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Q&A -- Understanding Stovetop Cookware


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In terms of food sticking, would a polished stainless interior be more food stick-resistant than a brushed stainless steel interior? I noticed a lot of cookware advertise one or the other, and was wondering what the real difference was. Are there any other considerations when choosing between polished vs. brushed interiors?

No difference, in my opinion. The main thing you want to do is have a hot pan, add some cold oil and give it a shake while the protein is setting. There's no getting around the fact that stainless steel is one of the stickiest cooking surfaces around, but all cookware involves a compromise of some kind and it beats nonstick by a mile IMO.

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Sam - once again, you outdo yourself.

How did you find out about it being Falk that invented the process, and also made the material for the other companies? When the nonfactory artisans in Villedieu make ss-lined copper, are they also buying their materials from Falk? For instance, the woman who showed me the "3mm" sauteuse - could that have been possible, or a little leg-pulling?

There was only one place in LA that stocked bourgeat products - and they absolutely refused to allow anyone to come and see the items. Hell, they wouldn't even send me a catalogue unless I could prove I was a business. Insane. Now in London, you walk into most restaurant supply shops, and there they are. No big deal. Haven't found anywhere that stocks Falk though (though you posted a link to a UK distributor, they have yet to pick up the phone).

"Gimme a pig's foot, and a bottle of beer..." Bessie Smith

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"111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321" Bruce Frigard 'Winesonoma' - RIP

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How did you find out about it being Falk that invented the process, and also made the material for the other companies?

I asked. :smile:

When the nonfactory artisans in Villedieu make ss-lined copper, are they also buying their materials from Falk? For instance, the woman who showed me the "3mm" sauteuse - could that have been possible, or a little leg-pulling?

That's an interesting question. I don't know. Permanently bonding a thin layer of stainless to a thick layer of copper is not an easy thing to do, nor is forming cookware out of it. The Villedieu people have to be getting their raw materials from somewhere, because they're sure as hell not making the bimetal themselves. I don't know, of course, but I would imagine that most of the nonfactory artisinal copper cookware is tin lined, as that is something one can handle in a one-person operation.

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Sam,

What do you think of All-Clad stainless?

Not Sam, but I think I'm qualified to answer this one. Please see the course Understanding Stovetop Cookware course for Sam's detailed comparison. This questions thread is getting so comprehensive that it's hard to believe how much information was in the original thread.

Walt

P.S. slkinsey, I'm still lovin' my high-performance Sitram. Thanks.

Walt Nissen -- Livermore, CA
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Thank you for your response, Walt.

I asked because I recently received a 6qt All-Clad stainless steel saute pan as a gift. Sam seems to favor the MasterChef I am assuming because it has a much thicker layer of aluminum. I hate to look a gift horse in the mouth, but I am tempted to swap this pan for the slightly cheaper Master Chef saute pan. I am curious if the added performance is worth the risk of getting caught swapping the gift by the person that gave it to me.

I realize this is probably a question more appropriate for Ms. Manners... but she doesn't seem to answer a lot of cookware questions.

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Hi, Carp. From a pure performance standpoint, I'd definitely recommend swapping the All-Clad Stainless saute pan for an All-Clad MasterChef. MasterChef has much better specifications. Besides, Stainless and MasterChef don't look that different.

That said, it would be even better if you thought you could exchange it and get something like a Sitram Catering saute pan. But that might be a little more difficult to get away with. :wink:

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Hi, Carp. From a pure performance standpoint, I'd definitely recommend swapping the All-Clad Stainless saute pan for an All-Clad MasterChef. MasterChef has much better specifications. Besides, Stainless and MasterChef don't look that different.

That said, it would be even better if you thought you could exchange it and get something like a Sitram Catering saute pan. But that might be a little more difficult to get away with. :wink:

Thank you!

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I just found this Bourgeat Sauté Pan on Pampered Chef.  They claim that Bourgeat is 1/8 inch copper bonded to 1/8 inch 10 18 stainless.  Can this be right?  That would be just over 3mm of copper and stainless.  I would think that this thickness of stainless would start to get in the way of the heat properties of the copper.

This is bullshit, and these people clearly don't know what the hell they're talking about.

My wife bought a Pampered Chef pan at one of those stupid shows they do.

It sucks. In every way. Plus, this pan, which has a lifetime warranty, already has bubble marks on the no-stick.

I'd throw it away, but my wife bought it from a friend, who shows up periodically to make sure we still have it.

