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Help Requested Choosing Quality Cookware

 
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datavortex



Joined: 22 Nov 2011
Posts: 3
Location: United States

PostPosted: Tue Nov 22, 2011 5:21 pm    Post subject: Help Requested Choosing Quality Cookware Reply with quote

Greetings, engineers!

This is my first post here, and is perhaps a bit verbose. I hope you will forgive this, I am excited and have been researching the issues within for several days.

I am a novice home cook who has been trying to increase my proficiency and range of techniques for about a year. I have decided it is time to replace my wildly mistreated, gouged, pitted and discolored store brand teflon coated anodized aluminum cookware. I want to get a versatile set of fry pans, sauce pans, and perhaps a wok/chef pan that will last for my lifetime, and preferably longer. The second most important consideration is ease of cleanup and overall difficulty of care. No matter what I purchase (or the manufacturer's recommendation), I do not intend to use a dishwasher, steel wool, or harsh abrasives with any of this cookware.

Using resources on this site and others I have done a lot of research into materials and preferences of those more experience than myself. While I initially was leaning toward an 100% anodized aluminum solution (Calphalon style) for its non-stick properties, I have been convinced that stainless steel is a better surface to actually come into contact with the food. I am still concerned with the difficulty of cleaning stainless steel however.

I have not considered cookware containing copper. The materials of cookware article here convinced me that it is unnecessary. It seems to serve the same purpose as aluminum but at a significantly higher cost. Please disabuse me of this notion if I am mistaken. I am far more concerned with function and longevity than form.

At this preliminary juncture, I have three styles of cookware that are my leading contenders. Please do not limit your advice to choosing among these three, I am quite interested in the full spectrum of your informed opinion. Also, please completely ignore cost at his point and pretend that price is no object. I am seeking an objective analysis of the quality and properties of the cookware, and I will consider cost restrictions subsequently.

  1. Fully clad stainless steel with an aluminum core (Exemplar: All-Clad Tri-ply): Stainless steel inside and out with an aluminum core. Appears to be the most popular option. I am uncertain what having stainless steel on the outside of the utensil adds except for cost and a shiny appearance.
  2. Aluminum with a stainless steel cooking surface (Exemplar: All-Clad MC˛): Aluminum utensil (usually brushed on the outside) with a stainless steel cooking surface. I imagine that an outside of brushed aluminum is easier to clean than stainless, but I have no evidence to support this.
  3. Complicated multi-layer utensil (Exemplar: All-Clad LTD2): There are now a number of 5-ply options available. I am not sure what having so many layers might add in terms of heat distribution or ease of cleaning. Is anodized aluminum easier to clean than brushed aluminum or stainless? In the LTD2 line specifically, does the middle layer of stainless steel actually help better distribute heat as the manufacturer claims? Do any 5-ply units add any useful functionality over simpler options?

As far as cleaning and proper upkeep goes, I do intend to have proper materials such as Bar Keepers Friend, a soft sponge, and appropriate liquid detergent on hand. I will follow the advice on this forum and others in terms of waiting for the cookware to cool before cleaning and boiling soapy dishwater in the pans for tough cooked-on bits. I have seen that nylon scouring pads are recommended, but I am not sure if this includes the rough green side of a Brillo pad or similar things that (to me) seem like they might scratch the utensils. What's the roughest thing I can use to clean polished stainless, aluminum, or anodized aluminum?

Thank you for your insight and advice!
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Dilbert



Joined: 19 Oct 2007
Posts: 972
Location: central PA

PostPosted: Tue Nov 22, 2011 11:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

a couple of things to think about:

be careful of "units" - for example in the article cited note that aluminum "holds" more heat than cast iron. huh? why is cast iron so popular for "holding heat?" - well, because the 'normalized' coefficient (in this case) is by mass - heft a cast iron pan and an aluminum pan and it's clear that aluminum may hold more heat per pound, but there's more pounds of cast iron to the pot....

in a similar vein, "conductivity" - the coefficient is normalized on cross-sectional area. the "thickness" of an aluminum pan and a stainless pan is not the same.

so don't just look at the coefficient / "number" - it needs to be taken in context of application.

in terms of long term use and stability, I'd recommend stainless exterior and interior with riveted handles. there are any number of respected brands, which doesn't include "celebrity" stuff. Tramontina is frequently cited as a very good value - but all that goes out the window when it comes to sales & "specials"

look for a thick bottom. a lot of the "cast of thousands of layers" are so thin, the thousands of layers can only have been applied by electro-plating - for heat conductivity you need cross section.

for a wok - get a carbon steel type - they're inexpensive and it's the best material for the job. do not buy a "non-stick" wok - wok is high heat cooking and the high heat will kill any non-stick coating.

sets: you'll hear advice - don't buy a set - you get/pay for a lot of stuff you'll never use. true to the point of economics. not infrequently you can buy a set, throw away the useless stuff, and spend less money than piece by piece.

unless you are well experienced and can sit down and make a list of must have sizes and types - shy away from the 300 pc sets. after you have "the basics" you can expand on a pc by pc basis.

and then there's my favorite - copper clad with a stainless interior. yes, it's expensive but it performs like no other - and I've had most/used of them. the only metal that conducts heat better/faster than copper is silver - and sterling silver pots are _really_ expensive.

a benefit which is most appreciated when using gas cooking: copper heats and cools fast - i.e. it is very responsive. if you go there - go with the thick stuff - 2.5 or 3.0 mm - the thin stuff does not perform in such a spectacular matter - pretty - but mostly for show / serving - not serious cooking.

