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Q&A -- Understanding Stovetop Cookware

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by the way, slkinsey, do you think the big s.s. saute pans on that site look good, too? i don't see any information on what the base is, but i could check that out, too...

I assume you're talking about these?

Mauviel is one of the oldest and most respected cookware manufacturers, so I am sure it is quality stuff. That said, you will want to get some data. I am a little bit wary of these lines for cooking over a flame, simply because they seem to be primarily designed to work with induction hobs.

One thing go keep in mind is that Mauviel actually makes two stainless steel lines. The "Pro-Inox" line has an aluminum base while the "Induc'Inox" line is fully clad with the interior layer being magnetic steel. We have data for the Induc'Inox line (2 mm thick), but it is not particularly encouraging for traditional cooking. I would stay away from Induc'Inox. Pro-Inox could be good, but I think you would want to inquire as to the thickness of the aluminum base. You can email them at this address, and I gather that French or English is okay: v.leguern@mauviel.com

Let us know about any data you collect!


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i've written cunillexport. anxiously waiting for answers!

edit: just found some info on the thickness of the aluminium base on pro-inox: 0.25". how's that? not quite enough?


Edited by oraklet (log)

christianh@geol.ku.dk. just in case.

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edit: just found some info on the thickness of the aluminium base on pro-inox: 0.25". how's that? not quite enough?

0.25 inches = 6.35 millimeters. This means that it is either 6 millimeters and they are rounding up to 0.25 inches, or it is 7 millimeters and they are rounding down. I am unaware of any aluminum bases thicker than 7 millimeters. So either way, it's at or near the best available -- which is what one would expect from Mauviel. At this point it becomes a matter of price, aesthetics and perhaps percentage of the base covered by the base (although I don't expect there is a big difference between the top manufacturers in this regard).


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ah, somewhere on the site i found the information after all. it's not including taxes...hm, i think i'll buy it anyway, and they actually do have the "pro-inox" series too, at a quite decent price (at least compared to what i find on other sites).


christianh@geol.ku.dk. just in case.

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First a comment I was suprised that the list slkinsey made for FG didn't include my one time favorite pan: The calphalon 10" or 11" nonstick wok. For anything from reheating left-overs to a quick stirfry (esp when cooking for one) this is the single most versatile pan I own. It does everything but sear steak or boil pasta. I highly recommend it (and it can be had discounted at ~$30). True asian cooks might find that it has too even a heat distribution (it doesn't get the true hot-spot that really high-heat searing needs), but asian supermarkets have cheap woks so that may not matter.

then a question What is my cheapo wok made of? The outside is some red enamel, but the inside is rough, like cast iron. However, it is (I would have thought) much too thin and light to be cast iron. It isn't non-stick, as it definitely has stood up to some vigourous scraping with steel brushes. Perhaps it is this porcelain enamel? The best clue I have is that the surface is not smooth, nor regular. It really looks alot like cast iron.

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Johan,

I didn't include woks because they aren't standard stovetop equipment in the Western kitchen. In my own personal experience I have also found that most of them do not work very well in the home kitchen unless one has special burners. Back when I used to have a wok, I made two stir-fried dishes at the same time -- one in a nice wok and the other in my stainless lined heavy copper curved sauteuse evasee. The stir fry in the copper piece worked 100 times better. I haven't used a wok at home since. I find the curved sauteuse evasee by far the most versatile pan in the kitchen. Mileage, opinions and preferences may differ on this matter, of course.

Hard to say what your wok is made of without more information. Does your wok look anything like this or like this? I have a feeling it is probably enameled cast iron, even if it isn't very thick.


