Cooking sous vide is a relatively new technique for the home cook. Essentially, you vacuum seal food in plastic bags and cook it in a controlled-temperature water bath until done. I won’t go into detail about the cooking process, but with a home version made by SousVide Supreme available along with the smaller SousVide Demi, I am starting to think that this appliance would be a good cooking tool to use with kids.
Think about it. A five-year-old might have a difficult time cooking a steak on the stove, but with the SousVide Supreme, it is actually pretty easy. Kids can help season the food, put it in the bag, and then what child wouldn’t like using the vacuum sealer? Setting the cooking temperature and time is just a matter of punching in numbers, and after that you just wait. You don’t have to worry about flames, hot burners or pans, or oil splatters. It would also be a good way to teach your child about food safety and how that relates to temperature. Of course, a lot of sous vide cooking also involves browning and searing after the water bath, but kids can play a big part in preparing dishes that are usually left until they are a bit older.
Just watch this video on the SousVide Supreme blog where a young kid instructs on how to cook steak sous vide with a vacuum sealer. It looks pretty simple.
The SousVide Supreme Demi is a slightly smaller version of the larger Supreme model. Apparently, the Demi holds about 60% the capacity of the regular model, but can still cook 12 four-ounce portions. The Demi also comes in a variety of colors, and in terms of countertop space, it will take up about the same space as a crock pot.
Of course this appliance comes with a pretty steep price tag of $300 for the Demi and $450 for the regular Supreme, and you also need to purchase a vacuum sealer. This product is not for everyone, and I also have some caveats (or warnings).
Firstly, when buying an appliance such as this one, the home cook should learn to use it properly. Under-cooked food no matter how it is prepared can make people sick. Secondly, some people are very concerned about cooking food in plastics. If you are worried about this, then you may want to research it further before investing in such a product.
Lastly, other sous vide equipment does exist on the market such as the Sous Vide Magic. These set-ups involve using a container such as a crock pot along with a temperature controller. They are fine for adult cooks, but I would not recommend this gear for kids. The beauty of the SousVide Supreme is its simplicity both in terms of operating it and its set up, and there are no cords and probes to worry about.
With that said, I couldn’t find a lot of information about sous vide cooking with kids on the internet, but the Provident Gourmet has a post that details how she cooks pasta sous vide, portions it out, and uses it for quick pasta meals for kids. The author also gives some good tips about seasoning food when cooking sous vide. Just beware of olive oil and don’t over season.
Of course, there are tons of resources out there for cooking sous vide, and if you have some time, you can listen to an hour-long podcast where the legendary chef, Thomas Keller, talks about this method of cooking. Here is the link. Also, there is a neat video of Grant Achatz cooking a turkey sous vide for Thanksgiving. Here is part 1 and part 2. The bags aren’t technically vacuum sealed, but the concept is the same.
If you are interested in buying a SousVide Supreme or the new Demi, the company is offering free shipping during the holidays.
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I just got in a small de Buyer fry pan. I thought the 8-inch size would be good for my daughter’s cook set and wanted to try it out. The price was reasonable from CHEFs at $40, and I have heard several good reports about this French cookware brand.
Unfortunately, I have been so busy preparing for Thanksgiving that I haven’t yet had time to season the pan and put it to good use. My initial impressions are good, however, and I like the fact the pan is free of chemicals and has stay-cool handles. Both are nice features if a kid is going to be using the pan.
Reviews at Chefs and Amazon are very good too, and users report that after seasoning the pan, the non-stick quality is very good. I have high hopes it will perform well once I finally get mine fired up.
The only problem that I see so far is that the weight is pretty significant for a small pan. It isn’t as heavy as cast iron, but it is made out of iron so it has some heft to it. It seems to lie between cast iron and stainless steel in terms of weight.
Of course, a pan that needs to be seasoned and is at risk of rusting, should not be left totally to a young chef, but with that said, a nice de Buyer pan will be a legacy piece of cookware that will last a long time.
