Need your assistance choosing new pans!
I have been reading posts in this forum for a while, staying in the shadows. I think I am a bit lost choosing new pans for myself. I am an amateur cook and do work on getting better, cooking a variety of dishes in all kinds of styles, and so on.
At the moment I am in an urgent need for two kinds of pans: A steak frying pan and a large pan with tall edges that I can use to make sauces (mainly pasta sauces).
My problem is I live in Israel, so certain brands are not available there (the most important one being All Clad). Therefore, if possible, I would appreciate if you name several brands and order them from best to worst, in your opinion.
As for my needs and priorities regarding both pans:
1. Even heat distribution - if there is something I hate, is uneven heat distribution. It is unacceptable to me. Number one priority
2. Health issues - Needless to say, I don't want anything unhealthy coming off the pan and into my food. Sometimes I leave the pan to heat up on medium heat for 10 minutes and sometimes I like to put onions in oil in low heat for an hour or more before starting to cook. I want to be able to do anything I like with the pan, within reason (not going to put it in a microwave or cook with it on an open fire), without worrying about chemicals going out of the pan into my food.
3. Longlasting - I do not mind spending top $$ if it's a pan that will last me a good amount of years. I would like to stress that unlike some people, my interpretation is that a good pan should last at least 10 years, without the need to use the warranty. A pan that I have to replace every two years, even if its with warranty and doesn't cost me, is not a longlasting pan in my book.
4. Non stick & ease of cleaning - I don't care much about it, since in most of the things I do, I use a generous amount of oil. I cannot think of anything I ever cook without using oil at all. Of course, if a pan is so sticky that even with oil the food sticks, I don't want it. But I don't believe reasonable amounts of oil make you fat or are unhealthy (although that's a whole other discussion) and either way I don't care about it. I like oil and will use it.
5. Price - like said above, I'm willing to spend top $ for something that will last me a good while and even after 5 years will be just as good as it was the moment i bought it.
6. Dishwasher safe - don't care about it, I handwash all my pots and pans (and knives).
I would also like to stress that it is important to me the pans will be oven-safe as some of the things I do require moving things to the oven, and that I would prefer pans that will work on induction since I might move to that in the future.
After reading a lot, I have come to the conclusion that the popular opinion is that for steaks, the best is cast iron pan. i'd like to know if all of those pans are pretty much the same since all are made from Iron, or that there is a difference between brand and make. I've also come to the conclusion that the best pan for sauces (considering my priorities) is the tri-ply style (which to my understanding means three layers: stainless steel - aluminum - stainless steel). In that department I have checked out two companies in particular: Scanpan and Calphalon, both feel very comfortable to me, I like their weight, and they feel like something that will last a good amount of time. Sadly, in my country, there is no such thing as to return a used product, so I can't try them myself before buying or anything like that.
Again, since I always see people replying to these post with "All Clad." and nothing else, I will stress that this brand is not available here, at all.
I would appreciate any help and information you can spare!
<After reading a lot, I have come to the conclusion that the popular opinion is that for steaks>
I do love using a cast iron pan for steak because you can do a real good job of searing the steak. Bring the pan almost to the smoking temperature and just place the steak and have it sizzling. Cast iron (with proper seasoning) allows the steak to be nearly nonstick. In addition, these pans are fairly inexpensive. However, you did say you like to have absolute heat even distribution. While cast iron is a heat conductor, it is not as good as aluminum or copper. So you can better heat distribution with those two. That being said, I think most here will tell you that a cast iron skillet provides you enough heat distribution for a good steak.
<since all are made from Iron, or that there is a difference between brand and make>
I have a few Lodge cast iron cookware which are made in US, and a Calpahlon cast iron skillet which is probably made in China. In my experience, they have all been working very good. When it comes to cast iron brands, it isn't so much about performance. It is about structure integrity. A poorly made cast iron pan can crack.
<I've also come to the conclusion that the best pan for sauces (considering my priorities) is the tri-ply style (which to my understanding means three layers: stainless steel - aluminum - stainless steel). In that department I have checked out two companies in particular: Scanpan and Calphalon, both feel very comfortable to me>
Triply is a fine choice. I am aware of the nonstick Scanpan, but I don't know that much about the triply scanpan (heard of them, but I have no strong opinion). I have a Calphalon triply saucepan. It is solid. A lot of people here also love Demeyere stainless steel cookware. Demeyere combines their triply and disc bottom into a single set. Demeyere is more expensive than All Clad and its cookware are made to a very high standard
Not promoting Demeyere, but here is a short video of why they do what they do:
On the opposite, Tramontina triply cookware is also very highly regarded here, yet they are very inexpensive. You can get a whole set for a bit over US $100. They are heavily loved here on CHOWHOUND too. A whole set of Tramontina triply will cost you not more than an All Clad pan.
