Fully clad SS vs. disc bottoms

tmac96March 3, 2005

I was at the store looking at some cookware trying to decide which stainless steel pieces I wanted to pick up. I am really interested in the fully-clad tri-ply pieces such as All Clad (and Sam's Club's Members Mark SS cookware which is also fully clad but costs far less). In viewing the pieces though, I noticed how very thin they are. Other stainless steel cookware that is not fully clad and instead has the disc bottom has a much thicker bottom. This leads me to believe that those pieces would be better at distributing heat across the bottom and would thereby better eliminate "hot spots" in my pan. If that is so, why do so many recommend fully clad so much more? I know that with fully clad extends heat up the sides, but is that necessary in a pan?

I am new to this, so please excuse this question if it is totally stupid! Thanks!

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I have found no "hot spots" in either my Cuisinart, disk bottom or my All Clad SS. Both work serve a good purpose. Only thing I noticed is the cuisinart with copper disk doesn't simmer well. (too hot with the copper)

    Bookmark   March 4, 2005 at 8:14AM
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As you noted, the disk bottom is much thicker on the bottom than the triple ply is all over, but I wouldn't call the tri-ply construction "thin". I have the Sam's Club/Member's Mark tri-ply clad cookware and it is approximately 1/4" thick allover. The tri-ply or "all-clad" is 2 layers of stainless steel encapsulating an aluminum core. If you look at the thickness of an all-clad/triple-ply clad piece of cookware as compared to a disc bottom piece of cookware, you will see that the thickness of the all clad is throughout the entire pan/pot, not just on the bottom of the pan. The cookware with disk bottoms have thinner "side walls", since the thickness is strictly on the bottom disk. A friend of mine has the All Clad, and she brought over a peice of her cookware to copmpare it to my Member's Mark cookware. There seems to be no discernable difference between the two, except the price...LOL! I have cooked with both her All Clad and my "Sam's Special" and I can find no difference in the process or the outcome. I had a piece of the Cuisinart bottom disk cookware and found that I had "hot spots" and uneven results depending on what I was cooking. Not so with a tri-ply construction...you get great results every time. I have since given my Cuisinart pot away.
I prefer my cookware to be able to heat quickly and evenly and retain a constant heat throughout the entire cooking surface, as opposed to maintaining the heat source only on the bottom of the pan/pot. Just another humble opinion.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2005 at 11:45AM
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Mrsmarv -- I am very glad to hear of your results regarding the "Sam's Special" and your friends All-Clad -- especially since I decided to get the Sam's Special! I just got it just this past weekend and so far I really like it! I did a good amount of research and I felt pretty good about the purchase. I feel even better now! Thanks!

    Bookmark   March 7, 2005 at 6:26PM
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Congrats on the Member's Mark purchase, Tmac96. I cannot believe the cost of these pans when I compare with the All-Clad that I was absolutely set on. Nothing but praise from this MM tri-clad owner.

To stay on topic my calphalon non-stick is a disk bottom and for what I use it for, it is great. I use it for eggs mostly. I think for sauces and other soupier (is that a word?) things, having the tri-layer up the side makes sense. I'm sure there are chef-types here who can offer a more educated explanation and opinion than mine.


    Bookmark   March 7, 2005 at 8:03PM
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I am so glad to find this forum. I spent at least 30 minutes staring at pots and pans in Bed, Bath and Beyond today and I still have not bought anything.
I have learned a lot from you guys. I am not a member of Sam's. Does Costco have anything? I haven't looked.
Target sells Calphalon and I have been wondering about the nonstick sets they have. I like the idea of buying All Clad but the price is wild. Is Emeril's as good since it is a division of All Clad?

    Bookmark   March 19, 2005 at 9:31PM
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Costco has cookware, but at this present time, they do not carry any triple-ply. Does anyone you know have a Sam's membership? Maybe you could "borrow" them to go shopping. Emeril's cookware is good, but again, the price is high (at least for this working gal). I also don't believe that you have to buy a top of the line brand name to get top of the line quality...and I'm a very good shopper. I have looked at the Calphalon pots and pans that Target sells. They carry a few different lines, and from what I can tell, the Calphalon "Essentials" look decent. The only reason I would not buy a set of Calphalon from Target is that the only sets they carry from Calphalon are all non-stick. If you browse through the different messages on the cookware forum, you can read the pros and cons of different types of cookware and the reasoning behind people's purchasing a particular type. I have the Sams' Club Member's Mark 11 piece all clad set, but in addition I also have a few Calphalon non-stick pieces, as well as pieces from Tramontina (who, BTW, manufactures Member's Mark). Tramontina is a very reputable cookware company. If you're interested in looking at how their cookware is constructed , there is a link below. This will let you see how the Member's Mark set is constructed, and you'll see why it's such a great buy. On the link go to "Our Products" to "Cookwrae" to "Tri-Ply Clad".

