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e_moon60

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One Woman's Kitchen: New Pots [Jul. 13th, 2011|01:10 pm]
e_moon60
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Last year, I decided to replace damaged and less-than-satisfactory old pots (ranging in age from 30-60+ years of use) with new ones, as a gift to self for my 65th birthday.   I had been considering this for several years,  talking to friends in person and online about their experiences with different brands of pots and pans.  I had bought, or been given, pots that wore out too quickly, were hard to clean, etc., and the survivors were just not doing what I needed them to do.  From a warped frying pan that wobbled on the burner to an ancient roasting pan that took 45 minutes to an hour to clean (we don't have a dishwasher)  to a stock pot that could not be put to simmer and left...it was time and more than time.   I wanted pots that suited my style of cooking, that would fit in the storage spaces I have (it's not a huge kitchen), that had good thermal properties (would hold a temperature), that were easy to clean (no dishwasher--easy on my elbow-grease.)

I make my own chicken, beef, and lamb stock; we raise and sometimes process our own meat (beef and lamb); we have a vegetable garden.  A lot of my cooking is one-pot and slow: the stock, soups, stews, chili, curries, etc. that make good use of range-fed beef.    In winter I'm making the stocks and soups and go in the freezer to be re-constituted in summer. 

I started slow, with one each of brands I'd heard good things about.  I already had a few pieces of Le Creuset enameled cast-iron and knew how good they were in the oven and how easy to clean.   All-Clad, though, was a new brand for me--I'd heard great things about it (the actual moment of choice was the friend who'd had an All-Clad pot for 35 years and said it still cooked and cleaned up like new.  In 35 years, I'd be 100.  Not needing to buy new cookware at 100, most likely.)   In the months of my 65th year, I added a piece at a time, replacing the older cookware.  Some of the old (the older RevereWare pots) were still desirable for less heavy-duty cooks...and have new homes.   As of now, I have five new All-Clad pieces and two new Le Creuset pieces.

A fry pan, a saute pan, a roaster, and an 8 quart and a 12 quart stockpot from All-Clad.   These pieces have changed my cooking habits and made life much easier.   Two round baking pots from Le Creuset, in 3.5 quart and 5.5 quart sizes (I can lift the larger one out of the oven when it's full.)


For the first time in my life, I can consistently fry eggs over medium--without breaking the yolk--and make omelets.   I still have--and we use--the cast-iron frying pans my mother used, but they're not the best egg pans in the world (!) and the All-Clad fry pan has taken over all the egg-work and some other lighter frying chores.

The saute pan--a later purchase--is now my favorite way to make French toast, and I also use it for the usual saute tasks.  I've always sauteed in the cast iron ones before, but the All-Clad heats up faster and very evenly, and nothing sticks.  It's lighter than the big cast iron, and thus easier to move the sauteed stuff into another pot if I need to.   It has a lid, but I photographed it without the lid. 

The roasting pan cleans up in very few minutes, with much less effort, than the old aluminum one--and the handles give a good, safe, non-wiggly grip on it.   It's (just barely) big enough for an 11 pound ham (not going quite that big again--a 9.5 pound ham fits on its rack nicely) and perfect for all but the biggest roasting/baking projects.  (We did a stuffed boned leg of lamb this spring--a lamb we'd processed ourselves--and it was amazing.) 

The 8 quart stockpot is now my go-to pot for boiling potatoes, making larger batches of soup (for later freezing), cooking pasta, making chili or curry, etc.  The 12 quart stockpot has made it possible to make smaller batches of stock (one-chicken stock) compared to my big old 20 quart stockpot that takes up more than half the stove and isn't worth using unless you're making a big batch of stock (3 chickens, or 10-15 pounds of beef bones and beef.)

The larger LeCreuset is perfect for making braised beef ribs--goes from stovetop for sauteeing onions, etc. and browning meat to the oven for long slow moist cooking.   I've also made chili in it.  (Which pot I use for chili or curry depends on how big the batch is.)   The smaller one is perfect for a "just us" soup (either from freezer or from scratch) and the larger one holds enough soup/stew/etc.  for a company meal.  

While it would be fun to have other pots, I don't have more storage space (had already co-opted the hall closet into a "pantry" across the hall from the kitchen) so the only replacements left would be a large All-Clad roaster to replace the old large aluminum roaster and maybe a 4-quart All-Clad soup pot.   But this is ample, along with the cast-iron I already have, and the saucepans (the RevereWare saucepans are still serviceable and their shorter handles fit into the remaining storage space.)   One or more of these pots is in use daily; all of them have been used multiple times with reasonable but not finicky care.   They've been used by family members as well as me, and cleaned by family members as well as me.   I'm enjoying cooking more, with the better thermal performance, and spending less time scrubbing pots, with the better interior surfaces.  

