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Head spinning about various cookware brands

Hi all!

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!

Tim

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  1. 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?

    3 Replies
    1. re: srsone

      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.

      1. re: AFMan916

        "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."

        me either...which is why i use my googlefu...
        reviews..CH...all kinds of info...before i buy anything nowadays...

        1. re: AFMan916

          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.

      2. Welcome, Tim!

        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.

        1. 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.

          1 Reply
          1. re: E_M

            "being trolling Marshalls and TJ Maxx. I found my $300 Mauviel copper saute pan there for $10."

            It's rare for me to hate a total stranger.

          2. 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.

            2 Replies
            1. re: 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.

              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?

              1. re: mikie

                ""not to get a better brush than you are painter" "

                Agree.

              2. Tim,

                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.

                4 Replies
                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                  Agreed 100%.

                  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.

                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                    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.

                    1. re: Ninevah

                      Agree, agree.

                      "Also, I find that I learn more the more different cookwear styles I try, as they lead me to cook differently"

                      I wholeheartedly agree.

                      1. re: Ninevah

                        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.