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copper vs. aluminum core, and no i'm not talking about heatsinks! (cookware actually)

Discussion in 'Social Life, Food & Drink, Travel' started by GQgeek, Sep 5, 2006.

  1. GQgeek

    GQgeek Stylish Dinosaur

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    EDIT: Uh, sorry.. had multiple browser windows open and posted in wrong forum. I wondered where this post went :p

    For the past 2 months I've actually been cooking every night. This is a first for me. And when I do things, I like to do them well. Right now my pans are a bunch of teflon coated junk and my pots suck cause I always get a layer of burnt stuff at the bottom, even at pretty low heat. The discussions on the right tools for the job when it comes to steak have led me to do a little research in to other areas of cookware.

    My cooking skills suck at the moment, but generally speaking, when I take something up I become a little bit obsessive about it. When I was learning to code I did it 16hrs a day, same thing with gaming, with salsa dancing I go out 3-4 times a week to practice... I'm sure you get the point. And I hate spending money on stuff that I know isn't great quality that I'll soon replace.

    I'm aware of the theoretical difference between the ability of copper and aluminum to transfer heat efficiently and evenly over the entire cooking surface, but before I spend a wad on cookware, I'm curious if anyone can tell me how much difference it makes in practical terms.

    Should I suck it up and go with copper from the start? I see universal recommendations for All-Clad, but is there good copper-core cookware that's a bit less expensive? If not, will aluminum be adequate, assuming I would eventually would like to get fancy with my cooking? And if you read my other thread you already know I have a plain old electric stove.

    And what would you consider the bare essentials for cooking most things in terms of the actual items you need?
     


  2. Kai

    Kai Distinguished Member

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    I have a set of the All Clad copper core cookware.

    Copper pots really do transfer heat more effectively than aluminum. The only thing I've found that is better than copper for even cooking is thick cast iron, but that takes FOREVER to get heated up properly. Copper works almost as well for even cooking, but is much faster than cast iron and responds more quickly to changing temperatures.

    I use our copper core stuff for just about everything except for cooking eggs (where I prefer a non-stick surface) and wok cooking (where I prefer cast iron, because we don't have a high-output wok burner, and the cast iron allows for maintaining high heat, even on a normal burner.)

    If you are serious about cooking, or even if you aren't serious, but just cook for fun every now and then, get some good cookware and some good forged knives. (for knives, I like Sabatier's forged line.)

    Get a 4 quart "chef's pan." Probably the most versatile pan you can buy.
    Add a 3 quart sauce pan, and you're good to go.

    Then you can slowly add to your collection, with a saute pan, smaller sauce pan, and a stock pot.
     


  3. Thomas

    Thomas Stylish Dinosaur

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    I have copper-bottomed saucepans and they have been very reliable. I could not find frypans in by the same makers (who are are now defunct) so that is disappointing. For frypans I've been using Vollrath 3-ply aluminum-core pans from my local restaurant supply and find them quite good for the money. May not be quite as good as All-Clad but substantially less $$$. I scored a demo pan for next to nothing and have been happily using it for three years now.

    For knives, I really like Forschner / Victorinox, from my local supply house, but also available on-line. They're lighter than your standard German knives but I got used to them in a hurry.

    As for the basics, I use most often:
    10" frypan (w/cover)
    8" chef's knife
    paring knife
    2 qt saucepan
    3 qt saucepan
    silicone spatula(s)
    cookbooks!
     


  4. Stax

    Stax Senior Member

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    my absolute, bare-minimum essentials:

    10" or 12" forged chef's knife (w/ wet stone for sharpening and steel for maintenance)

    3 quart sautÃ[​IMG] pan w/lid

    ceramic oval casserole (doubles as a roasting pan)

    8 quart stock pot

    2 quart sauce pan

    wooden spoons

    pepper grinder
     


  5. countdemoney

    countdemoney Distinguished Member

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    I have copper cookware liberated from Freedom. Love it. The chef's pan is awesome, but I use the saute pan the most. Metal handles make it excellent for searing and then throwing in the oven during the months when you can't cook outside.

    If you're looking at Williams-sonoma, their 8-piece cookware from a certain european country is all copper (stainless liner) and at a lower cost than the 7-piece all clad copper core. It's a no brainer for me to get the all copper set. I also like a nice patina that is impossible with stainless.

    Copper does heat faster, but if your stove is average (as mine is), you really won't experience the amazing heat control possible with copper (like when I use a viking range).

    But for the price points you are looking at, go with the best. I view my copper as at least a 20-year purchase, barring misfortune. A hundred or so dollars more isn't that big a deal if I really know that I want it and will keep it.

    The only bad part about all copper is the heft. I could never give my aging parents a set as it would be too heavy. Your arms will get a decent workout when you are trying to plate from a mostly full saute pan. See if you can try some out if this is any concern for you.
     


