The "Best" Cookware

All Clad Logo with stylized metal layering process.
All Clad Logo with stylized metal layering process.

All Clad

All Clad is a manufacturer of composite metals that originally made sandwich materials for aerospace, shipbuilding, and automotive industries. The company was founded in 1968 based on a patent by John Ulam. Ulam had come up with a way to roller press bond dissimilar metals with heat and pressure*. Up to this time to bond metals such as aluminum to 18/10 stainless steel explosive welding was the way to go. Explosive welding, as the name implies, involves "welding" two unlike metals together with explosives. The Explosive Welding method is still used to produce bi-metal coins such as the U.S. Quarter.

In 2000 All Clad began producing cookware especially for Emeril Legasse called Emerilware. This cookware consists of 18/10 stainless cook surface, with three layers of aluminum (acting as core) and an outer layer of magnetic stainless steel. This outer layer allows the cookware to work with induction stoves.

Though the cookware is expensive compared to other brands such as Calphilon, it's high quality and excellent heat distribution continues to make this a popular brand despite the cost.

I own a set of this cookware, and though the price set my teeth on edge, I do not regret the purchase. The set really does an excellent job of distributing heat from the burner all the way to the edge of the pan and for that reason it's excellent cookware. Far better, in fact, than any set I've owned in the past.

Because the cookware is stainless inside and out it has held up very well. The stainless on the outside is highly polished (as is the lid) and looks just beautiful. It's easy to clean and simply requires hand drying to retain the luster.

All-Clad offers a wide variety of different core materials (aluminum, steel, and copper) along with magnetic stainless steel or anodized aluminum exteriors. This combination of materials makes for a large assortment of cookware for nearly every taste.

* The All Clad logo is a stylized representation of their bonding process.

All-Clad Stainless sets

This set has a stainless steel inner surface coated with Teflon and an outer surface of magnetic steel. Sandwiched between these layers of steel are three layers of aluminum.

With this construction the set heats evenly all the way up to the rim and with the Teflon lining it is easy to cook low calorie meals and clean up afterward.

All-Clad also uses stainless steel rivets for the extra long handles and loops. The lid loops are also large which helps keep both of these "handling" surfaces cool. Finally, the sauté pan includes a steel loop opposite the handle.

Beyond the excellent cooking design All-Clad also pays particular attention to construction detail and finish. This set is beautifully polished and takes very little effort to keep clean and retain that dazzling finish. Simply hand wash and dry.

Many will feel the nine piece set is overpriced at nearly $700.00, but the construction, weight and quality of the materials, fit and finish means this set will last for years if not decades. All-Clad offers an almost identical set (without the Teflon [except the fry pan]) for $510.00. Of course this will be harder to clean.

If you don't need a total of three (3) sauce pans you can get the set that includes a fry pan, sauté pan, two sauce pans and lids for all. This set is offered Teflon coated or stainless steel lined.

All sets featured at right have a lifetime warranty against defects.

All-Clad offers a nine (9) piece set (four lids and five pots/pans) with Teflon lining, a "Master Chef" set without the Teflon lining (except the fry pan, which is lined), and two six (6) piece sets with fewer sauce pans.

Calphalon logo. "C" as an infinity symbol
Calphalon logo. "C" as an infinity symbol

Calphalon

Calphalon is a division of Newell Rubbermaid, a company well known for household products.

In 1963, Ronald Kasperzak purchased a small metal spinning* company located in Perrysburg, Ohio called Commercial Metal. From this purchase he established the Commercial Aluminum Cookware Company. He determined that recent advances in aluminum anodizing(developed for the aircraft industry) would be ideal for cookware. Thought anodizing had long existed as a corrosion preventative, this new process created a hard, well-wearing surface.

After creating the first anodized aluminum cookware (1968) and the first hard-anodized (1972) aluminum cookware, Calphilon came up with a non-stick surface that somehow (the process is a trade secret) "infuses" a non-stick coating between the pores of the anodized aluminum. Because the coating is part of the metallic structure of the pan, not a coating applied over the metal, it is possible to use metal utensils on Calphalon cookware.

Because Calphalon cookware is aluminum, a non-ferrous metal, it is not possible to use this cookware with induction ranges.

* Spinning is the process of forming cold metals by placing them on a lathe like apparatus and then forcing the metal, with pressure, into bowl-like shapes.

The Calphalon logo incorporates the letter "C" with the symbol for infinity.

Calphalon Hard-Anodized Cookware

As mentioned above Calphalon pioneered (and is still the only cookware set) that uses a hard-anodization process. This is the process that "blends" the non stick surface with the anodized aluminum making these pans metal utensil friendly.

