Wednesday, October 09, 2002

Cookware wars 

Here is a heated debate that my friends had about cookware. The debate was All Clad v. Calphalon. Funny thing was that it was the guys that got the most passionate about this. I'm so happy to have friends that don't fit into the regular stereotypes!

-----Original Message-----
From: Denise
Subject: cookware wars

In a true sign of real domesticity, Josh and I are trying to make a decision about the very exciting world of.................yes, pots and pans. I realize that this is probably a dull topic, but seeing as how you are all cooking gods and goddesses, I was wondering if any of you might be able to shed some light on the Calphalon vs AllClad question.


For your efforts, a little joke:
Mahatma Gandhi, as you know, walked barefoot most of the time, which produced an impressive set of calluses on his feet. He also ate very little, which made him rather frail and with his odd diet, he suffered from bad breath. This made him ... what?

A super calloused fragile mystic hexed by halitosis.

You can thank Shannon for sending me that one.

- Yong

--- Guy wrote:
Definitely All-Clad. That's all we use at FCI. But keep in mind that you don't have to have a matching set, it's more important to have a set of pots and pans that are going to serve your cooking needs. Most people probably don't need the fish-poacher, asparagus steamer, or copper sugar pot. A few things to consider regardless of brand:

1. Heavy bottomed pans cook better and last longer.
2. Can you put the pans in the oven, or do they have plastic handles?

3. A few must have items:
8" or 10" sauteuse (sloped sides)
1qt and/or 3qt sauce
2qt sautoir (straight sides)
a non-stick pan
In the end you'll end up using the same few pans so you probably don't need the 20 piece deluxe set.

4. Stainless steel interior good, Alzheimer's bad. Stay away from aluminum.
5. Heat transfer -- All-Clad has lines with aluminum or copper core.
6. Storage. Are they stackable? Hangable?
7. How many people are you cooking for? Get the right size pans.
8. Cleaning. Stainless is easy to clean, copper looks cool but they are a pain to maintain.

OK, I'm going to go steam some asparagus now.

- Guy

--- Jonathan wrote:
No question: All-clad. You will never see Calphalon in a professional kitchen. All-clad gives you better temperature control and it's easier to clean (less sticking). Calphalon just looks cooler.

--- Jeff wrote:
definitely have to agree with JP. all-clad uses an aluminum core around the whole pot/pan (not just the bottom) for even heating and an 18/10 stainless steel cooking surface. most calphalon that you see is annodized aluminum (they do have a stainless steel line).

if you like the black exterior of calphalon, all-clad make the LTD line which has a black annodized aluminum exterior, pure aluminum core, and 18/10 stainless steel interior and IMHO looks better than the calphalon.

in addition to the LTD, all-clad also offers several other lines:
stainless steel (shiny exterior) which seems to be popular among pie queens, MC2 (brushed exterior), and Cop-R-Chef (copper exterior). there are advantages and disadvantages to each line (if you are interested in the details, let me know).

one final thing to consider is that most calphalon have an aluminum cooking surface. studies on Alzheimer's victims have found the presence of elevated levels of aluminum in the brain. while the mechanism of Alzheimer's has not been uncovered
yet, i would think that avoiding unnecessary exposure to aluminum would be prudent (fortunately, bacon does not come wrapped in aluminum foil or i'd be in big trouble). considering that cooking involves intense heat, use of acids, and scraping and that the cookware will last a lifetime, there must be significant amounts of aluminum leeching into the food over an extended period of time. concerns about this is why my sister is going to get rid of her calphalon.

on the plus side for calphalon, my sister has experienced no problems using her calphalon pot to cook top ramen.

--- roehl wrote:
I'd approach the question differently.

There are basic requirements (heavy gauge and good conductor) that are all addressed by the different brands but i think for the most part you won't go wrong with picking one or the other. (not sure about the aluminum leeching concern since annodizing is an electrochemical process that seals the metal so unless you are melting the pot - highly unlikely since the baddest range BTU available is less than 20,000 BTU, i think you'll be safe. the reason aluminum is desirable is that probably next to copper its the best heat conductor available. its very responsive to heat changes, up or down. Naked aluminum is bad since the metal itself is reactive and can impart a taste on the food. stainless steel by itself does not conduct heat well, its just a surface material that's shiny, durable and non reactive).

Full disclosure, here's what i have: 2 Calphalon pots (8qt and 5qt), Calphalon everyday pan with very high sides - almost like a wok, 10inch nonstick omelet pan (from East Bay Rest. Supply), 2x 5inch nonstick omelet pan (from EBRS), 1 5inch AllClad omelet pan, 1 12inch stainless steel surface med side pan with cover from Faberware, 1 5qt Le Crueset enameled cast iron pot, 1 cast iron pan 10inch (?), 1 Calphalon roasting pan

What i've found is that i have to use different cookware for different types of cooking. Soups, big sauces one has to have pots - which one? doesn't matter as long as the material is heavy gauge and conducts heat. pan searing - i like regular (not nonstick, the Faberware and All clad in my list) ones since most likely i will be deglazing the brown bits.

Using a nonstick pan here makes the sauce tasteless since there won't be any of those yummy brown bits. but ability to go from stove to oven is key - so make sure the handle doesn't get too hot. Regular Calphalon is not good for this since its dark color doesn't show the color change as well as the stell lined ones. stews - the le crueset is great cause the iron component holds on the heat for a long time. (Plus they have the coolest colors). Small omelet pans i've found i cannot have enough of especially when its an elaborate dish that requires side preps for the main dish. Non Stick is great for cooking with less fat. For pans, i like the combo of having some with high sides and others with just a lip, especially when i'm cooking a pasta dish where the pasta goes into the pan with sauce at the end of the cooking. The Calphalon everyday pan is great for risotto!! its sides slope at the bottom so when i'm stirring i don't have to worry about missing some rice and having it burn. plus its nonstick.