De Buyer pans are also competitively priced, and the 8-Inch mineral fry pan right now costs $32 on Amazon. As for other brand options, an All-Clad Stainless 8-Inch Fry Pan will cost about $75, and the All-Clad Master Chef 2 will cost $50. A bit cheaper is the Cuisinart Multiclad Pro 8-Inch Skillet at roughly $30, and the cheaper Cuisinart lines will cost even less at around $20.
In the end, the de Buyer pans will give a non-stick option without all the chemicals and can last a lifetime. Other options are out there, but why not try out a different type of material. You may become a de Buyer fanatic — and your child may too.
A few weeks ago I was in a kitchen store and saw some All-Clad pans that were a nice size for kids. Of course, little chefs don’t need high-end All-Clad pans, but the 1/2-quart butterwarmer, 1-quart sauce pan, and 1-quart saucier were perfect for little ones. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of small pans on the market that cost a lot less, so I wouldn’t recommend this cookware just for kids.
With that said, I wanted to try one out as I already cook with All-Clad and could see using the pan myself. So I went onto eBay and found a used 1-quart stainless pan for $38. It was in excellent shape and by comparison, a new one with a lid will cost a whopping $120 right now. I am sure that price will come down at some point, but I could never imagine paying that much. The 1-quart saucier from All-Clad is $55 right now and a much better deal.
The small size, however, does have limitations, but I can definitely see it being used for heating up soup, warming butter, making balsamic reductions, and melting chocolate. For children, the size is easier to handle too, and the pan sides are nice and low for easy stirring and watching food cook.
Some reviews on Amazon did mention that the saucepan lacks a rolled lip, which means that pouring liquids directly out of the pan can be messy. I would definitely be careful if using this for hot liquids and kids are around. The 1/2-quart butterwarmer, however, does have pouring lips, but reviewers also note that it still doesn’t pour that well. Too bad.
Below are some of the smaller All-Clad pan options if you don’t mind spending a bit more. And of course you can always buy used ones on eBay as I did. Another option is to go through Cookware & More. They sell All-Clad irregulars at a discount, and if you wait for the 20-percent-off sale, you can get really good deals. They charge for shipping though, so be careful if buying only one pan.
A cheaper option yet is to buy the Emeril Pro-Clad pans, which are also made by All-Clad. The Emeril Pro-Clad Stainless 1-Quart Sauce Pan will cost $40 and comes with a lid. This pan is reportedly good for pouring liquids due to the lip design and also has a glass lid so kids can see inside.
For a non-stick option, the Cuisinart GreenGourmet Hard Anodized Eco-Friendly Nonstick 1-Quart Saucepan looks interesting. It gets good reviews and only costs $25, so if you want a non-stick surface without worrying about non-stick coatings, this pan might work.
There are also a couple of options from Calphalon. The Calphalon Triply 1-Quart Sauce Pan sells for $35 and the Simply Calphalon version is $30. The Simply Calphalon line also has silicone gripper handles for ease of handling and heat resistance – a nice feature for kids.
The cheapest option after eBay would probably be IKEA though. They offer a 1-quart pan for only $9 and a 20 oz. one for $8. If you are purchasing some cookware exclusively for your kid, IKEA would probably be a fine option, but the quality of the above pans will be much better. I personally like the idea of quality products that can be used well into adulthood, and I can’t say for sure that IKEA cookware will last as long or that you won’t want to replace it with something better down the road. Regardless, there are plenty of small pans if you want something for your kids to use.
Half baking sheets (also called jelly roll pans) are indispensable in the kitchen. You can roast vegetables and meats on them in addition to taking care of numerous baking duties.
A week ago, I decided that a quarter-sized baking sheet would be a wonderful size for kids. It isn’t that children can’t use half-sheets when laying out some food, but they can at least lug around the quarter sheet because it is more their size. These pans usually measure around 12 x 9 inches.
There are several companies that make quarter-sized pans and most of the options will cost around $10. Lincoln Foodservice is the standard in many commercial kitchens, and I purchased the Lincoln Wear-Ever non-stick pan through Dean Supply for $11.35. It is very sturdy and high quality.
You can also check out your local restaurant supply store to see if they are available, and a lot of online restaurant supply stores will also have inexpensive quarter sheet options. Just keep in mind that online restaurant service vendors may have a minimum order requirement and shipping costs often eliminate the price advantage.
