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High End Cookware That's Easy To Clean?

I have a friend who's Calphalon Anodized pieces are showing some wear and she's interested in getting new cookware. She knows that it does not make sense to buy an expensive non-stick item, as it will just wear out at the same rate as the cheap stuff. She is experienced at cooking and has a wonderful kitchen to work in with great appliances.

But if it's too hard to clean, that's a dealbreaker. Anyone know of anything that doesn't tend to get an impenetrable plaque of burned food after every use?

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  1. The easiest cookware to clean is probably Teflon, but like you said, they don't last very long.

    Here comes the hard part -- to definite "easy to clean"

    Actually, I find carbon steel and cast iron cookware to be easy to clean. However, this is only true in a narrow circumstance. It is easy to clean because food do not stick to them, but this is only true if the cookware already (1) have a good seasoning layer, and (2) you manually cleaning them, no automatic dishwasher cleaning.

    On the opposite end, you can also claim stainless steel surface cookware to be very easy to clean too, but that is for a very different reason: they can take a lot of abuse. You can use steel wool, you can dump them into acids or bases, you can put them in dishwasher...etc.

    < Anyone know of anything that doesn't tend to get an impenetrable plaque of burned food after every use?>

    Straightly answering your question, the answer would be carbon steel and cast iron cookware. However, that may not be exactly what you are asking for.

    There is nothing "high end" about carbon steel or cast iron cookware.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

      Actually I have some nonstick that must be at least ten years old. Don't see the problem.

      1. re: c oliver

        I have also had some nonstick cookware last for 10 years, but those are mostly pots (liquid cooking). My pans do not last as long.

          1. re: c oliver

            Like GH1618, we have a 20+ year old 3 quart non-stick TFal sauce pan used pretty much daily. Starting to show wear on the pot rim. We replaced it once but didn't through the TFal away since we like it so much. It will need to be retired in the next year or two though.

            Gave the 12 inch skillet to a family in need. Again, 20+ years old and very frequently used. Was like new when we gave it away.

            Have some Cuisinart MultiClad that's 10+ years old that gets a ton of use as well and doesn't show its age.

            For the OP, stainless is easy to clean. Not certain what the obsession with "high end" is. Just find a decent clad set that fits well in your hand, is balanced and fits on your stove. You can spend a ton of cash on AllClad or a lot less on Kirkland. They both work well.

            1. re: Dee S

              Thanks. I also didn't understand the "high end" part. I switched to induction a few years ago and got a "set" at Costco for $100. It's like new still.

    2. I have T-fal (Teflon) 20 years old. If it is used only where it makes a difference, and taken care of properly, it will last a very long time. I use mine for eggs only, and I always handwash with a nonabrasive scrubber.

      It is unreasonable to expect one cooking surface to be best for everything. She should decide for each thing that she cooks what cookware would be best.

      3 Replies
      1. re: GH1618

        This is the key. Taking care of non-stick it can last a really long time. I do not use it for everything. For eggs it is my go to though.

        1. re: melpy

          Me too. And I have had non-stick last about a decade, but I've also had them last only a couple of years. It all depends on how you treat them.

        2. re: GH1618

          I haven't found non-stick that lasts any time at all including pricey All-Clad so I gave up on it years ago and learned how to use my SS properly.

          My omelet and sauté pans are now all heavy SS. I preheat them so that food sizzles immediately when it put it in and even eggs with the merest coating of fat behave as though they were on teflon. The temperature and not the coating is the key. The only tool I use with my omelets is a fork and nothing ever sticks. When the eggs are cooked the pans need nothing more than a hot water rinse.

        3. I buy stainless for most uses, and I make sure it can go into the dishwasher. Good quality stainless should last for many years. My mid level Cuisinart stainless bought piece by piece and used for the last decade was given away in very good shape. (I've gone induction and the old stuff wouldn't work.)

          But the key is not to burn stuff on, and to soak if necessary before putting in the dishwasher. I might even give the pan a light scour with a scrubby if I think it might not come clean in the dishwasher.

          I also like to scrub the pan bottoms, before they get too discolored. My theory is that the burnt deposit on the pan bottoms impedes fast heating.

          I use Bon Ami or a similar cleaner on the pans to clean and shine, but I'll scour with an SOS pad if I have to.

          Its best not to scorch or burn the pans to begin with of course. And taking care that way keeps the pans from needing hard scouring and such.

          I find that cast iron pans are pretty easy to keep clean as well. Of course you don't put those in the dishwasher. As for non stick, I have one currently, and with care it should last maybe 10 years, but I don't heat it on high heat or put it in the dishwasher.

