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An editor (guess who) is steel fired up about his last scrubbing nightmare.
This is a new column and it combines my two great passions: buying stuff and complaining. And while that probably makes having your desk beside mine something of a grind, it’s a potential boon for you consumers out there who are looking for an honest, no pay-for-play opinion on all things consumer.
So to start this off on the right aggressive foot, I’d like to chat about my experience with the sacred cow that is All-Clad cookware. For as long as I remember, the American company has sat at the top of the pots and pans food chain as the pinnacle of kitchen performance…and it’s always had the highest price tags to support it. But is it all it’s cracked up to be?
One of the company’s claims to fame is that it’s made in the USA, which, forgive me, seems like a marginal claim in 2019. You know what else is made in the USA? The Chevy Impala and every other garbage automobile I get stuck with when I rent a car. You know what’s not made in the USA? Toyotas and Audis, so forgive if I not willing to pay more to make American Great Again, cookware edition.
What about performance? Here I’ll limit myself to the Stainless Steel and Copper Core models, because these are the workhorse models that the company made their reputation on and I have several pieces of both. So let’s start with the pros: the heat conductivity is off-the-charts good. Even the base stainless steel models hold that heat wonderfully throughout the entire cooking service and conduct the heat so well that you end up using lower heat settings than you normally would. My other pansmostly Calphalon with the odd Lodge cast iron and Le Creuset thrown inare not in the same ballpark. I actually made scrambled eggs in one last night and they emerged from the pan like I was Paul Bocuse.
The cons? Well the first one is last pro abovehaving pans that need to use different heat is actually a bit of a pain. The first time I used an All-Clad it was at my parents I ended up burning the pan because I had it on high heat (and an hour spent scouring it with Barkeeper’s Friend made sure that was a lesson I didn’t forget). The second con, obviously, is the price. All-Clad is still pretty much the most expensive cookware out there, although if you shop sales, it’s not crazy and you’ll on occasion find a random pot or pan at Marshall’s if you look hard. Another con – the fit isn’t always perfect. I bought an 8 quart pot last year mostly for cooking pasta and and when I do that, it’s works like a charm. But if I want to fry onions and garlic in the pot, the bottom of the pan has a slight curve upwards such that the hot oil pools around the edges, which results in anything in the middle burning because there’s no oil. It’s not a huge hassle, but nor is it the best pot in the world. Which leads us to the far and away the number one conthe cleaning. Every single All-Clad pot or pan I have is brutal to clean. Eggs stick, pancakes really stick, fats burn and stain, so unless you’re poaching something or use insane amounts of butter/oil, be prepared to use some elbow grease every time you use it. Yes, All-Clad does make some non-stick pans and I have a small one, but the performance is not as good as the pure stainless and they’re so pricey I’m deathly afraid of anyone scratching the non-stick surface. The sad truth is is that if I’m doing something simple like frying up a green onion cake, these days I end up using a non-stick pan from T-Fal that someone sent me for free and that will set you back all $32.65 at Amazon. It works fine and is a snap to clean up.
So are they worth it? It depends on how committed a chef you are and if you have someone who cleans your pans for you. I’ve still not come across a pan that performs as well as the All-Clad, but the reality is for the most part I don’t need high level performance as a home chef. I need ease. It’s like driving your kids to school in a Ferrari: it’s undeniably awesome but, unlike the hot oil stains on the sides of your pan, the novelty wears off pretty quickly.
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