Here is a link that might be useful: Tramontina site

    Bookmark   March 21, 2005 at 2:23PM
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I have some of this Tramontina "Tri Ply Clad" I really like it but noticed the sauté pans tend to burn (like really fast). Does anyone have the same experience? I am not sure if I want to get the rest of the set, or if All Clad would be better. They have everything @ this link. Does anyone know where else I might buy these (so I can compare prices)?

Here is a link that might be useful: Tramontina Tri Ply Clad

    Bookmark   April 3, 2005 at 2:06PM
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Hi potguy...what level heat are you using? The tri-ply cookware should be used with low to medium heat. You should not have to use high heat with this type of construction. Just an FYI.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2005 at 8:20AM
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Costco does has tri-ply and five-pli(w/copper), but I don't think it's all the way up the sides. Does anyone have experience with their Sitram or Kirklands set?

    Bookmark   April 16, 2005 at 1:54AM
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Has anyone used the Kirkland Italian 5-ply bottom set? All the reviews from this set have been extremely positive, but I'd like to know if users see a problem with it not being tri 5-ply all the way up the sides.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2005 at 9:36AM
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They both have their purpose.

For sauteing I'll always recommend a good disk bottom. For a good saute you need a ton of heat on the bottom which a disk bottom will give you. Tri-ply will waste heat on the sides where you don't need it and the alum core is usually about half the thickness of the alum in a disk. Unless you have a 30k btu burner you really need a disk bottom for this. Similar for sauce pans and stock pots - the ply on the sides provides very little if any benefit and can be a drawback since it wastes heat up the sides (that heat goes up into the air and very little goes into the liquid) and because the alum in tri-ply is thin - including on the bottom where you really need it.

For a fry-pan you want an even temp on the sides otherwise you can have problems with things sticking and uneveness of heat so tri-ply is a good choice here.

All-Clad. I don't get it. This stuff costs approx 5 times what professional cookware costs or what good consumer disk bottom cookware costs and there are zero benefits and numerous drawbacks. I tried some for a few days and found the handles to be extremely uncomfortable as the ribs along the top cut into my hands. In all of the serious chefs I've talked to both pro and home, not a single one will use it with the exception of the folks at cooks illustrated who receive a ton of advert $'s from them.

My wife wanted some cookware that looked nice (my mostly all aluminum stuff doesn't) and where she wouldn't have to worry about acidic issues with aluminum. I'm sure there are other good options, but the cuisinart disk-bottom stuff looks good and cooks well. Volrath also makes some all stainless cookware with heavy alum disk bottoms, but I believe it's only sold at restaraunt supply houses.

just my thoughts.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2005 at 7:04PM
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i don't think i've read anything about the handles of the Sam's Special. Are they 'stay cool' handles? or do they heat up as much as the pan does?

    Bookmark   April 25, 2005 at 6:55AM
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The handles on all but the 6 qt. stockpot of the Sam's Club/Member's Mark don't heat up. The 6 qt. stockpot handles get very warm, but that's because they are only "short" half-round handles, rather than the long handles that are on the saute/fry/sauteuse pans. I find the ergonomics/comfort of the handles on the Member's Mark are much more comfortable than on the All-Clad (for me, at least...which works out well).

    Bookmark   April 25, 2005 at 9:27AM
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I think the problem with All-Clad handles is that they are put on upside down.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2005 at 10:53PM
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I purchased a Sitram set from Costco on sale online last year. My set has disk bottoms. Also have a Cuisinart multi-ply that I like very well. From what I have read here, if I hadn't purchased the Sitram (my old ones were just too uneven on my new smoothtop), I don't think I would hesitate to buy the Member's Mark pans. Have Calphalon tri-ply also, but prefer the Cuisinart or Sitram and use them the most. The handles on the Sitram work okay for me and I have small hands.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2005 at 9:16PM
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I think Sam's, and maybe Costco as well, will give you a one day pass. Both will let you in to look without a card.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2005 at 7:11AM
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You can often find Sam's Club one-day passes on the 'net. Here is one (expires in June 2005).

