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Jul 15, 2012 02:29 AM

Heavy Bottomed pan options

Hello all,

Im making buttercrunch toffee and the recipe calls for a heavy bottomed pan. Im not a major cook so i have no such thing in my little collection of cookware (extremely limited)). Im a little tight on the budget, cant afford to spend a fortune on a pot, as much as im dying to. But i also need to make that toffee today. So, what are my options? I plan on runnng to bed bath and beyond to grab the pot. Will The Simply Calphalon Non-Stick 7-Quart Dutch Oven do? Its price at $50, will be $40 after my coupon.

All i really need is a 2.5 liter pot for the toffee, but im thinking this caphalon pot will also come in handy for my mom. So what do u guys think? Any suggestions for anything cheaper that will get the job of making a buttercrunch toffee done?


ETA: since a heavy bottomed pan is supposed to be made of cast-iron (right?) will Emerilware™ 6-Quart Cast Iron Covered Dutch Oven do? I noticed the calphalon isnt cast-iron but hard anodized Aluminum exterior.


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  1. Assuming you live in the USA, go to Wal-Mart and buy a Lodge Dutch Oven. I bought a 2 quart model for $20, and a 4quart model typically runs ~$35. Don't waste your money on a pan you really don't need.

    Regarding the "heavy bottom" pan, what do you already have access to? Most people have a pot or pan that will make toffee already so I don't understand the need to spend ~$40-50 this Sunday morning.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Sid Post

      No walmart in nyc :(

      I have two small saucepans and I have 3 nonstick calphalon fry pans. Theyre 13 in, i think. Maybe i could make it in that? I have a brand new one. I think theyre hard anodized aluminum. I also ave a non-stick wok. I dont think thatll do.

      1. re: Noork85

        Hard anodized aluminum will be a little hard to use with the heat control.

        A heavy aluminum disc saute pan might prove versatile for more then just the toffee.

    2. I think you want a saucepan that conducts the heat well. A thick aluminum pan might work best here. I would not use cast iron as it will be hard to control your heat. It is a poor conductor tending to make hot spots, and will hold the heat when you turn the heat down.

      31 Replies
      1. re: wekick

        Can i use my wok? Its pretty heavy.

        1. re: Noork85

          A heavy WOK will work however, your toffee slices will have an irregular shape.

          Do you have any rectangular baking pans? That might be an option for you. Cakes, corn bread, and regular bread can all be made in cast iron or good baking pans.

          1. re: Sid Post

            What do u mean by irregular toffee slices? This is what im making. I just lay the toffee on top of the almonds and then just wait for it to cool before breaking them into peices.

            If i use the wok, do i have to worry about uneven cooking or stirring? Because the instructions say to avoid stirring.

            This is the wok i have

            1. re: Noork85

              The toffee I have had was cut into slices like a brownie and weren't irregular shapes like shown in your link. That toffee reminds me of peanut brittle.

              Okay, I read through that post and it looks like that toffee is made just like peanut brittle. What I would do is cook the candy syrup in a saucepan and I would turn it out over the toasted almonds on a baking sheet. Let it cool a little then you can add the chocolate with a spatula to spread it out and add the remaining almonds.

              You will want a saucepan with a pouring lip (not a spout or pinch, a full lip around the edge). Bed Bath and Beyond used to carry Calphalon Tri-Ply stainless which cooks very nice for the price. The small sauce pan was a Try-Me piece I think I paid $20 for. It is probably a little too small.

              You want a heavy bottom "disc" sauce pan around 3 quarts for versatility though for what you want today, 2 quarts will probably work. Try-Ply from Cusinart or Calphalon would be good choices.

              Bed Bath and Beyond doesn't have any sales today so, even with the coupon things are a tad expensive. On a tight budget, I would try ebay or the local flea markets and good will stores. What you are looking for is a very common pan that shouldn't cost very much money where I live.

              1. re: Sid Post

                The sugar wont scorch ir anything in the saucepan?

                Also, i dont have a big enough saucepan. My largest is 2 quarts

                And this is also what i have.

                1. re: Noork85

                  "The sugar wont scorch ir anything in the saucepan?

                  Also, i dont have a big enough saucepan. My largest is 2 quarts

                  And this is also what i have."

                  The thin anodized aluminum can be used but, the sugar will scorch very easily. At a minimum you will need a flame tamer or something similar.

                2. re: Sid Post

                  Thanks. Ill look into this. Was hoping to make the toffee today, but i dont want a fisaster on my hand so ill wait until i have the proper pan since this is my first time.

