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Is there objective difference between copper core and aluminum core SS clad cookware?

I have decided on SS clad cookware, but the choice of conductive core is still up in the air. Is there a visible/measurable difference between copper core and aluminum core SS clad cookware? I am dying to know whether I should pay $1800 for All-Clad Copper Core or $239 for Tramontina's Tri-Ply aluminum core (or something like it: Cuisinart Pro-Clad, Kitchenaid, etc.).

I have scoured the web, and while everyone agrees that copper is a MUCH better conductor than aluminum, to date objective, scientific comparisons have escaped my net and Google. The closest I've come is on cookingforengineers.com, wherefrom I infer it's a practical wash due to copper's higher conductivity being hampered by its heat capacity: http://www.cookingforengineers.com/ar..., see section "Pulling it together: thermal diffusivity"). But sadly, no measurements are done as to evenness, speed of heating/cooling, etc.

Does anyone have any firsthand observations or, better yet, measured differences between aluminum core and copper core? 'Cause I'm willing to drop the coin, but only if it's noticeably better. Please, help me out, o sage chefs!

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  1. Very unlikely to have a heat response difference. Possibly a bit more even heating surface, but a minor difference.

    "wherefrom I infer it's a practical wash due to copper's higher conductivity being hampered by its heat capacity:"

    Agree, if we are talking about an empty pan.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

      Thanks. I was leaning toward the Tramontina (I love a great bang for my buck) until I saw the SeriousEats comparison (http://www.seriouseats.com/2010/08/eq...); the paper browning pattern doesn't look good for Tramontina (I wasn't impressed with either), though I'm not sure how evenly paper browns, though... I'd prefer to see thermal IR imaging.

      The truth is, the paper experiment really soured me to aluminum core. I'm now leaning heavily to copper core or even copper base (though I handled the Kirkland Signature and didn't like the bottom-heaviness).

      I love your succinctness, but can you please expand on your "empty pan" statement? As opposed to...? Thanks.

      1. re: davidahn

        I think Tramontina is a great deal for its price. I don't think people really think it is better than All Clad. Keep in mind, that most of the time, we move the foods around when we cook. The more the foods are randomized on the pan The less this difference makes.

        Your original post bought up a very good point that many do not understand or discuss. Copper has a noticeably higher thermal conductivity than aluminum, but copper also has a much higher heat capacity by volume.

        So let’s say we have a temperature differential gradient along a copper rod vs an aluminum rod. More thermal energy is transmitted through the copper wire due to its higher thermal conductivity, but this does not mean the copper temperature will change faster. Like you accurate described, the copper’s heat capacity by volume is higher, so it takes more heat to change the same degree of temperature. These two characteristics cancel each other out for the temperature change.

        In fact, here is a simpler example. Let’s say we have a copper rod of 5 cm2 cross section area and another of 10 cm2 area. The 10 cm2 will deliver twice as much heat due to its doubled cross section, but the temperature change is not doubled. Without heat lost to the surrounding, there is NO difference at all (let’s not discuss heat loss for now). There is another easier way to see this. The 10 cm2 rod has the same cross section as two independent 5 cm2 rods, right? Two independent 5 cm2 rods will deliver the twice the thermal energy as one 5 cm2 rod, correct? However, the two independent 5 cm2 rods will not double the temperature change rate. Why? Exactly what you wrote earlier. The total heat capacity has doubled, so they canceled out.

        What you wrote in your original article is very insightful and “to the point” – thermal conductivity alone can be misleading. The article you first cited used thermal diffusivity. It is a more useful term to predict the temperature evenness of a pan. How the temperature will response as oppose to how the heat will flow.

        This will be a bit different if we imagine another object coming into contact with the hot pan, let’s say a piece of meat. A piece of meat acts as a heat sink. Heat will flow from the hotter aluminum or copper pan to the colder meat. In this case, the copper’s thermal capacity (by volume) will come into play. In addition, the higher thermal conductivity will kick in a bit too. Without going too complicated, keep in mind that the meat absorbs the energy in the form of heat, not in temperature. Therefore, the copper’s greater ability to transmit heat (not temperature) matters. Nevertheless, thermal conductivity alone is insufficient to describe the picture.

        I am going to throw another curved ball though. For a cladded cookware, this difference really matters less.

        P.S.: I enjoyed your second linked article quiet a bit. Thanks.

        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

          Thanks. Maybe I'm over thinking this. I don't have much to lose by trying out the Tramontina (or the copper disk base cookware); I could always upgrade to Copper Core if I really find it doesn't meet my standards.

          The truth is that my wife does most of the cooking, but I do most of the research, haha. She's leery of switching from the convenience of nonstick to SS, but I do worry about the fumes. Why risk it if there are cleaner, proven safe alternatives?

    2. Hi, davidahn:

      Your question is a very good one (and important to the wallet), but there is so large a number of variables that a generalizable answer may be impossible without a very laborious A-B-C-D-E-F-G ad nauseum comparison and standardized test.

      However, I *will* give you my opinion that in clad design, the maker can scale their thicknesses of one conductive interior layer (e.g., aluminum) to approximate a given thickness of the other (e.g./, copper) so that a rough equivalence is obtained. This is definitely the case when it comes to evenness, although there may be other tradeoffs and parameters involved in heat capacity and responsiveness.