One lesson learned--a hindsight lesson--is that I put up with inferior pots for years longer than necessary.  Both these brands are expensive.  But if I had bought one really good pot every two-three years (something I could have saved up for) as my wedding-present pots began to go bad, I could have been cooking with these beauties much longer,  cooking better with the better thermal properties, and saved myself hours and hours of pot-scrubbing.  
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Comments:
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2011-07-13 09:40 pm (UTC)
My 10 quart RevereWare stock pot worked well for some 20-30 years--better than the enamelware one that was a wedding present (the enamel crazed pretty quickly.) But when I wanted to do long, very slow reduction, it just did not hold temperature that well. For soup, great.

My LeCreuset baking dish--I think it may've been called a lasagna pan or something, I forget--has a lot of dings from help with the cleanup. Certain family members have banged it around, which enameled cast iron won't stand. The interior has been scratched (again--no matter how many times you tell them what not to use steel wool or a steel scraper on...So I sympathize.)
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[User Picture]From: cissa
2011-07-16 09:41 pm (UTC)
When I replaced my Dutch Oven I went with All-clad. I'd had a rather abused LeCreuset when I was first married- a relic of a previous marriage of my husband's- and it had been burned and dinged up, and i was not a fan. I adore my All-clad! Yes, an insane amount of money, but just a delight to use (and clean up).

I'll admit my stockpot is a flimsy thing, got in a nest of stainless steel stockpots that were something like 4 for $25. I don't saute in it; it's JUST for stock... but it works fine for that, and I don't see that a pricier pan would improve things. it'll hold a whole turkey carcass, broken down.

for smaller quantities of stock, I use the bottoms of one of my steamer sets. One is pretty sturdy, one not.

I love my stainless steel frying/sauteing pans!
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2011-07-16 11:00 pm (UTC)
I think LeCreuset is more damageable than All-Clad; it does need care and a damaged one doesn't equal the undamaged. My big stockpot, the 20 quart monster, is Chinese-made, with a disk of aluminum-in-steel on the bottom and the rest all stainless. I use it only for big batches of stock and it will hold cow bones nothing else will.

But to reduce the stock to the point where I wanted it, to store it, I used to transfer it to the old RevereWare 10 quart, and reduce it from there. And that was a chore in itself. The RevereWare wouldn't hold temperature when the burner cycled, as it did on simmer. It did, however, fit in the refrigerator. The All-Clad 12 quart fits in the refrigerator AND holds temperature because of the thicker, sandwiched side walls. I can leave it doing its own thing longer. (Some people skim off fat while stock is hot; I chill it overnight in the fridge and lift off the solid fat. Seems easier to me.)

I wouldn't use LeCreuset for making stock if I had something else, in part because of the weight. I probably use it 70% in the oven and 30% on top of the stove (for some pieces, 100% in the oven.) The big old LeCreuset baking pan will hold 10 big chicken thighs, for instance, or several pork chops nested on stuffing, or a double recipe of pumpkin pie.
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[User Picture]From: blueeowyn
2011-07-13 06:34 pm (UTC)
Thank you for the review. One of my big pots (house-warming gift 15 years ago) is an enamelware one that the enamel is coming off and there is rust there so at some point I want to get a new pot and will depend on your posts to find the right one. Thank you for sharing about your cooking adventures.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2011-07-13 09:52 pm (UTC)
It didn't take my wedding-present enameled pots that long to begin to come apart, but I don't recall the brand--and that was over 40 years ago.

At any rate, I don't claim mine are best for everyone, just high-quality (there are other high-quality.) For instance, I looked at Calphalon but did not like the high-arched glass tops (storage issue) that were on all the ones I looked at. I looked at other brands of enameled cast-iron, but having had trouble with the wedding-present enameled ones (albeit enameled steel, not iron) wasn't sure how they'd hold up compared to Le Creuset. I knew I did not want non-stick interiors (some people love 'em; I don't. Had previously had one fry pan with.)

My advice would be to look at your own cooking style, your storage space, and then find a store where you can handle the different pots and see what will work best for you. But I would say, if you can afford even one top-of-the-line pots and it suits you--get it and see if you think it makes that much difference.