                    1. re: Noork85

                      "Found this thats within my budget but with no lp


                      Hows that?"

                      Those are pretty good pans. I have used the skillet from the same line a lot and I'm real happy with it. Use moderate heat and you should be fine. The Calphalon Tri-Ply don't have hot spots based on my use so, they should work fine for candy.

                      Turning candy out shouldn't be an issue but, liquids won't pour as nice something with a lip.

                      1. re: Sid Post

                        Ok great, thanks. Im gonna get the calphalon tri-ply and its exactly within my budget.

                        Also, im going to be renovating my whole kitchen which means im looking to purchase new cookware. Do u suggest i buy a whole set from some good reputable brand or buy single peices? My mom cooks ALOT. So i do need smething sturdy...

                        Thanks again.

                        1. re: Noork85

                          I think that pan looks pretty good but the only way to know would be to try it-- or ask your Mom what she likes. How even it cooks will depend on how thick the stainless and aluminum are. I think I only have one pan out of umpteen million that has a pour spout. I would collect cookware as you go buying each piece as being the best at what it is used for. There are quite a few of us on here that collect vintage cookware. I prefer cookware not made in China. You can often find great kitchenware at thrift stores, antique malls, yard sales, auctions, restaurant supply stores and TJ Maxx/Marshal's. If you read these forums, you can get an idea of the types of cookware available and how they are most useful. There are some threads that are about buying cookware for the person starting out. Your recipe looks good!

                          1. re: wekick

                            My mom just likes non-stick. Now that im into buying cookware, i just realized i threw her large iron cast pot lol. She was pretty passive about it. She just picks one pot and shell use it to cook everything in it. She uses the calphalon 12in fry pan to make rice and curry, which is why i have like 3 of them. Shehas a few other Pots for boiling and so on, but i just realized she uses very few pots. But she does cook alot in those few pots.

                            Ahh well...thank u so much for ur help. Ill look into it. And ill def post a review of the pot after i try it out for making the buttercrunch toffee.

                          2. re: Noork85

                            Most people don't use all the pans in a set so, buying individual pieces is best for many. Myself, sets are cheaper overall and I can always ebay the new pans I know I won't use.

                            You sound like your kitchen is very small so, I would invest in a few very high quality pots and pans instead of a bunch of lesser brands.

                            Save up and buy one pan at a time. Myself, this is the one I have my eye on:

                            Demeyere Atlantis 3 quart saucepan for .... $200. Yes, it's terribly expensive but, if you use it everyday you will definitely get your money's worth out of it. Making your toffee candy would be super easy in a saucepan like this one with it's 7-layer silver bottom.

              2. re: wekick

                "It is a poor conductor tending to make hot spots, and will hold the heat when you turn the heat down."

                Hot spots??? The reason I use heavy cast iron is to get rid of the hot spots and have heat retention on under performing rental stoves. You are right that carry over heat can be a problem if you don't take that into account.

                1. re: Sid Post

                  This is a pretty good article about cast iron. I don't like the test pictures because they seem to use almost like a bunsen burner to dramatize their point.
                  I love cast iron and some of mine heats a little more evenly than others. IMHO with sugar it would be better to use something easier to control and that would heat more evenly since you are not stirring, like aluminum or copper($$$)


                  Here is a chart illustrating the thermal conductivity of various metals

                  There are quite a few discussions about this on the cookware forum.

                  1. re: Sid Post

                    Hi, Sid: "Hot spots???"

                    There are many threads and many more posts here establishing that CI is particularly bad for hot-spotting. See, e.g., two of the better ones here: and here:

                    People persist, despite the facts, in maintaining that cast iron provides "even" heat. It's a myth that is seemingly immortal, helped along by direct and indirect misinformation from companies like Lodge and Le Creuset. CI pans tend to *store* heat well, but not especially because they're made of CI--it's chiefly because they tend to be thicker (by virtue of the practicalities of casting) and denser than most of the competition.


                    1. re: kaleokahu

                      kaleokahu, whether thremal mass or something else, I had a horrible time cooking with Revereware stainless steel in my first rental apartment with an electric coil stove. I thought I was clueless and just didn't know how to cook. I'm sure my technique back then could have used some improvement but, when I switched to LODGE cast iron from Wal-Mart my cooking improved dramatically. Today, with much better stoves I still find LODGE cast iron to be even heating. Sure, I can put a 12 inch skillet on a 6 inch burner but, that's not the pans fault.