      If I were you, I'd seek out the opinions of dealers and buyers who have actual hands-on experience with both copper- and aluminum-cored clad lines from the *same* manufacturer, e.g., All-Clad or Demeyere. Even then you might find the comparison is "bananna vs plaintain", but it would be better than failing at getting meaningful answers from the whole fruitbasket.

      The only other generalization I'll make is that if the conductive layers are of substantial thickness, the aluminum-cored/scaled version is going to be lighter, yet a tad less responsive than its copper-cored cousin.

      I hope this helps.

      Aloha,

      Kaleo

      29 Replies
      1. re: kaleokahu

        Hey, Kaleo.

        Granted, a truly valid test would be impractical (thermal infrared images at 15, 30, 45, 60, 90, 120 seconds on a standardized burner at the same BTUs and measured thickness of each layer via cross-sectional cut). But wouldn't it be glorious? Haha, oh well.

        I was fully ready to go with an aluminum core fully clad set, but the paper browning test on SeriousEats made me seriously question that choice (All-Clad OR Tramontina). Then I read a well reasoned breakdown by Sam Kinsey (http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?/...), particularly the final paragraph, that opened me up to the possibility of a disk-bottom set like the Kirkland Signature. But I found out tonight at Costco that while the heat must be VERY even with all that copper, I really don't care for how the bottom-heavy disk-bottom pots and pans handle. My wife isn't keen on the idea of spending $1500-2000, but I'm thinking the All-Clad Copper Core is the best of both worlds (even heat, balanced weight). It certainly beats the Cutco waterless aluminum core set we almost bought at $3400!

        BTW, I've been enjoying your posts on multiple other threads... clear reasoning, flawless spelling and grammar... a rare pleasure.

        David

        1. re: davidahn

          Hi, davidahn:

          Just for sh!ts and giggles, have you considered reconsidering full clad? It sounds like cost isn't the deciding factor for you. If you are open, you might consider Falk, Mauviel or deBuyer Prima Matera. If not, perhaps Demeyere Atlantis or Apollo or Mauviel M'Cook?

          Aloha,
          Kaleo

          1. re: kaleokahu

            Cost is always a factor, but my budget is flexible if I see objective superiority. Fully clad copper is actually my top contender for now, then copper disk bottom, and fully clad aluminum core is at the bottom of my list (except for larger stock pots where even heat isn't as big an issue). Solid copper/lined copper is not in the running because we will have a 60" Capital Culinarian range top but also two 15" Thermador induction wok burners.

            Thanks for your suggestions. I had not seriously considered any of those brands. It appears Falk and deBuyer are out due to induction incompatibility (I only see SS-lined copper). Mauviel's M'cook line is beautiful but has aluminum rather than copper core. Demeyere makes a great case for different construction for different pieces (fully clad for heat up the sides for frying/sautéing, disk bottom for boiling/steaming to reduce heat loss through walls) but very few of their pieces use copper.

            So I'm now looking at All-Clad Copper Core for frying/sautéing applications and copper disc bottom for boiling/steaming applications, like the Anolon Nouvelle Copper. (BTW, as of today 1-10-12, Anolon.com is having a 25% off sale, code COPPER2.) Any thoughts?

            David

            1. re: davidahn

              Hi, David:

              I know nothing about the Analon, sorry.

              I think you may have glossed over the fact that deBuyer's Prima Matera line IS induction-compatible, and it has received a glowing review from a consigliere of the Pan Mafia here, tanukisoup. I included that line in my prior suggestion just in case you used induction, but as with all the un-fully-clad suggestions, I did not know if dishwasher-safe is a a must. PM is $$$ however, so I don't want to be responsible for you overspending.

              Best,
              Kaleo

              1. re: kaleokahu

                Hey, thanks for pointing out that Prima Matera is indeed induction compatible. You threw so much high quality cookware at me, I tried to skim through the salient points. I saw the copper color and ass-umed (ahem) it was not induction compatible. It looks BEAUTIFUL. I WANT it!!! Damn you, Kaleo, Damn you!

                I can virtually guarantee that my wife will NOT be OK with spending Prima Matera kind of money. She's already grating at AC Copper Core prices. Also, I just bought a 14" open stir-fry from AC Copper Core (at $249 w/ free shipping, too good to pass up). Am I "pot" committed? Probably not, but my wife is certain to veto the PM.

                David

                1. re: davidahn

                  Hi, David:

                  No problem. I was a little confused by your price talk, is all. I mean, if your DW was considering the $3400 waterless set, she can't be heard to complain about Prima Matera, can she?

                  Perhaps this is an opportune time to point out that you don't necessarily need a *set* of anything. Tanuki started out with just a skillet in PM, and I think he and many others are content to mix-and-match. If you can justify/sell one piece of PM, you can compare it with the A-C piece you just got. Maybe a skillet or saute, then you might know which you prefer and which might be the better value...

                  A last note: At that level of performance, you might not get hurt too badly to resell either the A-C or the PM in a lightly-used condition. Falk, for instance, can be had used, but it commands a nearly equal if not greater a price than new (Falk's US rep almost seems like he wants to make people work to find him).

                  I'm sure you'll love whatever you get.

                  Happy Cooking,

                  Aloha,

                  Kaleo

                  1. re: kaleokahu

                    Haha, nothing to be confused about. Tale as old as time, I wanna spend money, my wife doesnt. About the waterless cookware: I'm a sucker for great salespeople, my wife's a sucker for interest-free payment plans.