I have a bunch of 3mm copper cookware. my kids are arguing over 'who gets the copper'
I also have some old Griswold cast iron pans that are wonderful - very close to Teflon for non-stick.
I also have a $10 ten-inch Teflon fry pan for the really finicky stuff - it wears out - last 18-24 months, I toss it and buy another. Teflon is wonderfully non-stick, but it is no "forever"
I also have a Martha Stewart stockpot that I have no complaints about.

don't fall for the Scanpan, Greenpan mystical "new" non-stick stuff. the track record is very spotty - the only people I've seen/read/heard of that like it have only used it a week - or like one fellow who expressed his satisfaction after "years" and who uses the pan once a month, or so....

hard anodized aluminum (look up the technical definition of hard anodized for an interesting read) is an absolute joke. don't really care to recount the $$ of Calphalon I've tossed in the recycle bin - btw, the Calphalon "warranty" is worthless, in my first hand experience.
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datavortex



Joined: 22 Nov 2011
Posts: 3
Location: United States

PostPosted: Wed Nov 23, 2011 4:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you for your informative reply Dilbert!

Can you tell me about the advantages (and disadvantages) of having stainless steel on the outside of the cookware? Is it easier to clean than aluminum or copper?
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Dilbert



Joined: 19 Oct 2007
Posts: 972
Location: central PA

PostPosted: Wed Nov 23, 2011 1:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

>>stainless on the outside

it is most definitely easier to "clean" than copper. I should have added about copper - if you figger to have it all hung up and gleaming like Julia Child - you're gonna need a scullery maid. I use mine everyday (not every pc every day . . ) and it will require polishing after every use if you want the gleem&shine thing. I don't display mine, I cook with it.



aluminum is softer than stainless, more reactive than stainless and oxidizes over time. general maintenance on stainless is 'easier'

but frankly, if you find a set/line/pot/pan you really like the heft & feel of but alas and alack it is aluminum based, I wouldn't hesitate to buy it. there just is no single one and only "best" brand/material
Edit - if it is stainless interior; aluminum exterior, being reactive, is an impractical choice for an entire set.


Last edited by Dilbert on Wed Nov 23, 2011 7:49 pm; edited 1 time in total
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datavortex



Joined: 22 Nov 2011
Posts: 3
Location: United States

PostPosted: Wed Nov 23, 2011 6:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks again, Dilbert! You have convinced me about the importance of a fully clad stainless steel set of cookware. I think I have come to a decision about which set I want to try.

I am planning to purchase the Cuisinart MultiClad Pro Stainless Steel 12-Piece Cookware Set. It's a fully clad stainless steel with aluminum in the bottom and continuously up through the walls of the cookware. It is also the second-best selling set on Amazon now. The runner up is from the fresh 2011 redesign of All-Clad's similar tri-ply line, the Stainless Steel 14 Piece Cookware Set. Both have excellent reviews on Amazon and the internet at large, but ultimately the price difference of $881 between the two, with what seems to perhaps not be a commensurate increase in quality of output is a major influence. The reviews for the Cuisinart and the All-Clad from only-cookware.com were especially informative and helpful in knowing which of the reviews to ignore due to an inexperienced writer and why people were noticing that manufacturers were no longer using an 18/10 mix for their stainless steel (small changes were required to get induction working).

Thanks again to everyone who read my question and I hope this thread is useful to anyone doing their own research. I'll post more about my experiences here after I have the cookware for a while.
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gizmographer



Joined: 29 Nov 2011
Posts: 3

PostPosted: Tue Nov 29, 2011 8:09 pm    Post subject: Like Dilbert said... Reply with quote

I generally agree with all that Dilbert said in his post. A couple of things to amplify. First, if you are really wanting to keep these for a lifetime, you should go with all-clad stainless and not buy cuisinart. The cuisinart line of cookware is designed to look something like the real stuff, but it ain't. If you want objective evidence, walk into any fine dining establishment and look in the kitchen. Any chef who trained at the acclaimed Culinary Institute of America (and most other famous cooking programs) will have his/her shelves lined with all-clad. That's what they use at the school, its what most pro's use, and its built to last. It has all the features you want: heavy, stainless lining, strong riveted handles that do not retain or conduct heat. If you must use teflon, get a cheap aluminum teflon pan at a restaurant supply store and throw it out at the very first sign of cracking, pitting or chipping. Instead, consider augmenting your collection with a "blue" carbon steal saute pan for searing proteins (check out de Buyer pans from Faymont France, available lots of places). If you season those pans right, they can take much more abuse, much higher heat and will be every bit as non-stick as cheap teflon (and will last a life time).
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KitchenBarbarian



Joined: 10 Feb 2012
Posts: 11

PostPosted: Tue Feb 28, 2012 6:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well I'm a scanpan user of 30 years, I cook with them every day, and I own no other pans, so now you know someone who has used it for more than a week.

The first generation of Scanpans were really only ever stick RESISTANT. Those are my 30 years old pans, which I was still using up until recently (they are now in storage).

The second generation pans are truly nonstick and the surface is still as tough as ever (perhaps tougher).

Scanpans are not a "scam" or "mystical" (by which I presume you meant "mythical" since the science behind non-stick is just that, science). Properly used (and I DO use metal utensils in them a good portion of the time) they last virtually forever. These 2nd gen Scanpans are probably about 6 years old now and still going strong. These have even held up to being used, abused, and generally banged around in a 5 bachelor household for the first couple of years of their life-in-use.

You can have my Scanpans when you pry them out of my cold dead hands, which, come to think of it, might not be all that hard since the exterior is as non-stick as the interior...
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