Pots and Pans recommendations

anna1029December 14, 2006

I've decided to throw out my old used pots and buy new ones (good ones). I've narrowed my search down to All Clad SS and LeCrueset. What are your recommendations. Should I buy sets or should I buy whatever pots I need. Should I get a couple of pieces from both manufacturers and what are the differences between the two.

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Take a spin through the following link and you'll soon discover that AllClad is not the be-all-end-all of SS cookware. They have created quite a following through marketing magic...

On the other hand, if money is not an object, you may want to consider picking up some Falk Culinair -- that would definitely blow the doors off the AllClad! (Would really like to pick up a Saucière some day...)

And, FWIW, I just bought my first piece of Paderno Grand Gourmet (the 11" rondeau, available exclusively at bridgekitchenware.com) and it is really a lovely piece of cookware...

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

    Bookmark   December 14, 2006 at 8:05PM
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I'm a big believer in _not_ buying sets. More often than not they contain pieces that just aren't right for the way you cook. So my advice is that you buy the individual pieces you need. This might wind up being slightly more expensive, but you'll thank yourself for it.

Second, don't by merely by brand. Buy by feel. Handle the piece in the store just as you would in your kitchen. If you're a twist-it, shake-it, flip it kind of cook, replicate those movements in the store. The most expensive cookware made is useless if it doesn't fit _your_ hand and _your_ cooking style.

For instance, because of the way I use skillets, I think the Henckels hump-back handle design is the best ever. But you might find it uncomfortable.

For that same reason, I'm not particularly interested in matched sets. By that I mean, all one brand. Even similarly sized pans, pots, skillets may be more comfortable in one brand than another. But the next pot might be the opposite.

Finally, let me state that based on my experience (or, I should say, non-experience) with their customer service department I will never own another All-Clad product. What counts is how a company backs up its products, and All-Clad just doesn't do that.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2006 at 9:26PM
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One warning about All-Clad - there is a whole thread on the All-Clad handles being uncomfortable for some people...so if that may be a concern for you - you might want to make sure you handle some before purchasing. Personally, I think All Clad is overrated - there are others that have cookware just as good and better - for money.

You can buy sets if everything in the set is something you need. Then you can buy individual pieces to add to your collection. Buying sets can save you money if you're smart about it ie: don't buy a set if you only like 1-2 piece out of that set.

You can't compare All Clad SS and Le Creuset - they're totally different animals! lol IMO, there are certain things that cast iron is unriveled for like a dutch oven. It excels in even heat all throughout and holding that heat well - good for slow cooking, etc. I wouldn't cook with ALL Le Creuset because I find it too heavy to handle on a daily basis. So for everything else, I use SS. I would recommend your daily pots/pans in SS and then a few vital pieces of cast iron.

All Clad alternatives are Calphalon, Demeyere, Update International, Member's Mark....

Here is some more info on Member's Mark:

Here is a link that might be useful: Sams Club - Member's Mark SS Set

    Bookmark   December 15, 2006 at 10:42AM
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Anna if you do end up with some All Clad I will tell you I love the even heat, the fact that the SS goes in the DW. As for the handles I haven't found it to be a problem. On the larger pans I have the helper handle and I realized I pick up the pan from the bottom not the top like some other pans I have. The only time I see a set as a good deal is a small one that happens to have exactly the pieces you will use.

    Bookmark   December 15, 2006 at 11:12AM
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I tend to buy individual items that I need. My dutch oven is Le Crueset but that is my only piece. I still have some of my my grandmother's old Revereware copper bottoms for general use. I have a large All Clad SS skillet that I only use for steak au poivre. I have Circulon non-stick for omelettes and eggs. There's always a few things in sets that you will never use. I think you're better off just buying what you need.

    Bookmark   December 15, 2006 at 6:28PM
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Thank you for all the replies and recomendations. From the article provided it is my understanding that thick copper is the best, however it's also out of my price range and from what I understand, copper needs to be maintained constantly. Falk Culinar seems also very expensive as does Demeyere and Mauviel. What are some other brands comparable to prices of All Clad SS. Also from what I understand from the article the Copper core is simply for looks rather than practicality. Is that your experience as well. Thank you for all the help.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2006 at 8:52PM
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I'm glad that you read the article that I linked above. Did you click on the Q&A link at the end of the article? It really is a must-read... all 17 pages of it! (To make it easy on you, click on the Q&A, scroll down to post number 12, dated Aug. 8, 2003.)

Regarding the maintenance of copper, the author recommends Falk Culinair because of its brushed finish. Mauviel, et al. use a polished finish that shows "patina" very quickly. More importantly, you don't need to maintain it if you don't want to -- it will not affect cooking performance.

