My head hurts from cookware research!! Looking for advice as I start a new collection...

Discussion in 'Cooking Equipment Reviews' started by christiewi, Jun 6, 2010.

  1. christiewi

    christiewi

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    Hello,

    For 3 years I have been looking forward to purchasing new pots and pans, and after much saving and research, the day has finally come!  I will be purchasing them from Williams-Sonoma (I work for the company and get a generous discount), and walked in tonight ready to purchase new All Clad d5 stainless pots and pans (a combo of items I know I'd use, not a pre-built set).  However, much to my surprise, when picking them up tonight I noticed for the first time that the actual shapes of the pots don't seem ideal to me, nor do the handles.  Another exclusive set there by a brand called Lagostina caught my eye, and I fell in love with their shapes/feel.  However, I have never heard of this company before and after doing hours of research tonight, I still can't find all that much (and the items are not offered on the Williams-Sonoma website, only in store, so I can't even post the link).  And I've always had All-Clad in my head as the ultimate...the best-of-the-best and what I've been saving for and looking forward to for so long.

    While researching Lagostina, I came across so many cookware sites and reviews that now I feel like I'm back to square one after years of waiting for this moment!  All Clad? Little-known Lagostina?  Bag stainless and go for Le Creuset?  UGH!!! 

    Here's a little bit about me: I love to cook, but have only done so for the past 1.5 years and still have a ton to learn.  I really only use 3 pots and 2 pans right now...very basic stuff (but horrible quality and in need of replacement right away)...but I would love to learn so much more over the next few years.  I just really want to buy stuff that I know will last me a long time, if not forever, not just what I need and understand now. My greatest goal is to excel in cooking and entertaining, and I feel like so much is resting on this decision. 

    Any advice for this oh-so-confused consumer would be much appreciated.  Thank you for your time! :)
     
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  2. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    Before I respond it's full disclosure time: You've picked my two least favorite companies. Together, W-S and All-Clad define poor customer service.

    That aside:

    First off, you need to get out of W-S for awhile, and visit stores that carry other brands. It's been a long time since All-Clad was "the ultimate...the best-of-the-best." But you would never guess that based strictly on W-S's stocking policies. What All-Clad remains is the most expensive.

    Next, as to the Lagostini, the simplest thing would be to track down the W-S buyer who handles that line, and give him/her a call. You'll get all the info you need that way. From what you've described, however, it wouldn't surprise me to learn its a W-S private brand or special purchase.

    Something you said bothers me a little. I find it astounding that you'd make a decision about something as important as expensive cookware without actually picking up the stuff. Once you've satisfied yourself that the quality of a particular brand is there, the only thing that counts is how it feels in your hand----the configuration of the handles, the shape of the pot or pan, the ease or difficulty in which it fits your cooking style. You cannot learn those things by looking at internet photos.

    Whether knives, pots & pans, or anything else, do not underestimate hand comfort. The highest quality pan in the world is useless if you don't use it because it's uncomfortable.

    Take frying pans, for instance. If you're a flip-it, twist-it, shake-it type cook you need to try those movements with a proposed new pan. The handle size and shape is the most important design element for a cook like that, along with how the pan balances on the end of it. On the other hand, if you're a put-it-over-the-flame-and-leave-it type cook, then handle shape is almost irrelevent. But you might need helper handles on smaller pans than is usual. And so forth.
     
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  3. boar_d_laze

    boar_d_laze

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    Hello Christie,

    Welcome to Chef Talk.

    Breathe.  Relax.  Breathe some more.

    There's a lot of good pots and pans out there.  Once you've defined your price and quality ranges, along with a few criteria (for instance, comfortable handles) it's hard to go wrong.  Cookware isn't required to do anything really complicated.

    Just as you don't have to buy a "set" put together by a manufacturer you don't have to buy every pot and pan from the same manufacturer.  You're allowed to mix and match.  On the other hand, you don't lose points if you do buy a set, and you may even save some money.

    You've mentioned that almost all of your cooking can be done (well) in just a few pans and pots.  That's usual for most of us.  You should think of those shapes as your "core set."  If you find a one-box set that's limited to the shapes and sizes you want, which suits and saves ... buy it.

    Multi-ply with a stainless cooking surface is probably the best construction for most peoples' ideal, core set.  Manufacturers make a big deal about which and how many layers of conductors, but it's just propaganda.  As long as the stainless is covered by enough aluminum and/or copper, it works pretty much the same for practical purposes.  Bear in mind, that once you reach a fairly basic level of qualty, it's just marketing.

    On the other hand, some of the cookware with copper and or silver layers is very good indeed -- Demyer for instance -- but it's expensive. 