                      Today, if I had a small burner and a cast iron or stainless steel (cheap stuff) I would still take LODGE cast iron. If you want to add a thick aluminum base to spread the heat out, then the stainless is probably best.

                      The key is context. Whether thermal mass or something else, the fact remains I can heat a cast iron skillet on a small burner for a long time and sear a large piece of meat. I can not do that with most stainless steel cookware at a similar price point..

                      1. re: Sid Post

                        There is a huge difference in Revere-ware. The old stuff has a lot more copper on it. I would love to know how much. I use a sauce pan that is shallow and about 7 inches wide to make caramel all the time. It cooks very evenly. I also have some other sauce pans and pots with bail handles. I'm not a big fan of the skillets. They started cutting the copper back in the 60s.

                        1. re: Sid Post

                          Hi, Sid:

                          If the comparison/context is thin, crappy clad vs. Lodge on a small, cheap hob, then it's a toss-up--both will tend to hotspot. Perhaps the CI a little less.

                          "[T]he fact remains I can heat a cast iron skillet on a small burner for a long time and sear a large piece of meat."

                          No, I don't think that holds true, unless your and my definitions of 'large' and 'small' are quite different. Unless you are dealing with a CI pan well-matched to the hob (no appreciable overhang), you are going to have wide temperature variations between the center and edge of the pan. If you read the OP by athanasius, you will see that this differential can be as great as 200F even with a preheated pan. I and others have posted photos of "scorchprints" which provide graphic proof of this.

                          This phenomenon is why, IMO, the best recipes for roast meats that require searing direct you to preheat your CI pan *in the oven* (e.g., Tom Keller); why no-knead bread recipes call for the same; and why the least problematic preparations of things like chili and caramelized onions are also done/finished in the oven if you're using ECI. It's also why things like pancakes are usually cooked in CI either one at a time or silver dollar.

                          Yes, if you are dextrous, you can sear meat over the central hot spot and move a larger cut or joint around so that you approach an even sear. When it comes to things like browning meatballs, it can even be advantageous to move undercooked pieces in- and finished pieces outward, wok-style. If you cook regularly in CI, you learn to work around the problem, perhaps to the degree that it stops being a problem. But I refuse to stand at the stove caramelizing onions and making tomato sauce in ECI, stirring nonstop for hours.

                          "I can not do that with most stainless steel cookware at a similar price point.."

                          Yes, you are absolutely right on this, to the point of understatement. CI is far and away the cheapest-per-mm-thickness available, and so is (at least with Lodge and the Far East imports) an excellent bargain. Thickness in CI and SS helps SOME against hotspotting, but those metals would need un-liftable thicknesess of almost an inch to approximate the evenness of 3mm of copper or 6mm of aluminum. But if we hypothesize a cast SS pan done as thick as your Lodge, I think the only significant difference you would see would be in acquisition cost. But why make such a pan when the same pan in CI is so cheap and easy to make?


                          1. re: kaleokahu

                            kaleokahu, I think we are both talking around the same issues. Small or under powered stoves were the norm for me for many years in college and after graduation.

                            As a semi-starving college student, a $15 stainless steel pan or a $15 piece of cast iron offered very different cooking experiences. Yes, both had serious compromises but I had much better experiences with cast iron. I wasn't much of cook then so, I used what worked for me. Stainless steel scorched a lot of stuff for me and often left an electric coil pattern in the bottom of my pan. Cast iron didn't do this. Whether or not it was better cooking material, the thickness kept me from scorching things and I don't ever recall having an electric coil pattern in my cast iron (though I did burn a few things evenly all across the pan :-( Having a nice try-ply stainless pan wasn't even a consideration for me back then. Heck, I wasn't even clued in enough to look for an aluminum disc stainless pan either. All I had was thin stainless with a thin "painting" of copper that was really more for looks then cooking performance.

                            In terms of searing and heat gradient differences, I usually had an electric coil that matched (or came close) the base of my cast iron so, heat was pretty even across the majority of the surface but you are right that the edges were cooler then the center. For things like hamburger helper, I didn't find stirring to be that big a chore. For larger cuts of meat, as you mentioned, I had to stand there and use tongs to sear it on all sides. Later when I had an oven that worked, I seared steaks on the "flats" and finished them in the oven with respectable results. Years later with a convection oven I could approximate the best steakhouse experiences at home.

                            For most people whether cast iron or stainless cookware is better or not is an academic issue. The real issue is cost, availability, and knowledge. The price differences between cast iron and aluminum disc stainless cookware have narrowed today so, now I would give a niece or nephew an entry level Cuisinart or similar heavy disc starter set. 20 years ago, I would have gone to Wal-Mart and bought Lodge cast iron.

