Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Cookware >
May 13, 2012 10:13 PM

Another thread on aluminum pans: thickness, how prone to dents, bang-for-buck ability; name names

Header kind of says it. Aluminum cookware threads are not yet as overlapping and indidually full of content due to thread drift as the copper threads, but it could happen.

I'd like to restock my SS pans with Al ones. I'm broke from the copper cost, and for saving up; it also took me weeks--largely with help of chowhounds--to figure out copper and make choices, because, as just mentioned, I'm broke, plus I must be a victim of OCD.

Questions on Al pans could involve: Copper bases (some of which are thick, some practically spray painted), area of copper coverage, SS bases, which cuts heat transfer (but not specific heat per volume) in half [pretty impressive, right? If true, of course], abuse tolerance vs. better heat properties (hot spots, etc.)--every ding on a thin (cheaper) pan could cause a hot spot, number of plys (?), etc. etc. etc.

Please name names of pan companies.

I must say that, after having seen the prices out there in restaurant supply stores for aluminum and copper,, I can safely say that the price of any aluminum fry or sauté pan is, to quote Ralph Kramden, a mere bag of shells.


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. For a starter get an Update (or similar brand) aluminum sauce pan, and matching lid, from a restaurant supply store, or the restaurant aisle of Sams or Costco. They are slightly flared for ease of manufacture and stacking.

    Another approach to aluminum pans is to look for induction compatible skillets from a European brand like Berndes. These are cast aluminum (so quite thick) with a steel insert in the base for induction purposes. A pro-or-con is that most have some sort of nonstick coating (or the new fangled ceramic nonstick).

    1. Volrath Arcadia line, ie 3000 grade, which I just heard about?

      1. Hi, Rob:

        Well, if you must spend and save simultaneously, I'd recommend turning your curiosity and OCD to learning about vintage aluminum cookware. Many of the same principles of copper scrounging apply (much of the older is better, cheaper, waiting to be recovered from the scared, the unfamiliar, the unappreciative, etc.), and as you know, the aluminum pieces can go for almost nothing. For example, a large, beautiful and very useful Magna-Lite roaster (not the high, lidded one that looks like a miniature Airstream trailer) went on eBay over the weekend for $13.

        In addition to Magna-Lite, you might consider the older Calphalon, Guardian, Sitram and Mauviel. Our fellow CH and my dear friend alarash recently sold some mondo-thick (like 6mm walls) Mauviel aluminum saucepans on eBay, and I was surprised at how low they sold. Quality unheard-of brands exist in great numbers, too: Who remembers Burnett Casting Co.'s "Pan-American" line? As with copper, it is the features that matter most, not the brand. But *unlike* copper, you can often find good to excellent quality aluminum in yard, estate and tag sales, junkier antique shops, thrift stores, etc. For some reason, lots of folks these days dismiss these grand old pans as being worthless and/or unhealthy, the Clad Zombies being only a subset.

        But buy thick. Take a pocket rule and a straightedge with you and learn to calculate the floor thickness (overall height minus floor-to-rim equals bottom thickness for most pans). My general rule of thumb is that the aluminum should be almost twice the thickness of the equivalent pan in copper. In fact, I've yet to see or cook in an aluminum pan I thought was too thick. Thin aluminum is a cruel joke for anything but boiling water. Thicker gauge translates into more durability and better heat holding as well.

        Knock yourself out. Or, consider *only* saving until a really cool copper pan reveals itself to you
        as a steal.



          I have the 68301 and 68302. In the picture the handle types from left to right are: plated, silicone, Cool Handle. Vollrath bought Lincoln Smallwares in 2009 so there may be some confusion if you see Wear-Ever and Vollrath for the same model number pan. They are the same, the only difference may be that either Vollrath or Wear-Ever may be stamped on the bottom.

          I've never had problems with hot spots but I can identify hot spots on my burner outer ring by dragging these pans over it. I don't bang them around because I have a glass top stove but they are pretty solid. You would have to intentionally dent them, I can't see it happening under normal use. I don't have any copper to compare to but I saw a big improvement with sauces heating in these vs SS.

          1. <SS bases, which cuts heat transfer (but not specific heat per volume) in half >

            Where did you get the "half" from? The answer really depends on the thickness of each of the metal layers, but in general, it is affected quiet significantly.

            <abuse tolerance vs. better heat properties (hot spots, etc.)--every ding on a thin (cheaper) pan could cause a hot spot, number of plys (?), etc. etc. etc.>

            Not quiet sure about that "every ding on a pan cause a hot spot. Why is that?

            I think it is absolutely importantly to know some of these knowledge, but keep the priority inline. You don't want to be arguing the minor differences between two slightly different tennis rackets. You really don't want the details to overshadow the big picture. This is the reason why many people will tell you that buying a cookware set is not a great idea because a cookware set (almost always) has the same manufacturing design for the entire set, whereas different cookware materials and designs are suitable for different occasions.

            As for hot spot or not, the criteria depends on the cooking styles and the cooking targets. A hot spot is not a problem for making chicken stock vs pan frying ca hicken breast. A hot spot is less of a problem for sauting green beans vs a fish filet.

            You have to look at the end goal, and then establish your needs and priorities. The priorities and demands are different for different things. Many people will tell you that a Teflon nonstick pan is the best for frying eggs.