Let’s get this out of the way: the pans don’t make the chef
Just like an expensive set of golf clubs won’t turn a hack into a PGA pro, awesome cookware can’t change you from a bad cook into a three star chef.
BUT, a good set of cookware can make you less likely to burn your food, let you try out new techniques that you couldn’t try before – and inspire you to spend more time in the kitchen. And let’s face it, unless you are having fun and inspired to cook, you’ll never get better.
What should you look for when buying high-end cookware like Abbio or All-Clad?
Several factors come into play when evaluating high-end kitchen equipment, and your pots and pans are no exception. Everyone’s needs are going to be different, so consider the following criteria when evaluating products from providers like Abbio or All-Clad:
We’re listing this at the top because cookware can get pricey fast. The range for pans and skillets is pretty shocking. Amazon has T-Fal non-stick skillets for under $20, and Ikea offers a low-end skillet for even less. But an All-Clad 4112NSR2, on the other hand, goes for almost $200 — 10x the price for something that theoretically performs the same task. Believe it or not, there’s actually much more expensive versions, like the All-Clad copper core, but there’s no way I’m getting my hands on one! The point is: price matters to most of us, and it goes without saying we are all looking for the most affordable cookware with all the bells and whistles we can’t do without. So let’s talk about what those might be.
We all have that special utensil — probably a knife — that has to be treated with kid-gloves. You know, the one that can’t go in the dishwasher nor be dropped nor sneezed on, lest it chip. And every time friends come over, you have to snatch it away before they put it in the dishwasher or use the tip to open a can of beer or whatever….
Okay, maybe my friends aren’t all that classy…but THAT ASIDE: if you’re investing hundreds or thousands of dollars into a cookware set, you are going to want it to last a longtime, and not fall apart the moment an untrained guest takes hold. Sooner or later, somebody is going to drop a pot, or take it off the hot burner and put it directly under cold water… or, most likely, use a hard utensil on the nonstick surface.
Bottomline: your set needs to be able to take abuse. And, if you really like to cook, you want to be able to focus on making the meal – not babying your pans.
Ease of cleaning and maintenance
Cooking is fun, but cleanup? Not so much. Your cookware has to be easy to clean. And it shouldn’t require any super strange maintenance rituals. For example, you can read this 5,000 word article on cleaning copper pots, or you can just get pots that don’t require special maintenance.
Abbio’s cookware, for example, can be cleaned with normal dish soap and water, and supposedly is also dishwasher safe, although they don’t recommend it since hand washing will allow it to last longer.
When it comes to cookware, chemistry is important. Some materials can leach into your foods or react with the acid in your tomato sauce, which obviously isn’t ideal for your health. Assuming you don’t want to eat too much copper (trust us, you don’t according to a study from Clemson University that says “The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cautions against the use of unlined copper cookware for general cooking…because some foods are capable of dissolving metals, and in sufficient quantities, leached copper can cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.”
Aluminum is also not great with acidic food. It can be treated to be non-reactive, like Calphalon’s hard-anodized aluminum. But stainless steel — not aluminum — has become the ideal minimally-reactive material for pots and pans. It doesn’t scratch easily nor leach into your sauce. Read on to learn about it’s pros and cons.
Distribution of heat
The feature that might actually help make you a better (or worse) cook is how well the pan distributes heat. Different materials transfer heat around better than others, which means some are able to cook your food more evenly
So what’s the best material for even distribution of heat? Experts love copper and aluminum, but not stainless steel. However as we just mentioned, copper and aluminum leach bad stuff into your tomato sauce. Thankfully, manufacturers have figured out how to coat aluminum and copper in stainless steel, giving you the best of both worlds. All-Clad is the best known, and probably the original, at using a “cladding” technique to bond stainless steel to aluminum and copper, but modern DTC brands like Abbio also offer quality cookware with aluminum cores.
Match Your Cookware to Your Range
If you have an induction stove top, you need pans with some “magnetic” properties. If a magnet won’t stick to the pan, it probably won’t work on an induction cooking surface. And if you want to take your pot from the stove to the oven, you need to make sure that it’s rated to withstand high enough temperatures to prevent plastic handles from melting!
Brands like Abbio have some pots that are rated to up to 500 degrees, so you can feel good putting them into the oven (although you’ll need to remember to use cooking mitts, since those metal handles will be hot!).
Does it matter what your cookware looks like? On one hand, not really. But on the other, it feels great to work with beautiful tools. It signals a higher level of dedication to a craft. Some cookware companies have invested fortunes into their brand and product, so “displaying” the pans during a dinner party can be a fun conversation starter.
The choice to invest in aesthetically pleasing cookware may also depend on pot/pan storage — are they hanging from a rack in plain view? Or tucked away in a cabinet out of sight? Ultimately choosing how much to value the visual appearance of your pans is personal.