On Amazon there are a few products available. Nordic Ware has an uncoated quarter sheet for $9, and Chicago Metallic has a similar one for $10.50. Chicago Metallic’s non-stick pan sells for $10. I already have a couple Chicago Metallic half sheets and really like them. They’re good products.
So if you want to get some baking kit for your child, try out a smaller pan made by a cookware manufacturer. A lot of cooking sets for kids have baking pans included, but they are thin and only one step up from toys. Why not get an inexpensive real pan instead?
UPDATE: I just realized that Lincoln Foodservice no longer sells baking sheets. The parent company, Manitowoc, sold the smallwares division of Lincoln to Vollrath in December 2009.
Lodge makes some small cast-iron skillets that are very kid-worthy. Yes, cast iron is heavy, but the 6.5-inch and 8-inch skillets are still small enough and relatively ‘light’ enough for many kids to manage. Of course, children can always use regular-sized skillets, but the heft of cast-iron will mean that they are less able to move them around and the larger versions may be a bit intimidating. In the end, I still think there is something fun and special about kids having a pan that is their size — it makes it feel more like their own. In fact, out of all of my recent purchases of children’s cookware, the skillet was the most intriguing and fun to handle for my daughter. I am definitely glad I got it for her, and this morning we are going to try making some eggs.
With that said, the 6.5-inch size does limit what one can cook in the pan because of the small cooking area, but it is still large enough for some eggs, corn bread, or a chicken breast. It might be a nice way to double team a morning breakfast with your kid. You can have your big pan and the kid his own smaller pan, and you are right there to monitor and make sure everything goes as planned.
You can purchase the 6.5-inch skillet for around $9 and the 8-inch skillet sells for a little less than $11. I thought these two sizes were the best for kids after considering weight versus functionality. Over 8 inches gets heavy really quickly and the 5-inch and 3.5-Inch pans lose a lot of functionality. Those last two are described as miniature and appropriately handle miniature dishes.
If you have a kitchen store nearby with a good selection of Lodge cast-iron pans, it might be worth checking out. The nice thing is that these pans are not that expensive, and they are already seasoned and ready for cooking.
As camping season approaches, I thought this outdoor cookware set would be perfect. The MSR Flex 4 System Cookset provides enough cookware for four people, and the dishes nest nicely within each other so that they don’t use up valuable space.
Another nice feature is that two of the plates are smaller and made to fit inside the smaller pot if you just want to go double (or solo). This way you don’t have to take all the pans for smaller outings. The plates also protect the interior of the pots from scratching as the smaller pot has a non-stick surface.
The set also has strainers built into the pot lids, which is handy, and includes one 5.3 liter anodized aluminum pot along with a smaller 3.2 liter non-stick aluminum pot. For eating and drinking, there are four deep dish plates/bowls and four insulated mugs with removable cozies. The set also comes with removable Talon handles for the pots that will clamp nicely to the lid to secure the dishes when all packed up.
You can buy the MSR Flex 4 Cooking System at Amazon for $128 (free shipping). And if four settings is too much for you there is also a smaller MSR Flex 3 System for $104 and an MSR Quick 2 System for $100, built for three and two persons respectively. These sets also have smaller cooking pots by the way.
All in all, I think these are well-designed sets for the outdoors. They are very functional and flexible — and look great too.
So how come there are so many brands of stainless steel multi-clad cookware on the market now, whereas ten years ago there were so few? Well, for the longest time All-Clad Metalcrafters had the patent on the bonding process to make multi-clad cookware. Basically, by bonding different metals together a pan could achieve the benefits of various metals and offer superior cooking performance, and All-Clad owned that process. Just look at the edge of a quarter. That same boding process that layers the metal in a coin is what All-Clad developed for the U.S. Mint and also made into a great line of cookware.