As with All-Clad, Calphalon offers a ten (10) piece set that uses this process in manufacture. This set includes three (3) sauce pans, one (1) stockpot, two (2) fry pans, and four (4) lids. The fry pans come in 8" and 10" diameters and the sauce pans are graduated at 1 1/2, 2 1/2, and 3 quarts. The stockpot holds eight (8) quarts.

This cookware uses long stainless steel handles and loops firmly riveted via stainless steel rivets. As with the All-Clad sets the handles are long/large and stay relatively cool during cooking.

They have a lifetime warranty.

Calphalon offers a similar set in all stainless (except the fry pans which are treated with Teflon) with the two sauce pans (1 and 2 quart), fry pans, sauté pan, and stockpot. The warranty on this set is ten (10) years.

As with All-Clad if the number of pans in these two sets are more than you need, and that usually is the case, Calphalon also offers an eight (8) piece set of cookware that includes two (2) sauce pans, two (2) fry pans, and one stockpot. This set has a lifetime warranty.

Molding and casting as logo. Le Creuset
Molding and casting as logo. Le Creuset

Le Creuset

Founded by two Belgen industrialists in 1925 this manufacturer is well known for enamel coated cast-iron cookware. Armand Desaegher (a casting specialist) and Octave Aubecq (an enameling specialist) began marketing their cookware with a French/Dutch Oven. The oven remains the company's top selling item.

In 1934 Le Creuset introduced the signature Flame (orange) colored enamel on its cast iron cookware items. The manufacturer uses a process of sand cast iron and baked (two layer) enamel coating. The coating is bonded to the metal at approximately 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit.

In order to expand it's market beyond oven bakeware Le Creuset has been making stainless steel cookware.

* The Le Creuset logo incorporates a symbol that represents metal casting and molding.

Le Creuset Cookware

The stainless offering from Le Creuset is a twelve (12) piece cookware set consisting of (2) sauce pans at 2 quart and 3 quart Saucepan a nine and one half inch (9.5") Fry Pan; eleven inch (11") Fry Pan; 3 quart. Sauté Pan; four and a quarter quart (4.25) casserole and a seven and one half quart (7.5) stockpot.

This pan set, unlike the others, is dishwasher safe and can be used with any cook-top including induction. Le Creuset also has capacity marks on the inside of the sauce pans for easy measuring. As with All-Clad and Calphalon this set features large stainless steel handles and loops to keep the cook from burning her/his fingers.

If this is overkill, Le Creuset also offers and eight (8) piece set with two sauce pans, one sauté pan, one stockpot, and one fry pan. The fry pan is Teflon coated; the other items are not.

Of course the French Oven (Dutch Oven) that was Le Creuset's first offering is still available, but can now be purchased in a wide variety of colors; not just the flame red of the original.

Le Creuset offers a lifetime warranty on all their cast iron enamel coated cookware.

Colors include Cherry Red, Flame, Cobalt (blue), Caribbean (blue), Kiwi (green), and Citrus (yellow).

They even offer a cast iron, enamel coated wok.

I personally think the wok is so pretty it can go from burner to table.

Wok this Way

Though I have often made such dishes as fried rice and chow mein in a fry pan these dishes really work best in a wok. The reason is that, unlike the cookware above, most of the heat remains at the bottom of the "pan" and the sides get less heat. This is just as it should be.

The point of concentrating the heat at the bottom and much less heat at the sides is to cook the food fast and, once cooked, keep it warm along the sides of the wok.

To this end many wok designs are offered each with their own particular benefit. But the best wok of all is the one that adheres to the orignal design standard.

Fast bottom cooking and long warming times along the sides.

This may surprise you, but the best wok for this type of job is a carbon steel hand hammered wok. The surprising part is that these are typically the cheapest woks you can buy. The first wok (featured at right) fits the bill and even includes a "fire ring" to keep the burner heat under the wok and keep the wok upright on the stove. It does not include a turner, brush, or other implements.

The others are "popular" items, but do not adhere to the original (and ancient) design standard. Non stick coatings do not keep warm food along the side of the wok and cast iron heats evenly all across the wok; not what you really want. The problem with these "new" designs is that once the food is cooked in it, the best thing to do is take it out of the wok before it's overcooked. In the original design the hand hammered marks provide "ledges" were the cooked food can rest (and stay warm) while the bottom is utilized for fast cooking.

So which is the best wok? Believe it or not the cheapest listed.


Disclaimer

The author, LiamBean, does not own stock or other holdings in any of the companies mentioned in this article. LiamBean has not been compensated monetarily, with free products, or discounts on those products for these evaluations. LiamBean bought these products outright and has written this review based solely on experience with these products.

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