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December 03, 2006

COOKWARE RESPONSES: In response to reader Mike Skelton's question about nonstick cookware, below, several readers weigh in. "Lycurgus" writes: "Recommendation: TEFAL. OK, it is French but despite that shortcoming it is the best non-stick cookware made and the price is reasonable."

That would be what's sold as T-Fal, in the United States.

Mike Daley goes off-topic -- in the blogosphere? Heaven forfend! -- and writes:

You should use this opportunity to plug the best cooking tool you've yet to discover. Thanks to your research, I'm a truly pleased/happy owner of one of these.

He's referring to the All-Clad slow cooker -- also available from Williams-Sonoma -- which I have indeed found to be a great purchase and tool. It's not nonstick, though it does clean up easily. (You can save some money by getting one of these instead, though, and it's probably about as good.) One of Daley's recipes can be found here, and my recipe for Lamb and Guinness Stew can be found here.

Back to our actual topic, nonstick cookware, reader Anthony Luccarelli emails:

We have a set of these (link takes you to the 10") in 12", 10", and 8". We got ours at Target.

They are wonderful. They are heavy, and heat evenly and well. The silicon handles are nice and make the pans easy to maneuver. Even though these are dishwasher safe, we hand wash them because they are non-stick.

We've ruined so many "non-stick" pans that we are being anal about these. Nothing higher than a medium flame, wait for the pan to cool down before washing, and hand wash only.

The pans have been with us for about eight months. The 12" gets the most useage, and so far the non-stick surface is like it was brand-new.

Proper care is important, which is why I tend to favor stainless-steel -- the Insta-Wife tends to put non-dishwasher-safe stuff in the dishwasher, and metal utensils get used no matter what, if they're handiest.

Reader Bill Roper emails:

We got a set of the Farberware Vibrance Red cookware below and have been very happy with it. The non-stick finish has held up well (unlike some more expensive sets that we've had) and they're hefty enough to distribute heat well.

link

At the time, they were giving away a free matching thing called something like an "everyday pan". It had two handles and was designed to brown meat on the stove and them put it in the oven to finish. It's turned out to be
pretty handy for, say, browning chicken, then covering it with pasta sauce and putting it in the oven to cook through. However, I don't see it listed right now. Here's the Calphalon version below, but the last batch
of Calphalon stuff that we got had a non-stick finish that didn't survive long.

link

The other thing that we picked up at the same time was a non-stick saucepan with a silicone handle that's safe to transfer to the oven. This allows you to boil noodles for a casserole, drain them, and put them back
in the boiling pot to bake in the oven. Bed, Bath, and Beyond had these last year, but I don't see them on-line right now.

But maybe here's an answer to my Insta-Wife cookware issues -- reader Tony Valle writes:

We have been using Scanpan for more than 12 years and I happen to think it's not only some of the best non-stick cookware on the market, it's economical to boot.

http://scanpan.com/main/home.aspx

The ceramic coating means it's safe to use metal utensils -- unlike most other non-sticks -- and it doesn't discolor or change the flavor of your food. When the non-stick property starts to wane, you "refresh" the pan by scrubbing it with the included stainless steel scrubby, and you're back to a nice smooth surface.

Reader Rich Barry emails:

In a word Calphalon! It is very well built, the nonstick doesn't seem to chip or fade and the cookware is built to take a 100 years of pounding. Even better, you can find this stuff on sale at Macy's. As an alternative to nonstick, give high grade copper cookware a look. Mauviel is terrific for cooking at lower tempertures than aluminum, steel or iron. This means less likely to burn stuff. Copper is different to cleanup as it will tarnish but a mixture of lime juice and salt takes it right off.

The Insta-Wife managed to ruin my Calphalon in short order, which is why I switched to stainless! I shudder to think what would happen with copper, but your experiences may differ. . . .

Reader Andrew Cohill says stay away from nonstick:

I swore off nonstick cookware many years ago, suspicious that the continuous flaking of the Teflon into your food might not be good for you. Sure enough, I was right:

Link

Opinions differ over the dangers, but to me, it is just not worth the risk.

For non stick pans, I recommend investing in All Clad pans:

http://www.allclad.com/

The copper ones are best, but the triple ply All Clad design (all stainless interiors) eliminates hot spots, which is what causes a lot of burning and sticking. Spray a little Pam on the pan and use some olive oil or coconut oil, and you have all natural nonstick, with no chlorinated flouride compounds (Teflon) flaking off into your food.

And of course, a good cast iron skillet is a kitchen essential, and properly maintained, nothing sticks to it.

Cast iron is good. Once again, however, for me the dishwasher issue rears its ugly head. Again, your results may differ.

Kitchen expert Megan McArdle -- good-looking, works at The Economist and she can cook! -- emails this recommendation:

I recommended Calphalon One in my annual kitchen carnival, which is not quite as non-sticky as regular nonstick pans are. But unlike regular nonstick, the teflon is infused right into the aluminum. That means the pans will sear your food (very hard to do in a regular nonstick pan), and it they last; my experience with regular nonstick has been that eventually the teflon gets damaged, and then you have to throw the pan away. Also, you can use brillo on these if anything *does* stick. They are solid anodized pieces with riveted handles that distribute heat beautifully, and should last a decade or more of heavy use.

Jay Meadors emails:

I have been using a Sitram Cypernox non-stick 20 cm frypan for many years. I cook two meals a day in it, every day, and am amazed at how well it has held up. The claims the manufacturer make are true, based on my experience. It was not an inexpensive purchase, but based on how well it has performed, it is an excellent value.

I'd never heard of that brand. Barbara Skolaut emails:

Glenn, I've had great luck with Anolon cookware. I have a large and a small frying pan, and went out of my way to order a wok. I love it - it's heavy, cooks evenly, and cleans like a dream. I bought the smallest pan mostly by accident when I needed to replace the (cheaper and worn out) frying pan I used most often, and fell in love. I've not tried their saucepans since I don't need them for the kind of cooking I usually do, but I'm sure they would be wonderful too.

If, before I owned my first pan, someone would have told me I'd wax poetic about a frying pan, I'd have said they were nuts. Now I can't recommend the brand highly enough.

Yeah, and the amount of email I'm getting on this topic suggests that it's not just you, Barbara! This post only scratches the surface, but it's all the cookware-blogging I can manage at the moment. I may do a followup post if I get time.

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