                            Cast iron isn't perfect but, at it's price point many years ago you just couldn't get a stainless pan at a similar price point that would cook as well. Today, if you know what to look for and where to buy at a good value, disc or multi-ply stainless cookware is a better option for most people.

                            1. re: Sid Post

                              Hi, Sid:

                              You are right that there is not much to argue about. On a hob matched to, or larger than, the CI pan, CI will be acceptably even. And on coils, you would have little in the way of hotspots (gas not so much). For the same reason that CI performs marvelously even on my wood cookstove. Responsiveness, on the other hand...

                              One of the things that thick aluminum or copper buys us on all conventional, discrete (i.e., non-solid surface) hobs is an effectively larger and better hob--a 12-inch diameter conductive pan or pot can function quite well on an 8-inch coil or a spread 3-inch gas ring, whereas a 12-inch CI skillet on either of those hobs will probably not, unless you are a cook of Jamie Oliver caliber and know all the workarounds. No one who uses LC's mammoth 15-inch skillet on a discrete hob is getting even heat, you can bet on that.


                              1. re: kaleokahu

                                I have had my eye on the 17" Lodge CI skillet but, I never bought one because I don't cook on a campfire with one so, the unevenness of heat would be too great to make the skillet useful.

                                Copper is very nice but, is really out of the question for people like the OP because the price is just too great. Aluminum has it's place and I used to be a big fan of Calphalon "commercial" ~20 years ago. Today, their aluminum cookware is thinner and not nearly as good.

                                I, like many people, have mixed feelings about cooking in raw aluminum. However, as you probably noticed in another thread I'm going to give it a try. I purchased a couple of the "heavy duty" Vollrath aluminum saucepans. I wish they were anodized but, no such luck.

                                In the end, each person has to select pans from within their price range. Then they need the skill to use the type of pans they buy. Different people will buy different pans in the same price range because they know how to cook in one and not the other. Very few on average will try a lot of different types because once they find one that works, they stop looking.

                                1. re: Sid Post

                                  I bought some Baumalu 2mm copper pans for about 15 cents on the dollar(best price on the internet retailers) at TJ Maxx and Marshals. Some even less because they clearanced them.

                                  1. re: wekick

                                    Sometimes you get lucky and make a good score at a flea market, pawn shop, or discount store. If you have patience and time on your side, those options can work out well.

                                  2. re: Sid Post

                                    Hi, Sid: "Copper is very nice but, is really out of the question for people like the OP because the price is just too great."

                                    Buying new, perhaps. Buying vintage, not at all. Last week, a pair of thick 8" French copper pans (one planished saucepan and one saute) with a matching lid and great tin, went on eBay for just $72. Two weeks ago, I bought an 11-pound Belgian copper jam pan for $30.

                                    "Very few on average will try a lot of different types because once they find one that works, they stop looking."

                                    Yes, unfortunately, this is generally true. The tricky word in that sentence is 'works', because it *all* works to some degree--you can cook in a hubcap or a coffee can. I think people tend to settle on what they change *to* if it meets or exceeds their expectations based on what they had before and/or growing up. It becomes sort of a double confirmation bias, they think: "My old stuff was OK, but this new stuff is much better, so I must have made *the* right choice." 'Better' is synonymous with 'less bad', not necessarily 'good'.

                                    Good on you for giving the aluminum a try. Please report back with your impressions.


                                    1. re: kaleokahu

                                      I guess I spend too much time here and not enough on Ebay. I haven't seen that many great scores for copper cookware on Ebay. If I found Mauviel or Falk stainless lined for a good price, I'd be all over it. The same holds true for my random TJ Maxx, Tuesday Morning, etc. trips. Maybe someday I will get lucky and find a DeBuyer Mineral pan like my mother did.

                                      In terms of "personal bias" and what "works", I agree. We all start with what we know as children and learn from there. Also factor in that most people really aren't passionate about cookware or food in general in the USA. Why did I start with bad Revereware? That's what mom used! Finding something better really wasn't that hard. Thankfully, I didn't settle for just "better" and continued to look for "best". My mother also eventually upgraded to Magnalite cast aluminum when she won a set at some event. Yes, it was MUCH better then what she had. Was it best? Probably not but, ultimately it worked much better and made her happy.