                    Still, I'm not the money is no object type. My mantra is 99% of the performance at 1/2 the price. In the case of the AC Copper Core, it's way BETTER than the waterless cookware at less than half the price.

                    I have to say I LOVE the look of the Prima Matera. Hand-made, French, SEXY. That Youtube video on the production was like cookware porn! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fn8KRz....

                    I have come here for the wisdom of those more experienced than I. Do you have firsthand experience with both? and if so, do YOU think the PM is significantly better performing than AC Copper Core? I worry about tarnishing issues. The video doesn't show any protective coating, and even if there were a clear coat I'd worry about nicking.

                    I did find a PM 9.4" fry pan for $229 on eBay (among various other pieces under $300), I don't know if it's genuine, or first quality? Seems too good to be true.

                    1. re: davidahn

                      Hi, David:

                      My experience with these is limited to handling them, reading up, and hearing others' reports. Based on that, yes, I think PM would perform substantially better than A-C, but implicit in your question was "substantially better *enough* to justify the higher price". I think you can see that I can't answer that question for you. I will say that if it were me, I would rather have 3 pans in PM than 5 in A-C.

                      Tarnish.... Well, I have a lot of copper on display in my kitchen, cook now with it in >90% of applications, and don't even notice the patina. I polish once or twice a year like for holidays or special occasions. I do not believe the PM is coated with anything, inside or out, so yes, it will develop natural patina. In the unlikely event it shipped with a protective coating (like Baumalu), you would want to remove it before use anyway.

                      A PM on eBay would be protected by the eBay Buyer's Protection Guarantee--you get the right to return it no matter what the seller says about not accepting returns. Unfair sometimes for the sellers, but all you'd be out would be return shipping.

                      The markups on all cookware of good quality are huge, so I wouldn't take it as a danger sign that the price is a lot lower than MSRP. Frankly, if a small scuff or ding gets you a $400 pan for $200, I'd be elated. You're cooking in these things, not worshipping them.

                      Have you read tanuki's review? Even so, ask him; he might have more to add now that he's had it awhile.

                      Aloha,
                      Kaleo

                      1. re: kaleokahu

                        Kaleo,

                        I couldn't find any review per se by Tanuki Soup, but I did find his conduction experiment thread. Fascinating, but alas, he did not test any fully clad aluminum core or copper core pans. The small difference between the PM and the induction-compatible aluminum pan tells me I'd get little benefit of copper core over aluminum core, but what I really want to know is how much performance would I LOSE by going copper core fully clad over a 90% copper pan. I've requested it now, but I doubt he would buy a pan simply out of scientific curiosity. Would you, Tanuki Soup?

                        In any case, I'm still leaning toward Copper Core because I'm not the neatest, most organized guy, nor is my wife the neatest gal. And yet in a cruel twist of fate, I'm wired to quite appreciate, almost need, shininess. Therefore performance would have to be pretty fantástico to get me to put up with tarnished cookware, or heaven forbid, polish my cookware on a regular basis. :)

                        David

                        1. re: davidahn

                          Hi, David:

                          You've asked me to quantify something that would take careful experimentation to do--with pans that I do not own.

                          I think as a general principle, if you're comparing A-C Copper core with the PM, you need to look at the fact that A-C puts .92mm of SS between your burner and your food, PM less (I know this is less of a factor when you're using your induction hobs). Then there's the thickness differential in the copper itself. Then there's the issue of the bonded steel disk on the bottom of the PM (which I view as more of an equalizer if you're comparing the two on gas).

                          It's OK to recognize your preferences for shininess and convenience. Lots of people are that way. I'm just one of the people who likes to remind the rest of you that these factors aren't really culinary, and the price to be paid for convenience is usually *some* reduction in performance. I see this tradeoff at work even with PM, since I view the bonded disk as a drag on performance on non-induction hobs.

                          Good Luck, it sounds like your mind is made up.

                          Aloha,
                          Kaleo

                          1. re: kaleokahu

                            Kaleo,

                            Sadly, convenience matters to me quite a bit, and esthetics matter a lot more than they should (I'm the artistic type). If I were a more fastidious person, I'd love to stock my kitchen with Prima Matera and polish it on a regular basis, but honestly, that's not who I am. There's no question these are not culinary factors; I'm just trying to get a sense for how much the tradeoffs will hurt the performance.

                            It sounds like your passion for cooking is such that you place practical or esthetic considerations farther down your priority list than do I. My wife and I take considerable pleasure in cooking, but when it's done 1-2 times a day, 50 times a month, 600 times a year, it often feels unpleasurable and even kind of like... work. That's why we need to choose cookware that requires little maintenance.

                            Sorry to disappoint. I'm just not that hard core, I guess. I truly appreciate all the great advice you've given, and I hope to keep learning. It was all very much helpful and carefully considered, if not all heeded. Who knows? Maybe I won't like the A-C Copper Core stir fry pan and be back here bugging you about Prima Matera. Maybe I'll get the PM and hire a maid just to polish it! LOL (Hmmm. Not a bad idea.)

                            David

                            1. re: davidahn

                              HI, again, David:

                              No problem, and no apology necessary. Convenience does matter, to differing degrees, to all of us. If the inconvenience of handwashing (or the imagined inconvenience of semi-annual polishing) destroys your enjoyment of cooking, that tells you everything you need to make your purchase.