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I have a whole bunch of Cuisinart Multiclad pots and pans, bought pre-eGCI. Does anybody know how thick the aluminum and stainless steel layers are for them?

Here's my reason/excuse for wanting nicer pots and pans:

I've just tried to caramelize a whole bunch of leeks in my Cuisinart Multiclad 6Qt dutch oven, stirring every 3 minutes or so. The burn pattern started as a ring where the flames were, then the insides of the burnt ring filled up with more burnt leeks, by which time I got worried about setting off the smoke alarm and turned it off. Since the leeks were no where near caramelized, am I correct in assuming that I need something that has a thicker aluminum layer? Or do I just need to stir more frequently? :unsure:

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I've just tried to caramelize a whole bunch of leeks in my Cuisinart Multiclad 6Qt dutch oven, stirring every 3 minutes or so. The burn pattern started as a ring where the flames were, then the insides of the burnt ring filled up with more burnt leeks, by which time I got worried about setting off the smoke alarm and turned it off. Since the leeks were no where near caramelized, am I correct in assuming that I need something that has a thicker aluminum layer? Or do I just need to stir more frequently?"

Turn down the heat and let them caramelize. If you can see burn rings either heats to high or you need better cookware but carmelizing is not frying.

Edited by slkinsey (log)

Bruce Frigard

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"Free time is the engine of ingenuity, creativity and innovation"

111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321

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I've just tried to caramelize a whole bunch of leeks in my Cuisinart Multiclad 6Qt dutch oven, stirring every 3 minutes or so. The burn pattern started as a ring where the flames were, then the insides of the burnt ring filled up with more burnt leeks, by which time I got worried about setting off the smoke alarm and turned it off. Since the leeks were no where near caramelized, am I correct in assuming that I need something that has a thicker aluminum layer? Or do I just need to stir more frequently?"

Turn down the heat and let them caramelize. If you can see burn rings either heats to high or you need better cookware but carmelizing is not frying.

I knew I forgot something! :blush:

I pre-heated the pot at medium-high heat, put in some olive oil and butter, threw the leeks in after the butter stopped foaming. The flame was adjusted to low (as low as I could get it on my lousy gas stove) after 5 minutes or so.

Ah well, I guess I just need to get me some Sitram goodness. :smile:

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I pre-heated the pot at medium-high heat, put in some olive oil and butter, threw the leeks in after the butter stopped foaming. The flame was adjusted to low (as low as I could get it on my lousy gas stove) after 5 minutes or so.

Ah well, I guess I just need to get me some Sitram goodness. :smile:

If you can't get your heat low - I'd try a flame tamer before I'd try a new pot/pan. Also - I don't see the need to preheat on medium high before carmelizing (a lot of cookware retains heat for a considerable period of time - and you don't want medium high heat when you're carmelizing). Robyn

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I understand that cast iron is best for steaks. But, what if I want to deglaze with wine to make a sauce? What kind of pan would you recommend for this application?

Cast iron is good for steaks, but I wouldn't say it is necessarily "best" for steaks unless you want to use a method with constant extra-high heat. I like this method, but more and more I am coming around to the idea that the best way to cook steaks in a home kitchen (i.e., without a "power of the sun" broiler) is to use the French technique: brown both sides of the steak in butter on the stovetop and then finish it in a slow (~250) oven. There is no reason you'd need a cast iron pan for something like this.

Anyway... regardless of the technique used, I would think you could get a very acceptable result using a stainless-lined heavy straignt gauge frypan or (less preferred) a stainless sauté pan with a thick aluminum base. Both those pans feature a nonreactive cooking surface, so there is no reason to worry about deglazing, etc. I prefer the frypan over the skillet or sauté pan because the lower, sloped sides of the frypan encourage the fast evaporation of vapors from the cooking surface, which helps in the formation of a good crust. However, if you have plenty of room around the steak (a couple of inches on each side) in the skillet or sauté pan, they will work just fine too.

All that said, there are ways to deglaze and make a pan sauce using the cast iron pan without worrying too much about the rectivity. Just toss in plenty of wine, quickly scrape the pan and then pour the whole works into a nonreactive saucepan to reduce, etc. The taste might not be quite as clean as it would be using nonreactive materials throughout, but the wine spends only the briefest of moments in contact with the iron and any flavors the iron might contribute can me obscurred with a strongly flavored, reduced sauce.

Another alternative would be to forego the pan sauce altogether and put a thick slice of compound butter on the steak instead (especially if it's anchovy butter!).