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Just want to enter a vote for Calphalon. I have been using Calphalon commercial for years. It is not non-stick but food rarely sticks. I love it for it's even heating and cooking capabilites, and it's ease from the stove top to the oven no matter how high the temp. But also it's relatively light weight. I recently set out to buy a very big casserole roaster and intended to buy a Le Crueset. Until I picked it up and thought about how much it would weigh with a 10 pound roast inside. Yikes! I stuck with Calphalon and it is performing beautifully. And Calphalon really develops a wonderful fond...so nice for deglazing. Also, I have cooked many a tomato sauce in my pans and never encountered an off odor or bad taste. I haven't encountered any food that reacts badly with it as I have with cast iron, for example. :rolleyes:


Lobster.

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Anodized aluminum has many benefits, for sure. However, as I pointed out in my article, the main drawback is that it is very prone to warping at high temperatures. For certain tasks such as making roux, etc., people also find the dark coloring a difficult distraction to work with.

I think Calphalon is very good stuff, although significantly overpriced at regular retail. In terms of guality, I'd put it somewhere in the middle of second-level cookware. I have owned many pieces of Calphalon over the years, but ended up getting rid of most of them because I never found the cooking surface any more non-stick than stainless steel, which is compounded by the fact that it is much more difficult to keep clean, and because every single piece I had eventually warped. At the present I have only one piece of Calphalon (a large roasting pan) and I'll try to pick up two or three of the large commercial non-stick skillets if they go back on deep discount at Amazon.

All this is to say that I think Calphalon cookware can be a good addition to a well-constituted battery of quality cookware, but I don't think it makes much sense to have an all-Calphalon or mostly-Calphalon kitchen.


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More like the miniwok, but It feels stamped.

Your points on the stovetop are well taken; I forget that not everyone has gas. I'll give using my sauteuse evasee a try-- never occurred to me. However, now that I'm thinking about it, seems that a wok would likewise be very good at quick evaporation.

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I am shocked to hear you say that your Calphalon warped. I have pieces that are 20 years old and they have never warped, even under broiler heat. Were you putting them in the dishwasher?


Lobster.

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Your points on the stovetop are well taken; I forget that not everyone has gas. I'll give using my sauteuse evasee a try-- never occurred to me.  However, now that I'm thinking about it, seems that a wok would likewise be very good at quick evaporation.

I have a traditional residential gas stove... kind of crappy but quite big for a Manhattan apartment. I still find that I can't get a wok hot enough on my stove to make decent use of it. This is complicated by the fact that the heat capacity of most woks is so low that theylose any stored heat if you put much of anything into them. This may not be as much of an issue with normal "cooking-for-one" amounts of food, but is problematic if you want to stir-fry a whole cut up chicken or something that size. Special wok burners make up for this by cranking out so many BTUs that the heat is replenished immediately.

As for using a wok for Western style thick reductions... you would run into several problems: 1) only a very small area of the wok is heated by the most intense part of the flame as oposed to a saucepan or sauteuse evasee where there is a comparatively large area; 2) most woks are made of materials that have poor thermal conductivity, therefore the sides of the wok would not conduct much heat into the reducing liquid and almost all the heat would come from the small area at the bottom of the wok; 3) that small area at the bottom of the wok is a "hot spot" by another name, and could burn the reducing liquid.


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I am shocked to hear you say that your Calphalon warped.  I have pieces that are 20 years old and they have never warped, even under broiler heat.  Were you putting them in the dishwasher?

The dishwasher in my apartment is named Kathleen, so... um, no. :wink:

Even a brief survey of Usenet will reveal that warping is a major issue with Calphalon, and indeed with all unclad aluminum cookware. The broiler, by the way, isn't likely to put all that much heat into your cookware as radiation is a fairly inefficient way to transfer heat.

If you want to put some serious heat into your cookware, try leaving an empty 11" Calphalon skillet on a full-blast burner for 5 minutes or so and then dropping in a couple of large bone-in chicken breasts (skin side down, of course)... Or try taking that same skillet out of a 500F oven, removing the chicken and pouring in a cup or two of white wine to deglaze... A few months of this treatment -- which is pretty standard treatment for cookware -- and I guarantee you'll see some warping.


