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.
Amazon offers 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.
I bought my set from Amazon. after comparing with sets at Cutlery&More. Both of these online sellers usually have good deals and similar prices.
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.
Alternative all clad
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. 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.