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Helius, Cuisinart Multiclad Stainless is a very good brand of cookware. Their product information says that it features "a core of pure aluminum bonded to a highly polished stainless interior and a professional brushed stainless exterior." I don't have the exact specifications but am led to believe that it compares favorably to All-Clad Stainless, which would put the aluminum layer at around 2 mm (this seems fairly standard on fully clad aluminum cookware).

So, my first thought is that your problem is mostly one of technique. However, it is a fact that a full lining on a stockpot or rondeau isn't really a very efficient use of materials. I'd much rather have the aluminum on the bottom of the pan where it will do you some good.

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Sam,

Thanks for responding to my swiss diamond question. I am still a little interested in them due in part to their suggestion they have better thermal conductivity than copper.

Hopefully you won't mind to solve a riddle for me. Recently, I have noticed several very beautiful and very expensive cast iron "woks" on the market and I have always associated woks with much thinner and responsive steel. Are these cast iron behemoths truly woks? If so, which is better.

Thanks,

Natasha

"The main thing to remember about Italian food is that when you put your groceries in the car, the quality of your dinner has already been decided." – Mario Batali
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Thanks for responding to my swiss diamond question. I am still a little interested in them due in part to their suggestion they have better thermal conductivity than copper.

Diamond does have outstanding thermal conductivity... around three times better than copper. So, as soon as you can find me a nice thick frypan made out of pure diamond, we'll talk. :smile: Otherwise, you're talking about aluminum with some diamond dust on it.

Hopefully you won't mind to solve a riddle for me. Recently, I have noticed several very beautiful and very expensive cast iron "woks" on the market and I have always associated woks with much thinner and responsive steel. Are these cast iron behemoths truly woks? If so, which is better.

I'm not an expert on Asian cookware, so someone may correct me on this. Most woks these days are made of relatively thin carbon steel. This seems to be the standard configuration. Does this mean that woks made out of other materials are not technically woks? I have no idea. My operating assumption is that everything wok-shaped is a wok, and that iron was probably the original wok material anyway.

Carbon steel woks may be useful on a home stove for many applications like steaming, deep frying, stewing, etc. However, the real problem comes when one wants to stir fry -- which is the purpose for which most people buy a wok. The shape of the wok (very inefficient from from a heat standpoint over a home stove) and the power of the typical home stove (pathetically underpowered compared to a restaurant wok burner) make a particularly unfelicitous combination when it comes to stir frying at home. The wok never gets very hot and loses what little heat it has accumulated very quickly. The only way to work around this is to cook in very small batches. A heavy cast iron wok deals with the heat problem by providing a massive heat capacity. Once that baby sits on the burner for a while and soaks up lots of heat, it will stay hot for a long time. For me, this makes the cast iron wok better for the home user who would like to stir fry -- even better would be a cast iron wok with a flat bottom for better heat transfer from the burner.

All that said, I firmly believe that stir frying is much better done by the home cook in a sauté pan with a nice thick bottom (and yes, I've done side-by-side testing -- the sauté pan produced markedly better results). In fact, sautéing and stir frying are more or less the same thing. There was an article in the NY Times food section last week about a Vietnamese restauranteur named Charles Phan, featuring his recipe for "shaking beef" adapted to the home kitchen. One of the things I noticed was that the pictures accompanying the article showed the chef using a heavy frypan and not a wok as he would in the restaurant.

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Sam & Fellow Potheads,

Well my new Falk 11” 4.5 Qt Saucier arrived in the mail this week. Wow. What a mistake I made. My advice when deciding to upgrade your cookware is to buy your copper pieces last (I was only going to buy one piece, I swear). This is one fabulous piece of cookware.

I have used it twice now. Once for risotto and now braised short ribs. I can not imagine a better risotto pan. I have made risotto many times and almost always overfill the pan and fight sticking in the corners and hot spots (commercial aluminum sauté pan). The Saucier design with its high curved sides make containing and stirring risotto a breeze. Thanks Sam for helping me to look at the Saucier instead of the Sauté pan.

One of the selling points I read about copper was that it empowered the average kitchen stove. This was very obvious when I braised short ribs. I have a middle of the road kitchen stove with one 12,000 Btu burner, two 9,000 Btu burners and one 5,000 Btu simmer burner. I started out searing the short ribs on medium on my large burner but I had to use my simmer burner on its lowest setting to keep my simmer under control. After a couple hours of simmering I reduce the braising liquid using the high setting on my max burner. I cannot tell you how nice it is to quickly reduce a sauce on my home stove. The only downside for this pan is its weight. It will be difficult for me to truly sauté since my stovetop cooking grates are not held in place well enough to handle much movement from this large, heavy piece of cookware.

