My Search for Quality Cookware

Tramontina Prima 5 quart Dutch OvenI love kitchen gear. I ordered a new 5 quart Dutch Oven and I’m excited because it’ll be here soon. I’ve been wanting to braise a brisket, and this pot is just the right size. It’ll get used a lot. Here’s what it looks like (see photo above right).

I decided to replace my 35 year old pots and pans. You used to be able to buy good quality stainless steel cookware at reasonable prices. That’s what I was looking for, but what I found was that the cookware business has changed a lot. Overall, prices have skyrocketed and quality has plummeted.  My quest for good quality cookware has taken me on a journey of sorts. Here’s what I found.

I bought one fairly expensive, uncoated stainless steel Cuisinart pot to try out. I made some spaghetti sauce, which I stirred with a metal spoon (as you do). While washing the pot, I noticed the inside had some deep scratches. The metal was very soft. It scratched deeply every time I used it. Then, the inside of the pot turned smoky black within the first 2 weeks. The discoloration was IN the metal and didn’t come off with scrubbing, but scrubbing made deep scratches even with a plastic scrubber. Then, whether I was boiling water or cooking chicken soup, there was a strong metallic, chemical smell and a faint metallic taste to the food cooked in it. Then, the stainless steel pitted, leaving little deep holes that turned smoky black. The pits were small enough that you couldn’t clean them, so they were great breeding places for bacteria. Then finally, the aluminum bolts that secured the pot handle started to wear away.

Imagine my surprise. No stainless steel item of any kind that I’ve ever owned before had done any of those things. I got rid of the Cuisinart pot and bought a Kitchenaid pot. Then, the same things happened. So I bought a Revere Ware pot and a Farberware pot. The same things happened. I got mad, but also curious. I called every cookware company and found that almost all cookware sold today is manufactured in China. I also found out that their recipe for stainless steel is different from ours. Who knew?

All Clad and some Calphalon are currently made in the US.  Calphalon customer service said that they’re bringing all of their manufacturing back to the US sometime in 2016. Good for them. Better quality AND more American jobs. Until then, some of their cookware will still be made in China. If you’re going to buy some Calphalon, call them first to find out which lines are made in the US. Good as they are, I’m not going to buy All Clad or Calphalon, so I looked further and read hundreds of Amazon customer reviews until I found a more reasonably priced alternative.

What I found was Tramontina Gourmet Prima Tri-Ply cookware. I bought one, tried it out and it worked well. It’s made of heavier gauge stainless steel than the pots I’ve had for years, so it’ll last forever. The bottom distributes heat well for even cooking. The steel is as hard as it should be; there is no weird smell or taste; the bolts aren’t going anywhere; and there’s been no pitting. There’s just the normal very light scratching that becomes a patina with age. I have since bought several more pots and will soon receive the 5 quart covered dutch oven. I’m looking forward to some brisket. Maybe with some coarse sweet and sour mustard and coleslaw on a Kaiser roll. And maybe a kosher half sour tomato.

Have you found good quality, reasonably priced cookware? Let us know about it.

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