What's the deal with Club Aluminum Cookware?
January 15, 2020 8:21 PM   Subscribe

I'm sure I'm not the only one who has inherited a set (or partial set) of heavy, lidded, Club cookware. So why can I barely find any information about the stuff online? I've found a brief history of the company and how it was acquired by Mirro, but why is it so prevalent in thrift stores and ebay today? What was their product lineup? Do they hold up to modern cookware? Why did so many people buy them? How were they advertised? What did people like my grandma (unfortunately deceased) think about them? What questions am I not thinking to ask?
posted by rubah to Food & Drink (9 answers total)
I remember that in the 80s there was a widespread panic implicating aluminum cookware in Alzheimer’s Disease. It was bunk but I was still hearing it in the mid 90s. So maybe a lot of folks dumped it for that reason?
posted by spitbull at 10:05 PM on January 15, 2020 [5 favorites]

Huh, I didn't know the Club stuff was commonly available secondhand. I have a large saute pan, found for 75 cents in a tiny thrift shop in northern Minnesota. I use it almost every time I cook, and I often wish I had an entire set.

The quality of this single pan may not be indicative of the brand as a whole, but I absolutely like it better than any of the 2010s-era cookware I have. It's more substantial than anything new in my price range, it transfers heat really well, and it's a great size. I definitely consider it 75 cents well spent, and now that I know the other parts of the set are widely available, I'll bring the lookout.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 12:48 AM on January 16, 2020 [1 favorite]

I’m from the UK so have never heard of it but this article seems to give a good run down on what was thought to be so innovative about them, their USPs at the time etc. (ie. good conductivity, tight-fitting lids that meant steam didn’t escape so you didn’t have to top up the water and - supposedly - nutrients wouldn’t escape in the steam!)
posted by penguin pie at 2:07 AM on January 16, 2020

...there was a widespread panic implicating aluminum cookware in Alzheimer’s Disease. It was bunk but I was still hearing it in the mid 90s.

Its being "bunk" is not settled.
Since the association was found, many studies have investigated whether aluminum increases the risk for Alzheimer's. The findings are far from clear.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:00 AM on January 16, 2020 [5 favorites]

Initially, Club Aluminum was a appealing alternative other metal pots and pans, especially cast iron. It had the ability to work in either the oven (including the lids) or on the stove but it didn't have the weight of cast iron. The cookware was cast (molten metal poured in a mold) rather than stamped (flat metal pressed into final shape) so they are thick and retain heat readily and heats evenly.

Comparing it to modern cookware (Teflon, Calphalon, All-Clad), it can be every bit as non-stick as modern pieces or cast iron if it is cared for properly. I don't use metal spatulas or spoons or whisks in them to avoid disturbing aluminum. For the fry pans and griddle, I heat them on low for 5 minutes and then raise the heat to medium/whatever cooking temp for 5 minutes before adding the food. This is supposed to avoid warping and allows the pan to heat gradually and evenly. Although I use soap and water in my Club sauce pans and dutch oven, I clean my fry pans like cast iron, no soap and a wet washcloth.
posted by dlwr300 at 8:30 AM on January 16, 2020 [1 favorite]

The Alzheimer’s Association says the aluminum cookware link is a “myth.” This is he vast scientific consensus. For most purposes, “bunk” gets close. But as with any deprecated health panic, there are always outliers who continue to work the soil of confusing correlation and causation.
posted by spitbull at 8:39 AM on January 16, 2020 [2 favorites]

The author of the article I linked to does not appear to have the agenda you imply. Scroll to the bottom of the linked page (past the 24 cited and linked studies) to see her qualifications. They begin with "Yuko Hara, PhD, is Director of Aging and Alzheimer's Prevention at the Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation," and go on at some length. Personally, I don't find a [disease name]-association listicle best evidence.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:08 AM on January 16, 2020 [1 favorite]

Mod note: Folks, let’s focus on the actual question and let the aluminum thing drop.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:07 AM on January 16, 2020 [1 favorite]

Interesting thread; I have no answers. But I've loved my little avocado Club saucepan since I found it in a no-name Pasadena thriftshop in 1997. It's the only Club product I've ever known (and I've always assumed it was made from pot metal.) Still use it almost every day, good stuff.
posted by Rash at 2:27 PM on January 16, 2020 [1 favorite]

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