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Selecting All-Clad Cookware
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Q. I am going to purchase All-clad cookware. I have bought a 2-quart sauce pan and love it. I am interested in knowing which series you suggest. I am preparing to go to French cooking classes in gourmet cooking and pastry.

A. Some people wash their pots and pans by hand, because: a) they think a dishwasher is simply too newfangled a device to experiment with in their kitchens, b) they find that pots and pans take up too much room in the dishwasher, or c) they have bought one of the four (out of five) lines of All-Clad cookware that should be washed by hand.

If washing your pots and pans by hand is not an acceptable option, buy All-Clad's Stainless line. If it is an option, read on. The other considerations are aesthetics and cost.

The thing to remember about All-Clad's five lines of cookware is that the innards are essentially the same. In four lines, the heart of the pan is an aluminum core that covers the bottom of the pan and extends up the sides, which is the secret to good heat distribution. The Copper Core line has a (surprise!) copper core sandwiched between layers of aluminum. Copper is considered to have the best heat-conducting properties in cookware, followed closely by aluminum. We have not been able to discern that the copper core makes that line even marginally better than the pans with the aluminum cores, so our perspective is that all All-Clad pans cook equally well.

All of All-Clad's pans have a stainless-steel interior cooking surface. This keeps your food away from the aluminum, which reacts with certain foods, and provides a pretty easy-to-clean surface. Three of the lines (Stainless, LTD, and MC2) also offer nonstick surfaces in some sauté pans and fry pans. The LTD line additionally offers nonstick griddles, grill pans, and roasting pans. If you're thinking of purchasing a set of All-Clad pans, some of the Stainless, Limited, and MC2 sets include a nonstick frypan. The company advises against putting any of the nonstick pans in the dishwasher, even those of the heretofore dishwasher-friendly Stainless line.

So what really separates one line from another is looks and cost. The Stainless line has a shiny stainless-steel exterior. The LTD line has a dark, anodized aluminum exterior. The MC2 line has an "intriguing brushed aluminum" exterior. The Copper Core line has a stainless-steel exterior with an accent band of copper around the pan near the bottom. The Cop-R Chef line has a copper exterior. The lids for all lines are stainless steel, except the Cop-R Chef line, which is copper. 

Getting back to the dishwasher issue, the company says the dishwasher will cause the "exterior beauty" of the LTD, MC2, Copper Core, and Cop-R Chef pans to deteriorate, so if you're buying them because of their looks, you're not going to want to throw that away by tossing them in the dishwasher.

As to cost, you might expect that the mainstream Stainless line would be the least expensive. You would be wrong. In a somewhat-more-time-consuming-than-expected survey of All-Clad prices online, we found the MC2 line to be about 8% less expensive on average. Apparently the "intriguing brushed aluminum" exterior is either cheaper to produce or so intriguing that the company had to lower the price to help it sell.

The other three lines are substantially more expensive than the Stainless line — 25% more for the LTD, 34% more for Cop-R Chef, and 37% more for Copper Core. (While prices change and the manufacturer and retailers often have special offers on certain items, we were very surprised to find that among five leading online retailers, there was no variation in price whatsoever on individual pots and pans, and only a little variation on the price of cookware sets.)

The remaining difference is that the Stainless line can also be used on induction cooktops.

So from our perspective as dishwasher owners and users, we are willing to pay 8% more for the Stainless line, but not so smitten with the looks of the three more expensive lines that we want to pay the extra money and wash them by hand.

Now, in a ploy for shameless e-commerce, may we mention that Ochef is affiliated with (but not influenced by) several online retailers of All-Clad cookware — Amazon.com, Kitchen Etc., Cooking.com, and Chef's Catalog. Amazon.com and Chef's Catalog currently have the largest selection across all product lines. Kitchen Etc. does not sell either copper line, and Cooking.com has a more limited selection in the Copper Core and MC2 lines. Where the is price variation, Amazon has the lowest prices and Chef's Catalog has the highest, but again, the only noticeable variation is in cookware sets, and the variation is very modest in most cases. Amazon and Kitchen Etc. are both Preferred Ochef Retailers, meaning we have a more substantial relationship or a better commission structure with them. But if you are open to buying these products online and using one of these retailers, we would appreciate it if you go to their sites through the links on at Ochef.com (on this page (below), or in the Specialty Shops section of any Ochef page), in which case, we'll receive a commission on the sale.

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