heat might not matter much if you mostly use an 8" diameter pan that roughly matches the burner size. And it is hard to evenly heat a 12" pan with an 8" diameter electric burner."
More accurately put than I did. Thanks.
Great responses guys!
CK the reason I mentioned Calphalon is because I'd like to have a mix of different brands. I do indeed have the Multiclad right now, but I want to move away from that solely to try out other brands.
In terms of burners, right now I am limited by renting. So for the foreseeable future, I'm probably going to be dealing with crappy electric burners. As soon as we can buy a house and I can have the kitchen I want, it's probably going to be induction. So I'm definitely trying to make sure whatever I get will be induction-capable for when I finally have my own home/kitchen.
I've just started to dabble with cast iron, and I must say I really enjoy it. So for things that need real even and consistent heating (and where cast iron is a practical choice), I'll probably be pulling my Lodge skillet out.
My suggestions of copper or aluminum lined with stainless won't work for you if/when induction is your only stovetop technology. However, until then, they'll make the most of crappy electric burners (or crappy gas burners, as in my kitchen). If pots you'd use a lot are available at relatively low prices in those materials, they'd be something to consider. Maybe by the time you get your own kitchen, you'll want one flame burner to go along with induction.
My limited and recent experience with induction, getting a portable unit this past summer, is making me a big fan. It's far better at maintaining a low simmer than any of the flaky burners here, and it's great to be able to provide a precise amount of heat to maintain pressure in the pressure cooker. But for searing, browning, sautes, stir-frying, making gravy and sauces... well, I've always cooked on gas. [even during a couple of decades of frequent moves and nonstop renting.]
Cast iron only heats evenly when fully loaded with heat; it's great in the oven, or for holding temperature in deep frying, or putting a sear on meat. For sautes, pan sauces, eggs, and anything where you need dynamic response to temperature changes, your Multiclad Pro skillet has it beat.
For most things, your Cuisinart Multiclad should actually be more even heating than your cast iron.
Anyway, I agree with SanityRemoved. If you want to try different cookware material and play with them, then I do recommend playing with carbon steel cookware. Carbon steel does not have the best thermal conductivity. It is similar to cast iron. However, it can be made thinner and less brittle, so it is lighter and it is easier to handle. For example, you can toss food with a carbon steel skillet. its seasoned surface also provides the almost nonstick property like cast iron cookware.
Cookware, for me, is not a brand thing. Cookware, really good cookware, is all about even heat distribution.
Cast iron skillets, the thick, heavy ones, are really good and, over time, become non-stick.
Dutch ovens (iron again) are key to good braising. I go with the enameled French guy but brand is not important. Build quality is important, a tight lid with decent handle is equally important.
I'm a fan of pots and pans that employ several metals in their makeup. Even heat distribution is the key, not the brand.
Aluminum can be a real friend. I have a monster pot plus lid (20+ quarts) that fits in the sink and and is happy on the stove (lobsters). It's a professional kitchen guy you can easily pick up used.
...just my $0.02.
I've had 'em all, Tim. Here are the highlights:
Todd English green pans lose their non stick and then they also get gouged and flake. Never count on a green pan fry pan. The saucepans hold up much better, and are foodsafe.
The Swiss Diamond brand seems to be deceptive, claiming no teflon (although they do NOT claim to be PTFE free). They say that it does not contain 'Teflon', i.e., by saying "'Teflon' is a brand name of Dupont"; however their surfaces DO contain the exact chemical equivalent of teflon, so it is just a shell game... or more to the point, a FRAUD.
Many of the cookware mfg go out of their way to deceive regarding the PTFE/PFOA issues.
At this point, I am very enamored of Manpans, an almost unknown brand.
You will be interested to know that Manpan brags that food DOES taste better cooked in their cookware!
Made in the USA.
PTFE and PFOA free.
Tolerates metal cooking tools.
Temperatures to 700 degrees. This high heat pretty much validates the absence of nasty chemicals in the manufacture. Teflon and PFTE cannot take high heat
A pretty much indestructible surface, but, HEY! if it has a problem, they will resurface it
for a mere $12.50. I really like Manpan, especially for fry pans.
I also have some very old cast iron fry pans, large and small, (not the pebbly surfaced Logic).
Even heating and very good heat retention, but you cannot use them for tomato sauce or any real acid ingredients. Plus the maintenance to forestall rust and the possibility of metalic tasting food is high.
The other brand I like is Cuisinart Green Gourmet. It is much more delicate that the Manpan,
and cannot go in the dishwasher, but the surface has an uncanny ability to brown well.
It does a great job on cheese toasties and hash browns, so I like their crepe pan for those browning tasks. Their fry pan would do the same, but I personally need a more rugged fry pan.
Hope this helps! I've been researching this for 4 years now!
Check out the Mark Bittman article below. Buy from restaurant supply
outlets (there are many listed on the internet) and
save big bucks.
A couple of notes:
-- Getting expensive non-stick cookware is ridiculous. since the
surface will not last long.--
If you are worried about aluminum in saucepans, get anodized
aluminum. I've my Calphalon for 30 years, and it's still
in fine shape.