                              The odds are good that you will enjoy your A-C copper core very much--it is good stuff, and I don't mean to deprecate it.

                              Enjoy,

                              Aloha,

                              Kaleo

                              1. re: kaleokahu

                                David:

                                I neglected to mention that there is a ton of A-C listed on eBay right now, most of it NIB.

                                Kaleo

                                1. re: kaleokahu

                                  It just felt like you really wanted me to get the Prima Matera. :)

                                  We'll be hand washing anyway because the A-C CC has that copper band that turns gray/black in the dishwasher. I also ordered the Anolon Nouvelle Copper Stainless set + 8 qt stockpot, which has the copper band in the base.

                                  I watched the PM world premiere video again, and the induction layer on the bottom is scraped off in the center for the laser engraving. As small as it is and as conductive as copper is, it will heat up just fine, but worth noting. Also, I note that PM does not have the flared pouring lip like the Copper Core, a minor usability issue.

                                  I have to say the PM is still tempting, especially those cheaper pieces on eBay. Do you think in addition to hand washing, semi-annual polishing is all it will take to keep it looking pristine and shiny? I also worry about the possibility of chips/dings in the softer copper as opposed to SS. Did I mention my wife likes to swing things about roughshod? She's a door slammer, NOT gentle with stuff. Something to keep in mind as far as material choices go.

                                  About eBay, thanks, I have seen a BUNCH of A-C Copper Core on eBay, and it's more expensive than on Amazon. Also noticed that a FEW P-M pieces are really cheap, everything else starts at $400 and goes up quickly.

                                  1. re: davidahn

                                    Hi, David;

                                    In truth, if you want the copper to look like the wares in Downton Abbey, you're going to be polishing more. As for the chips/dings go, either copper or SS is harder than your head, so let the wife swing away.

                                    Kaleo

                                    1. re: kaleokahu

                                      I'm in the process of softening my wife up on the cost (I think it's working), and negotiating on the price of some Prima Matera pieces.

                                      If we do buy some PM, yes, I would indeed like the copper to look shiny and new... all the time. So I hope it doesn't require too frequent or too involved polishing. Truth is, as not-too-neat neat freaks, we'll just do what we always do... polish when we have people over. Haha!

                                      eHow says (http://www.ehow.com/way_5317921_carin...) to only use wooden or plastic utensils regardless of lining. Do you think this is true of Prima Matera? I guess 0.2 mm of SS (10% of 2 mm) is pretty thin, but isn't SS nearly indestructible?

                                      They also state it will warp in cold water when hot. Yikes. My wife and I are both very absent-minded. I can SO see us doing that. If we get PM, I hope we learn quickly! I don't want to repeat myself, but... yikes. Shudders.

                                      eHow also says to polish every 2 months, more often in humid climates; I hope San Diego isn't considered one of those places! Either way, I guess every 2 months is not so bad to keep those bad boys gleaming.

                                      David

                                      1. re: davidahn

                                        Hi, David:

                                        No need to worry about metal utensils. If you, your kids and their kids scraped with metal at every use, yes you could theoretically wear through the pan. That would be the end of it (no retinning equivalent). But we're talking multiple lifetimes of normal home use. Frankly, I hate the feel of metal utensils against metal pots, so it was easy for me to throw out most of my metal. Then again, I cook mostly in tinned copper.

                                        I do not understand the eHow warning about warpage. Straight-gauge *aluminum* is notorious for warping on commercial hobs, but I have never heard of a warpage problem with copper bimetal at home. Sounds like you like the science and physics of cookware, so look up the coefficients of thermal expansion. If I recall correctly, copper and the SS alloys that are used are quite close, aluminum and SS not so much.

                                        Polishing... Let me save you some grief. Lots of things work, but many of them result in the patina returning quickly, especially in marine environments. For instance, the traditional flour+salt+vinegar paste is quite effective, but IME the shine doesn't last. Likewise 0000 steel and brass wool. The Mauviel polish is crazy expensive. The longest-lasting results I have gotten is with a product called Flitz (the polish of choice for vintage aluminum airplanes and Airstream trailers). Flitz seems to micro-polish copper so smooth that water beads up like on a windshield treated with sealant. A Flitz-polished pan can sit in my Seattle kitchen for months and still look mirror-like (it isn't, but unless you have a just-polished one sitting right next to it, you can't tell). BUT, I'll warn you in advance, if you use a copper pan every day AND you want it to ALWAYS look like the pans on Downton Abbey, you will be polishing more often. How often will depend on how anal-retentive you two are.

                                        Another key to a good polish is to polish a very small area at a time and not to rub the dirty polish into the metal (i.e., change microfiber or paper towels frequently, and buff well before moving on).

                                        Aloha,
                                        Kaleo

                                        1. re: kaleokahu

                                          Regarding metal utensils, that's a relief. We don't want to handle our cookware with kid gloves; they should be workhorses, not showpieces. Though I still want them to look like showpieces! As for warping, the one source I looked at showed identical thermal expansion for SS and copper, so I think warping is a minimal concern. But we'll still take care with them.

