all-clad or bust?
February 14, 2008 1:42 PM   Subscribe

What kind of cookware do chefs use in professional kitchens?

I am trying to convince my friend that spending $100 on an All-Clad fry pan is a waste of money. He countered that he thinks all-clad is what pro chefs use. Is all-clad really the preferred choice of professional chefs?
posted by ecks to Food & Drink (31 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
The ones on TV, in their on stage kitchens probably use whatever products they get for free (or get paid to use). Try this one on for size...Vollrath makes both aluminum and non stick...its what we used in Culinary School.

Find a restaurant supply place in your area...Surfas is in LA. I *heart* Surfas :)

If you are going to invest a bunch of money in one fry pan, go for cast iron rather than any fancy name brand thing
posted by legotech at 1:52 PM on February 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

Your friend might find this article illuminating.
posted by saladin at 1:53 PM on February 14, 2008 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I'm a former professional chef who spent about 15 years working in various kitchens, big and small, and even a few very large hotels. The only time I ever saw anything fancy like All-Clad, it was being used for display or to stage a buffet line. What we used on a day to day basis were the basic aluminum pots and pans you got at the local restaurant supply store, or at Sam's Club. Solid, dependable, and cheap, and they usually lasted for years.

That's not to say that All-Clad pans aren't worth the money. Taken care of, they'll last forever, and I'd love some for my house. But I never really saw them when I cooked professionally.
posted by ralan at 1:54 PM on February 14, 2008

In trying to convince your friend, the arguments in this article should help.
posted by mhz at 1:54 PM on February 14, 2008

Whoops, shoulda previewed.
posted by mhz at 1:54 PM on February 14, 2008

Dura-Ware is very common, and sold by most restaurant supply companies. It's relatively inexpensive and stands up to a lot of abuse.

You would be laughed out of most professional kitchens for using All-Clad. Restaurants go through pots and pans at a pretty good clip and can't waste money on overpriced cookware.
posted by briank at 1:56 PM on February 14, 2008

The ratings aren't online (unless you subscribe), but I remember when I was shopping for cookware I checked Consumer Reports, and they rated the Kirkland (Costco brand) cookware very highly, right up there with All-Clad.
posted by geeky at 1:57 PM on February 14, 2008

Having said that, for a home cook, All-Clad is a good investment in terms of quality and durability. Restaurant cooking and home cooking are very different beasts, after all.
posted by briank at 1:58 PM on February 14, 2008

We have a set of all clad that I am sick to death of. We've had them for years. The handles on the fry pans are long and skinny, so they're not the easiest to control while moving them around. Also, the handles on the lids are not insulated so they get hot as hell and can't be touched without a potholder which is a pain in the ass. I would like to be able to lift the lid off and stir without having to hassle with grabbing a potholder every time.

My advise is to find something with a big, beefy handle and insulated lid handles.
posted by wsg at 1:58 PM on February 14, 2008

Here are a couple of other pertinent askmefi discussions.

Here and here.
posted by wsg at 2:03 PM on February 14, 2008

Aluminum as above. But the thing is, restaurants buy these pans for different reasons than home cooks do. Apart from how they conduct heat (fast), they want to be able to take them from stovetop to oven (no plastic or rubber handle) and they want to be able to chuck them across the room to the pot sink hundreds of times without the handle falling off. You may not have the same specs.
posted by Miko at 2:11 PM on February 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

Also, the handles on the lids are not insulated so they get hot as hell

(This is probably so that they are oven safe, which may or may not matter to you.)
posted by advil at 2:31 PM on February 14, 2008

Hey, I'm with BrianK in the All-Clad corner for home use. It's great stuff and will last unto your children's children (yea, unto the seventh generation, probably). But go for the cheapest line they have, with the brushed finish -- you're just paying for shininess with the fancier lines. And eschew non-stick, that's really for amateurs.
posted by beagle at 2:32 PM on February 14, 2008

I've worked as a waiter in some fine dining places with top chefs, and they used some of the most beaten up stuff imaginable. Especially sauté pans. Warped , and blackened even. Keep in mind, a dish is prepared in them often on the stove top at high heat, then the same pan is taken and thrown in a hot oven or salamander (like an intense broiler). Then the food is taken out of that flaming hot pan and plated, and that still hot pan is thrown on a pile of other dirty pans, which are then washed. Sometimes pans are still flaming hot when they go in the dishwater, which I think may be the reason they warp (not 100% sure that's why).

My wife bought a set of quality Carico brand pots and pans 25 years ago when she was 18 and they're still fine. They were FAR from top of the line, not even sure if that company is around anymore. But my point is, you don't need to spend absolute top dollar on cookware, just something relatively sturdy with oven proof handles.

IMO All Clad and even Calphalon, though of high quality, have handles that are really skinny and make them difficult to move around.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 2:47 PM on February 14, 2008

eschew non-stick, that's really for amateurs
I've never met a professional cook that didn't own and regularly use at least one non-stick pan. That said, a high-end non-stick pan is a complete waste of money since the non-stick surface will wear after a few years. A decent sturdy 10" aluminum pan can be had for under $20.
posted by dchase at 3:24 PM on February 14, 2008

Bittman speaks the truth.
posted by Max Power at 3:32 PM on February 14, 2008

I disagree with: "spending $100 on an All-Clad fry pan is a waste of money"

I've several all-clads of different types & sizes and I have happily used them for several years almost every day. They heat evenly and none have developed hot spots. They are indestructible as far as I can tell. If your friend likes to cook and wants a pretty, well-performing pan, then 100$ is not much, certainly not a waste of money. If you cook regularly, more than 100$ worth of food will be cooked in them in in less than a month. As for skinny handles, as others have noted - I've never noticed nor cared nor had difficulty moving them around.

