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Test drive pan before forking over the clams.

Byline: FOOD DUDE By Lewis Taylor The Register-Guard

Few things amuse the Food Dude like food and kitchen trends. Remember that period during the 1990s when clear stuff was in? They had clear cola and clear dishwasher soap and a drink called Clearly Canadian. I'm not sure what brought an end to the clear period in American manufacturing, but I think it was officially over when they started selling vitamin water with food coloring.

Regardless of where food trends are, I think I'll always prefer my water clear.

If you want to know why African spices have suddenly become trendy, or if you've got a more pressing matter for the Food Dude, send your question to the Internet address at the end of the column.

Dear Food Dude: I'm tired of buying cheap cookware every few years and want something quality, but not overpriced. My mother has a hard anodized skillet that she says was expensive, but she doesn't much care for it. My co-worker says infused hard anodized is a whole different type of cookware and is so much better. But it's also a whole lot more expensive. Is there a big difference, and is it worth the price?

- Stumped Over Cookware

Dear Stumped: Sounds like you've entered the cookware spin zone - a hot, smoky room where manufacturers make outrageous claims such as "most durable cookware in the world," and "30 percent harder than stainless."

Sadly, there aren't many definitive answers here, so it's up to you to decide whether to drop some major chalupas on a high-tech pan that promises to do it all, or bankrupt yourself with something more elemental that's been endorsed by the cooking purists.

Food Dude knows better than to tell you what kind of pots and pans to buy. Cooks are as passionate about their cookware as drivers are about their cars. One person's Ferrari is another person's Fiat, and with so many different brands and materials on the market, it might not be a bad idea to test drive a few skillets and saucepans, says Tammy Berry, owner of Pepperberries cooking shop in Eugene.

Although Berry doesn't carry the hard anodized or Infused Anodized cookware you mentioned - she stocks stainless-steel All-Clad, enameled

cast iron by Le Creuset and nonstick Look cookware - she does allow customers to try out pots and pans in her test kitchen.

Before limiting yourself to the two anodized options you mentioned, you might want to consider some of these other brands and materials. After that, maybe you can convince your mom to let you try her cookware and ask your co-worker for a demonstration of his/her amazing pans.

While you're testing cookware, you should ask yourself what you're going to be using your pots and pans for. Is it more important to have something that's nonstick or do you want something you can use for deglazing (i.e., burning stuff and making sauces)? Hard anodized aluminum pans have great nonstick properties, (so does Teflon-lined aluminum, but you don't want the cheap stuff). Stainless-steel clad cookware and solid copper are both good for searing. You can brown and avoid sticking with cast iron, and the Infused Anodized pans you mention claim to do it all.

It sounds like you're just as concerned with durability, in which case all you can do is look at the pros and cons of the materials, choose a reputable manufacturer and decide if you want to believe the longevity claims made by the companies.

Hard anodized cookware is made of aluminum that has been hardened through an electro-chemical reaction that leaves a protective oxide on the surface of the pan. If you're shaking your head, don't worry. Food Dude wouldn't know an "electro-chemical" reaction from an allergic reaction either, and protective oxide sounds like something lifeguards put on their noses. All you need to know is that anodized cookware is harder and more nonstick than plain old aluminum.

The term Infused Anodized is a trademarked name for Calphalon One's line of cookware. The process involves anodizing the surfaces of the pan with a polymer that penetrates into the pores of the metal, the company claims. Again, this kind of techno-jargon means nothing to me and it shouldn't to you, either. The proof is in the kitchen and it sounds like your co-worker is pretty certain the technology works. Calphalon claims the One line is better than stainless steel on all fronts (searing, browning, making sauces, stick resistance and durability).

Of course, not everyone is sold on this kind of new technology. Berry says any pan that's been chemically treated will eventually wear out, which is one of the reasons she prefers the stainless-steel clad aluminum and copper pots she sells. Clad cookware is cookware in which a heat-conducting interior layer of aluminum or copper is sandwiched by stainless steel and sometimes copper or even anodized aluminum. The best cookware has a cladded core that extends all the way to the top edge of the pan.

Kathy Campbell, owner of Cook's Pots & Tabletops, also prefers stainless-steel clad cookware. Her store carries All-Clad and cladded Viking lines. Campbell believes anodized cookware is popular largely because people like its tough appearance and she doesn't think it offers the same durability and performance as high-end, stainless-steel clad cookware.

Whatever kind of expensive cookware you choose, it's worth remembering that you don't have to buy a 12-piece set. At the minimum, Campbell says, you can get away with a 10-inch skillet and a two- to three-quart saucepan, which at her store would run you about $230.

"What happens often is most people buy too small," Campbell says. `I'll quote my mentor and my favorite chef of all, Julia Child. She said, `You can cook small in a big pot but you can't cook big in a small pot.' '

Oh, and one other thing, Stumped: If you're sick of all this cookware hype and want something that's cheap, versatile and durable, you could always do what one of my co-workers did and buy cast iron. Once you've seasoned a cast-iron skillet, it will remain relatively nonstick, but you can still brown and sear with it. It also maintains consistent temperature and can handle tons of heat. If properly cared for, it will last a lifetime and it hardly needs to be washed. The only downsides are the heavy weight and the fact that cast iron takes a long time to heat up and can fracture if dropped or thermally shocked.

Send your questions to Food Dude at www.registerguard .com/blogs/index.php/fooddude. Or, send mail to: Food Dude c/o The Register Guard, P.O. Box 10188, Eugene, OR 97440-2168.
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Title Annotation:Columns
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Column
Date:Aug 2, 2006
Words:1113
Previous Article:GERMAN FIRM TRIES U.S. MARKET.
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