  6. GQgeek

    GQgeek Stylish Dinosaur

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    On someone's recommendation I checked out Falk Culinaire in belgium. It's 2.3mm copper with a .2mm layer of SS and cast iron handles. It's not as pretty as the highly polished mauviel or Bourgeat, but it's apparently a lot easier to maintain because of it's brushed metal finish and the prices are very reasonable. I've read in a number of places that 2.5-2.8mm is probably the ideal thickness for copper to balance even heat distribution and responsiveness to changes in heat.

    Edit:Mauviel sure is pretty :p
     


  7. countdemoney

    countdemoney Distinguished Member

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    I dunno, any of those falk pieces would be welcome in my kitchen.

    [​IMG]


    But I do think that the copper stockpot, while pretty, is a little bit of overkill:

    [​IMG]
     


  8. DocHolliday

    DocHolliday Stylish Dinosaur Dubiously Honored

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    Copper is lovely, but it can be a pain, and I don't consider it essential (except for a bowl for beating eggs).

    Beyond that, I think aluminum-core tri-ply is more than sufficient for all but the most ardent home cooks. In your case, GQ, I think you'll find yourself much more limited by your electric stove than the difference in the core of your cookware. Electrics just can't change temperature that quickly, so I think you're safe with the aluminum.

    If you want to try decent but inexpensive aluminum-core tri-ply, you might check out the Chefmate line at Target. You can get get their 8-piece set on sale now for $75. I don't normally recommend sets, but at that price, how can you go wrong? Try it and see if you find the tri-ply sufficient. If you don't, you've lost very little. (Many folks need a bit of time to get used to tri-ply, too, so it makes for a good practice set.)

    http://www.target.com/gp/detail.html...sin=B00007CWEQ

    EDIT: And if you want some decent, inexpensive forged knives, Chicago Cutlery is a good choice. Three-piece starter sets sell for about $25 at Target/Wal-Mart.
     


  9. GQgeek

    GQgeek Stylish Dinosaur

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    You're probably right doc but I won't be in an apartment with an electric stove forever. The decision to buy good cookware is based on having something good to cook with and avoiding the need to upgrade in the future. I'll probably be buying a condo within the next couple of years at which point I'll be switching to a gas range if I can help it.

    Right now my only decision is whether to go with bourgeat, mauviel, or falk. I need to shop around a bit and see what the best deal would be but I haven't had time yet. I'm kinda leaning towards mauviel cause I'm a big dork and like pretty things, even in the kitchen ;p

    EDIT: I'm going to go with Falk. The prices are just too good compared to the others. Bourgeat roasting pan: $498, falk: $275. The dimensions are basically the same and they're the same thickness. Plus for most things on the site, you can apply a 20% discount code assuming your order is over $500.
     


  10. globetrotter

    globetrotter Stylish Dinosaur

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    just got a nice set of copper pots and pans in Chile for less that I would pay at target for pots.

    why do you beat eggs in copper?
     


  11. GQgeek

    GQgeek Stylish Dinosaur

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    The egg whites react chemically with the copper and you get fluffier eggs as a result of this. I only know this because of my new cookbooks as opposed to experience.
     


  12. swiego

    swiego Senior Member

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    I have a Kyocera ceramic knife and my oh my does it work well. They're somewhat delicate so you should't drop them or the blade may chip. But, I've used some of the finest carbon steel knives available and when it comes to the simple art of cutting, using them feels like hand cranking a car to start it--archaic. The "knife through butter" adage really applies to them.
     


  13. globetrotter

    globetrotter Stylish Dinosaur

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    The egg whites react chemically with the copper and you get fluffier eggs as a result of this. I only know this because of my new cookbooks as opposed to experience.


    cool
     


  14. HighWater

    HighWater New Member

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    I have to agree with Doc on the stove being the real hindrance. Still, you might like the aesthetic enough to consider the best of both worlds: tri-ply Copper cookware.

    It is similar to the aluminium-core tri-ply but with (thin) Copper laminated on the outside instead of the vulgar stainless steel. It is also much less expensive than traditional Copper cookware. My only advice would be to stay away from Calphalon's line. The brushed Copper just doesn't develop the same patina.

    HW
     


  15. KJT

    KJT Distinguished Member

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    I have to agree with Doc on the stove being the real hindrance. Still, you might like the aesthetic enough to consider the best of both worlds: tri-ply Copper cookware.

    It is similar to the aluminium-core tri-ply but with (thin) Copper laminated on the outside instead of the vulgar stainless steel. It is also much less expensive than traditional Copper cookware. My only advice would be to stay away from Calphalon's line. The brushed Copper just doesn't develop the same patina.

    HW


    [​IMG]
     


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