Regarding pricing, yes, real copper cookware is expensive. BUT, you would only want a few selected pieces (a saucière or sauce pan, etc.) to get you by. You'll save money by buying cheap pots and pans where appropriate (no one needs an AllClad stock pot to boil water!), and "spending up" on items that will yield better performance.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2006 at 9:20PM
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>What are some other brands comparable to prices of All Clad SSExcuse me? About 80% of the stainless steel cookware readily available in this country is less expensive than All Clad---which, IMO, is incredibly overpriced.

Check out some of the other threads we've had on this subject. And look at Calphalon, Henckels, Members Mark, etc., all of which are equal or better than All Clad, in quality, and cost less.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2006 at 8:11AM
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Anna1029, Copper conducts heat hotter than Alum.
As well as some All Clad SS I also have some Cuisinart everyday SS with the copper sandwiched disc. I will say the Cuisinart gets hotter, good for saute, pasta water and quick veggies but I can not simmer in these pans like I can in the All Clad or Cast iron.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2006 at 5:38PM
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Though I'm still not decided on the SS pieces I'm planning on getting, I've narrowed my search down for the cast iron pieces. It will either be LeCreuset or Staub. What are your recommendations. The prices seem almost identical. Any pros or cons about them.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2006 at 1:10PM
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Anna, I don't think you could go wrong with either LeCreuset or Staub. If you don't get responses here try the cooking forum I know they have been discussed.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2006 at 1:58PM
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Le Creuset and Staub are both great. Pick the size/color/style you like.

Le Creuset has pretty high quality control, as evidenced by the high quality of the 'seconds' you can sometimes find at places like TJMaxx.

Also at TJMaxx are some other enameled cast iron pieces; I'm quite happy with a chinese pot labeled 'Well equipped Kitchen' which was about a fourth the cost of Le Creuset. Dunno if it will last one-fourth the lifetime of a comparable LC, but I like it so far.

Don't overlook plain old black cast iron. It's really economical, and as long as you aren't cooking anything really acidic like tomato sauce, it's really fine stuff. I have an 80+ year old piece that is perfect for searing meat. There are some posters here who almost have a fetish for old cast iron, and I agree it does some things better than other more modern items.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2006 at 2:22PM
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I recently received a small frying pan that is part of the CIA Masters series cookware line. I wanted to try out the product, and it's too soon to render a verdict. The handle is more comfortable than the All-Clad, it has the rolled edge I prefer, it is truly lovely to look at, and it is supposedly made in the United States (some All-Clad no longer is). However, and this is either a plus or a minus, it is probably heavier than All-Clad (though I do not have a pan for a side-by-side comparison)and priced similarly. It has stainless, aluminum, and copper layers, either 5 or 7 total, I believe.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2006 at 5:00PM
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From what I've heared cast iron is better suited for slow cooking and simmering dishes and as far as browning meats and getting a great crust and then deglazing the pan, SS is a better choice. Am I right?

    Bookmark   December 18, 2006 at 8:10PM
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anna -- Are you calling the Le Creuset "cast iron" and the All-Clad "SS"? If so, it's a little more complicated than that. Enameled cast iron like Le Creuset is indeed excellent for slow cooking and simmering. But plain cast iron is an excellent material for browning meats and deglazing*. In contrast, SS by itself is a poor material for both purposes. Heavy aluminum with a thin layer of SS, like All-Clad, is OK for both purposes.

*I bought a couple of strip steaks on sale yesterday. I seared them for 2 minutes on each side in a little peanut oil in a plain cast iron skillet over a medium high flame and finished them by putting the skillet in a 500º oven for 6 minutes. I then deglazed the pan with red wine, threw in a couple of sliced shallots, quickly reduced the liquid over a high flame and finished it by stirring in a pat of butter.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2006 at 10:53PM
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Yes, I was only assuming about enameled cast iron and All Clad (aluminum with SS). To tell you the truth I haven't seen any regular cast iron in stores at all. As I'm reading through other posts in the forum some things are becoming clearer and some more confusing. Another question that comes up is a fry pan for the eggs. I don't like to use a lot of oil, so non non-stick is out of the question for me. I read everywhere that teflon is not that great, what are my options or are there pans out there with better teflon?

    Bookmark   December 19, 2006 at 10:09AM
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Anna -- There's a variety of non-stick called Silverstone that, in my experience, holds up much better than the regular stuff. A heavy aluminum pan with a Silverstone label, from a restaurant supply place would be a good choice.