    My advice is to stay away from commercial non-stick surfaces for your core set.  There are precious few that are any good.  If you have some special non-stick needs (omelettes, for instance), consider regular, ol' fashioned carbon steel.  Properly seasoned, it's a better surface, the pans are very inexpensive,  and since the "season" can be restored, they will last nearly forever. 

    Also, hold off on cast-iron whether enamelled (like Le Cresuet) or not.  Plain cast iron is very heavy, and not very responsive to heat changes.  Enamelled has leaning and longevity issues, in addition to weight.  You'll eventually want a few pieces of cast -- chicken fryer and roundeau for instance -- but no hurry.

    If you find something which seems well made, heavy enough, but not so heavy you can't lift it, is affordable, and comfortable to the hand -- buy it.  Cookware isn't that complicated.  There aren't a lot of pitfalls.  Don't worry too much about brand names.

    Make sure the handles are well attached on the samples on the store.  Double check when you get yours home.  Don't settle for sloppy handle fitting.

    Look for "on sale."  Don't be afraid of discount outlets.  Also, fear thee not "cosmetic seconds."

    Right off the bat, I think Cuisinart offers a lot of value, and so does Calphalon. 

    Some of the famous chef cookware -- Emeril (All-CladP), Wolfgang Puck (Chinese Military I think), Ramsay (Wedgewood), etc., is very good.  

    Bed Bath and Beyond offers incredible customer service and has the most liberal return policy imaginable.  Buyer's remorse?  No problem.  Nothing against Williams-Sonoma or Sur Le Table for that matter, but you're likely to come away with something just as good and spend a lot less money at BB&B,

    If I were replacing my ancient, first edition, anodic aluminum Calphalon, and motley commercial aluminum and stainless, it would be with Vollrath's multi-ply line, "Tribute."  It's only available from commercial outlets, but it's Vollrath so you can trust it.

    Don't forget lids.

    Hope this helps,

    BDL 
     
  4. christiewi

    christiewi

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    Thank you so, so much!!  I can't tell you how much I appreciate you taking the time to respond.  Your response was so helpful, and I am very excited for buy the right collection for me!  This is a great website, and I'm sure I'll be back!

    Thanks again!
     
  5. chefedb

    chefedb

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    Best deals and good variety I found are at a store called HOMEGOODS. owned by Marshalls. Sometimes a $79.00 pan caliphon has a slight scratch on outside and they sell it for $35.00. I get most of my home pots there.
     
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  6. french fries

    french fries

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    I don't know homegoods but here in socal Marhsalls and Ross sometimes have good deals on cookware. I got a $200 5Qt SS Calphalon Saute Pan for $70, it was just like new. OK so maybe there was a tiny scratch on the bottom (on the outside).
     
  7. kcz

    kcz

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    Since you're looking at a sizable investment in quality cookware that should last you a long, long time, I would consider whether or not an induction cooktop or range would ever be in your future.  Not all cookware works with induction.  If you think you might ever use induction, don't spend money now on cookware that won't work for you later.  (Been there, done that.)
     
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  8. jjaycee

    jjaycee

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    Lagostina has been around a long time.   Imported from Italy, it may not be sold by WS simply due to ingrained prejudice.  American (which increasingly is Chinese or Japanese produced by a USA company) or follow Julia Child and go for anything French.
     
  9. raibeaux

    raibeaux

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    +1 with BDL on the Tribute.  An equally good one is Centurian (Vollrath)  I've used my pieces daily at the restaurant for years, and don't see it ever wearing out or breaking (which they will take care of anyway).  Also, there is another called Intrigue that looks good.  I've accumulated some of each.

    If it's too pricey, you might take a look at Optio cookware.  Pretty good stuff, even if it is made in China (I think).  I own and use a couple of pieces. 

    All the above should be available from internet restaurant sites such as Restaurant Products, Wasserstrom, Katom, etc.
     
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2013
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  10. kokopuffs

    kokopuffs

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    I've heard that:
    1. Tribute is manufactured in the U.S. - thick walled;
    2. Optio is manufactured in China - much thinner walled.
     
  11. raibeaux

    raibeaux

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    Optio may be a little thinner walled (don't have them side by side) but it still is a heavy gauge stainless, and mine haven't discolored or anything after seven or eight years of use at home.  Lids fit good and tight, bottom is heavy and flat.  I think it's some pretty good stuff for the money.  I also prefer it over the high-dollar dept. store brands like All-Clad.  Just feel like I got my money's worth.  They make good Christmas presents, too.  Anyone with XXX-Mart cookware will go ape-crazy over them.

