Ask Casey: Stainless-Steel Cookware

Ask Casey: Cooking and Kitchen Questions Answered

I think it’s time to splurge and get some good stainless steel cookware. My husband and I cook so much, and the set that we got as a wedding gift three years ago is Teflon (and kind of a pain in the ass). Can you recommend a decent brand and/or place to get some quality pots and pans?

I’m going to sound like a snot, but my honest answer is that I’ve had nothing but positive experiences with All-Clad, and when you buy these (admittedly expensive) pieces, you’re making an investment that will last you a lifetime.

Stainless steel is so wonderfully low-maintenance once you start cooking with it. These days, the only things I use my nonstick pan for are eggs and delicate seafood like scallops. You can sear your meat on the stovetop and put the pan right in the oven, which you can’t do with nonstick, and any stubborn bits can be scrubbed right off with Bar Keepers Friend.

And for the price-conscious, you don’t need to worry about the copper core, Master Chef, LTD, or any of the “special” versions. The plain old All-Clad stainless, which sandwiches a layer of aluminum between two layers of stainless steel, does an unparalleled job of heating evenly and works on those newfangled induction cooktops too. Oh, and they’re 100 percent dishwasher safe.

Don’t run out and buy the 10-piece sets—because you are making such a big outlay of cash, it’s better to buy a la carte with the pieces you’ll use most often rather than ending up with Russian nesting dolls of seldom-used pieces gathering dust in your cupboard. Time and again, I turn to the following:

  • 4-quart sauté pan, which is a frying pan with straight sides instead of sloped; the higher sides hold in liquid more effectively, which make it helpful for braising or pan-frying. This is the real workhorse of my kitchen, the pan that never makes it into the dishwasher because I’m using it so often.
  • 4-quart stockpot, called a “casserole” in All-Clad parlance. It’s the right size for making everyday quantities of pasta sauces and soups, boiling water for blanching veggies/making pasta, and your usual duties.
  • 12-inch frying pan, the piece you’ll turn to for pan-searing, grilled cheese making, and reheating last night’s enchiladas.
  • It’s also fun and useful to have two very small pans around:

  • 1-quart saucepan, which is the bottom of my double boiler and is perfect for reducing small quantities of sauce or making a single-serving hot chocolate
  • 8-inch skillet, for melting small amounts of butter or toasting nuts and spices on the stovetop

all-clad, stainless steel, cookware, baker
you can even put All-Clad in the toaster oven, which is how I made this baked egg dish

For all of my Western PA followers, you’re the luckiest, because the best prices will always be found at the All-Clad factory sale in at the Washington Township fairgrounds, held the first weekends of each June and December. I send my stepmom out to buy a few new pieces each year, which is how I have so much.

For New Yorkers (or those who come to the city often), we have a most excellent resource at Broadway Panhandler, a store that holds regular sales as well as a few major blowouts every year. I’ve snagged some deeply-discounted Le Creuset here, so I suggest Facebooking them or signing up for the newsletter to keep apprised.

But for the rest of the world or those who aren’t willing to wait a few months to start rocking out with a new 4-quart sauté, it’s always good to shop around at various brick-and-mortar and online stores, because prices range from piece to piece. The Amazon links above offer a ballpark range for what you’ll find, but it’s always worth it to compare against national retailers like Williams-Sonoma, Sur La Table, and even Bed Bath & Beyond, which frequently run worthwhile sales. (I once found a 2-quart sauté pan at Williams-Sonoma for $45, so keep an eye on the bargain tables.)

No matter what you do, when you get your new cookware, don’t be afraid to use it. Feel the heft of the pan in your hand, turn up the heat, get a sizzle going on, and you’ll quickly see the difference between a thin-bottomed discount pan and a well-crafted one.

I want to hear about what you’re cooking with your new pans and how your dishes are coming out! Send updates and any new Ask Casey questions to caseyATwww.www.goodfoodstories.com.

FTC Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Good. Food. Stories. receives a minuscule commission on all purchases made through Amazon links in our posts.

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  1. You are so right!! I bought seconds at the All-Clad factory sale 22 years ago and the stuff is still performing. Although it is expensive, it’s worth it!

  2. Yes, All Clad works like a champ — and not just because I work for Williams-Sonoma. I’ve been an All Clad fan since my pre W-S days. It’s dependable and cleans up like a champ with Barkeeper’s

    I agree with you on the saut. I have a 3 qt. Copper Core that I use many times each week. I’ve also got a 14″ that’s huge and doesn’t get so much love from me because of it’s size, but when I’m having company it is perfect.