All-Clad founder John Ulam has had patents on variations of this bonding process extending from 1967 until 1982, but in the early 2000s All-Clad’s patent expired. Soon after that, Cuisinart produced its Multiclad Pro line along with Calphalon and its Tri-Ply series. Viking has its multi-ply, and now Le Creuset and J.A. Henckels have multi-clad cookware. And if you want an inexpensive multi-clad option, you can buy Tramontina sets at Walmart for around $150. By the way, Tramontina was also recommended by Cook’s Illustrated in May 2009 along with All-Clad and Calphalon. And All-Clad has also teamed up with Emerilware to produce its Pro-Clad line of cookware, and Sur La Table has its own branded tri-ply. There are so many options these days, and though there will be differences in design and metal thickness, most of these brands are good performers.
What this means is that All-Clad as a brand is no longer the top dog in the home cookware arena, and when I recently visited a kitchen store, the salesperson informed me that All-Clad is having to resort to sales for the first time. They have also been adding ‘extras’ into sets such as utensils, aprons, panini pans etc — though many of these items are made in China and not the US. And they currently have a sale on a 12-inch skillet with lid for under $100. A bargain by All-Clad standards.
As for performance, the average cook probably won’t notice much difference between All-Clad and the other brands, but the price will be a big difference. But it is also important to consider features such as how the pans feel in your hand, the covers (glass or metal), and the look you want. The good thing is that all these pans have collectively raised cookware quality in kitchens all over, and we have All-Clad to thank for that. But the next time you are on the market for cookware, there will be many reasonably priced options for purchase.
My only advice is to choose your pans or pan set wisely. Look for sets that have a 12 and 10-inch skillet versus an 8 and 10-inch. A lot of the sets out there have a strange combination of pans and will include some sizes that will rarely be used. You may also want to look at the handles. Some sauce pans will have a ‘gripper’ handle, which is nice. Also some sets will have a 6-quart versus and 8-quart stock pot. This is one area where All-Clad does a better job than the other cookware brands as you will have many different options for sets. My favorite sets are currently sold from Williams-Sonoma and the All-Clad Stainless Steel 10 Piece Set sold from MetroKitchen.
If you have All-Clad pans already and are interested in adding a piece or two, Cookware & More is offering 20% off when you buy an irregular All-Clad item. There are some restrictions such as it cannot already be on ’special’ and cannot be a set. A lot of people who own All-Clad wait for this sale and report that visual flaws are almost unnoticeable, plus the pan still comes with the factory warranty.
I have been wanting to add a non-stick pan to my All-Clad set. The current (Emeril) 10-inch non-stick fry pan isn’t big enough for pancakes and larger egg breakfast options, so I will be picking up the 12-inch skillet above.
So just for comparison, here is the price breakdown. At Cookware & More I will pay $72.51 total with shipping. At Amazon.com it will cost $135. Of course, one can still go for cheaper non-stick skillet versions that Cook’s Illustrated recommended for instance. The Cuisinart Chef’s Classic non-stick 12-inch skillet gets very high marks on Amazon, and that pan costs about $47. The irregular sale, however, brings down the All-Clad prices close enough to compete with many other brands.
The Sarpaneva 3-Quart Cast Iron Cassrole is a classic of ’60s Finnish design and is being reissued by Iittala. It was once even featured on a Finnish stamp and has won various design awards, to include the silver medal at the 1960 Milan Triennial as well as the International Design Award in the United States.
If you browse eBay these vintage cast-iron casseroles fetch a good price, and you can find used ones in other enamel colors too. The demand for this classic is probably one reason the item has been brought back into production.
Production aside, this piece of cookware is just stunning design. The interior is white enamel and the use of the handle is ingenious for maneuvering the pot lid (see image). And because the handle is removable, it is oven safe too. I am sure you could find a dutch oven for a cheaper price and probably even a bit more functional and larger, but to have a pot this beautiful is worth it. Surprisingly, Amazon sells them but at time of writing only one was left in stock with more on the way. Click the link to see if they are available. The cost is $212 for the Iittala Sarpaneva Cassrole.
My only concern about the pot is that it is only three quarts in volume, but other popular cookware makers have products this size too. I love using my All-Clad 8 quart stock pot to do stews in, so with less than half of that size I might need to resort to half recipes. Regardless, the design is so elegant it would be a great addition to a gourmet kitchen.