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i bought a 12" rondeau, and it serves me extremely well. i don't know what i did before i had it. but i haven't bought the copper pan yet, as someone told me that they warp rather easily (and the thicker the bottom, the worse!?!?). can that be true?


christianh@geol.ku.dk. just in case.

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Hello, I'm completely new here on egullet.

I've followed the cookware discussion with interest.

My question: Can we separate technical aspects of cookware and of stovetops (heat resources, i.e. capacity, responsibilty, temperature etc.), as they always work together? Or did I miss this discussion somewhere?


Make it as simple as possible, but not simpler.

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i bought a 12" rondeau, and it serves me extremely well. i don't know what i did before i had it. but i haven't bought the copper pan yet, as someone told me that they warp rather easily (and the thicker the bottom, the worse!?!?). can that be true?

Man... where did your friend get these ideas?

No, copper doesn't warp easily. The only common cookware material that has serious warping problems at a usefully heavy gauge is unclad aluminum. Thin copper, such as Mauviel's "Table Service" line (which I should point out, is not meant for cooking) might warp. But this is true of all cookware with insufficient thickness.

No, it is not the case that "thicker the bottom, the worse [the warping]." The opposite is true: thicker gauges are less prone to warping than thinner ones.

I have to say, Okralet... I'm a little bit disappointed that you would bring this up or give credence to such ideas, since the idea that copper warps easily and that thicker copper warps even more goes entirely counter to the information provided in my article. :shock:

Glad you like the rondeau! :biggrin:


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I've followed the cookware discussion with interest.

My question: Can we separate technical aspects of cookware and of stovetops (heat resources, i.e. capacity, responsibilty, temperature etc.), as they always work together? Or did I miss this discussion somewhere?

Well, yes they can be separated to a certain extent when just discussing the design. The point of my article was to explain how various cookware designs differ and by so doing to provide people with a basis for selecting cookware following an evaluation of their cooking needs and resources. The stovetop is a resource. So, when it comes down to making a choice of which cookware design to acquire, the stovetop is one variable to consider along with all the others.

For example, people who own electric stoves understand that they do not respond quickly when the heat is adjusted up or down. So, an electric stove user who wants a super-responsive pan for saucemaking has to understand that a primary limitation on responsiveness will be the heat source. This should inform his/her decision as to what kind of cookware to purchase. It may not make sense for such a person to invest in copper, for example.


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Well, actually I'm a happy owner of a French restaurant stove.

Beside two strong gas burners, it has a big (85x50cm, 50kg) asymetric heated iron cast cooktop.

It has kind of a hot sport right above the burner, an gradually less heat to the distant edge.

I've operated it with some used ss pro-stuff I was able to pick up when they closed a hotel restaurant.

Most remarkable ist the "infinite" heat capacity at reatively low temperature, so you can sauté or fry in a kind of slow-motion.

The food gets slowly from haselnut to browner colors an develops almost no liquidity.

At the cooktop edge, you find best temperatures for butter sauces or stirring risottos.

Nevertheless, after reading your article, now I'm convinced that copper is "de rigeur" on such a iron cast cooktop.

I'm going to order some (Mauviel) stuff at Dehillerin in Paris to give copper a try. It's only about 50% of the falk prices.

If the experiment is truly convincing and there is a considerable quality leap (wrt. to the special cooktop), I'm sure I'm going to add one or two of the 11" copper curved evasees.

Thanks again for your excellent and extensive piece of work.


Make it as simple as possible, but not simpler.

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Well, actually I'm a happy owner of a French restaurant stove.

Beside two strong gas burners, it has a big (85x50cm, 50kg) asymetric heated iron cast cooktop.

It has kind of a hot sport right above the burner, an gradually less heat to the distant edge.

I've operated it with some used ss pro-stuff I was able to pick up when they closed a hotel restaurant.

Most remarkable ist the "infinite" heat capacity at reatively low temperature, so you can sauté or fry in a kind of slow-motion.