                                          I've been feeling guilty about wanting to buy the Prima Matera "for my wife," because it's really for ME. I think my wife will be much happier with the A-C Stainless Steel. (Even the Copper Core would be more for me than for her.) She can bang them around without worry, toss them in the dishwashers when she's feeling tired. I know she'll get used to the copper cookware, but I don't want to once again force my decisions on her!

                                          I'm torn, but it's really for her. If we do end up getting the Prima Matera, I will print out your polishing instructions and post them in the kitchen!

                                          1. re: davidahn

                                            Hi, David:

                                            Based on your descriptions, I have conjured a picture of your DW as an Olympic hammerthrow medalist! If your decision isn't glass or crockery, pretty much everything would hold up well to minor banging and tossing. Time to get in the game and try something. You can (and probably will) always change it up.

                                            Have Fun.

                                            Aloha,
                                            Kaleo

                                            1. re: kaleokahu

                                              Haha, you would think she's this 6 foot, steroid-injecting mountain of a woman, but in fact she's this beautiful petite, sweet looking woman... who slams doors, drawers, utensils, cookware, and pretty much everything else. But she produces the most delicious food! She's an amazing cook who deserves the best quality cookware. The best, armor plated cookware. :)

                                              I'll let you know how it goes. Looks like my first Copper Core piece is already a casualty before it even arrives. Everyone's poo-pooed the notion of a SS clad wok. So I'll probably either sell it or use it as a wok-shaped sauté pan, which is how we use our nonstick aluminum woks anyway. So next up: 8" copper core fry pan. We'll see if it's usable for eggs or whether like so many others we'll leave the eggs to the nonstick pans.

                                              I'll also post reports of how the Nouvelle Copper Stainless Steel set is working out. It's arrived at my office but we're out of town until Wednesday.

                                          2. re: kaleokahu

                                            Kaleo,

                                            After all my waffling, I decided that if my wife doesn't like the Prima Matera pieces due to maintenance issues, she can use the Nouvelle Copper pieces. I'll use the PM! Anyway, just thought you'd like to know that I bought 4 PM pieces to start (9.4 and 11" frypans, 1.9 and 3.5 qt saucepans), and I'm researching what pieces to buy next.

                                            Thanks to all who contributed their wisdom!

                                            David

                                            1. re: davidahn

                                              You da' man. I think you will be very happy and, if not, I know a copper pan rescue that will take them.. ;)

                                              A few suggestions;I apologize if they were already covered in this thread. No metal utensils; aside from the cosmetic problems, scratches lead to sticking. Nothing more abrasive than blue scotchbrite, no green or copper or brass pads. Barkeepers Friend is mildly abrasive and enough so to dull any polished metal; the softer the metal, i.e. copper, the more so. I use it sparingly and avoid making a paste with it on my SS interiors; I avoid it entirely with tin and copper. All other powder cleaners, e.g. Ajax, are out.

                                              If you are thoughful about your temperatures, you will not have any problems with cleaning. I wash my SS and copper then dry them immediately to avoid excessive spotting. Every so often, I get out the metal polish and tidy them up. There are lots of polishes available, don't get conned into the fancy french stuff (read $$$); they're all pretty much the same. Just be sure they say they are for copper. Salt and lemon juice is the traditional way, but salt is also abrasive and will dull a nicely polished surface.

                                              So, actually, the incremental maintenance effort with copper compared to polished SS is pretty marginal.

                                              As far as other pans, I find my 4 and 6qt saute (straight sided) very useful. If you don't have any french ovens, a 5.5qt and the next size up are handy.

                                              The nouvelle copper line probably has enough copper in it to justify marketing it as containing copper, but at its selling price, not enough to physically make a difference. Since most of us aren't doing direct comparisons with our cookware, they get away with it. Not to say that it is not perfectly functional cookware, just that it (and many or most of the other cu-ss laminates) is not in the same league as 2mm copper and the like.

                                              1. re: plainv70

                                                Thanks for the tips, plainv! Re: towel drying, I'll definitely do that. I'm a little anal retentive. I did get a water softener which I have to have installed this week or next (San Diego has some pretty hard water), which I hope will help reduce the spotting. I got a couple of different pointers on the copper polish, so I'll try one out and see.

                                                We have a 3.5 qt Le Creuset French oven, but I'll definitely look into a 6 qt size.

                                                Actually, there's another thread where we discuss the Nouvelle Copper, Meyer's customer support says 4 mm of copper capped with aluminum and stainless steel; I'm expecting great, even heat in applications where I only need the bottom of the pot hot!

                                        2. re: kaleokahu

                                          Idiotic question from someone not too interested in copper fry pans (yet):
                                          When you sauté, you sauté--bring the pan in the air and do the arm pull.

                                          With copper, does it screw up the pan simply to run the base back and forth over the hob?

                                          Second question: if professional restaurants usually use thick aluminum, how do they deal with the hotspots created by the inevitable dents?

                                          Rob

                                          1. re: rbraham

                                            Hi, Rob:

                                            Not idiotic at all... Sure, scraping and banging the bottom of a copper pan on a gas hob's spider or a calrod coil scars up the bottom some. But ideally, you're not Jiffypopping or hammering--you take most of the weight with your arm when you jump it, and don't slam it back down.

                                            I'm less clear about your second question. A dent or bend in an aluminum pan isn't going to hot spot on a gas hob, and it takes a *lot* of abuse to make much of a dent anyway. Of more concern is warpage, which can ruin the pan, especially for use on a placque or coil.

