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New cookware for a newly inspired home cook

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I have owned throwaway nonstick cookware my entire life. A couple of months ago I purchased 4.5 qt and 7.25 qt Le Creuset round dutch ovens, for a steal at Marshall's and on ebay, and I have realized that quality cookware is necessary. I am looking into purchasing All Clad to replace my pans and eventually 3mm copper for saucepans, and a nonstick for eggs and pancakes. I have been tempted by the 3.5 qt Le Creuset braiser, as it seems multi functional as well as the All Clad french skillet. I am not a particularly experienced cook but have gained confidence in the kitchen as of late and would like to build a well rounded lifetime cookware collection. I normally cook for 2 sometimes 4 people. I could use suggestions on type, size and brands of cookware to build a set of quality cookware.

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  1. I bought the LC 3.5 qt braiser last weekend at one of the LC outlets. With all the better quality cookware I own,I'm pretty ashamed of myself that I hadn't purchased this earlier. I doubt you'll regret the purchase.

    I have a 12 inch french skillet from the Cuisinart french classic line. It's multi-clad and made in France, works in the oven and stovetop, but it lacks a lid. I really like sautéing vegetables on the stovetop with it.

    The LC braised is a bit deeper and obviously a bit more heavy-duty. I made an excellent beef stew in it. Like you, I cook for 2-4, so it's a nice piece if you're to make a smaller amount of something you might otherwise make in the 7.25 or 4.5 qt.

    ETA: The LC braiser was $162 or so including tax at the LC outlet. First quality. Every month they rotate which colors they put on additional discount.

    1. That LC braiser is a very handy size and shape, so if you can find one at a decent price I think you'll get a lot of use of it.

      In my cooking, a medium skillet is just about the most-used item. I learned to cook on a 9" cast iron skillet, and used it happily for decades after. A few years ago I got a tri-ply stainless skillet, and that was a nice step up -- much lighter, no worries deglazing with wine, easier to clean, and more even-cooking. But then I got a 2mm copper-stainless skillet that is my absolute favorite piece. If I hadn't cooked for so long with a cast iron skillet, it might have seemed too heavy, but it's super-responsive and even, with all the non-reactivity of stainless. My s.o. still uses the tri-ply, finding the copper one heavier than he likes.

      In your case, too, it might be a lot more weight than you're used to. The next best thing IMO, and considerably lighter to handle, would be All-Clad Master Chef, aluminum lined with stainless. It's significantly more responsive and even-heating than stainless tri- or 5-ply. The aluminum in the original MC is a bit thicker than in MC2, and pieces appear semi-frequently on ebay. I treasure my 12-inch MC skillet, which only cost $35; the lighter weight of aluminum is most helpful in the bigger-scale pieces. I mostly use it for stir-frying. It's got enough surface area to be very useful also for browning meat for stews and braises, and for sauteeing down a big bunch of greens.

      1 Reply
      1. re: ellabee

        <The next best thing IMO, and considerably lighter to handle, would be All-Clad Master Chef, aluminum lined with stainless. It's significantly more responsive and even-heating than stainless tri- or 5-ply>

        Good suggestion.

      2. Le Creuset type of cookware (enameled cast iron) are good for slow cooking like stewing and braising...etc. However, you should not expand enameled cast iron cookware into any fast cooking cookware like fry pans or woks.

        All Clad is a solid brand for stainless steel cladded cookware. Other similar cookware are Demeyere (more expensive) and Calphalon Triply, Cuisinart MultiClad, Tramontina Triply....etc.

        Since you already have 2 Le Creuset round ovens, you can get a ~3 quart saucepan, a 10 or 12" fry pan, a saute pan. For the fry pan, you may want to consider a carbon steel fry pan, like a DeBuyer Mineral fry pan.

        *Edited* I just remembered. Before you buy the All Clad cookware, make sure you hold the pot/pan in your hand. Some people like All Clad handle design just fine. Others find it uncomfortable. I know you want some cookware that last you a lifetime. Just make they are not painful cookware which last you a lifetime. :)

        1. My best advice to you is to look at what grabs your fancy and get one piece, maybe a really good skillet next.

          I am not a fan of All-Clad, but many love it. It was my first "upgrade" in cookware and I really didn't see any difference between it and my old Farberware set. I would check if there are still any specials on the Demeyere Proline skillets. It was my first Demeyere piece and was under a hundred dollars, and I got to experience cooking with that kind of pan. Real 3 mm copper is not so easy to find. I've thought of getting a thick sheet of copper and hammering it out myself. We'll see how that goes if I ever try that out!

          1. Have a look at Demeyere and Mauviel stainless cookware on Sur La Table, the Demeyere Industry5 line has some pieces on sale, it's 5-ply, and great quality with nicer handles than All Clad (IMO). Also, I think a nice heavy cast iron or carbon steel skillet is a must in any kitchen. Look at Lodge stuff, or De Buyer Carbone Plus (West elm has the carbone plus on sale still, I think)

            2 Replies
            1. re: Sirrith

              SLT is no longer going to carry the Demeyere Atlantis in their brick and mortar stores. They have the Atlantis and ProLine 30% off @ most locations.

