All-Clad vs. high-heat

barbara9093October 30, 2005

Okay, I don't get it. I buy a high-powered Viking cooktop and a set of All-Clad Stainless Steel pots and pans so I can attempt to cook like a pro. And the first thing I see in my All-clad instructions is that you are not supposed to use All-Clad on high heat; only low to medium.

My impression of professional chefs is that they treat cooking like an extreme testosterone sport. High heat; lots of shoving of pans back and forth across the burners; huge flames shooting up from the pan as they splash in something alcoholic to make a sauce. So now I have the professional stuff, but I'm supposed to coddle these pans wimpily on low-heat?

I tried making some hash-browns. I took some boiled potatoes, heated a saute pan on low heat with some oil, as directed, and added my chopped up potatoes. They instantly stuck to the pan. All that happened as they cooked is that succeeding layers stuck to the pan and brown while the (ever-shrinking) cube of potato remained white and mushy.

(And the boiling tarnished the pot.)

I have been making hash-browns in a variety of pans for a long time. I have some old Calphalon with the coating all gone; a cheap non-name non-stick; an old Wearever... any of these makes decent (if toxic) hash-browns. What's with this All-Clad?

I even tried making plain-old spaghetti. if you can't use high-heat, how do you get a good boil going for spaghetti? On medium heat, as you add the spaghetti, it all sits there miserably and gets gummy and gluey.

I'd appreciate all hints!!!!

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Hi, Barbara,

I don't have answers to all your questions, but hopefully do to a few.

First off, I don't think professional restaurant chefs cooking with high heat and flames are using 5-ply stainless all-clad for these feats. I think they use a lot of aluminum pans, cast iron, etc. for that. The 5-ply stainless or copper is reserved more for making sauces, sauteeing, etc. at lower heats.

If you are cooking pasta, of course you need to bring the water to a boil. You would probably be better off using a less expensive pot for this purpose, but certainly if you want to use your all-clad you'll have to crank the heat to get it to boil. That won't damage the all-clad, as the water inside will just boil.

I think the biggest problem with using high heat with all-clad is when things "get away" from you. That is, because the pans will heat more evenly/quickly than others, you can cook at lower temps efficiently. If, say, you are sauteeing at HIGH, it's apt to get too hot and you can easily burn what you're cooking and run the risk of damaging the pan. You can lose control of what you're doing at high heat, and that's when trouble will set in. That won't happen boiling water.

With regard to the potatoes, I would heat the pan (med to med-high), add the oil until that is heated, then add the potatoes and stir frequently. I do think potatoes will tend to stick regardless, but shouldn't be as bad as you described.

We got new pans last winter (Kitchen-aid 5 ply stainless, similar to all-clad), and I try to keep the teenagers away from them. There's no reason they can't make their pasta, heat canned soup, etc. in the old reverewear just fine. I reserve the good pots for things like making stews, braising pork, etc.

It takes a bit of adjustment, but just experiment a little and you'll figure it out and what works best for you and your stove.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2005 at 12:47PM
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Thanks Loriafopiano! I will try (and try) again.


    Bookmark   October 30, 2005 at 5:21PM
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I've used high heat on all of my All-Clad except for the nonstick, and have experienced no ill effects. You certainly don't want to have high heat with nothing in the pan or skillet, but otherwise I can't see there being a problem.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2005 at 9:47PM
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For the hash browns, heat your skillet on medium-high for a couple minutes with NOTHING in it. Then, add whatever fat you are using and allow another few seconds for it to come up to temp (because your pan is already very hot this will happen quickly)...then, after the fat is hot ONLY then add the potatoes. You can tell if the pan is ready by dropping a small piece of whatever your cooking into the should immediately sizzle...if it doesn't the pan was not hot enough when you added the fat. When the potatoes are in the pan, lower your heat slightly to medium-low.

Then, and this is important....DO NOT TOUCH THOSE POTATOES. You mentioned you had "stirred" your hash browns and that's, probably, why they stuck. You have to let them sit until a crust forms. This is the same technique used for searing a steak or roast, etc. Do NOT touch whatever is in that pan until the caramalization has occurred. When the crust has formed on the potatoes they will let go from the pan and then are ready for turning. For me, I cut my potatoes in about 1" dice for hash browns and they can take a full 5-8 minutes before they are ready for me to touch. For a piece of meat, you will know when caramalization has happened because the previously stuck like glue steak has loosened itself from the pan and you can turn it easily...if it's still sticking it's simply not ready to be turned.