                                            Aloha,
                                            Kaleo

                2. re: davidahn

                  But hasn't Kaleo, here or in another thread, said, basically, the copper in that line of All-Clad does basically diddly?

                  I know I've been in a copper-porn mode recently, but am now considering heavy-gauge aluminum for replacement pans.

                  Chefs use them in almost all cases; they're in a business. My favorite, most common sense chef, Steve Burton at stellaculinary.com, said somewhere in a video (hence unsearchable) that he uses Calphalon. I didn't even know they made non non-stick pans.

                  I cook at home, and never will my pans get use like these guys.

                  So, what's the heaviest gauge aluminum pan out there that still, at least, has all those good thermal properties closer to copper than SS?

                  1. re: rbraham

                    At Broadway Panhandler they sell (as do probably every restaurant supply store) Atlas pans as the normal high-end kitchen pan.

                    Here are the specs from Atlas's site:

                    . NSF listed. Extra-heavy 3/16"(.157") thick aluminum. Thicker than standard 8 gauge (.125") pots. Reinforced top rim provides extra rigidity and strength; keeps top round so cover always fits properly.125") pots. Reinforced top rim provides extra rigidity and strength; keeps top round so cover always fits properly.

                    Comments? Is this a contender; ie are the specs as good as they get?

                    Sorry I don't have the prices (my iPad is complaining because I have too many windows open). But they're really low.

                    Rob

                    1. re: rbraham

                      Hi, Rob:

                      I think what I said (and stick by) is that the cladsters (the good ones anyway) scale their aluminum layers to approximate a decent thickness of copper. I think this is fair dinkum, as far as clad goes, so I'm not of the belief, e.g., that Demeyer Atlantis is clearly better than Apollo. At least the better makers are trying to do the right thing.

                      FWIW, to approximate 3mm of copper, I think you're talking about 5-6mm of aluminium. Probably more if you want the same heat retention.

                      Aloha,
                      Kaleo

                      1. re: rbraham

                        <So, what's the heaviest gauge aluminum pan out there that still, at least, has all those good thermal properties closer to copper than SS?>

                        You should read the original post on

                        http://www.cookingforengineers.com/ar...

                        It depends what you are seeking for. While copper has a higher thermal conductivity, aluminum requires less thermal energy to change its temperature. This evens out the difference. Think of it this way. Yes, a mustang GT may have a much greater horsepower (8 cylinders), but a Honda S2000 (4 cylinders) requires less force/power to accelerate. A similar situation here. You have to know what you are looking for and what you are holding down as your restrictions.

                        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_E0ob9...

                        Aluminum is also very light in comparison. For the same mass, aluminum has a greater specific heat capacity (0.9 J/g K) than copper (0.386 J/g K) -- more than twice.

                        http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/...

                        For the same volume, aluminum has 2/3rd the heat capacity as copper since aluminum is lighter. So when you ask these parameters, it is important to know what you are comparing. Pound for pound, aluminum has more than twice the heat capacity and therefore a great heat retention. Volume by volume, aluminum is 2/3rd of copper in term of heat capacity, and therefore has a lower retention.

                        <So, what's the heaviest gauge aluminum pan out there that still, at least, has all those good thermal properties closer to copper than SS?>

                        It is also important to know that once you have cladded the aluminum or copper inside 2 layers of stainless steel. Some of the thermal properties are heavily changed.

                  2. If I were you, I'd seek out the opinions of Hounds who have and use both. Like me. And I can't tell the difference when actually cooking, so my advice would be not to lose too much sleep over the choice.

                    If you can source this range in the US then you will get both! Looks great too (£63 for this pot is about $100, and I'm pretty sure they would ship):

                    http://www.johnlewis.com/230624755/Pr...

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: Robin Joy

                      Robin, I actually WAS trying to enlist the Hounds' expertise. The wording in my original post sounds like I'm only soliciting objective evidence, but I am definitely open to the voice of experience!

                      Thanks for offering your wisdom. Do you mean there's no appreciable difference between ANY materials, or between aluminum and copper core fully clad, or between fully clad and disk bottom? At this point, ALL of these are still on the table, along with a price differential of $1500 (between AC Copper Core and Tramontina).

                      That's a beautiful set you linked to. It does not look like it's available in the US, but I'll check. It looks similar but better than the previous version of Kirkland's Signature (16-pc) SS 5-layer disk bottom set, which is discontinued. Anolon does have a new set that looks just like the Kirkland set (no reviews yet) http://www.amazon.com/Anolon-Nouvelle....

                      Thanks again!

                      David

                      1. re: davidahn

                        Well, my 2 copper core s/s pans are fully clad (so I'm told, I haven't drilled them to prove this!), and my aluminium ones have 6mm thick disks which are the full size of the base but exposed at the edge between the s/s pan and a thin s/s bottom layer, to not technically "fully clad", I guess. These disk edges were an exact match for the s/s mirror finish when in the shop, but just a little use turned them aluminium matt grey, so maybe a small con there?.

                        1. re: davidahn

                          I have and/or have had tin lined copper pots, stainless steel lined copper pots, clad copper ply pots, clad aluminum ply pots, copper disk bottom pots, aluminum disk bottom pots, "hard" anodized aluminum pots, enameled cast iron, "blue steel" pots. I do the vast majority of my current day to day cooking using five pots which are fully clad 7 ply aluminum pots.