Comparing All-Clad vs Calphalon vs Abbio vs Made In
Let’s break down how you can compare All-Clad, Calphalon, Abbio and Made In cookware. We’ll try to compare some of the high-end products – but won’t go to the top of the price range for All-Clad, because the highest cost is just… too high, so we picked the All-Clad D3 line, which is supposed to be their most popular set.
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If you can afford any of these sets you are going to be in good shape! Let’s take a closer look and see which one might be right for you.
Abbio Unboxing Video
The folks at Abbio were kind enough to supply me with their set so I could review it. Here is a video of me unboxing Abbio’s Set of cookware:
A deeper review of Abbio’s cookware
Since Abbio is a new player in the high-end cookware space, I thought that it would make sense to do a deeper dive into their new products.
My overall review of Abbio is that the set is very impressive. The feel is heavy, solid and similar to the few All-Clad pots I’m lucky enough to own. And they seem more carefully put together than my Calphalon pots.
From a cost perspective, Abbio’s set is a steal compared to All-Clad and Made In, clocking in at just $57 a pot, vs. $109 per piece for All-Clad and $104 per piece for Made In. Abbio’s line comes with two nonstick pieces, one more than Made In’s, but lacks a four quart sauce pan and an extra frying pan. All-Clad’s most popular line, the D3 set, has one more sauce pan than Abbio’s Set, but doesn’t come with any nonstick skillets.
For me, nonstick is a “need to have.” I think it’s very cool that Made In has both a ten inch “regular” frying pan/skillet and a nonstick in their set. But I know that I’d almost always lean into the nonstick, because I cleaning stainless steel can be a pain.
Abbio’s lids, like all premium cookware lids, are solid metal. This means that you’ll need to use a potholder to lift the lid once they head up, and it means that you can’t see in while you are cooking. My cheaper Calphalon pots have glass lids, which I like because I can more easily peak inside – although, now that I think about it, they tend to fog up once steam is happening inside the pot, so maybe it’s not all that useful. The huge advantage of the Abbio solid metal lids is that you can put them into the oven, so if you’re making a pot roast, you can brown it on the range then pop the stockpot into the oven.
What Cookware is in Abbio’s Set?
Abbio’s set comes with 5 pots and pans, plus four hot pads. You get:
- 8-inch nonstick skillet (fry pan)
- 10-inch nonstick skillet (fry pan)
- 2-quart sauce pan with lid
- 6-quart sauce pan with lid (stockpot)
- 3-quart sauté pan with lid
- Four hot pads
Below are some pictures of the pieces in the Abbio Set, so you can see what they look like.
Abbio Cookware Pros and Cons
Abbio is a new brand with new products, so it’s not as apparent what the pros and cons are vs better known brands like All-Clad or Calphalon. Here is what we’ve noticed after having their set in our house for a week:
- Aluminum core with stainless steel exterior makes for strong, non-reactive pans with good heat dispersion
- Well made and attractive set
- Non-stick coating on the skillets
- Dishwasher safe, although they recommend you hand wash for a longer life
- Great price
- Set only has 5 pieces – probably enough for most people, but not as deep as All-Clad, which has everything from frying pans to asparagus steamers
- There are no cleaning instructions in the package, so you have to look online on how to take care of the set
- New brand, so it is not as well known
A note on the care and maintenance of Abbio’s pots
Abbio recommends hand washing their cookware, even though they are dishwasher safe – this is to help extend their life. To clean their pots and pans:
- Let the cookware cool down; putting hot pans under cold water isn’t good for them
- Wash with warm soapy water, using a soft sponge or cloth – don’t use abrasive wipes like steel wool
- To avoid water stains, dry after you’ve washed
- That’s it!
- You can also “polish” the outside of your cookware by using baking soda – just wet the outside, then sprinkle it on. Rub it into a paste, then wash it off with soapy water
So what cookware do we recommend: Abbio, All-Clad, Made In, or Calphalon?
Abbio, All-Clad, Made In and Calphalon are all making quality cookware, but which one is right for you?
If you really care about an easy to care for nonstick surface at a good price, both Abbio and Calphalon’s lines should be interesting. Abbio only has two nonstick pieces, but they are the ones you need nonstick – the skillets. Calphalon’s Hard-Anodized Aluminum Nonstick line is a great overall nonstick line too, and the price is also competitive. However, the beauty of the stainless steel exterior of Abbio is really something to see, so if you want something inspiring to use with the nonstick fry pans, check out Abbio.
That being said, the most important item for you to take into consideration is how much you want to pay. If you are comfortable paying over $100 a piece, and are ready to get a ~$700 set, All-Clad or the newcomer, Made In, might be worth checking out. However, if cost does matter to you, then I’d recommend Abbio for a high-function home chef. With an attractive set at an attractive price of just $287, it’s a great way to step up your cooking game.
Extra pro tip: With all the money you saved on new cookware, consider purchasing a range hood. It will clean your kitchen air efficiently!