              1. re: bkultra

                I wish that were also true online...

            2. If I were in your situation I would buy Tramintina Tri-Ply. It is near the quality of All Clad at a fraction of the price. Tramontina sets are available from Walmart. There are several sets available. The 12 oiece set includes a 12" skillet, most of the others do not.

              (We have used Tramontina Tri-Ply for several years and are quite pleqsed with it.)

              http://mobile.walmart.com/#ip/Tramont...

              1. Lots of sales right now. Iwould say replace the basics right now with a hodge-podge of fine cookware on sale so you can try different brands out. Yesterday I bought a Fissler stewpot. I also got a mid-range large frying pan and sauce pot -- if I had gotten a two-egg skillet, I'd have all-new basics today.

                Buy other pieces only when your cooking interests lead you to them.

                And start a "hope chest " account of ten dollars a month, and plan on replacing your most-used pieces in 10 years. You'll know what you want, and be a different cook then, so you can splurge with knowledge and confidence.

                1. I took the advice here and picked up a DeBuyer Mineral B 10" fry pan. As soon as the sting of the new range and vent hood wears off, I be getting the 14" version of the same pan. It cooks everything well. I think with those fry pans, a stock pot, 3Q sauce pot, and a dutch oven, I'd have no need for other cookware.I have some pretty decent stainless tri-ply pans that are relegated to the basement now, as well as 2 non-stick skillets. 1 pan to replace 4? I'm in!

                  1. I have some All Clad skillets, both regular and non stick and love them but I needed something bigger and here on CH, someone recommended that I buy the Cuisinart one -- it's much less $$ and really great. Here's the listing on Amazon:

                    http://www.amazon.com/Cuisinart-MCP55...

                    I also have 2 sizes of All Clad (NOT non-stick) roasting pans and love them but would look at Cuisinart in the future.

                    1. Check out your local restaurant supply store, and skip the big name retailers. GFS (Gordon Food Service) is open to the general public, and has a nice selection of reasonably priced and very heavy duty but lightweight cookware that can stand up to constant use in a restaurant kitchen.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Atomic76

                        That's a very good suggestion. I stopped by GFS a couple of weeks ago and picked up several Cambro containers for dry goods. They sell nice, affordable full-size sheet pans there as well to replace the grocery-store cookie sheets we're using now.

                        1. re: toddrhodes

                          Our oven will only fit a half-sheet pan. Several years ago we bought them 2/$10.99 at Costco.

                      2. May I suggest a sauté pan, perhaps in lieu of the brasier? Or perhaps a sauteuse, which is essentially a sauté pan with 2 helper handles and no long handle. With either a sauteuse or sauté you'll get more surface area than the brasier will give, which is important. It means less batch cooking. I also think (JMO) that the LC braiser is going to somewhat duplicate the dutch ovens you've already got. If you really want a braiser, I'd go with the AC. But me? I think a sauté is a good bet.

                        I'm not of a fan of the All-Clad design, because I think it's a bit on the shallow side. The 3 qt. AC pan is 11" diameter, the same as the 4.2 qt. Demeyere Atlantis. My old non-induction Calphalon sauté was 2.5 qts and it was often approaching capacity, despite cooking for only 2-3 people. This is why I recommend a taller pan. Added bonus - less oil spatter when shallow frying!

                        In All-Clad, I'd choose the 4 quart "brown and braise" pan with a dome lid, currently on sale at cutleryandmore, which I think has the same diameter as the 3 qt. All-Clad sauté.

                        https://www.cutleryandmore.com/all-cl...

                        For high quality at a bargain basement price, grab a commercial pan. A lot of Chowhounds like Sitram, I've got the Vollrath Optio in 6 qts (11" diameter) and love it, even though I'm only cooking for 2-3. It's not as pretty as the spendy cookware designed for us home cooks, but it's excellent stuff and built to last.

                        http://www.foodservicewarehouse.com/v...

                        1. Hi, Gocards:

                          That's really cool you're gung-ho and gaining confidence. You go!

                          Without getting into specific applications, your OP indicates you already see well into your cooking future. If you see thick copper as an ultimate destination, why take intermediate steps? Buy one piece and get your toes in the water, find out if you like it. I have only purchased ONE piece of copperware at retail (I now have more than 50 pieces). Every dollar that you would spend on A-C is a dollar you could, IMO, better spend elsewhere.

                          I have made this offer to others, and I'll make it to you: I am happy to privately give you my opinion and/or advice on specific pieces of copperware if you are interested. kaleokahu@gmail.com.

                          Aloha,
                          Kaleo

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: kaleokahu

                            Hi Kaleo,

                            Have you ever tried to hammer out a copper pan from a sheet of copper? I know you have mentioned that you have re-tinned some of your pans. I have not priced or checked out availability of sheets of copper, but it would be one way to get a pan of the desirable thickness, say starting with a 6mm sheet and hammering it over a large log or something like that - I am not joking. It all depends on the price and availability of the copper whether it is worth it as a project or not.