    We’ve launched a new line called D5 Stainless which replaces the 3 ply stainless. The handles are improved and it’s now 5 ply — 5 layers of stainless and aluminum and it heats incredibly fast. I’ve tested a few pieces and am thrilled with it.

    It’s hard to remember the days of thin cookware, but I’m sure I was too inexperienced to know the difference.

  3. Oooh, I think I would find more uses for that 14″ than expected – it sounds great for sauteing a bunch of mushrooms at once! (I always have to do mine in 2 batches so they don’t steam.)

    I should head over to W-S to check out the sale table again soon, eh?

  4. Sad to say, but the sale is over until the end of summer. But … with the launch of the new d5 line of stainless, there are some amazing promotions on a few pieces of the new stuff. It’s just so hard to keep from buying more. Hi, I’m Fran and I’m a kitchen supply addict. So much so that I got a job at my fave retailer. It’s really not a job, it’s more like volunteer work once you come home with bags full of goodies.” :)

  5. Hi. I just had to post something. I searched all the blogs for the 2010 June All Clad Seconds Sale trying to determine if I should make the 4 hour trip from the Baltiimore/DC area. Well, thanks to your site I did. I have no regrets. I wish I could go again today. I like specific information on sales like this so here it is (so you can prepare for the Dec sale):
    – Know what you want and what it costs on Ebay, Amazon, WS, Bloomingdales, etc. – BECAUSE, some of the prices were better in the stores. For example, the grill pan was selling for $95 when Bloomindales has had it on sale for the past year for around $49 sometimes less.
    – Bring a basket if you decide to buy alot
    – Biggest deals were on Copper Core by far. Now, I personally use the regular stainless everyday and think that they are good enough. BUT, at the prices the Copper Core was going for, you just couldn’t beat it! So here is just a taste…most (if not all) Copper Core was 70% off. So, I bought a $445 8 qt stockpot for $133 + $19 lid (small scratches). Sauce pots (CC) went for $73 but they ran out of lids. Chef pans went for $109
    -Another big disount was on electrics (I did not buy because I was alone and tired of carrying and pulling everything around) – The prized and coveted $300 7 qt slow cooker aluminum went for $149 and they were selling like crazy. By 11:00 the AC rep said that she was on her 4th pallet. The E-grill went for like $150 I think.
    -They had Copper R galore but noone wants to polish now days, right?
    – Non-stick was not priced well at all. I could find better deals at WS or Ebay and maybe Bloom’s during their hot sales.
    – Utensils were discounted but not enough for me…I can be cheap about some things. Utensils went for $11, some $15. When they go to $5 then I will buy:>)
    – Got a LTD 10″ Stir Fry (cute as a button) for $33
    – Krups Coffee pots went for $39
    So, in summary, I will be back in December as I asked if customers in line (nicest people for the most part) and the sales folks if the discounts are as good in December and they said yes. Only thing is that some of the staff are unfamiliar with the warranty policy. After I had spent over $800 she said that there wasn’t a warranty. Well, because of the blogs, I knew she was wrong. I called All Clad HQ and they said Limited Lifetime warranty, meaning send it back and you will get another second…sounds good to me.

  6. All Clad is the professional’s choice many times. A little pricey, but well worth it. They keep the sandwiched aluminum layer all the way up to the rim which is important.

    Caphalon makes some fine stainless steel cookware too. Compare the prices and see which suits better.

    All Clad is still American made.

  7. Fujo, I’m SO glad that this post helped you make your decision to go, and that you ended up with such a good haul! Thanks for the detailed rundown of what was available too – my stepmom was at the sale contemplating a slow cooker, so she was adding to the frenzy, no doubt.

  8. Thank you so much for this recommendation. I recently bought a 5-piece All-Clad starter set on the strength of this post, and I love it! So much that I then went out and bought my mom, who makes loads of eggs in the morning, one of the All-Clad non-stick frying pans. She claims that it has positively changed her life and that she won’t let anyone take it away from her now. We are immediate and happy All-Clad fans!

    1. I’m so glad to hear this! My All-Clad nonstick pan lasted me almost a decade, which is unheard of for a nonstick pan that gets as much abuse as mine did. I hope your mother’s endures for just as long! (And now I’m hungry for eggs.)

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