                          For most cooking, matching the features of the pot to the dish being cooked, features such as pot type/shape/size, handle shape/helper handles, pouring lip, ability to sear/de-glaze/use metal cooking implements, over/broiler compatibility, etc. impact the cooking results more than if it is copper ply or aluminum ply, disk bottom vs fully clad, assuming that either are of reasonable quality. My cooking incompetence has a much, much larger effect on the end results. I have used otherwise identical pots side by side, one with copper and another with aluminum core. YMMV.

                          1. re: khuzdul

                            Couldn't have said it better myself. I have been using AC since it was first introduced in the mid 70s. Lived close to the factory. Designed for commercial use only. First saw it retail in New Orleans in 1982.

                            I have cookware from all over Europe and Japan. Each has attributes peculiar for my intended use. If I were starting out today, I cannot see spending such a vast amount on AC unless my kitchen skills were comparable. And by that time, you have already accumulated your cookware.

                            My daughter already knows that barring a few items, the vast majority of her cookware will be Tramontina, rather than All-Clad. She will have to pry my dead fingers from my 18 inch fry pan and 40 QT stock pot and the rest of the 3 rivet commercial ware that is designed for flat tops and large gas burners.

                            1. re: khuzdul

                              Thanks, khuzdul. Good to know it's hard to go wrong as far as the technology/equipment is concerned! I'll just have to keep honing my craft. If only I could prep faster, I would cook so much more! :)

                        2. I'm in a similar boat, I"m the main researcher and not the main cook, although I do spend my fair share of time in the kitchen and tend to prepare a more challenging dish. I'm also looking for new cookware.

                          My best guess is that objective differences will be impossible to find as you will never be able to find two pieces made esactly alike but of different materials. I think both Kaleo and Chem both eluded to this situation. I'll also agree with khuzdul that if the pieces are quality made, you will likely not be able to tell the difference in a blind test.

                          1. The All-Clad Copper-Core will have more heat capacity than any of the other cookware lines you mentioned. This important when searing where you don't want the cookware to cool down easily. AC has a slight advantage here.

                            But I think where you really see AC shine is the SS interior lining. With AC, you are guaranteed that they will use the best materials. From my experience, their SS lining won't pit with proper use, harder to scratch, and will remain smooth as glass again with proper care. A smooth surface really helps when cooking delicate foods like eggs.

                            I like to experiment and try different types of cookware. So I stay away from sets.

                            18 Replies
                            1. re: unprofessional_chef

                              Thanks for the tips!

                              It has begun... I just picked up my first piece of AC Copper Core, the 14" Open Stir Fry on clearance from Cutlery and More. This will be our highest quality cookware ever, the first attempt at quality cookware since a Calphalon anodized aluminum set which we hated and returned (we probably didn't use it right, but it stuck like stink). It's been $10-15 Wal-mart non-stick ever since!

                              1. re: davidahn

                                "Calphalon anodized aluminum set which we hated and returned"

                                Have you used a stainless steel surface cookware before?

                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                  No, and my wife isn't excited at the prospect. But I hope it's as easy as other posters say... preheat, oil, lower heat, add ingredients, use low to medium heat? Maybe we should try this out before committing to more SS cookware.

                                  1. re: davidahn

                                    I am concerned based on your poor experience with the anodized aluminum cookware.

                                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                      Thanks for your concern. I do worry that the transition will be less than trivial. My wife is somewhat resistant to change in general, and has already stated her distaste for the possibility of switching to SS. But I have hope that SS is significantly less sticky when used properly than anodized aluminum, and that we are more motivated to use SS than we were to use the anodized aluminum in the past given the link in peer-reviewed medical journals between non-stick chemicals (PFOA/PFAA/PFOS) and thyroid & renal disease, infertility, lung development in fetuses, immunotoxicity, tumors in rats (liver, testis and pancreas), etc. (Search PFOA at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed, one of the de facto search engines for medical journals).

                                      I JUST bought non-stick griddle and grill pans which I will have to return. What a pain.

                                      David

                                      1. re: davidahn

                                        Cast iron can replace both of those easily!

                                        1. re: davidahn

                                          "the first attempt at quality cookware since a Calphalon anodized aluminum set which we hated and returned (we probably didn't use it right, but it stuck like stink)"

                                          "But I have hope that SS is significantly less sticky when used properly than anodized aluminum"

                                          This is the part I am not sure, and why I asked if you had used stainless steel surface cookware. I have both stainless steel and anodized aluminum cookware, and I really cannot claim stainless steel is less sticky than anodized aluminum. Most people also find anodized aluminum cookware less sticky or about the same as stainless steel surface cookware.

                                          So if you couldn't tolerate anodized aluminum due to its "sticky" problem, then it is something to be concerned. You can read ferallike experience from below:

                                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/694371

                                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                            Thanks for the link. I posted on that thread regarding my specific needs, specifically tofu, veggies, and vege-meats.

                                            Believe me, I have fear and trepidation, as my wife in warms to things rather slowly, though reliably. So I'm trying to break her down slowly about the dangers of non-stick chemicals. I also bought one piece of A-C Copper Core, and hope to practice the SS techniques with her and get used to it. I also ordered a set of Anolon Nouvelle Copper Stainless Steel (disk bottom) at a 25% discount as an affordable starter set. I'll let you know how it goes.