                                      I also want to learn to be a better cook. That means I need to experiment with cookware and ingredients. Why can people in Europe and South America make those wonderful dishes with a pan made from sheet metal? What's their secret? What makes Paella so good? Granted, some of this is about the journey and not the destination. ;-)

                                      1. re: Sid Post

                                        Paella in a large diameter pan requires a matching heat souce - multi ring gas or wood.

                                        1. re: Sid Post

                                          Hi, Sid:

                                          The copper deals I cited are not common, but neither are they rare. You just have to watch and learn. Falk pieces *are* pretty rare to come up, and when they do, they're still $$.

                                          Nothing at all wrong with Magnalite. I can understand how your mom was happy with it. And it's plentiful and cheap on eBay.

                                          Definitely agree about the journey, although it's a mighty tedious and $$$ trip if you have to keep reinvesting in and upgrading your pots and pans one quality increment at a time.


                                          1. re: kaleokahu

                                            Yea, the $$$ add up over time but, my hand me downs go to people who need them. I always have ebay too. I consider it like tuition at school. Heck, one economy vacation versus a normal one will pay for a lot of cookware swaps. For one night in a hostel versus a hotel in Europe, I can buy a lot of good cookware and get the benefit of spending the evening with fellow travelers who can point me to all the local good spots that the travel shows and books know nothing about.

                                            Hmmm .... someday I need to go to Paris and explore the local hot spots .....

                                            1. re: Sid Post

                                              I prefer the incremental approach, or as I think it, experimental. I view each purchase as a learning experience. There's a lot more to buying the ideal pot, pan, or knife than just picking the most expensive material. Shape, size, finish, handle, etc all affect how useful an item is. And a lot of those details are hard to evaluate without actually using it.

                                              As a result I tend to buy these things when the price is good (within my experimentation budget), and the item is promising. And usually I stop buying when I'm satisfied, in sense, when the urge to buy more subsides.

                                              Which is worse - 'wasting' money as you step up to the ideal, or 'wasting' money by overshooting the ideal. And expensive copper pot that is too heavy or the wrong size is worse than an inexpensive aluminum one that gets used a lot.

                                              1. re: paulj

                                                Hi, Paul:

                                                Sure, the incremental approach has its own merits, chief among them that you can try most *everything* for yourself. But efficient use of cookware dollars isn't one of the virtues of this approach, IMO. Take Yours Truly as an example. I invested in quite a large set of Le Creuset a couple of decades ago, largely because (like Sid) I grew up watching my mom struggling with her Revereware. I would have been a lot better off in both culinary and financial senses had I just bought mostly thick aluminum and copper. LC pieces lose their "value" quite precipitously after use; I could probably recoup the cost of one large piece by reselling.

                                                On the other hand, Mauviel and Falk bimetal copper pieces hold their values well, and the better vintage tinned pieces *appreciate*. One can--as I have done--continually "trade up", and never get hurt, price-wise. A piece that is "too heavy or the wrong size" (as if that could ever be the case for me!) can simply be resold after its better is found. I recently resold a heavy saute at a 3x profit that should finance fleshing out my batterie.

                                                Stepping up to the "ideal" (before you try it) is not free of pratfalls. But with a *little* experience, research and interest, why not at least *try* to skip a painful step or four when you can?


                      2. Any decent 3 qt sauce pan should work for this. I have, for example, a 3qt nonstick Tramontina aluminum sauce pan, a 3qt copper sauce pan, and a 3 qt stainless steel sauce pan (with multilayer base).

                        The use of a candy thermometer means it should have straight sides. The bottom corner should not be too rounded, since you want the thermometer to be well immersed without touching the sides.

                        I suspect the toffee in the pan should be deep. If the pan has too large a capacity, the toffee layer will be too thin, and hard to take a good temperature. Another problem with an overly large pot (dutch oven) - the burner might heat it evenly. The pot should match your burner, especially if you have an electric stove.

                        Another qualification - it needs to be small and light enough that you can pour it. For that a sturdy sauce pan handle is better than the 2 loops of a dutch oven. Remember it will be hotter than boiling. And it also needs a lid.

                        1. In candy making isn't there the risk of burning the sugar, and rendering the pot unusable? That would argue against buying something expensive just for the purpose.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: paulj

                            Sugar will burn if you heat it too much. So will most things. On average, an expensive pan will heat more evenly and will react faster when you take it off the heat.

                            If you really screw up and burn stuff in your nice pan, Easy-Off oven cleaner works wonders on stainless steel and the self cleaning cycle for the oven works well for raw cast iron. So far, I never had to try either method on Copper or enameled Le Crueset or Staub cookware.