          Edited to add: I don't have to use Bon Ami or SOS very often because I make sure not to burn or scorch my pans. Should have made that clearer.

          3 Replies
          1. re: sueatmo

            Adding to what sue wrote, I get spectacularly easy cleaning of burnt-on crud in my stainless steel when I do more than soak the pan. I add water and bring it to a boil, then let it sit while I eat dinner. Later, it lifts right off with a spatula and mostly wipes clean with a soapy sponge.

            Aside from non-stick, ime stainless is the easiest to maintain. I use my cast iron and carbon steel frequently, but by far the most forgiving pans I own are stainless. The beauty of stainless is that we don't have to clean it right away. Food or water can sit forever, or the pan can soak in a sink of soapy water, for as long as we want. Can't do that with other pans.

            I've also heard good things about enamel coated cast iron, especially in frypans, some of which can go in the dishwasher. I've got a dutch oven like that, but it's got untreated edges, so I've got to be careful with it.

            1. re: DuffyH

              All true Duff.

              I haven't had to do this in a long time, but if I get burned places on a stainless pan I can put water and dishwasher detergent in the pan and bring it to the boil Turn on the vent full force, because you will have fumes. Make sure the pets are in a different room too. This will take off all but the most severe burns. But obviously, you wouldn't want to do this very often.

              And I learned awhile back that if I am scorching something as I am cooking (a problem for me when I was learning to use the glass top cooktop) an ice cube dropped into the pan and moved to the bottom, will loosen a scorch that isn't too far gone.

              I am so much more careful than I used to be!

              1. re: DuffyH

                "I've also heard good things about enamel coated cast iron"

                My enameled dutch ovens are far and away the easiest pots to clean. I've burned sugar onto them more than once and was able to clean it off with just a soak in boiling water. My bare cast iron skillets are a breeze to clean as well. But it sounds like your friend is looking more in the direction of lighter-weight skillets,so I don't think these would do for her.

            2. De Buyer Mineral pans (iron) and Demeyere Atlantis/Proline 5* (stainless) pans and skillets are where it's at today.

              I love mine.

              4 Replies
              1. re: Sid Post

                "are where it's at today.

                I love mine."

                Could you elaborate more please?

                1. re: c oliver

                  The Demeyere Atlantis/Proline 5* pans have what they refer to as a Silvernox finish. I don't know exactly what it is but, these pans clean up easily in addition to heating very evenly and cooking very nicely. I also LOVE the handles (much better than All-Clad in my personal opinion). Their handles have an easy to hold profile and stay relatively cool during cooking. Plus they are welded so, no cleaning/scrubbing around rivets!!!! Yea!

                  De Buyer 'mineral' pans have the attributes you see attached to cast iron cookware which I love too. However, I find the longer wider handles are MUCH easier to hold and use. The finish of the pans themselves are much smoother than today's cast iron which I really like. Finally, I find they are easy to season once you figure out the technique that 'works best' for you. Properly seasoned, they won't rust but, you also don't want to leave them in a sink of dishwater.

                  In both pans, I have cooked eggs, meat, and all sorts of things in between these extremes with results that I am very happy with. Clean up with a sponge or a scotchbrite scrubbie at the worst is easy and quick. The Mineral pans rarely get "cleaned" since I want them to stay seasoned but, sometimes you want the prior meal to go away (sweet sauce, heavy spices, etc.).

                2. re: Sid Post

                  Completely agree. I have a Demeyere Industry5 saute, and it's a nice pan, but my Proline 5* skillet is a big step up. I would buy another Proline, but as it is, I don't use it all that often, because food tends to stick less to my carbon pans. And my experience is that the carbon steel pans have more tolerance for acidic sauces than their reputation would indicate. Maybe because I season them all over, and put on about 5 layers before first use.

                  My De Buyer is mostly Carbone Plus rather than Mineral, but they are still great pans.

                3. In my humble opinion, if she's experienced in cooking, she may know how to use clad s/s with no issues. I have skillets from All Clad and Cuisinart French line, and Mauviel as well: all are very easy to clean. A short soak while eating dinner (as mentioned by DuffyH) will do the trick. I find that at times I don't even get the fond I want because the food releases so easily. It's been referenced here many times that heating the pan early, add the oil/shortening, and then protein, makes a world of difference.

                  I just sautéed skin-on, bone-in, chicken breasts in s/s and they popped off the pan with little effort. After the pan cooled a bit, I filled it with hot water to soak. In minutes I was wiping the pan down with little effort and then washed it using a yellow plastic scrubbie to remove any tiny bits.

