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The naked truth about bare aluminum cookware


Fat Guy
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Mmmmm. I wonder if the surface texture of the materials in cookware plays a role in the sticking.

I do know that there are different values or grits of polishing metals. For instance on surgical s/s impliments the metal is polished to a mirror shine, apparantly so that bacteria have a harder time to find a purchase on.

I do know that cooking in a cheap s/s sauteuse and a more expensive s/s sauteuse, meats tend not to stick on the more expensive one. The only logic I can find to expalin this, is because the more expensive one was polished to a higher degree, and theoritically, has a much smoother surface.

Then again, I could be completly wrong. Comments?

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I think that surface texture probably does make some difference.

If you look at he surface of a pan under a microscope and at high enough magnification, you will see that it appears pitted. These are often called the "pores" of the metal. When you put food into the pan, some of the food goes down into these pores and solidifies, thereby mechanically binding the food to the surface of the pan. This is "sticking."

Different material differ to the extent to which they have these pores. One way of mitigating this problem is with a durable polymerized fat and carbon seasoning layer. This is what we do with cast iron. Another way is to use fat, which fills the pores and creates a transfer medium between the food and the cooking surface.

Another way to handle this is to make sure that the pan is very hot and doesn't get overcrowded and cooled down. The high temperaature makes sure that the food surfaces solidify quickly, before they can bond with the surface of the pan. The Leidenfrost effect may have some effect here as well. Agitating the pan can also help to ensure that food surfaces solidify before bonding with the cooking surface.

Whether surface polish makes a difference if the surface material is the same? I suppose it could make some difference if there were a huge difference in the surface treatment. But more likely than not there are going to be other, much more significant differences. And I suspect that these differences will be minimal compared to the differences between the inherrent porosity of different materials.

Edward, in the case of your two sauteuses, are they otherwise identical except for the surface polish? Or does the more expensive one have a *(better) thermal layer, etc? In my own experience, I have several brands of stainless-lined heavy copper, some with a highly polished inner surface and some with a "brushed" inner surface. There is no difference in their "stickyness."

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The sauteuses? One was a cheap restaurant quality one--JRose, I believe, so maybe Korea or Thailand? The other was a verry old one from my time in Switzlerland--sigh...25 years and that thing still looks like new. I don't know what the "sandwich bottoms" are like, pretty sure the JRose is just a hunk of extruded aluminum glued on and a s/s skin glued onto that. I suspect the Swis one has some copper in there somewhere.

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So... if the thermal materials are much better of the Swiss piece, that could explain more about the difference in sticking. Or, the psychologist in me can't help mentioning that it could be mostly a perceived difference because you like the Swiss pan a lot better.

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  • 6 years later...

First of all hello, all! I just had to share this with you even though this thread has history. I recently scored a new old stock Magnalite aluminum pan that also came with the original brochure. The picture reminded me of the first picture posted here. Check it out :)

 

 

P1110437.JPG

P1110438.JPG

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Welcome to eGullet, @xetaprime, and lucky you.

 

I had to Google to see if my cast iron Wagner Ware skillet was made by the same company as your pan, and sure enough, it was! I hope your piece will prove to be as useful and durable as mine has.

 

Too bad they don't make stuff like this anymore, at least not that us average janes and joes can afford.

> ^ . . ^ <

 

 

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Thanx! Good to be here! I know, Classic American cookware that was quality made- where'd it go? Not even sure why I've been infected with the Magnalite Bug but I find myself collecting them now. Haven't used them yet but it will be fun cooking in a pan maybe older than I am, I think :) 

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10 hours ago, xetaprime said:

Thanx! Good to be here! I know, Classic American cookware that was quality made- where'd it go? Not even sure why I've been infected with the Magnalite Bug but I find myself collecting them now. Haven't used them yet but it will be fun cooking in a pan maybe older than I am, I think :) 

Now go out and find yourself some Club and Gaillard aluminum.  The omelet pan made by Club is a classic, almost 7mm thick.  They put Rudolf Stanish's name on them.  There's a "houswife" version that has a phenolic handle and a painted exterior, but the real find is the bare resto version with the steel handle.  I picked up the latter for $10 and it's the best omelet pan I've ever used.

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@boilsover, I have a couple of lidded Club aluminum pieces, apparently the "housewife" version, which is appropriate, cuz that's exactly what I am. xD

 

They are indeed thick. I have the Dutch oven and 3 qt. saucepan. Either piece is quite even heating all the way to the top, and used to be a favorite in my kitchen until I got triple ply bottom stainless pieces. I mostly use the smaller piece now to reheat biscuits, rolls or cornbread for two on the stovetop as a mini Dutch oven now. I still love them though, and dedicate precious storage space to them.

 

I have joked about using the Dutch oven as a jackstand for a car. It is that sturdy and substantial. They came with a lifetime warranty.

 

10 hours ago, xetaprime said:

I know, Classic American cookware that was quality made- where'd it go?

 

Overseas junk versions or in the few renditions left here, they are now specialty pieces for the affluent. I bought a Bromwell grater back in the 70's, and I'd be real surprised if I paid over $1.99 US for it. It has seen a lot of use in my home kitchen, it's still sharp, and I use it all the time. Here it is now. Who's going to pay $75 to $125 for a simple cheese grater, even if they can pass it on to their kids? 

 

Hang on to any classic stuff you're lucky enough to acquire.

> ^ . . ^ <

 

 

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I have a few pieces of ancient calphalon anodized aluminum. This is back when it just said "The Commercial Anodized Aluminum Cookware Co" and had the NSF logo, and was about twice as heavy as the modern incarnations. The anodized surface is not my favorite (I prefer stainless for most things) but these pans work great for almost everything and have taken a beating since the early '90s. 

 

The only ones I've stopped using are the fry pan (9 or 10" omelette pan / poele) because it got ridiculously warped. It's still around as a spare, but it wobbles and spins and every now and then needs to be bashed back into shape (sort of) with a hammer. One drawback to very thick aluminum is warping when you use on high heat ... presumably because of the high expansion coeficient of the material allowing it expand / contract on the inside more than the outside during fast temperature changes. Probably when deglazing, etc..

 

For bare aluminum I'm pretty happy with my 20qt stockpot. I chose this material here because it was the cheapest. I think a stainless one with a disk bottom has a bit more utility—easier to clean, and no issue with acidic ingredients leaching metal into the stock. But the aluminum is a workhorse and these drawbacks have been more hypothetical than anything else.

Edited by paulraphael (log)
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Notes from the underbelly

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  • 5 years later...
1 hour ago, Susanwusan said:

Hi.  Has anyone had experience of using aluminium bun trays, used without the bun cases?

I'm not sure what bun trays or bun cases are. 


I do have what, in the US, are commonly called muffin tins or cupcake tins.  I have re-usable aluminum types like this(eG-friendly Amazon.com link) and disposable aluminum types like this (eG-friendly Amazon.com link).

I have used both types with and without disposable paper liners like this.(eG-friendly Amazon.com link).  

Any chance that’s what you’re asking about?

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