Choosing Cookware - Help!


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Choosing Cookware - Help!

Flo_R | | Oct 17, 2013 07:28 AM


I'd need some advice regarding the purchase of a set of pans… Here's my background: I'm not a professional chef, but I do love cooking, and I take pride in owning good cookware. The main criteria when I choose cookware are that the cookware be sturdy (no warping / scratching under moderate use) and high-performing (evenness of heat dispersal, good heat retention, good reactivity to changes in flame temperature, etc). I don't mind if some types of cookware come with light caveats (like: don't use metal utensils), although I'd like to avoid items that are exceedingly high-maintenance (is there such a thing?). It's great if an item looks good on top of that, but it's not my main criteria, by far. I want something that performs well above all.

As an example, I'm very happy with a Dutch oven from Le Creuset that I have: it disperses heat evenly, it retains heat well, it's very sturdy (will probably last me decades if well taken care of), and I don't mind the fact that I have to take care not to use metal utensils in it.

Now, I need to buy a few pans, and a saute pan. I bake as much as I cook, so here is how I'd use those utensils:
- Saucepans: custards (pastry cream, bechamel, …), pasta (although I may get a dedicated stock pot for this), rice pudding, flambeing, … So a lot of liquids (i.e. gentle for the pot temperature-wise because uniform), and the occasional solid (flour-butter mixture for petits choux, …). Note that I often use a whisk; currently, it's a metallic whisk, but I suppose I could switch to a silicone one for instance if that is problematic with some the materials of some of the cookware
- Saute pans: sweating or browning vegetables, sauces, fonds, deglazing, flambeing, … Maybe the occasional sauteing / stir-frying, although I have a hard anodized aluminium pan that may be more appropriate for that, both from a form factor and material perspective. I also have the Dutch oven for braising, so I'm covered there.

I'd like to be able to make caramel as well, but I understand that given the temperatures involved, it might be unsuitable for some cookware, and I'm willing to get something separate for that (or maybe use my anodized aluminium pan if I'm making enough of it).

I'm trying to figure out which materials the pans and saute pans should be, and which brands are good. Here are my current thoughts:
- 3-ply stainless steel + aluminium core: I'd like something that goes throughout (i.e. not just the base of the pot). I'm very much interested into the Le Creuset 3-ply. I've taken a look at them, they are hefty, but feel pleasantly sturdy throughout, and it's a brand I trust from a quality standpoint. Also rather reasonably priced (around 70 £ for a pot)
- Copper + stainless steel: I found for instance a brand called ProWare, that makes a set of copper + aluminium + stainless steel pots. I haven't had the chance yet to see them in person, and they are reasonably (suspiciously?) affordable, at around 60 - 70 £ a pot. I haven't found much reviews online. I'm not sure how thick the copper layer is, and if it makes any real difference, or if it's purely decorative at this point. There are other well-known brands (De Buyer, Mauviel, …), but they are a bit out of my reach here (between 100 and 250 £ for a pot).
- Copper + tin: I found some pots by Baumalu; they have thin (1mm) and thick (1.7mm) copper pots lined with tin. They look reasonably affordable (60 € / 50 £), and it looks like the quality is reasonably good.

My understanding on the tin vs stainless steel is: with stainless steel, I get more durability, but poorer heat conductivity, so the pot is not as reactive to changes in applied heat; it might also pit and give a slightly more metallic taste to the food. With tin, it's more fragile, I'll have to re-tin it eventually (but for the average home user, is that so frequent as to be problematic? how expensive is it? how hard is it to find someone to do it in the UK?), and it's not good for really high-temperature cooking (so no caramel, and not sure about stir-frying) but it has better heat conductivity and imparts no taste to the food.

Any advice on what I should go with for the pots, and for the saute pan? On a sidenote, I have a good gas range right now; I might switch in the future to induction, but that's not my main choice factor for now (and apparently, I could always get "adapter" plates to make it work with non-induction ready copperware).

And as a bonus question, with respect to copper, what is the minimum thickness to really get the advantages of copper? For the Baumalu for instance, is 1.7mm enough? (although I suppose that, from that 1.7mm, maybe 1mm of it is actually tin)