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Stainless vs. TriPly! And the winner is...

Posted by VinceDee (My Page) on
Tue, Apr 12, 05 at 18:29

Everybody talks about All-Clad being the latest and greatest trend in cookware. Having spawned numerous knock-offs, it's clear that the stainless-aluminum-stainless cookware rage is in full bloom. But what actual, practical tests have been conducted to show the superiority of "TriPly" over other types of cookware? I've searched the Internet, and I can't find hardly any information where someone tests various cookware in any kind of objective way.

Having just jumped on the TriPly bandwagon (by buying a Sam's Club "Member's Mark" 11-piece TriPly cookware set...practically a dead ringer for All-Clad, or so I'm
told), and being the skeptic that I am, I decided to conduct my own informal test to find out if TriPly was "all that and a bag of chips", or just another Macarena type fad.

The first thing to understand is that I'm not a professional cook. In fact, I'm not really that much of a amateur cook, either (if my wife is to be believed). I'm also not a professional tester, a metallurgist, a kitchen designer, or any of the various professionals who have any kind of credibility in recommending kitchenware-type stuff. No, I'm just some guy who occasionally likes to cook and my only qualifications for doing this test are that I just bought a set of new pans and I have a cynical, show-me personality. So you've been warned.

This first set of tests was about as simple as you can get: Boiling water. Is there any reason to believe that the construction of a pan even matters when you're just boiling water? I don't know, but it seems like the obvious place to start, so here we go. In conducting this test, I used my old cookware set's 18/8 Ekco brand 3-ply (not to be confused with TriPly) stainless steel 1 quart saucepan (I don't know for sure, but I'm guessing that it's a mid-level cookware from the mid 1980s. Yes, yes, you're right, it was a hand-me-down). For this first undercard fight I put the Ekco up against a shiny new "Member's Mark" 1.5 quart TriPlyClad saucepan...it almost doesn't even sound fair...sounds like my poor little, trusty, mildly dented Ekco is gonna be knocked out in the first round.

I made sure both pans were at approximately 65 degrees Fahrenheit (room tempurature), then poured 1 cup of 60 degree tap water into them. I put them on my 18 year old Tappan gas stove and let 'er rip (I wasn't too worried about using maximum throttle on the TriPly...my cheap little soon-to-be-replaced-in-a-major-remodel stove probably only goes up to 9k BTU max, so it's like medium on any other stove). I pulled out my TruTemp tempurature gauge and stuck the probe in the water. How long would it take for each pan to boil the water to 212 degrees? I was kind of surprised to find out:

Ekco: 2:55
TriPly: 3:00

Whoa. That's pretty darned close, if you ask me. I thought that the TriPly would boot the stainless-only Ekco to the curb, but there was only a 5 second difference. Doesn't it seem as though the TriPly, with the advantage of an aluminum core up the sidewalls, would heat up considerably faster? So far, a very narrow advantage to the TriPly (though the Ekco lasted through the first round of this fight).

Next test: Lets boil more water! After letting the pans cool back down to 60-ish degrees I filled them each with 1 quart of water. Would boiling a larger amount of water separate the contenders from the wannabes?:

Ekco: 9:07
TriPly: 8:10

Okay, now we have some real differences. Note that I was alternately taking the tempurature of the water in each pan to note their performance during the test. What I found was that the stainless-only Ekco actually heated the water more quickly than the TriPly up to the 5:00 minute mark. Then the TriPly pan came on strong and rapidly overtook the Ekco, easily outpacing it to the final bell (or boil) by a full minute! Why would that be? Could it be that the interior layer of stainless in the TriPly pan took longer to heat up, but when it did it came on like gangbusters? Or maybe the thinner stainless pan had an advantage from the get go but hit a wall once it got to a certain tempurature? In any case, the TriPly was the clear winner of this bout.

I'll probably be doing a few more tests in the near future to find out if the difference between these two cookware choices also extends to the cooking of actual food. In the meantime, if anyone knows of some Internet sources where they objectively test the various modern cookware (Anodized Aluminum, Tri-Ply, Stainless, ScanPan, etc) please post a link.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Stainless vs. TriPly! And the winner is...

Vince...another Sam's Club tri-ply clad owner here. I compared my Sam's Club to my friends' All-Clad and the difference in the "cooking experience" is nada, zippo. The big difference is in the cost! I also lived for many years with my "purchased when I was newly married" Revere Ware. As I got older I decided that I must be a really good cook, since I was using less than stellar cookware and produced really good food. I coveted friends' top of the line cookware, but having a frugal side and being a veteran "shopper", was not ready to plunk down an arm and a leg on cookware that cost a small fortune. I knew I could do better, and researched, researched, researched. I spent more than needed hours looking for the perfect cookware/cookware set that would give me the benefits of All-Clad without the hefty price. And then I went to Sam's Club...just an ordinary day. Saw the Member's Mark tri-ply clad, and the light went on! I handled every piece, saw how the lids fit, looked at the thickness of the construction and decided that it was time. And at less than $130.00, it made sense. I also know that if I wasn't happy with it, I could return it for a full refund. Try that with a retail store!
Long story short...you have proved that it's the nag that can keep up the pace to the finish line, rather than have a burst of speed and then poop out before the final bend. You'll love how it evenly holds the heat, how it gives you that delicious bit of fond, how it gently caresses your delicate sauces when necesary, how your pasta keeps on boilin'. BTW...Cook's Illustrated is looking for you!


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