Q: What will you primarily be cooking with it? I love what I hear about ALL-CLAD...and now I am ready to buy. But Now I am more confused...because ALL-CLAD offers 4 kinds; 1- LTD 2- Stainless 3- COP-R-?? 4-Chef-?? what are the differences..beside the color? What the chefs are using? I am interested in a frying pan 12"...what do you people recommned?
A: When you have a pan that conducts heat well, you don't need to use as high a heat to get them up to temperature. One of the nice thing about All-Clad pans is that they can stand up to the high heats of professional ranges. Lesser quality pans can buckle. So you can do your cooking hot and fast, just like in a restaurant. Many people I have worked with who have switched from lesser quality to a high-end cookware like All-Clad find that they need to turn down their heat a notch from what they'd been used to or adjust their cooking times. Not all materials absorb the same amount of heat at the same rate. Metals (due to their molecule structure) tend to be more conductive than non-metals. Aluminum is the second most conductive metal after copper; stainless steel is further down the spectrum of conductivity (less conductive than cast iron, more conductive that ceramics). This conductivity can be influenced by purity (if you're combining a conductive material with an non-conductive one, it stands to reason that the overall conductivity will diminish) and distance from the heat source. Conductivity is important in cooking for 2 reasons: for efficient distribution of heat to all your food, as Sheldon points out, and for effective control. Zabaglione pans are traditionally made of copper because the high thermal conductivity of copper gives the cook the precision required to cook the yolks to exactly the point where it's zabaglione and to stop them before they become scrambled eggs. Stainless steel (which has many other favourable characteristics for cookware) is a fairly poor conductor of heat, which is why the earliest pans (and many you'll find today) are so thin. This poor conductivity of stainless also contributes to the development of hot spots in lesser quality pans. The fact that a material has a higher melting point speaks to its durability, which Sheldon has commented upon further on, but doesn't influence its efficiency of heat conduction. (Case in point: mercury is an excellent conductor of heat--even in its liquid state--but of course its low melting point makes it impractical for cookware use.) In the interest of learning something new, I tried Sheldon's experiment and I could not achieve the same results that he described. I used a commercial grade stainless saucepan and a Calphalon saucepan, both the same size shape; the water in the Calphalon pan heated much more quickly. (I didn't use my All-Clad because I didn't have a stainless of comparable size, shape and thickness as a control.) You mention a "lighter duty pot;" could it be that the gauge (thickness) of the pans were different, perhaps?
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