Recently I purchased my first set of All-Clad cookware and I did a lot of reading up and comparison shopping, so I thought I would pass on some of what I learned during that shopping experience.
The set I decided to buy was the stainless steel All-Clad MC2 Master Chef 10 Cookware Piece Set with the brushed aluminum exterior. Cook’s Illustrated in May 2009 gave the all-stainless-steel version their top honor for recommended cookware sets.
My set wasn’t the exact same set recommended by Cook’s Illustrated but close enough and it meets my needs. I didn’t care for the shiny stainless steel, and even though Cook’s Illustrated didn’t like the inclusion of the saute and saucier pan in the set, I didn’t mind it as I tend to use a saute pan quite a bit. Cook’s Illustrated also wanted a set with a 12-inch fry pan instead of an 8-inch, and that would have been nice.
Regardless, the set meets my needs well, and I love cooking with the pans, but here are some considerations you may want to take into account if you have decided on All-Clad over another brand.
First question: Which set to buy?
Pan sets can be a really good deal, but you will often get pans that you won’t use, so don’t always go for the biggest set. Manufacturers will throw in specialty pans as an inducement for people to buy, but in the end you probably won’t use them much. Look for pan sets that have what you need, and try looking at the different retailers as they may have different cookware packages. Big home and kitchen stores such as Williams-Sonoma and Crate & Barrel will have slightly different pan and handle options for their respective sets. But just keep in mind that no cookware set will likely have the exact pans you want, but buying them individually will usually cost a lot more too.
Both MetroKitchen.com and Williams-Sonoma offer similar sets that Cook’s Illustrated rated best — though Metro Kitchen has a 2 qt. saucier pan instead of the basic pot. I actually like the saucier better, and the Metro Kitchen package pictured above (click for details) is a bit cheaper. Also, with the purchase of most All-Clad sets on any site, the retailer will often throw in some freebies, but frankly they are usually not that useful. (Though I do actually use the apron I got with my order.)
‘Concerns’ with All-Clad
Though All-Clad pans rate highly with cooks and foodies, there are some common complaints.
First of all, people complain about the price or — better yet — the value of the set. It is true they are more expensive, but I can also attest to the fact I like using these pans more than cheaper sets I have used. If you are concerned about value then you may want to look into cheaper (but also very good) cookware options. I will have another post on alternatives to All-Clad in the coming week.
Also, the long handles on sauce and fry pans aren’t that comfortable. The design just isn’t that great, especially considering the need to carry full pots full of water, sauce or food. And I have had handles that do a lot better job than All-Clad at not getting so hot.
All-Clad pans are beautiful, so if you want to show them in your kitchen they are good for that, but take care with the cleaning. The shiny stainless steel pans can scratch easily and need to be dried quickly to avoid spots. I wanted the brushed aluminum because I didn’t want to worry about maintaining a shine.
Cleaning is also a common complaint. Stainless steel is usually going to be harder to clean than non-stick coated pans. With frequent use, though, and proper cooking methods, stainless steel doesn’t have to be so difficult. I personally don’t mind the cleanup, but I still go for a non-stick pan when I prepare a quick egg. By the way, there is an set that substitutes a non-stick pan. All-Clad Stainless 9 Piece Cookware Set 10 inch NS Fry Pan
Where to get the best price?
With Williams-Sonoma and Crate & Barrel you may have to factor in shipping cost if you don’t have a store nearby or there isn’t a promotion for free shipping. But you can also try going onto eBay for these big retailers and bid on a 10% off coupon, which can reduce the cost. With the said, I think the basic Crate & Barrel set is very reasonable at $370.
If you don’t care about scratch and dings in your pans, you may want look at All-Clad seconds. They still have a lifetime warranty and you can return it if the irregularity is not to your liking. Cookware & More sells irregulars and also periodic sales if you want to wait for those events. Just as an example, the same 12-inch (irregular) fry pan is about $92 at Cookware & More and a ‘regular’ one is $135 on other online sites.
But with that said, at time of writing there is a great deal on an All-Clad Stainless12 inch Fry Pan with Lid. It is listed for $180 and now selling for $90. Just in case you want to add the 12-inch pan that Cook’s Illustrated was concerned about.