Sometimes you can find them on e-Bay when someone has to move and can't take that much weight or bulk along. A friend of mine got a whole set of Calphalon at a yard sale (her husband was at the sale, called her up and said "There's these heavy pots--do you want them?" and yes, she did.)
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[User Picture]From: blitheringpooks
2011-07-13 08:08 pm (UTC)
Love this info, and the pics. I've been using my early marriage Farberware sauce pans forever, and cast iron for most everything else. But after using some of Julia Child's recipes, the Le Creuset has been calling my name...
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2011-07-14 03:06 am (UTC)
America's Test Kitchen claimed that some "lesser" brands of enameled cast iron were just as good...things to check are finish of individual pots, handle size (including lid handle) and for lid handles, max baking temp. And I don't know how long those other pots last (they haven't been in stores around here for as long as Le Creuset has.

But on features: my first Le Creuset pot (small oval) bought 40 years ago has a lid handle you cannot pick up with a potholder...I have to use a cooking fork slid under the "loop" thingie. Ick. Now they come with nice big handles as in the picture. Since I use them in the oven for long slow cooking, I never get close to the temp max for the handles.
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[User Picture]From: queenmaggie
2011-07-13 08:11 pm (UTC)
I love my all clad and Le Creuset pots, but my go-tp is calphalon...I have an 8 1/2 Qt stock pot that is my favorite for any stewing dish. Suggestion for those who wish to make similar purchases: keep an eye on Amazon's pick of the day: I got some fabulous pots there for incredibly low prices.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2011-07-13 09:56 pm (UTC)
That, and e-Bay and yard sales. The good stuff's generally heavy and--for what I consider useful-size pieces, bulky. So if people have to move suddenly or are moving into a much smaller space, they may sell if for lot less than in the store. For those who aren't familiar with these brands, go to the high end kitchenware stores and look at the pieces, so you'll know by sight, feel, and mark if that pot over there is a good one or not.
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[User Picture]From: queenmaggie
2011-07-14 01:10 pm (UTC)
Very true. I got my first Le Creuset covered oval at a yard sale for about $2. The owner had received it as a wedding gift and hated how heavy it was!
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2011-07-14 01:28 pm (UTC)
Wow! That's the best deal I've heard of yet (I've had friends get them for under half-price, but not $2!)
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[User Picture]From: queenmaggie
2011-07-14 01:40 pm (UTC)
That's why I remember it still, after 28 years! ;D
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2011-07-14 01:48 pm (UTC)
I suppose even disgruntled brides learned that they could get more for them...GGG
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[User Picture]From: cissa
2011-07-16 10:18 pm (UTC)
My Caphalon hard-anodized aluminum stockpot/Dutch oven got really pitted over the years. And we treated it well.

I'm really happy with my stainless-steel-coated All clad.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2011-07-16 10:42 pm (UTC)
Aluminum just will pit, eventually, esp. if you're in an area with hard water. You can be as careful as you like with it, and it'll pit, and then cleaning it is a PITA. Stainless steel (good quality, anyway) doesn't.
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[User Picture]From: cailleuch
2011-07-13 11:23 pm (UTC)
I did that for my 60th birthday. I had some 40 year old Le Creuset that with moving and age had undergone many accidents. I decided to replace them but couldn't decide what color I liked best so I got each one in a different color. Turquoise, blue and purple which are fun with the small flame ones that I didn't replace. I must admit that the 5.5 quart one is the most used and I can pick it up when full.

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[User Picture]From: tazlet
2011-07-14 01:47 am (UTC)
All-Clad does rule! My gift to myself this year was the medium saute with a lid so that I can make English omelets. One two-quart sauce pan and I'm done!

BTW: occasionally one can find both All-Clad and Le Creuset at TJMaxx, Marshall's or Tuesday Morning, if you have those in your neck of the woods.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2011-07-14 03:15 am (UTC)
I think there may be a TJMaxx around--didn't know they carried those brands. A couple of stores we no longer have in the Austin area used to carry them in their kitchen departments.

It's interesting what people pick from open stock v. what the "sets" are. So much depends on what you cook most, for how many people, and what storage and strength factors are involved. I notice in all the home-improvement shows, and the home makeover shows, they always have these HUGE kitchens. I can't afford to enlarge our kitchen, and it's certainly roomier than ones I've had in the past, but it's half the size or less of the ones they show on TV. In my younger days, I designed many a kitchen for the dream house I might build someday...that didn't happen, of course. But boy, do I know what I'd do if I had it!! I'll bet every person who's cooked a fair bit, man or woman, has in mind the ideal kitchen....and no two are alike.
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[User Picture]From: moiety_tx
2011-07-14 03:37 pm (UTC)
My little sister has been having really good luck with the Le Creuset outlet in RR. If you get on their mailing list there are 20% off coupons fairly frequently, and I think seniors and veterans discounts too.
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