                            1. re: laraffinee

                              Hi, laraffinee:

                              No, I have never tried to hammer out my own pan. But I have worked some thicker ornamental copper. When it is fully annealed, it is very soft under the hammer. You would need to--very carefully--pound a bit and then re-anneal. It would also be advisable to have a decent complement of blacksmith's hammers about, so you can draw the material without thinning it too much. then it's a good idea to work-harden the material after you have it in its final shape--that's the original reason copperware was planished.

                              Copper that thick certainly can be worked. I have a hand-made copper cover which is just north of 6mm, and it is nicely domed.

                              I think this would be far past my aptitude to do, but I totally wish you luck. Even if the pan ends up looking very rustic, I urge you to post photos if you try.

                              Aloha,
                              Kaleo

                              1. re: kaleokahu

                                You're right...I forgot about annealing the copper! I have only worked with thin copper, but I annealed and dropped in water before cutting it. I have a lot of dental lab tools which are really good for tiny, intricate work, but not so much for larger things. I checked out copper sheets online and the first search yielded only thinner copper - I think the highest I found was 2 mm. I will have to ask one of my sculptor friends who knows a lot about welding if there may be any better sources. Even those thinner sheets were pretty pricey - makes me appreciate the costs of those pots a bit more. I am itching to make one - possible summer project when the work shed isn't so cold. I figure, the worst that will happen is that I have some copper scrap metal to sell.

                          2. fwiw,
                            i don't find the All Clad line to be workable for me:
                            the pans are heavy and the handles are thin.
                            the combination makes it very difficult for me to control the pan.
                            i find other brands with thicker handles easier to use.

                            obviously this is a personal taste.
                            i'm mentioning it to try to induce you to actually FEEL these expensive pots and pans BEFORE you invest your money in them.

                            1. Nonstick cookware has gotten more durable, and should last as long as anything if cared for properly. I have a new Scanpan Classic frying pan that I recommend, and there are others with the newer coatings.

                              But I don't think one pan will work well for both eggs and pancakes. The eight-inch Scanpan is perfect for a three-egg omelette, but will only make small pancakes one at a time. You would be better served by a two-burner griddle which could make two large pancakes at once.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: GH1618

                                I also like the Scanpan non-sticks, I have the 8" for eggs, usually a two-egg omelette and a relatively large square griddle pan that fits on one burner but will make 4 pancakes about the size of a commercial bread slice, so maybe 5 inches in diameter. Some places serve pancakes as large as the plate, this would only make one of those at a time.

                              2. The first thing you should do is look for cookware that is induction compatible. Le Creuset is. On the horizon we are going to be moving away from gas and electric coils. If you are not sure or if no one can tell you if a piece is compatible with induction use a magnet to see if it will stick.

                                Many companies are aware of this trend and more and more people are buying with this in mind even if they are currently using the usual cooktops. I like Chantal, carbon steel and copper core inside and enamel on the outside, it can go into the dishwasher too. All-Clad is making some now, Swiss Diamond is also making some induction compatible cookware.

                                Read up on induction. It is pricy but it should be coming down. My next kitchen will have an induction top. I have a single burner now and use it more often than my GE Monogram 5 burner cooktop. It is faster and much more efficient.

                                1. what do you want to cook? That will determine what to buy. All differences among brands are marginal.

                                  More than you may want to know:

                                  http://forums.egullet.org/topic/25717....

                                  I have a lot of SS with aluminum bottoms and quite happy with both bare and NS.

                                  I have a lot of CI both bare and enamel and am also quite happy, but these are for different uses from the SS.

                                  I have given away my anodized aluminum and my copper as both types seemed not worth the effort to maintain.

                                  Enjoy your hunt

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: law_doc89

                                    You do not have to keep the copper shiny...so the wife says...

                                  2. Used revere ware copper bottom on ebay.

                                    1. Lots of great advice in the responses. I also cook for primarily 2 people, sometimes, 3 and I have the LC 3.5 braiser. I find it a bit redundant with my 3qt Viking saute pan, even though one is SS and one is ECI. For stews, I tend to use a dutch oven instead of the braiser. So, the braiser gets used more as a skillet or, in the oven, as a casserole. It is a good thing to have, but given the redundancy, I wish I had gotten the Lodge 3qt braiser (think they call it a casserole) instead - the slightly smaller size works for me and it is drastically less expensive. (I know someone who has it.)

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: kimbers324

                                        You should be finding that you can brown better in the Viking,and get what you need for sauces based on deglazing in the Viking also.

                                        1. re: law_doc89

                                          Absolutely. Also, it is just easier to handle because it is lighter. The LC braiser is huge - even though 3.5 qt is the smaller size - and heavy. It is so much easier to just grab the SS saute pan.

                                          I use the braiser for two dishes: chicken tikka masal and a quickie steamed tilapia (tilapia steamed on a bed of grape tomatoes). The heavy, domed lid comes in handy for the tilapia recipe and the large cooking surface for partially cooking the chicken pieces works well, then the lid and even heat distribution help after the simmering sauce is added....keeps moisture in so the chicken can finish cooking without the sauce drying out.