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Monday, March 15, 2010

Cookware

Wow, after our brush with the Professional Platinum cookware home demonstration (see My New Pan), we have done quite a bit of research on different cookware products.  We know that we want to replace several of our existing pots and pans with better products, but this has been very low on our priority list, as we first need to finish the kitchen remodel.

Even though the night of the demonstration we had the chance to purchase a $2400 set of cookware (that night only) specially priced for only $1599 (including a bonus grill pan), we passed on the opportunity and are really glad that we passed!

The 21-piece Professional Platinum Cookware is a very nice set of cookware.  It is a waterless cooking system that uses lower heat and typically longer cooking times when cooking.  The set has an outside coating of 18/0 steel so that it will work on any heat source including induction.  A quick review of eBay showed someone selling a new set for $699 (no bonus grill pan), but that set would not carry the factory warranty, so that was not the way we would go.  We were able to contact another distributor and find the cookware on sale for $999 (including the bonus grill pan).

In addition, we found that Lake Industries is the parent company of the Platinum cookware and also offers several other lines and price points of waterless cookware that look remarkably the same as the Platinum series.  An example is Nutri-Stahl (22-piece set for $699) that looks exactly like the more expensive Platinum series.  We did find out that the more expensive 21-piece Platinum set weighs 8 pounds more than the 22-piece Nutri-Stahl when shipped, so they do use thicker metal in the Platinum pan set.  They both have the same 24-ply construction designed for even heat distribution across the bottom of the pans.  It is interesting because both brands have a thermometer built into the lid handle for the pots, though the color-coded gauges on the less expensive (Nutri-Stahl) brand is easier to read then the display on the Platinum brand.

This weekend we visited a large Macy's store in our area and met with one of the major cookware manufacturers factory representative.  He was very informative on all brands of cookware and pointed out the strengths and weaknesses of each product line.  It was also helpful to review some of the FUD (Fear Uncertainty and Doubt) statements made by our Platinum salesperson during the home demonstration.  This is just a few of the statements:
  • “By steaming your vegetables, you destroy all the nutrients and vitamins.  The Platinum series cooks rather than steams.”  It is true that excessive heat will reduce the nutrients and vitamins, though you can steam vegetables and retain their nutrients by using less water and cooking on a lower heat.  Also don’t over cook the vegetables.  Interestingly enough, the Platinum series is a waterless cooking system, but as verified by the manufacturer, they use the moisture in the vegetables (or added water) to cook with steam.
  • “The coating inside enamel cookware (like our Le Creuset Dutch oven) is basically house paint.”  The helpful cookware representative informed us that the linings of these products use specially formulated enamel products, very similar to glass, and that it is inert and non-reactive to foods.
  • “Cooking with glass cookware like Pyrex is bad because it contains lead.”  I found a nice web site (your cookware helper) that discussed this statement, the basic answer is that glass including Pyrex is totally inert and non-reactive and that is why it is used in cookware as well as in delicate chemistry applications (think back to your high school class).
The factory cookware representative at Macy’s provided some very good topics to consider when purchasing cookware:
  1. How does the handle fit in your hand?  A good example is the All-Clad stainless steel pans that have a sturdy handle that was designed for professional chefs and meant to be grabbed with a toweled hand.  It is not very ergonomic to hold with a bare hand and it can get very hot.
  2. Will you cook on an induction cook top?  Some stainless steel cookware is grade 18/10 that is non-magnetic and will not work on an induction range.  If the outer layer of steel is 18/0, it is magnetic and will work on induction cook tops.  For instance, we saw some beautiful Calphalon stainless cookware that is constructed using 18/10 stainless steel on the inside and outside and will not work on induction heat.  During our remodel, we changed from electric to a gas range, but in the future we are considering an induction range so any pans we purchase today, will need to work on induction in the future.  It’s too bad because I really enjoy using our Calphalon knife set!
  3. How does the pan feel for weight and balance?  We looked at some pans with large copper heat spreaders on the bottom that made the pans quite heavy and could be difficult to lift with one hand.
We also had a nice discussion on non-stick and anodized pans.  I found this very interesting regarding the construction and composition of modern non-stick pans and coatings.

I have had other discussions with a professional chef that would like to use cookware like the Platinum series that contains titanium on the inside and how it makes the best non-stick coating, but the price of titanium cookware is excessive.  However, even this video demonstration of the Platinum cookware show the presenter using a thin coating of cooking lubrication when cooking eggs.

The professional chef also said that he prefers to use grape seed oil when cooking as it is flavorless and has a higher smoking point than olive oil.  As oils have a limited shelf life, he keeps a small amount in a spray bottle to sprits into pans when he is cooking, and keeps the rest of the bottle in the refrigerator where it will last longer.  Now we have to find a source for grape seed oil.

The chef also recommended a great internet site for additional information on all types of cooking issues (including oils): Cooking for Engineers.

He also suggested a cookbook for our library: How To Cook Everything.  I am going to get this cookbook as it provides multiple ways of cooking just about any type of food.

The bottom line when purchasing cookware is to educate yourself on what features and benefits are important to you.  Shop around, visit stores that carry quality products and perform field research by examining and holding different cookware pieces to see what feels good to you.  Don’t let yourself be pressured into a price that is “for tonight only”, if the company really wants to make a sale, the price will he honored for as long as necessary, or it will go on sale again.

Adventures In Food: Author: Kerry Howell

7 comments:

  1. I saw a bad review of the Nutri Stahl Cookware system. One reviewer who has the set said the knobs/handles? break often. He is on his third set of knobs/handles.

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  2. I saw a bad review on the Nutri Stahl cookware system. The reviewer said he owns a set and he said the knobs/handles? break often. He said he is on his third set of knobs/handles?.

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  3. I saw a bad review on the nutri stahl cookware system. The reviewer said the knobs/handles? on the set break often. He said he is on his third replacement set of knobs/handles?. His final word on the set was that it was crap.

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    1. Handles and lids are awful! The TEMPALERT KNOBS all came apart within a year...and I don`t even cook alot!! How did you get replacements?

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  4. Thank you for your post! I recently attended a platinum cookware systems demonstration. It's definitely nice cookware, but the price point is a bit high. Your blog was informative. I'm definitely going to have to do some research on the options out there.

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  5. I have a set of NutriStahl cookware and while the pots and pans are great, the knobs on the lid are the pits! I received the set through a radio station promotion - earn enough points by answering questions on their site and I could purchase numberous items at steep discounts. I got my set for about $300 - no warranty. Well, some of the knobs appeared to be loose and I tried to screw them tighter. Not a good thing. The knobs came apart and "sproinged" the insides out. I contacted the radio station to try to get information on how to replace the lids. They gave me the name/email address of a person at NutraStahl who never contacted me. Still using the pans, but can't use but one of the lids properly. Only the smallest of the lids still has it's temperature knob. Wouldn't recommend unless they have perfected these knobs.

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    1. Same thing here. How can we get replacement lids ? I am using the pots and pans with lids from Goodwill...Real BUMMER!!!

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