I bought most of mine at marshalls or tj-max type places - if you look regularly, they show up at well-discounted prices. There might be a ding on the handle or something, but that's irrelevant, really.
posted by gyusan at 3:38 PM on February 14, 2008

Waste of money. You can get better results with pans from a restaurant supply store for a fraction of the price.
posted by ryanissuper at 3:44 PM on February 14, 2008

Best answer: Not a waste of money. Your friend's kitchen is not a restaurant. He is not trying to achieve a given level of quality consistently over the tens or hundreds of meals he serves in a night. He is not trying to use various techniques to get the meals made as rapidly as possible, consistent with the chosen level of quality. He doesn't need to take the pans directly from the oven to the sink. He doesn't have to plan on abusing a set of cookware to death in short order. He doesn't have to pay attention to the bottom line and choose the most cost-effective cookware. He probably can't just throw a batch away and start over if it's ruined.

Instead, he probably wants a set of cookware that will last a good long while, and that's a pleasure to cook for fun with. Not cost effective to cook for profit with. All-clad is nice stuff, has the sorts of good qualities that an amateur cooking for fun might want. Not to say that you need to spend jillions of dollars on All-Clad Brand Cookware, there are other very nice solid-core sandwich cookware out there, but still. But his goal is probably not even to produce good results -- it is to enjoy the process of producing good results.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:34 PM on February 14, 2008

Restaurant chefs have other people to scrub the pans for them
posted by smackfu at 4:40 PM on February 14, 2008

18/10 stainless-steel with an aluminum base. Doesen't have to be All-Clad. I have a Cuisinart fry pan that I love, and it was 40 bucks on Amazon.
posted by wafaa at 4:44 PM on February 14, 2008

I have some Meyer Aluminum Commercial pans, purchased from a surplus-and-salvage store, and they are identical to what I have seen used in some restaurants. Aluminum alloy, removable rubber handgrip on the handle, three rivets where the handle meets the pan itself.

There's a photo of one here although they only look that shiny for about fifteen seconds -- the first time you use and clean it, it starts to turn a sort of dull silver matte.

I got mine for between $5 and $10 each (I have a couple of sizes), but I'm not sure what the cost from a legitimate restaurant-supply store. I can't think that they're very expensive; the local Mexican place down the street must have 30 or so 10" ones in their kitchen.
posted by Kadin2048 at 6:12 PM on February 14, 2008

Cookware & More sells All-Clad irregulars at discount prices and regularly has sales. My daughter and I built up our All-Clad collections by going in together on their "Buy 4 get 20% off specials." The only All-Clad piece I'm disappointed in is my nonstick 12" frying pan. The coating isn't wearing off, it just isn't very "non" stick. I do like nonstick coatings for delicate items like fish fillets, but some of my much cheaper nonstick pans work better.
posted by Joleta at 7:41 PM on February 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

keep in mind that aluminum is if you cook acidic sauces (tomato based), etc in them they're going to pick up some of the metallic flavor.

if you can afford it, go stainless. this is more important for sauce pans or for stock pots, but if you want the greatest versatility out of a pan, go stainless.
posted by virga at 7:48 PM on February 14, 2008

All Clad is fine, but you can get the same quality stuff cheaper.

I bought this at a restaurant supply store, and it is fantastic. The 10 inch one was $45. All metal, so it can go in the oven if necessary.

I personally stay away from aluminum cookware, it creeps me out. Ever boil water in an aluminum pot? It turns white. That can't be good. Stainless all the way. Nothing cooks better than a big ol' hunk of heavy metal.

For nonstick, I buy the cheapest junk I can find because the coating is going to wear off anyway.
posted by gjc at 8:03 PM on February 14, 2008

And when your friend with high-end tastes decides he needs a Le Creuset dutch oven ($220), be sure to show him this one from Target ($50).
posted by Joleta at 8:09 PM on February 14, 2008

You don't have to buy All-Clad to get clad (aluminum sandwiched in stainless steel) pots and pans. I have Tramontina (Sam's/Walmart brand, I believe) clad that's served me well. Restaurant supply stores probably have all kinds of clad cookware for a fraction of the All-Clad price.
posted by Lyn Never at 4:29 AM on February 15, 2008

I love me my Paderno pots. They stand up to immense wear and tear, and you can often find them for reduced price.
posted by LN at 5:59 AM on February 15, 2008

Vollrath is usually very highly rated by Cooks Illustrated. Obviously they don't look as nice as the All-Clad, but otherwise they're top of the line.
posted by electroboy at 7:02 AM on February 15, 2008

Restaurants have to worry about nice things walking out the back door. All Clad would be the first thing to be stolen.
posted by Daddy-O at 9:56 AM on February 15, 2008

Joleta - I bought a similar dutch oven from Target a few years ago. I think it might have been even cheaper actually, like $30. Great for a while, but after ~15 uses over 8-10 months it had several chips in the enamel (cast iron showing through) which defeats the purpose of having an enameled pan at all. There's a reason the expensive ones (Le Creuset, Staub, etc.) are expensive.

As others have said, cooking in a restaurant is very different from cooking at home. Assess your needs then make a rational decision about what to buy. Neither your reason ("thats a waste of money!") or his ("Professionals use them!") have anything to do with whether or not this pan fulfills his needs.

For the record, I have seen all-clad in some open kitchens (probably because they look nice, but they are durable enough to be thrown around and abused).
posted by hihowareyou at 5:49 PM on March 3, 2008

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