If you use a slotted spatula, the amount of fat you cook the eggs in is largely irrelevant. I cook fried or scrambled eggs in a French carbon steel omelet pan with a moderate amount of butter.

Most of the non-enameled cast iron available today is of pretty poor quality. eBay is a good source for the old Griswold or Wagner cast iron that many cooks prefer.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2006 at 11:35AM
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I have to differ with you, velodoug. Griswold is, of course, in a class by itself. But today's Lodge cookware ranks right up there with, or beyond, anything Wagner ever cast.

The problem is, much of the stuff on the market is cheaply made foreign iron. Lodge is the last of the American foundries making cast ironware. And they've expanded their market, now offering a line of pre-seasoned ware, and a line of enameled ware.

Really good stuff can be found my haunting the flea markets, antique malls, garage sales and the like. That's how you get quality ironware at affordible prices. Even Griswold can be found, from time to time, at prices that make it useful instead of collectible.

Anna: FWIW, I don't understand the constant comments on this and the cooking forum about having one non-stick pan for eggs.

I cook eggs in either cast iron or stainless steel all the time, and they don't stick. Nor are they swimming in grease. It's a matter of learning how to use the equipment you have.

I've also watched folks cook eggs in their non-stick pans, and haven't noticed that they use significantly less grease than I do.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2006 at 1:56PM
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Lodge Logic pots and pans--I now have three--are wonderful. I wouldn't cook tomato or Bearnaise sauce in them (shape of mine wouldn't suit it, non-enameled iron is not a great idea with tomato, etc.). Cast iron is wonderful for frying--just about anything, baking cornbread, searing meat. They are versatile. They are also very, very heavy, and retain heat for a long time. Therefore, if you want a pan that will cool down rapidly, this is not the way to go. Hardware stores, cookware stores, camping stores, online stores, they're all over the place these days and enjoying a resurgence.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2006 at 7:01AM
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As I continue my search and research, another question comes up. Does the type of stove that I have matters? I have a regular gas stove (Kenmore). Round burners. Front burners are bigger than the rear burners.

Thanks again for all the help and recomendations.

    Bookmark   December 26, 2006 at 11:36AM
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Your stove shouldn't have any affect.

The super-modern convection and glass topped stoves have precise requirements. But none of them apply to your gas stove.

With SS and cast iron, though, you'll probably have to work at lower temperatures than you're used to. But, as Emeril always says, that's why you have knobs.

    Bookmark   December 26, 2006 at 5:15PM
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Early in December I ordered 3 pieces of Cuisinart Chef's Classic Stainless and have been very pleased. I researched thoroughly and decided this line had all the features I wanted. It will go in oven to 450F. Can be washed in dishwasher. Nice comfy stay-cool handles. Not too heavy for lifting but cooks well and retains heat nicely. I have the 10" open skillet. 1-1/2 qt. saucepan with cover. and the 12" Everyday pan with domed cover. And a feature I really like...non-drip pouring. josh

    Bookmark   December 26, 2006 at 9:14PM
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Whoops! In my post above I meant induction rather than convection. Sorry.

    Bookmark   December 26, 2006 at 10:13PM
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You can probably save some money, and get the performance you are after, if you do the following:
- buy a Cuisinart 5-piece Cuisinart Chef's Classic (51.99, see link)
- go to Marshalls, TJ Max, or Tuesday Morning, and pick up at least one 12" Cuisinart Chef's Classic skillet with lid for $25-30
- and while you are at the discount store, get a 2-quart sauce pan with lid for $15-25

Total for the above: $95-107 for a 9-piece set that is very usable.

That is what I did. But I have two 12" skillets (with lids) because for large tasks like browning a lot of meats, I fire up both skillets to save time. My total was 126.99 for an 11-piece set. I use the 12" skillets a lot!

I have no issues with simmerering with the Chef's Classic like eandhl mentioned... but I have a Dacor Epicure gas rangetop that has a very low simmer setting (a few hundred BTUs).

Just a thought...


Here is a link that might be useful: Cuisinart 5-Piece on Amazon

    Bookmark   January 1, 2007 at 1:19PM
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Thank you for all the riplies and recomendations. I've been going to my local Marshal's and TJ max, but so far with no luck. I want to buy Staub Oval French Oven (coq au vin) and was wondering about sizes (I haven't seen them in any of the stores that are around my area, so I'm shopping online and can't get a feel for the size). I'm looking at 6qt, is it big enough for a family of 4. Really it's just my husband and I and 2 small kids. But would I be able to use it if we have company coming over, let's say 6 people to be able to cook a large enough bird or meat, etc. Thank you again for all the help.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2007 at 12:28PM
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