Finally, Cuisinart triply cookware is also easy to find as well. They are market at a slightly lower price point than Calphalon triply cookware.
Triply cookware design is really a good compromise for many things:
1) Physically durable -- thanks to the triply construction
2) Good thermal conduction - due to aluminum core
3) Non reactive - due to stainless steel surface
4) Can be used for induction cooking - with proper exterior stainless steel, it can be induced by magnetic field. This you have to do a better research. For example, the older version of Calphalon Triply cannot be used for induction cooking, but I believe the newer one can.
Now, one thing you need to be aware is that foods tend to stick to stainless steel more so than other cooking surfaces.
First of all, thanks a lot for the quick and thorough reply.
As for cast iron, it is a pan that I will use solely to sear steaks. All that's important to me in that regards is that steaks will come out perfect . So, if the best solution to that, pan-wise, is cast iron, the rest doesn't matter :)
As for the rest of my cookware, I'd like to hear your thoughts about Calphalon. Sadly, Demeyere isn't available in my country either. Tramonita isn't very widely available which makes me concerned about warranty and such. Other companies I have seen here, in no particular order: Henckels Zwilling, Lacor, Ibili and Arcosteel (chinese). We also have Woll but I haven't seen anything tri-ply-ish from them. Then so far, it still seems the best solution is Calphalon. I was also pretty sure Calphalon is what I want, until I saw Scanpan, and their products seemed solid too in the store, though that doesn't mean how they will be 10 years onward. So it's important to me to hear your opinions about Calphalon tri-ply pans, pros and cons etc, and whether or not you think performance gets worse as time goes by.
Also would like to hear your opinion about the differences between tri-ply and Infused Anodised - which would be better for all-around cooking and long-lasting pots and pans?
<As for cast iron, it is a pan that I will use solely to sear steaks.>
I like to share the pros and cons for different cookware and not to impose my own preference on you. Ultimately, I like to try to guide you toward what is best for you, not what is best for me, so you will hear me pointing out the cons of various cookware, but this does not mean I dislike the cookware.
Cast iron cookware will work very nicely for steak, but beware that you will need to "season" a cast iron before fully take advantage of it.
<So it's important to me to hear your opinions about Calphalon tri-ply pans, pros and cons etc>
First, there are two lines of triply designs from Calphalone: the Calphalon Triply and the Calphalon Contemporary Stainless. Contemporary Stainless is sold at a slightly higher price point. It is more stylish, but not necessary better.
I have only experienced with the Calphalon Triply. It is solid but not heavy. The lids from the older verison of Triply is difficult to clean, but I have seen the new version of lids have been improved. As you know, Calphalon has glass lide. Some people like it, while some prefer the full metal lid design. The handle of the Calphalon Triply is comfortable and is longer than its sister Contemporary. Most people would say that that Calphalon Triply is a very solid design triply cookware, but not as thick and heavy as All Clad. All Clad does have some really bad reputation in term of its handle. So All Clad is not without faults. Triply cookware design is a very robust design. I have not experienced any performance issue with the Calphalon Triply over time. You will see the cookware getting old, dull, scatched, but not in term of performance.
<Also would like to hear your opinion about the differences between tri-ply and Infused Anodised >
Triply (stainless-aluminum-stainless) is very different than Hard anodized aluminum cookware. However, it seems you are asking Infused Anodized and not regular hard anodized. Infused Anodized is a Calphalon line and is very specific to Calphalon. It is a bridge between regular nonstick Teflon coating cookware and bare hard anodized aluminum cookware. In the case for the Infused Anodized cookware, the nonstick material is paritlaly infused into the aluminum cookware. The nonstick coating is not inside the cookware and you won't able to scratch it like a regular nonstick cookware. On the other hand, it is not like a regular nonstick cookware. Foods do stick to these cookware. There are alot of complaints about foods sticking for this line of cookware if you read online. In reality, foods do stick, but not as bad as the complaints. People complain because they have the expectation of a regular Teflon. In truth, it is not any worse than a stainless steel cookware and probably more nonstick than stainless steel surface. Yes, I have bought and used a Infused Anodized cookware, so I have seen how it works.
I probably wrote too much. Hopefully, I have answered most of your questions. Let me know if I can add anything.
Thanks again. It is not too much, I read quickly and am very interested in getting the full picture before committing into a line of cookware.
Are there any cons to the infused anodized line compared to tri-ply? What about differences between tri-ply and contemporary lines, other than looks, handle and slightly the price? Should I expect any difference in performance?
Also, have you any experience with Zwilling tri-ply style pots and pans?