    For the best, I think Centurion or Tribute.  I prefer Centurion, as I've been using the same pots daily for over twenty years, and it still looks and handles great.  Just a personal opinion.  Between Centurion and Tribute, I wouldn't walk across the street for the difference in quality between them, they're both some of the best out there.
     
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2013
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  12. kokopuffs

    kokopuffs

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     I felt that the Optio line was a bit thin and here's what I'm getting for a stockpot; it looks great and it's a Vollrath.  And Tribute is excellent, really excellent yet their 8 qt stockpot measured low and wide, 10 inches wide by 6 inches in height.  Way too low for a stockpot.  That low measurement qualifies that one as a brasier.   For 8 qts you need something that measures at least 8 inches tall.

    A little secret: when it comes to stock pots, you want something that's tall and narrow, at least 8 inches height by 8 inches diameter as far as an 8 quart unit is concerned.  That way it's much easier to skim the fat off of the stock as opposed to something that measures wide, like a brasier that measures 10 inches wide by 6 inches in height.
     
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2013
  13. raibeaux

    raibeaux

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    Last edited: Dec 3, 2013
  14. raibeaux

    raibeaux

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    If you haven't already checked, ask Katom how much the freight is going to be.  Need to be careful 'cause they drop ship a lot of stuff.
     
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2013
  15. salparadise

    salparadise

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    Well, I'll have to respectfully disagree. I own the Tribute 8 quart stockpot, and I previously owned a Calphalon 8 quart anodized (tall, narrow). I find the shape of the Tribute 8 quart to be considerably more versatile. Of course that assumes that you're not planning to use it exclusively for making stock. The wider bottom is better for sautéing, browning meats, cooking spaghetti (which is 10"), making soups, and many other things where you want better access and visibility. The wider platform will heat food and boil water faster.

    Optio and Centurion are stainless, disk bottom designs; Tribute is fully clad all the way. To each his own, but I don't do disk bottoms. I want the thicker walls, even heat conductivity, distribution and heat holding capacity of fully clad cookware, including stockpots. The disk bottoms are often the point of failure according to various tests. I have no personal experience in that regard as I gave away the only disk bottom pot I ever owned (before it separated). You have to wonder how those disk bottoms are attached––they're not riveted, not tack welded, so what does that leave? Glue perhaps?

    I consider Tribute preferable to All Clad, cost notwithstanding. I have no idea if a Vollrath disk bottom is better than other manufacturers', but if you're open to disk bottom then you should evaluate based on like design and price points rather than comparing Optio and Centurion to Tribute simply because they're made by Vollrath. When I bought my Tribute, my mindset was to make one last cookware investment, and to maximize the enjoyment of cooking with the highest quality, best performing vessels available that were not also a consumer marketing phenomena. It has not disappointed. I won't even go into the subject of handles.
     
  16. kokopuffs

    kokopuffs

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    Great information.  I am presently awaiting delivery of a 3 qt Vollrath Tribute saucier along with this used commercial stockpot just purchased at ebay, a Vollrath Classic.  I thought that it was a good deal.
     
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2013
  17. salparadise

    salparadise

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    It appears that your stockpot is all stainless and not a disk bottom type. The saucier will give you a chance to test drive tribute. I'm sure you will like it. When I was trying to decide which pieces to buy I chose the 16 quart stockpot over the 12 quart because they are the same diameter, but the 16 is a few inches taller. No point in buying both and I'm good with the 16 quart even though it doesn't get used every day. I had 8, 12, and 16 in the Calphalon. Since the anodized finish is dark gray and the pots are tall and narrow, it can be difficult to see what you're cooking. I wasn't sure if I'd like the wider pots but now that I have them I definitely do.
     
  18. kokopuffs

    kokopuffs

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    Never cared for the Calphalon line of stuff because of the dark grey color.  And it appears that the stockpot is clad, according to the seller.  We'll see how it does and how thick the stainless and go from there.  I've had some thin stainless as well as thick stuff but after what you've stated...
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2013
  19. brianshaw

    brianshaw

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    In general, I agree... but I must admit to being VERY surprised at how those attributes are achieved in the much cheaper disk-bottom cookware.  I was recently gifted a couple of them and, after resolving the initial complexity of gratitude vs distain, cooked with them.  Not as bad as I thought; in fact; much better than I ever imagined.  I still swear by all-clad but for budget-minded buyers would not speak ill of disk bottomed cookware.
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2013
  20. kokopuffs

    kokopuffs

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    Thanks to all for the GREAT information.  I just wanna' make stock using chicken parts, pigs feet and scrap veggies.  A tall and narrow stockpot makes it easier to skim off the fat.