I guess it would look good to have just one set or brand of cookware but i've found that it becomes impractical really quickly. No one brand or line can meet all of my needs. I have my eyes on a Circulon nonstick pan with ridges. it allows me to cook with less oil/fat yet the ridges still trap the juices and browns them so that deglazing is still an option!

I've not seen a similar one from either Calphalon and All Clad. Plus the Le Crueset rocks - did i mention the cool colors???

I hope this is helpful, I've had fun thinking about this question. what's the next question --- knifewars??

- roehl

--- Jeff wrote:
i think ro brings up a good point which is that cooking is highly personal and different brands will suit some people and not others. for example, ro prefers the calphalon everyday pan for risotto while i prefer the all-clad 6qt saute pan (available in both regular and non-stick versions) because i'm looking for maximum surface area and smaller depth. i use a square wooden spatula ($1.10 in chinatown) so i haven't had any problems with rice burning. both ways work - it's just a matter of personal preference.

i think that a good strategy for cookware is to start with a basic set of pots and pans from one manufacturer. eventually you'll want to do something which would be easier/better with a different pan/pot that your manufacturer may or may not make. it's easy to add to your collection as needs arise. i don't really know of any serious cooks who utilize only one manufacturer - particularly because of the cast iron issue. without a doubt, the le crueset kicks ass in that department. you'll definitely want the 5qt dutch oven (thank you JP and AZ for putting us on to that!).

the calphalon and all-clad both have pure aluminum cores so even heating is a given. similarly, both manufacturers use metal handles so stove to oven is not an issue with either. both manufacturers produce a similar selection of pots and pans so if there is a particular pan you want, you can probably find it in your chosen style (the exception being cast iron and really specialized items).

as far as annodized aluminum is concerned, i'm still not convinced as to it's long-term safety. it's inaccurate to say that annodizing seals the metal - it's still metal. what the electrochemical process does is change the surface from pure aluminum to aluminum oxide which is more resistant to leeching than pure aluminum. this change is only for the top few layers of atoms (my materials science books are all in storage so i can't be more exact) and i've got to believe that under normal usage for years this will eventually be worn away or scratched. with a stainless steel cooking surface you've got a thicker layer protecting you and you'll be able to see if and when the underlying aluminum is exposed. since the risk (no matter how small) is easy to avoid, why not avoid it?

some of my sister's calphalon stuff has been pretty scratched up (thanks to guests who don't know what they are doing in the kitchen) and i'd really question whether there was a barrier of aluminum oxide protection or not.

regarding the circulon - i used to own a circulon frying pan and a circulon wok. the browning is better than in a teflon non-stick, but not as good as in an all-clad non-stick (i haven't used a calphalon non-stick so i can't compare). the two things that drove me crazy with the circulon was that because the surface wasn't flat, i felt like i had a hard time getting a smooth motion when using a spatula (big issue with the wok) and it was impossible to clean the pans. no matter how carefully i cleaned them, stuff accumulated in the grooves. eventually, i was finding flecks of black stuff contaminating whatever i was cooking. if you want, you can borrow a non-stick all-clad pan from us to try out - it browns surprisingly well for a non-stick.

--- Roehl wrote:
yup, that pretty much summarizes it for me too. one clarification though is that the risotto pan i use is not brand dependent either. its just what i have. i've cooked it with a pan with a straight edge and one with a sloped side and the sloped sided one definitely wins out in terms of making sure that everything gets mixed and not trapped by the straight edge.

hands down, fond (brown bits, technical term) development is better (i.e. more) when using a regular pan vs. a nonstick so better to make sure that you have both kinds available.

re. aluminum and alzeihmer's, its a good point to avoid if you can but i'm screwed anyways cause i can't even count how many cans (made of aluminum) of coke and beer i've had over my lifetime!! not to mention the foil i've used to line baking pans, etc. ah well, onto dementia and beyond!

Tuesday, October 01, 2002

One of my favorite words 

I'm embarrassed to admit this, but I think the f word is one of the funniest words in the english language. And one of the most versatile too as this definition in the dictionary shows:

(old word, long taboo: all words, meanings, still vulg.)

v. (1) to have sexual intercourse with (usually of a male); (2) to take advantage of, betray, or cheat; victimize; (3) used in the imperative as a signal of angry dismissal, i.e. f**k you

(with about or around) to play around, act foolishly, deal inconsiderately with; (with off) to go away; (with up) to botch, damage, or break (n. f**k-up)

n. an act of sexual intercourse; a person, esp. female, considered as a (good, poor, etc.) partner in sexual intercourse; something of very little value: used in various phrases expressing displeasure, emphasis, etc.; a term of abuse, a f**ker.

intj. an expression of displeasure, etc. (often with an object, as in f**k him!)

adj. expressing scorn or disapprobation; often used as a meaningless qualification.

adv. very, to a great extent - (sweet) f**k all - nothing at all

p. adj. f**ked - exhausted, screwed

ns. f**ker - one who f**ks; a term of abuse; a fellow; a person

Check out the thoroughness of the information on this site.

See Scarface, the short version, although note here that it is not the most egregious film by far.

Acne causing ingredients 

A facialist told me to avoid cosmetics with the following acne causing ingredients. Couldn't hurt, right?

Lanolin (etoxylated)
Isopropyl myristate
Acetylated lanolin
Retin-A3 cream
Hyton desquam 23
Zerac 3
D&C red dyes
Butyl stearate
Isopropyl isothermal
Isopropyl palmitate
Putty sterate
Isosteanyl neopentonate
Myristyl myristate
Decyl oleate
Octyl sterate
Octyl palmitate
Isocetyl stearate
PPG myristyl propionate