And as for your opinion, when you cook a steak, which pan do you use? You seem rather experienced, so your opinion does matter, although I appreciate managing to stay objective for me :)
<Are there any cons to the infused anodized line compared to tri-ply? >
Yes, some of the cons of infused anodized are:
Not dishwasher safe.
Claimed to able to handle metal utensils, but in my experience, metal utensils can dent and scratch the surface somewhat.
Easier to warp than a triply cookware (not that it happened to me)
While the surface is durable, it is not as durable as stainless steel
I do want to mention at least two pros
First, it is easier to clean the Infused Andoized especially when you clean it with hands.
Second, the heat confduction of the Infused Anodized is faster and should be more even than the Triply. It is made of a very thick piece of aluminum.
<What about differences between tri-ply and contemporary lines, other than looks, handle and slightly the price? Should I expect any difference in performance?>
The Calphalon Triply version is heavier than the Calphalon Contemporary. The names are a bit confusing since they are both triply design. The Calphalon Triply feels heavier way when I hold them, and looked slightly thicker. It also has a pour rim, so it is easier to pour.
I don't know about now, but the original Contemporary line does not have pour rim.
<have you any experience with Zwilling tri-ply style pots and pans?>
<when you cook a steak, which pan do you use?>
I like a cast iron skillet. It has good heat capacity and you can bring it up really hot without worrying any serious damage. As such, it can store up a lot of heat and the transfer all these thermal energy in a very shorrt time when you place a steak on it. This will give you a really sear and nice crust. In addition, a well seasoned cast iron cookware is fairly nonstick, so you won't run into situation where the meat just stick to the cookware.
While a good piece of cookware is very important, it is only one of the many factors. Your stove is very important too. Your ingredient, and of course, your personal skill. If you make a great steak on a cast iron skillet, then you can more or less do so with a stainless steel triply pan too. It may take a few times to get use to it, but we will eventually able to do it. Conversely, if you cannot make a good steak using a stainless steel triply pan, then a cast iron skillet is not going to suddenly transform you into a great cook.
<You seem rather experienced, so your opinion does matter,>
:) Thank you. Hopefully, a few others will join in and give you different prespective. Again, many people make great steak with a cast iron skillet, while others can do so with their triply frying pan. It is just as important to much the cookware to your own preference and own style.
Of course skill and ingredients matter just as much, if not more, than the tools used. I don't expect to learn how to cook online, I rather enjoy doing so in the real world and sometimes by trial and error :) But having the right tools for the job does make your life easier, and I started looking into cast iron after eating at several places where that is what they used, and notice steak comes out pretty consistently just as it should - nice sear outside, red and juicy in the middle :)
Okay, looks like I will get serious with Calphalon. I'll start with that tall-edges pan, and if it works out go on and buy more of their pans. They're really expensive here, so gotta do it step by step :( Judging by Calphalon's price here, it's probably good we don't have All Clad, they would probably cost around $300 at least per piece :(
<nice sear outside, red and juicy in the middle :)>
Yeah, a cast iron skillet is really good at doing that. Oh, of course, a cast iron skill can handle many more things than just steak. It is definitely not a single purpose cookware.
<looks like I will get serious with Calphalon>
By the way, I am not saying Calphalon is better than Scanpan. I just don't have experience with the latter and do not heard much about it.
<I'll start with that tall-edges pan>
That is a real good choice to start with one cookware at a time. Usually companies have "test me" pan for a reduced price point for people to get a feel. However, they are often some odd shape or odd size cookware.
An adjunct of the old saying "It's a poor workman who blames his tools" is that one doesn't not need expensive name brand cookware to be a good cook or to have ease in the kitchen for many years.
My chef's knife is unbranded, purchased in a block set of knives not quite 40 years ago. The rest of the set didn't wear out, I lost them. I am 57 years old and I am on my second set of pots and pans having been living and cooking on my own since my 20s.. The first set was the cheapest I could buy and lasted 20 years. I bumped "up" to Martha Stewart at around $35 (as I recollect, might have been twice that) the standard set around 10 years ago and see no end in sight for those utensils.
I do have cast iron pans as well. I mistreat the heck out of these and they work wonderfully.
So my experience has been that unknown brands of cookware will certainly last 10 years, often at a cost of only 10% of the price of premium cookware.
My advice is to figure out what you want to spend and then go find cookware that matches that figure.