                                            1. re: davidahn

                                              "I also bought one piece of A-C Copper Core, and hope to practice the SS techniques with her and get used to it." I think that is a good and realistic approach. If the only problem you had with the anodized aluminum is that food sticks to it, then you would likely see the same challenge for stainless steel surface cookware, possibly worse to be honest. If we are talking about pure heat response, your old anodized aluminum cookware would have been faster (better) than the All Clad copper core cookware.

                                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                Yes, had we stuck it out, anodized aluminum would have been a fine cooking material. Unfortunately, we did not. :) I still feel SS clad is better for us simply because my wife isn't delicate with our cookware, and our anodized aluminum would have been nicked to heck by now. I think SS clad will stand up to abuse a heck of a lot better, and I hope we have a little more motivation to make the leap than we did 10 years ago. (I still have to convince the wife.)

                                                1. re: davidahn

                                                  "I think SS clad will stand up to abuse a heck of a lot better"

                                                  I agree. At least chemical abuse.

                                                  "I hope we have a little more motivation to make the leap"

                                                  This is important. I wasn't discouraging you from getting stainless steel surface cookware. I just want you to be aware of its characteristics. I got concerned because you wrote that you returned the anodized aluminum cookware due to its sticking problem. I was like; "Wow... wait a minute there." :)

                                                  "I still have to convince the wife"

                                                  Yes, this is probably where you need to put most of your energy into. She is the cook, so the only things matter is what she is willing to use.

                                              2. re: davidahn

                                                You're off to a good start. I have an Anolon Chef Clad skillet and good amount of AC cookware. Both of their SS interior lining is top notch. SS will last a lifetime so it will easily pay for itself. You have all the right tools.

                                                You should also familiarize yourself with techniques for cleaning. When water alone fails, vinegar or BKF will bring it back to like new condition. To keep the interior pristine never use anything other than a sponge.

                                            2. re: davidahn

                                              You don't "have to return" them. I have read some of these reports and have not found anything which suggests that I should stop using my nonstick pans. What they report is that PFOA and other such chemicals are found in many products, including clothing, and in the environment, including drinking water, which is probably the main concern for most individuals.

                                              This is something that needs to be studied and it is being studied. Pollution of the environment by industrial chemicals is a serious problem, and I believe it is being treated seriously today. There is no need to panic about our cookware, in my opinion.

                                              I'm not in favor of using only one type of cookware, anyway. I use two small T-fal pans for eggs and nothing else, and use them at very low heat. I cook bacon in cast iron at higher heat. I have SS-lined pans, SS-only pans, an aluminum-only pan, and steel pans. Even a tin-lined copper pan. When it comes to cookware, I am ecumenical.

                                              1. re: GH1618

                                                Yes, but do you have ceramic pans? :P

                                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                  One Corning casserole and some glass.

                                                2. re: GH1618

                                                  All our nonstick is cheap Wal-mart crap anyway, so it's OUT.

                                                  This is completely off topic, but as for the safety of nonstick, you're right, there's no need to panic. Unless PFAAs have already given you thyroid disease, liver or pancreatic cancer, etc., then you can panic.

                                                  I'm not suggesting that anyone panic, I'm simply not personally going to wait for solid evidence implicating cookware in PFAA exposure to quit using it, while it continues to build up in my body (it is persistent and not easily metabolized). PFOA/PFOS/PFAAs are in nonstick cookware, they're found in people's bloodstreams. Your food gets VERY intimate with your cookware. Do you need a map to show you where at least one source of PFAAs is?

                                                  As for PFAAs and water, I have used reverse osmosis drinking water for years, and will now use reverse osmosis water for cooking as well.

                                                3. re: davidahn

                                                  Yes pubmed has lots of entries for PFOA, but do any of them look at cookware as a source? Aren't they all concerned about it being the environment, as pollution from various industrial processes. What do you find on pubmed when you look up PTFE? Are they about the dangers of this material, or about its usefulness in various medical applications (stints, meshes that are implanted)?

                                                  http://www.epa.gov/oppt/pfoa/pubs/faq... EPA statement on PFOA - they are concerned but "At present, there are no steps that EPA recommends that consumers take to reduce exposures to PFOA."

                                                  On the subject of anodizing. I have several pans with anodized exterior, and nonstick interior. I also have one with hard anodized interior. I would rate its 'stickiness' to be on the par with enameled surface.

                                                  I have a whole range of pan materials and surfaces. I have no problems with using nonstick materials, but knowing that they wear with use, I try to limit that use to cases where it is really needed - such as scrambled eggs and sauteeing starches. The pans that heat most evenly are induction compatible cast aluminum (with nonstick), which I've bought at TJMaxx for $20 or less. But where sticking isn't an issue, stainless steel, enameled steel or carbon steel are just dandy.

                                                  1. re: paulj

                                                    I did NOT want this thread to go off on a PFOA tangent. I was mentioning MY rationale for switching to SS, not trying to proselytize. :) I hope this doesn't go much farther from here.

                                                    The medical literature doesn't discuss cookware safety because epidemiology is a whole other discipline. I don't believe cookware is a major source of PFAAs, but lack of evidence of danger is not the same as proof of safety. I just want to eat yummy food, not the cookware.

                                                    David