A 10% service upcharge applies in most areas.


They also sometimes have one-day passes in Walmart fliers, or in the stores during their Sam's Club membership drives.

When you can't find one free off the 'net, sometimes they pop up on ebay for a buck or two.

Here is a link that might be useful: Sam's Club One Day Pass

    Bookmark   May 17, 2005 at 4:06PM
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Is Tramontina cookware sold in any stores besides Sam's club, and if so, where ?
Thanks, salbwil

    Bookmark   May 18, 2005 at 6:10PM
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qvc.com has the Tramontina Sterling, Gourmet and Tri-Ply Clad lines

If you mean bricks and mortar stores, I believe Walmart has some Tramontina (including the lower end ones), and you can also find select pieces sometimes at Ross.

And there is also ebay.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2005 at 8:25PM
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I was wondering which set of cookware would be better. The Member's Mark Fully Clad or the Tramontina Fully Clad. I am wanting to replace the cheap stuff that I have now and buy something good but I just don't know what that is.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2006 at 2:27PM
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Tramontina makes the Sam's Club/Member's Mark tri-ply all clad cookware.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2006 at 1:53PM
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Boy am I glad this posting is occuring right now, because I've been shopping today for an entire new set of pots and pans, couldn't decide, and told my husband we needed to go home and start a thread on the forum.

Funny that I was leaning toward All Clad, but wasn't sure if "you get what you pay for" or not. Sounds as though the set at Sam's Club has been proven by experience to be equally as good. I also (briefly) looked at the Cuisinart set, but have always felt that you pay a bit extra for their name as well. Anyone else out there who has had direct experience with All Clad versus Sams Club set?

    Bookmark   April 14, 2006 at 7:10PM
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Oh yeah...forgot one question - are the lids on the set from Sam's Club glass?

    Bookmark   April 14, 2006 at 7:16PM
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maggie - I have the Sam's Club/Member's Mark triple-ply clad. When I purchased it last year, I did a "side-by-side" comparison with a friend's All-Clad. As far as results, there was no discernible difference! Her daughter goes to the CIA and said that if she had known about the Sam's Club cookware, she wouldn't have had her mom spend the money on the All-Clad. The one thing we found that we like more on the Sam's Club are the handles...much more comfortable. When I was using her All-Clad pans, the handles felt like they were put on "upside down". They actually felt like they were cutting into my hands.
Good luck with your decision!

    Bookmark   April 15, 2006 at 10:10AM
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I hope it is OK for me to jump in w/a question here. I was in another thread asking about Kitchenaid cookware, and folks there suggested the MM/Tramontina to me instead. I've found the posts in this tread about MM/Tramontina really helpful. I am wondering about one thing, however. Does anyone know if there is any difference in quality between the Tramontina cookware branded as MM at Sam's versus the Tramontina sold directly on their website (or on the website that another THSer posted above). Sorry to aks the same question in two threads devoted to alternatives to AC.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2006 at 10:57AM
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Usually the only difference is in the aesthetics, not the quality. I read the specs on both the Tramontina and the Sam's Club/Member's Mark and they appear to be the same. Hope this helps.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2006 at 12:04PM
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Thanks so much for checking out the specs on my behalf. I'm going to get myself into a Sam's Club this weekend, even if it means standing outside and asking a stranger if I can come in and shop with them! I'm so thrilled to find out about what sounds like a great alternative to AC and Kitchenaid.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2006 at 12:15PM
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I think this forum addresses an issue that is evaded and difficult to research on the web. People who spend a fortune on cookware are reluctant to acknowledge (after the fact) that they could have gotten the same quality for a lot less. Reviewers are often lackeys of the high-end manufacturers, and generate biased reviews. (Cook's Illustrated and Consumer Reports accept no advertising and are hence more reliable) However, anyone doing objective research on this subject comes to the same conclusions: You don't have to spend a fortune to get great cookware. It seems (based on the reports in Cook's Illustrated magazine) that overall weight of the pan is a more important factor than how many layers of alloy are involved. Le Creuset is a case in point, but is perhaps too heavy to use conveniently and routinely. Thin-bottom, lightweight pans may heat too quickly and scorch food. Fully-clad may be beneficial in a saucepan, where the contents are in contact with the pan walls, but in a skillet, probably makes no difference, as all of the cooking takes place on the bottom of the pan. I found the best cookware value to be the Oneida TriPly cookware. This is fully clad, with the aluminum core extending all the way up the sides of the pans and pots. I found heavy saucepans and skillets ranging in price from $13-18. in the 1, 2 and 3 quart sizes and a 91/2 inch skillet at www.kitchencollection.com. Target also carries this brand. The Sam's Club cookware sounds similar. My only complaint re: this cookware is the small handles on the smaller saucepans. They stay very cool however, and the advantages (and ridiculous price) far outweigh this minor annoyance. Take advantage of cheap Chinese labor while it lasts. The materials and workmanship are equivalent at this point to All Clad at a fraction of the cost.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2006 at 11:22AM
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I posted this on another thread and thought that it might be relevant here.
The Costco Kirkland stainless steel cookware is very good! Better than good because of the price and great quality (not made in China) it is excellent. I like what Costco represents and their business practices are very good, I don't however like what Walmart and Sam's club stand for. They have horrible treatment of employees and their overall work ethic is a scandal. When will Americans realize this and turn away from it or do they not care as long as they are saving a few dollars? You don't see this in other countries by the way. Here is my posting from another thread:

I would like to give a different review of this cookware. I love them! I don't see what is wrong with buying the set. I use them all. Maybe I don't use each piece every time I cook but I have used them many times since I purchased them in December 2005. Not all the pieces are heavy. Only two of the pots really are (the sauté pan with lid, and the large sauce pot but both of them have a second handle on the opposite side of the regular handle) the rest of them are not so heavy considering the material and quality. These are very solid pieces. I don't know what is sold in the Costco stores anymore since the ones shown on their website didn't appear to have any Copper in them but the ones that I bought have Copper in them as well as Stainless steel. The Copper is a small (1 cm thick) band at the bottom of each pan/pot. I am very pleased with this set. They are very functional, easy to clean, affordable, and they do a great job. I've put them in the dishwasher a few times and although the Copper band at the bottom looks a bit spotted and discolored (can be easily polished with mild metal polish if you want that) the pieces are dishwasher safe. I have two All Clad pots and I have to say that although the weight and handle sizing of these two brands are different I think that the Costco version is quite good. It lived up to my expectations and then some. In fact I liked it so much I bought and brought it back with me to Sweden which is where I live. For the price that I paid and the same quality you cannot find that here!
I should add in case anyone wants to know the pieces are made in Thailand. It is imprinted on the bottom of each piece. Thailand is not China. There is still quality in Thailand. I doubt that Costco would be selling these pieces if the quality was lacking.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2006 at 3:30PM
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I read this thread w/great interest. Currently, all my pans are aluminum disk-bottom Farberware, plus one copper-bottom 13" skillet and a cast-iron skillet. I now have a new pro style range w/high-powered burners. I was planning to get several pots that are tri-ply so that i could experience what i assumed would be more evenly distributed heat for things like stir-frying (when i'm not using a wok), sauteing, and making sauces. I'm interested in taking a look at the Sam's Club pots. But from reading this thread it sounds like i should stick with disk bottoms for all of those jobs except making sauces. Is that correct? If so, should i be looking for something better than Farberware, that can more efficiently handle the heat from my new stove? I find that if i set the flame on anything above medium-low, the flame escapes around the sides of the pans, which I thought was bad, but if i want to take advantage of the high-heat burners for searing and sauteing, don't i need to turn it up higher than med-low, and what will that mean for tri-ply pans that apparently aren't supposed to be used on too high a heat? What, then, would i use them for? Long-cooking items that will be simmered, or can i turn the flame up higher to bring things to a boil more quickly if I want?

As you can see, i'm a little confused about all this! Any help on these questions would be much appreciated!

    Bookmark   August 23, 2006 at 12:15PM
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The eGullet article "Understanding Stovetop Cookware answers a lot of your questions, maybe in more detail than you want!

Read the sections on "Aluminum with an Interior and Exterior Lining of Stainless Steel" and "Stainless Steel Body with an Aluminum Base"

Also look at post #208 on the Q&A that comes after the above article. It gives a good description and graphic of the heat transfer of straight guage vs. disc bottom cookware.


Here is a link that might be useful: Understanding Stovetop Cookware

    Bookmark   August 23, 2006 at 10:56PM
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What a great article! So informative and decisive. Thanks, deepwater, for linking it!

    Bookmark   November 25, 2006 at 8:05AM
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