Except for the issue of induction, tin lined heavy copper for all uses except super high heat. For that, heavy blue steel such as DeBuyer au carbone. Your children will enjoy them, as will your grandchildren. I do have an enameled cast iron Dutch oven, too. As I have previously posted the one Instance where I'd give a nod to SS lined copper over tin lined is the roasting pan, due chiefly for its ability to stand up to metal whisks when making pan gravy from fond and drippings. Pricing on SS lined copper is nuts, but there are still some affordable pieces of tin lined copper out there.
re: tim irvine
I live in Austin, Texas, USA, but the items I noted are all available via the Internet. For new items, if willing to pay retail, I'd try Dehillerin for maximum selection. Many other places like buycoppercookware.com and French Copper Studio have a wide range of copper pieces. Lots of places carry DeBuyer steel pieces and other brands and even other lines of steel offer IMHO similar performance.
re: Sid Post
Frank - rest assured I can cook properly even with a $10 aluminum pan. My grandfather had a drill-driver he bought in the 70s and tube amplifier he bought in the 50s, both still work well (the amp works better than most modern amps IMO). But these are different times, the quality from cheap things is mostly gone today, things made in the US or western Europe are usually significantly more expensive, and even then some of them aren't built to last (had a Woll pan that lost its nonstick properties after 2 years). I want something that is as time proof as possible, no coatings, and without the health hazards of aluminum.
Tim - ill try to see if those are available here, never seen them. All the stores here are filled with coated pans, even ss cookware is not so common. The word "tin" kinda makes me uncomfortable though as it usually is not sign of quality and long lasting :) Are calphalon tri ply copper as good?
Sid - i live in Israel, which means there's no ground shipping. Sadly shipment should be very expensive due to weight and size. Shipping a cast iron pan should at least double the costs :)
unless there is some website that ships internationally free or flat fees (like japanesechefsknife).
And just when I thought things were clearing up for me, I went ahead and stumbled upon a store that sells Debuyer blue steel pans. I am still inquiring to whether they also have the black steel versions.
How are those pans for frying a steak? And how are they for everything else? What are the down sides of blue steel or black steel carbon pans? Can I actually only have pans of this material for pretty much all common uses? (again please note I use a reasonable amount of oil no matter what I cook and that I don't care about dishwasher). Are they oven safe? Do they work with induction?
I have a debuyer blue steel pan. I can use it to cook steak, but I think for very thick juicy steak, I still prefer the thicker cast iron skillet.
Yes, most of debuyer carbon pans are oven safe and most work with induction. However, deBuyer does not actively recommend the blue steel pan to be used for induction stoves. Yet, owners often use them for induction anyway.
<Can I actually only have pans of this material for pretty much all common uses?>
Not so much about oil vs no oil. All carbon steel and cast iron cookware do not handle highly acidic solution well. As you know, you can build a layer of seasoning surface on these cookware making them nonstick. Acidic solution can dissolve this layer of seasoning over time. So technically speaking the pans themselves can handle acidic solutio, but from a performance angle, they cannot handle acidic solution well. Using it once awhile for acidic foods are perfectly fine, but not on a regular basis
Cast iron is great for steak and can give you more options, frying chicken, baking clafoutis, cornbread or even pizza or a pie. I don't have a lot of experience with DeBuyer, mostly eggs and pancakes, but cast iron frying pans are very multi-purpose, baking, roasting, etc., if you want to venture out of steaks.
As far as common uses, in my opinion, the steel or cast iron can lose their seasoning with acidic items, tomato or wine based cooking. For that, like you suggested, the stainless triply is a great option.
Cam14, they can lose their seasoning, but if you take care of them they won't. I've been cooking with the same cast iron pots and pans for 15 years now and I've used the same pots for all tomato based sauces and dishes (bolognese sauce, chili, etc.) and that pot is as good as ever.
So to add to the conversation/confusion for ngross my advice based on your needs and priorities would be cast iron all the way. Lodge sells their cast iron products either seasoned or unseasoned. Seasoned cast iron is basically non-stick and cleans easily. They are extremely durable, and you can leave them on the heat and heat them up as you've described in priority #2.
Sid - i live in Israel, which means there's no ground shipping
That's a tough part of the world to buy "foreign products" and ship them in. Your best bet may be to bring a pan or two back when you travel internationally or have friends or family that travel to see you pack one or two in their luggage. I have a friend at work that does that very thing - she moved from Iran and can't return home so, her parents and family meet her in Turkey and she always brings them all sorts of "Western" gadgets and they bring her Iranian made items she can't get in the West.
BeBuyer carbon steel pans are very good. The thicker heavier ones would serve you well for most cooking needs.
I would look locally for a stainless steel pot with a thick aluminum base for soups and sauces. A 5mm~7mm aluminum disc really distributes heat well when it extends to the edges of the pan.
The other option to consider, what do local restaurants use? Where do they buy their cookware? Will your stove/oven/cooktop provide similar heat levels? "Commercial kitchen" cookware usually doesn't look as nice as consumer cookware but, if it does not work well it will not sell and keep the company in business.
Also, if you have access to a high heat output burner, Chinese carbon steel Woks can be very versatile. With Chinese products penetrating almost all markets in the world, you should be able to find a good thin 12 to 14 inch steel Wok for a very good price.