Things I Love: All-Clad Stainless Cookware
[Update: For information on the latest All-Clad Factory Sale, Click Here: AllClad Information.]
[Update 12/29/2009: All Clad contacted me after this post to test their new d5 Stainless cookware. I like it even better than the regular stainless line I talk about below. I don't know how they did it - they made the best pans I own even better.]
I was introduced to All-Clad by (who else) Alton Brown, and by Cooks Illustrated's many positive reviews. My cooking ability jumped at the same time I bought my first pan All-Clad pan, way back in 1999.
Three quart saucier.
Part of that was my learning the craft of cooking, but part of it was having high quality pans for the first time.
That is, my first pans that were not copper bottomed RevereWare. (Shudder.) If you give those pans a meaningful stare, they develop a hot spot. Not that I'm bitter about that burnt pot roast in 1996. Or the burnt chili in 1995. Or…no, really, I'm over it. Why do you ask?
Why do I love All-Clad stainless steel cookware? They have the best combination of quick, even heating, durability, and ease of cleaning. To explain why, I have to digress into a little metallurgy.
Doesn't cooking take you in wonderful directions?
Aluminum is lightweight, and heats evenly because it is conducts heat very well. Unfortunately, it also scratches easily, and turns really interesting colors if you put it in a dishwasher. Worse, it is reactive with acidic foods, and gives them a metallic taste.
That's not good for, say, a tomato sauce.
Stainless steel is very durable, and non-reactive with acidic food, but it is a terrible conductor - heat doesn't disperse at all. Hence my problem with hot spots on the Revere copper bottom pans - they're stainless steel with a thin layer of copper to make them look nice.
To complete the metallurgy discussion: Copper is an even better conductor than aluminum, but is very heavy and very, very expensive. Cast iron is almost the opposite - it is such a poor conductor that it holds onto heat very well. It takes a long time to heat, but once it's heated, it dishes out the heat for a long time as well. But it rusts easily, and is also reactive with acidic foods.
Cookware manufacturers solve this dilemma by using both aluminum and stainless steel in their pans. Cheaper pans put a disc of aluminum on the bottom of a stainless pan. All-Clad solves this problem by making the basic shape of the pan in aluminum, then "cladding" it in a thin layer of stainless steel.
Hence the name All-Clad. It is an aluminum pan, entirely clad in stainless steel.
I think you can do 99% of your cooking with the following set of four pans:
All-Clad Stainless 12 Inch Fry Pan with Lid
All-Clad Stainless 12 Inch Nonstick Fry Pan
Note - the 12" nonstick is on sale at Williams-Sonoma for $100 with a lid
All-Clad Stainless 8 Quart Stockpot
Really, this is a dutch oven, but you can use it as a stock pot if you need to
All-Clad Stainless 4 Quart Saucepan
If you want just a little bit more:
I got by with just those pans for years, and really, you don't need any others. But...I've expanded my batterie de cuisine, and it includes the following pans that I use often:
All Clad Stainless 3 Quart Saucier
This was the first pot I bought from All-Clad. I think the 4 quart saucepan is more versatile, but I do still love this pot. Anything that needs to be whisked works better with the flared sides.
All-Clad Stainless 6 Quart Stockpot
*I probably don't need this one and the 8 quart stock pot, but I got such a deal on it at the All-Clad factory sale, I couldn't pass it up. I find myself using it more than the 8 quart, which only comes out if I'm making a double batch of something like chili.
All-Clad Stainless 10 Inch Fry Pan
All-Clad Stainless 2 Quart Saucepan
What I wish I had:
All-Clad Stainless 13-Inch Braiser Pan
All-Clad Stainless Flared Roasting Pan
What I wish they made:
Nonstick sauce pans. All-Clad doesn't make them for some reason. I love my Calphalon Nonstick 4-½-Quart Saucepot.
A lid for their 14" fry pans. I like the extra space and helper handle on their 14" fry pans, but they're not as useful without a lid.
Wow, that's expensive:
Now, at this point, you probably have your calculator out. "But, Mike, that's…that's over a thousand dollars worth of cookware! Are you nuts?"
Well, yes. But not about my cookware. Because, if you live in Northeastern Ohio, have I got a deal for you.
All-Clad Factory Sale:
All-Clad's factory is located in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania. Twice a year, on the first weekend in June and December, All-Clad holds a factory seconds sale at the Washington County Fair and Expo Center. It's about a two hour drive from the Akron area. You get prices from 40% to 70% off on factory seconds. In most cases, the damage is just cosmetic; a little scratching on the stainless, or a lid handle that's a bit offset from center.
They have most of their line of cookware available, but not all, and some favorites (like the 12" stainless fry pan, and its lid) are hard to find. Overall, though, it's an amazing value. Make sure you get there early - there can be up to an hour wait.
[h/t Garden, Grocery, Gadget Girl for reminding me the sale's coming up in two weeks.]
Questions? Comments? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.
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All Clad, yes they are very pricey but after trying one out that a friend had and then buying another popular brand only to return it after one use, I decided All Clad was the way to go. I can't afford to buy All Clad but I love to cook and having the best cookware makes cooking much more enjoyable, at least for me it does. Many people tell me horror stories about stainless steel and how everything sticks to it and I do seem to remember those days of eggs and just about anything else sticking to stainless, Luckily I had a friend that was a chef years ago and he gave me a few tips for cooking on stainless steel ,"hot pan, cold oil, things won't stick". Through the years I found this advice not to work on all stainless steel pans and that is the reason I was pumped when I tried my friends All Clad 12inch skillet, eggs did not stick.
I started my online search for the cheapest All Clad pots and pans I could find and was prepared to start with only one pan at a time and if it took a couple of years, that was OK with me. Macy's had a great sale lucky for me one day when I was bored and hit the Mall. I couldn't believe my luck, $99.00 each for several styles of pots and pans and with a minimium purchase it was an additional $25.00 off, I bought a sauce pan and a skillet and ain't looking back, I'm going to complete the set quicker that I ever thought. I got the skillet home and could barely wait for my morning and fried eggs, my roommate was shocked when I told him the eggs would not stick. I heated the pan up first and since it's All Clad I didn't have to use high heat, then I added a small amount of butter and cracked open 4 eggs, added a small amour of water and put the lid on to cook for a few minutes...the eggs slid out of the pan right onto the plates with a bit of butter, yum. Nothing really does stick if you know just a little bit about cooking on a stainless steel pans but it helps to have a good quality one, All Clad meets that for me on so many levels, I love the weight, the design and the long handles that stay cool, hey the pans are just the best and might I say very cool looking as well.