Back to the most you might have to turn your spatula upside down and lightly loosen the potatoes in order to turn them but they WILL come right up and certainly not be glued to the pan. The key is learning to keep "hands-off" until the correct time to turn and starting with a properly pre-heated pan. For me, the instinct to fuss with food in the skillet was 'cause I didn't want it to burn. Unless you just walk away and completely forget what's cooking that won't happen. Be sure to use enough fat also...for, say, an 8" skillet filled with hash-browns cut in 1" dice and piled in the skillet 1-2" deep...go around your skillet 3-4 times with the oil. If there's not enough fat...then food could burn.

In my weekend cooking class for home cooks at CIA, we practiced for an hour on this technique using hamburger patties. It took me quite a while to "get it" that my instincts to fiddle with the food in the pan were causing my problems. I've taken several of CIA's home-cook classes and they're's an advantage to living just 9 miles from the campsus which, BTW, is georgous...all old brick buildings set on a hilly site...very picturesque. I've taken 3 courses there....knife handling (excellent); artisan bread (too elementary & not enough time to practice); and a general technique class (excellent). But the parking lot is huge and I hated hiking with my cane and cooking stuff up to the buildings...I digress, sorry. Unfortunately, the one time DH and I coughed up the $200 or so to eat at the school's French restaurant it was ghastly and I do mean GHASTLY. It must have been truffle week in class and/or the school got a real deal from their produce supplier 'cause truffles were in everything...way too much of a good thing. Dinner was so horrible, we passed on desert. I couldn't bear the thought of truffle chocolate something-or-other.

Now, with all that WILL get some pieces of food that stick to a SS pan. But, you want that to happen...that's where we get the wonderful stuff to make sauces, gravies, etc. from. And, why a non-stick pan is not the best for searing. Quickly deglaze your skillet with a liquid of your choice and again...DO NOT STIR that pan. Just allow the liquid to quickly heat up and all the stuck pieces will loosen all by themselves with little or no assistance from the cook. Once that happens, lower the heat dramatically and stir away to blend any additional ingredients into your sauce.

As for the high heat issue...there will be times when you want to do that such as searing meat, however, much of that flames shooting a foot in the air around the pan stuff you see on the Food Network and the chef tossing the skillets around is for show. They can shake that pan and move it all around the burner but what you WON'T see them doing is poking at the food with an implement of destruction until caramalization has happened. Then, with great fanfare they will toss the pan and flip.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2005 at 6:17AM
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Very good advice Tricia. 25 years ago my best friend Jim and his wife gave me a 10 piece set of All-Clad. He was an ex-chef and a very talented cook and after I used the cookware a few times I told him how the food stuck. I guess he decided then that I needed to know the cooking basics you've described above and he taught me. My All-Clad has performed great ever since then. Jim died a few years ago but his wife and I are still close friends and every time I use the cookware they gave me I think of them.

One other secret to this type of cooking is to start with scrupulously clean cookware. I hand-wash (I keep plenty of BarKeeper's Friend on hand) and towel dry, it only takes a minute. Residue on the cookware will make food stick more than you want and make it much harder to clean once residue has accumulated.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2005 at 7:35PM
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thanks TriciaE....
Now I know why/what happened when I use my All-Clad on my induction cooktop....
will try to control my 'urge' to flip my stuff too early...

    Bookmark   December 1, 2005 at 9:03AM
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Hi, I found this thread doing a search asking what the first thing was folks had cooked on their new AllClad saute pan. I'm glad I did, because I learned why some things stick to my other stainless steel pans. I have one reserved for only plain cooked chicken and lamb because of our grandsons' allergies. I am looking forward to using my new 4 qt. saute pan, and will be careful not to turn things too soon. Are any of you still on this forum? I first joined ivillage in the gardening forums, but haven't participated much, since starting a blog, and spending too much time on FB.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2013 at 11:35PM
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The Cooking forum is much more active than this one. Join us there!

Here is a link that might be useful: Cooking forum

    Bookmark   January 6, 2013 at 12:27AM
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