Bill

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So my cookware upgrading continues. I have added a 10” commercial nonstick calphalon omelet pan ($25) to my Falk 11” 4.5 Qt Saucier pan ($280 w/ blemished lid).

My next piece is looking to be a Cuisinart Chef’s classic stainless 12 Qt stockpot ($35 at Amazon). Is there a good reason to spend a lot on a stockpot?

I was then starting to think about the 2 Qt All-Clad Master Chef Saucier Pan ($90 at Amazon). But I am really being drawn to the 2 Qt Falk Copper Saucier ($155). This will be my primary sauce pan and I really, really like my new 4.5 Qt Saucier.

The last piece I am considering is 5 to 7 Qt enameled cast iron casserole. I have been looking Staub’s line of round and oval French ovens. How is everyone using their enameled cast iron? I know about braising and stewing, but what else are they used for? What are the advantages and disadvantages of the round and oval? Is this type of cookware in a 5 to 7 Qt casserole size versatile enough in the kitchen to justify its purchase? This is a type of cookware that I don’t have any experience with so I have more questions than answers.

I would appreciate advice if anyone has experience with any of these pieces of cookware.

Thanks,

Bill

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So my cookware upgrading continues.  I have added a 10” commercial nonstick calphalon omelet pan ($25) to my Falk 11” 4.5 Qt Saucier pan ($280 w/ blemished lid). 

My next piece is looking to be a Cuisinart Chef’s classic stainless 12 Qt stockpot ($35 at Amazon).  Is there a good reason to spend a lot on a stockpot?

I was then starting to think about the 2 Qt All-Clad Master Chef Saucier Pan ($90 at Amazon).  But I am really being drawn to the 2 Qt Falk Copper Saucier ($155).  This will be my primary sauce pan and I really, really like my new 4.5 Qt Saucier.

The last piece I am considering is 5 to 7 Qt enameled cast iron casserole.  I have been looking Staub’s line of round and oval French ovens.  How is everyone using their enameled cast iron?  I know about braising and stewing, but what else are they used for?  What are the advantages and disadvantages of the round and oval?   Is this type of cookware in a 5 to 7 Qt casserole size versatile enough in the kitchen to justify its purchase? This is a type of cookware that I don’t have any experience with so I have more questions than answers.

I would appreciate advice if anyone has experience with any of these pieces of cookware.

Thanks,

Bill

Just as an aside - Bed, Bed & Beyond appears to be closing out "Commercial" nonstick Calphalon (perhaps it's being replaced 100% by Calphalon One). Our local store had some very good deals this week (particularly when you throw in a 20% off coupon).

And just my two cents - if you are thinking of buying a large expensive piece of cookware - and you're not quite sure what you'll use it for - wait until you have a recipe you want to cook - and you need the new pot. Then shop around. It's easier to buy something when you have some idea what you're going to use it for (which is why I don't normally buy formal dresses on spec :smile: ).

I have both a large oval and a large round (Magnalite - out of production). I use the round much more often than the oval - but I tend to cook things like chili and stew a lot more than pot roast. Your mileage may vary. Robyn

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And just my two cents - if you are thinking of buying a large expensive piece of cookware - and you're not quite sure what you'll use it for - wait until you have a recipe you want to cook - and you need the new pot. Then shop around. It's easier to buy something when you have some idea what you're going to use it for (which is why I don't normally buy formal dresses on spec  ).

Thanks Robyn,

These are valuable words of advice and worth hearing if when you already know better :cool: . The only expensive purchase that I have already made is the Falk Copper Saucier pan. I have used a large sauté pan while working in a commercial kitchen and it was our most used pan. So this purchased fills a hole in my home kitchen. I am exploring the large casserole, but need to getting more info to see how it fits in with my cooking needs before I spend hard earned money.

I have both a large oval and a large round (Magnalite - out of production). I use the round much more often than the oval - but I tend to cook things like chili and stew a lot more than pot roast. Your mileage may vary. Robyn

Thanks for passing along you experience with round and oval casseroles. My feeling is that there are lots of recipes that I make that would utilize a casserole but I make do with whatever I have. In fact the only piece of cookware that I have ever worn out is my caphalon 8 Qt stockpot (I wore off the hard anodized interior).

Bill

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