Greener cookware recommendations?
November 6, 2009 7:56 AM   Subscribe

Can you recommend greener cookware (preferably not cast iron)?

My small set of cookware (one frying pan and two saucepans) is getting really old and worn out, and it's time to replace it all.

I've read up on safer and more environmentally-friendly cookware, but I'm having trouble figuring out what would be the best type to buy. It's a bit overwhelming.

In every writeup (and previous Ask MeFi post), dozens of people recommend cast iron. But I've looked at cast iron cookware in my local shops (a cookware shop and a camping shop) and it's just too heavy for me! It was effort just to pick the smallest pan off the shelf! I'd really like to avoid buying cast iron cookware if I can.

My cooking needs aren't much. Mostly I use the frying pan for simple stir fries, tofu, grilled cheese sandwiches, and browning ground meat. I don't fry eggs. I use the saucepans for vegetables and pasta sauces. I'd like to cook more, but I doubt it'll be anything elaborate. That said, I don't mind investing in higher-quality/higher-price cookware that I can use for years to come.
posted by cadge to Home & Garden (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
That said, I don't mind investing in higher-quality/higher-price cookware that I can use for years to come.

Swell! Then there's only one phrase you need to know: All-Clad. Yes, you will pay a premium, but their stuff is unbelievably great and basically indestructable. We've been using their 12" frying pan (also available in 10") for ten years with no end in sight.
posted by Skot at 8:04 AM on November 6, 2009

I can't find a link, but Cook's Illustrated recently did a roundup review of environmentally-friendly non-stick cookware. They concluded that most everything on the market was over-priced and under-performing. They rank Scanpan and Earth Pan brands the highest, but still give the nod to cast-iron as the best "green" choice.
posted by gnutron at 8:07 AM on November 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

All-Clad is fantastico (I use my large AC braising pan all the time; it is a truly sublime piece of cookery)--but you may also be able to get by with some of the imitations from Calphalon and others. I have a Calphalon skillet that has fared well for, oh, 12 years now.

Incidentally, if you go on Deal of the Day's Amazon page, you'll find some steeply discounted pots and pans (like, 70-80% off)--scroll down. I just bought a few saucepans a week or so ago for le cheap.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 8:09 AM on November 6, 2009

Greenpan and Xtrema are two brands to look into, but if you want the greenest option, consider keeping what you have! How does a saucepan "wear out," I wonder?
posted by rikschell at 8:10 AM on November 6, 2009

"worn out saucepan" = It's a nonstick kind and the nonstick coating is looking pretty scuffed and grated (though it's not actively flaking into the food ... yet!)
posted by cadge at 8:15 AM on November 6, 2009

If you do a lot of stir-fries, a wok is very handy. Get a good carbon steel one instead of the teflon coated ones you see at Target, etc. As with cast-iron, the wok will become somewhat seasoned with use, but it is obviously lighter weight. You might be able to find something like this at a restaurant supply store that is good quality for less $$, as detailed in that blog post. My SO has an awesome wok from his days of working at a country club in his hometown some 15-odd years ago, and it is still in great shape.

I have a 10" cast-iron skillet (antique Wagner Ware) that is about 2" deep and not too heavy. Maybe keep an eye for some older stuff that is a little smaller than the currently available Lodge wares.
posted by sararah at 8:41 AM on November 6, 2009

More love for All-Clad from me. Although to be honest, I've been using some Revereware copper-bottom pots for 30 years now (the year of manufacture is stamped on the bottom for warranty purposes) and they're still going strong. But I like All-Clad better.

The only thing I use non-stick pans for is eggs.
posted by Quietgal at 9:58 AM on November 6, 2009

Stainless steel.

All-clad is overpriced, you can get the same quality build from Calphalon, just don't buy their cheapest series. I have several of their Tri-Ply Stainless 10/12 inch omlette pans and small pots, and my roommate and I have literally abused them without any wear and tear (dropping, immersing in cold water when still roaring hot, leaving on the open flame etc.)
posted by zentrification at 10:02 AM on November 6, 2009

I love my Revere copper-bottom pots and pans, and have been using them for @30 years. I have a few that were my Mom's, and they're in dandy shape, too. Sets go on sale regularly. The lids mix and match for pots and pans. Read the care instructions for whatever you get; my sister has pots that recommend not using high heat. This strikes me as absurd.

If a medium-sized cast iron pan is too heavy to lift, you might want to consider strength training. Not trying to snark; I'm not a gym-goer, but that should be of concern.
posted by theora55 at 10:14 AM on November 6, 2009

I have a Greenpan saucepan and it is the most amazingly non-stick pan I've tried.

That being said, I'm kind of a lazy person and my 12-inch cast iron is just the borderline of 'too heavy' for me. I can't imagine doing without it, and the more I use it, the easier it gets. I'd suggest a small, flat cast-iron, in the 6-8 inch range, to do individual sandwiches or small fry/sauteeing jobs. It's amazing for retaining heat, and you can buy them second-hand better than new.
posted by cobaltnine at 10:26 AM on November 6, 2009

avoid teflon.

All-Clad may very well be overpriced. But I've had my set of All-Clad pans for 15 years now, and they are quite literally in as good shape today as when I bought them. The same is probably true of copper (the "gold standard" of cookware, so to speak) but even now I couldn't afford copper pans.
posted by lex mercatoria at 10:34 AM on November 6, 2009

Thanks for all of these suggestions, everyone! Please keep them coming!

Cast iron heaviness - I don't have a lot of upper body strength, and I'm doing strength training to address that. Cast iron cookware isn't completely unliftable, but it really felt like any larger frying pans would take both hands to handle, and I'd really prefer something that's not effort to sling around the kitchen.
posted by cadge at 10:50 AM on November 6, 2009

About half my stainless stuff is All-Clad, and I love it, but agree it's overpriced. (I got it when I was much flusher than I am now) The other half is Cuisinart, which I don't think anyone has mentioned. I like it almost as well, and it's about half the price.

That said, you will have to pry my Lodge cast-iron skillets from my cold dead fingers -- dirt cheap, last forever, and if properly seasoned and maintained become non-stick over time.
posted by trip and a half at 11:00 AM on November 6, 2009

I also am partial to Revere Ware. I have a mixed set, with the oldest pieces dating back to my grandmother's kitchen in the 1950s. All of it has been in constant use since purchase. I use a cast iron pan for cornbread (it's blasphemy to use anything else!) but everything else goes in Revere Ware.
posted by workerant at 11:03 AM on November 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

The difference in manufacturing methods/materials on the environment will be dwarfed by the energy you use while cooking over the lifetime of the pots/pans. If you really want to be green, buy yourself a nice pressure cooker and learn to cook recipes that work in it (frying is out). That will reduce cooking times, and thus energy usage. Fagor makes some easy to use models in the "Duo" line.

Having said that, for normal cookware I'll add my recommendation for the Cuisinart Chef's Classic series. I own a number of the Chef's Classic Cuisinart pots/pans and the main usability difference between them and All-Clad is that the inner copper/aluminum core does not extend up the sides of the pots, but then they cost about 1/10 as much. For 3/10 the price you can get the Cuisinart Multiclad stuff which has the sandwiched core in the side walls, just like All-Clad. Unless you're a serial bragger it's unlikely to be worth the $$$ to step up to All-Clad.
posted by kgbrion at 11:29 PM on November 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Thanks again, everyone, especially Admiral Haddock - I didn't know about Amazon's DotD page. I went there and found deals on Cuisinart Chef's Classic stainless steel sets. Nice!
posted by cadge at 12:37 PM on November 7, 2009

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