The food gets slowly from haselnut to browner colors an develops almost no liquidity.

At the cooktop edge, you find best temperatures for butter sauces or stirring risottos.

Nevertheless, after reading your article, now I'm convinced that copper is "de rigeur" on such a iron cast cooktop.

I'm going to order some (Mauviel) stuff at Dehillerin in Paris to give copper a try. It's only about 50% of the Falk prices.

If the experiment is truly convincing and there is a considerable quality (responsivness) leap wrt. to the particualr iron cooktop, I'm sure I'm going to add one or two of the expensive Falk 11"an 9" copper curved evasees.

Thanks again for your excellent and extensive piece of work.


Make it as simple as possible, but not simpler.

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All the talk about aluminum vs. copper is good, but it's surprising to me how much heat is wasted by poor pot design.

I did a quick calculation of how long it should take to boil a quart of water, using an 18000 btu burner: just over 60 seconds, assuming the water is at 60F to start (that's (212-60F)*2 lbs *3600sec / 18000 btu/hr). Even with a "quick boil" kettle, I've never gotten below three minutes, meaning a good 2/3 of the burner's heat output is going up the vent hood.

Some of the problem is surface area, and another factor is the exterior finish - a black pan is going to absorb a lot more radiation than a shiny one. Surface area can be increased by adding fins, as is done in a heat sink, or, if size doesn't matter, widening the base, as is done with some kettles.

The issue isn't just energy conservation, but things like quick heating, and maximum cooking capacity.

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Not quite clear on what point you're trying to make here. There are, of course, certain cookware designs that are better for certain cooking tasks than others. It's not clear to me, however, that cookware can be made significantly more efficient when it comes to cooking over an open flame. Cooking on an electrical element is significantly more efficient, but it also has its limitations: the heat source is significantly less responsive and the cookware must be absolutely flat because all thermal transfer is via conduction (as opposed to convection from a flame). One supposes that induction is a cooking method that solves many of these problems, but it still doesn't offer the same visceral connection one has when cooking with flame.

Heating a cooking vessel over an open flame is, by its very nature, a somewhat inefficient process. Furthermore, there are certain compromises one must make in order to make cookware that is easy and efficient to cook with. This does not necessarily equate with absolute maximum thermal efficiency. Pans with fins to increase surface area, for example, would be horrible to work with. And, of course, a great deal of thermal energy is lost when one cooks without a lid, which leaves out frying, sauteing, etc.

Really, if you have been able to boil water over an open 18000 BTU burner in only three times longer than you predicted in your hypothetical 100% thermal transfer/0% thermal loss model, I'd say that's pretty darn good.


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That was on an 18k btu gas burner, not electric. And, it was actually four minutes, in a kettle which has a copper coil welded to the bottom to act as a heat absorber. A shiny pasta pot takes around 6 minutes, for one quart of water!

I'm not saying that pots should look like CPU coolers, but a few blackened, raised ridges would probably add a great deal to the average pasta pot. It would certainly beat having to buy a commercial stove to get the same heating performance.

While I agree that heating efficiency is not the only factor, it's one more thing to be aware of, and I seldom see it mentioned.

I suppose it changes one's opinion of heat conduction and so forth when one realizes that the bulk of the heat goes right by the pan. :wub:

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I have to say, Okralet... I'm a little bit disappointed that you would bring this up or give credence to such ideas, since the idea that copper warps easily and that thicker copper warps even more goes entirely counter to the information provided in my article.

well...i wasn't exactly giving credence to that idea. but you see, those were the guys at the place where i bought the rondeau! :blink:


christianh@geol.ku.dk. just in case.

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I have to say, Okralet... I'm a little bit disappointed that you would bring this up or give credence to such ideas, since the idea that copper warps easily and that thicker copper warps even more goes entirely counter to the information provided in my article.

well...i wasn't exactly giving credence to that idea. but you see, those were the guys at the place where i bought the rondeau! :blink:

Just teasing, of course.


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