                  I usually use my s/s for creating a pan sauce. If your friend wants non-stick with no de-glazing, seasoned carbon steel rocks.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: breadchick

                    breadchick makes an excellent point about deglazing. Like her, it's my usual mode. But if your friend isn't into pan sauces, there's no need for a non-reactive pan.

                    Getting brand-specific, if weight isn't an issue, you won't go wrong with Demeyere's Atlantis/Proline in stainless steel. For a little less weight, but still pretty hefty pans, consider Demeyere Industry5 or Zwilling Sensation. Although I haven't cooked with it, I was quite impressed by Williams-Sonoma Thermo-Clad, too.

                    1. re: DuffyH

                      I have a "Zwilling" thremoclad (ceramic of some sort) small skillet that is surprisingly non-stick. Be aware however that cooking sprays like PAM will kill the pan like steel spatula's on Teflon.

                      Zwilling also has a 5 layer Silvernox finish 9.4" skillet on sale at Cutleryandmore for $100. This appears to match the other 5 layer pans sold under various brand names. At $100 delivered, the price seems very attractive to me and it appears to have the same handle as the Demeyere Atlants pans.

                      1. re: Sid Post

                        Hey Sid,

                        It's nice to hear from you again. Is this your pan? http://www.amazon.com/Zwilling-TruCla...

                        How long have you had it, what do you do to keep it non-stick, how high do you heat it, do you add oil before or after heating the pan, do you ever wipe it with oil just because?

                        Yeah, I think that about covers it.

                        Did you see the Zwilling Sensation at Amazon? It's 5-ply, Silvinox, etc... for $80. http://www.amazon.com/Henckels-Sensat...

                        1. re: DuffyH

                          http://www.amazon.com/Spirit-8-Thermo...

                          Mine has a different handle than your link.

                          I have owned it a few months being a fairly recent "curiosity" purchase. I don't treat it specially to keep it non-stick, I just don't scrub it with a steel spatula, spoon, etc. I typically cook with a dab of olive oil (lots of potatoes and eggs in this pan). For heat, I typically cook hot enough to brown potatoes which on the crappy cooktop I have right now is about 3/4 heat, or 1/4 from the highest setting.

                          I haven't really torture tested the "non-stick" properties of this skillet but, it seems as non-stick as any other non-stick pan I have purchased. Will it hold up in the long run .... early indications indicate it will.

                  2. With SS, you can take some powder scrub to it....

                    I High Wholly Recommend any of the Demeyere lineup with the Silvinox interior treatment. All of mine are Atlantis series. I am not sure of the lower lines. It has BLOWN my mine how they clean up....

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: chefwong

                      I think there is even a rating Demeyere has (Sani-Safe or something).

                    2. My most-used cookware are an enameled cast iron dutch oven, an enameled cast iron skillet, a ceramic coated saute pan, a *very* well-seasoned cast iron skillet, and a stainless steel stockpot. All are incredibly useful and extremely easy to clean (sometimes a soak is needed, usually just an hour).

                      There isn't much I can't do with the above pieces. All my other cookware is pretty much collecting dust.

                      1. I use carbon steel skillets for any food that doesn't contain tomato or other acid foods. I use heavy stainless steel pots for acid foods. I season the carbon steel skillets when I get them and from day one they worked beautifully. Normally it just takes wiping them out with a damp paper towel, letting them dry and then wipe again with a little oil. Carbon steel isn't cheap and it's certainly not the prettiest but it's a workhorse.

                        If I scorch something in the pan (which does happen when you've got too many things going on at one time) I remove the food and while it's still hot add a little water and scrape the bottom with a spatula, everything lifts right up. It's like you would do if you were deglazing for a sauce. I do the same thing if I scorch my SS pots. Never have to scour them, clean up is simple so there is no need to put them in the dishwasher.

                        If a manufacturer says to never add cold liquid (tap water) to the pot or skillet when it's hot then I won't buy it. It's not going to perform well for me.

                        1. Thanks for the replies all. By "easy to clean", I'm thinking no harder to clean than her present Calphalon pieces. Cast iron would be too heavy.

                          So far, All-Clad SS is in the lead. I'm also aware of other cookware like Mauviel and the already mentioned Demeyere and DeBuyer.

                          1. As the chief dish washer at home...ok only dish washer at home, my money is on All Clad and cast iron all the way.

                            Agree with others on the teflon thing too, not worth spending big $ on AllClad teflon when it doesn't last any longer than less expensive stuff.

                            As for thermolon, there are a couple other threads on that little mystery.