Thursday, September 24, 2009


I have an update to my Pots and Pans post and some wonderful news for people who prefer not to spend all their disposable income on cooking equipment. I finally got around to buying a few pieces of Tramontina cookware highly recommended by Cook's Illustrated.

10 inch TriPly-Clad skillet ($30)

6.5 quart dutch oven ($50)

I've been using the skillet interchangeably with my 10 inch all-clad skillet for 3 weeks now and I can't see the difference in performance. Heats quickly, cooks evenly, browns well producing excellent fond (brown bits). If anything I found one benefit to the Tramontina skillet over All-clad. Its handle doesn't have a dip right down the middle making it easier to handle. That dip never bothered me about the all-clad skillet, but I know it bothers some people, so Tramontina makes a great alternative. It's also one third of the price. An equivalent all-clad skillet is $90. I can't speak for durability yet. I've had the all-clad for 10 years and it's in perfect shape. If I am still blogging in 10 years, I'll let you know how Tramontina holds up :)

The dutch oven is huge and performs great. So far, I've made 2 braises and one no-knead bread.

In case you are wondering why my lid handle looks different than the one on Walmart's site, it's because Jason replaced it for me with a metal cabinet knob per Cook's Instructions. The one that came with the pot is technically not safe at 500F necessary for the bread.

My only two gripes with the dutch oven is that it's insanely heavy (they are all like this, so it's nothing against Tramontina) and the rim of the pot and the lid are naked cast iron, not covered with enamel.

This means that they need to be rubbed with oil and seasoned in 350F oven for an hour before first use. That's a minor annoyance since it's a one time activity. But it also means that you can't let them stay wet or they might rust, and the pot needs to be dried by hand after washing. That's a somewhat bigger annoyance since it happens every time I use the pot. Not sure why they left them naked. They covered the entire pot with enamel. How hard would it be to do the edges too?! The reason I am not too worried about it is that the edges don't normally touch the food.

The price for this beast is simply incomparable. An equivalent Le Creuset costs $240 (five times the price of Tramontina). Again, I can't say anything about reliability, and since I don't have any Le Creuset cookware, I can't compare them first hand. But Cook's has been using and abusing these pots for years and I doubt they'd be recommending them if they fell apart.

So, where do you buy these pots and pans? Walmart. If such huge stores make you feel agoraphobic, you can order your pots on-line and have them shipped to your local store for free. That's the best way to make sure you'll get exactly what you want. My wonderful husband spared me the need to go to Walmart and picked up the pots for me. From what I hear it took forever to find a helpful staff member who knew where my pots were, so be prepared to wait. But the goodies that have been coming out of these wonderful pots every day, quickly erased the memory of dealing with Walmart personel.


~M said...

Isn't the rim of the pot and lid of Le Creuset also not enamel covered? I'm pretty sure mine are.

I think it's interesting that Tramontina makes both stainless steel all-clad style cookware as well as enamel-covered cast iron Le-Creuset style cookware.

Helen said...

Hmm, maybe it's a standard thing. I read on one of the reviews of tramontina that Lodge is enamel even on the edges.

Diana said...

The edges of LeCreuset are also not enameled. We've had the dutch oven for over three years, and it gets no special treatment whatsoever; the edges are in perfect shape (I just checked! =)).

On cast iron and rusting - we actually don't hand-dry our cast iron stuff, we let it drip dry upturned on the stove or hanging on its hook (so the water doesn't pool inside). It doesn't rust. My grandma also never hand-dried hers - her cast iron skillet is probably at least 50 years old at this point, and it also doesn't have a spot of rust. So don't bother.

Helen said...

Hi Diana,

Thanks for checking for me how Le Creuset is made. I am guessing Tramontina was trying to copy that, so it's probably a feature and not a bug. My guess is that I am over-protective of my cast iron skillet. I've never had it rust, but I thought it was because I dry it religiously and never let anything acidic touch it. Maybe I should relax some about it :)


Cyn said...

Diana is correct about the rims. I have had a Le Creuset dutch oven since 2001 (wedding present, or I don't think I'd have bought it), and the rims of the lid and pot are not enameled. It has held up well, although I use it only about three times a month. I wash in hot water with regular Dawn dish detergent and let it drip dry with no problems.
The only issues are some slight discoloration (because I refuse to scrub with green scrubbing pads), and a little interior scratching because my husband wanted to cut meat while it was still inside the dutch oven.
And my sink and faucet are too small to fit the pot well, so it takes a little awkward maneuvering to wash it, but that's not the fault of the pot.
Thanks for the heads up about Tramontina. I'll be looking soon for a larger skillet and was wondering what might be a good budget choice.

~M said...

Diana - I've had good luck cleaning all my cookware with Dobie sponges (though I do plan on trying Twist's more eco-friendly loofah sponge. They have a plastic mesh casing that is gentle but works well! Also, boiling water with some dish soap for a bit helps get out stubborn stains.

mary said...


My Staub dutch oven's rim is not enamaled either.

Will look into the Tramontina skillet, thanks for the review.

BTW, love your new kitchen. :)

Christine is vegetarian. said...

The very first thing I did while unpacking my pot was to knock the lid into the pot handle, thereby chipping a beautiful blue piece of enamel from it. None of the pots are enamel-covered, I think because it would chip off immediately during everyday use. It's probably better this way than eating enameled bits of stew.

Sam F said...

I've seen a lot of enameled pots with naked rims. My guess is that the rim is the part that gats banged around most by the lid, and that if there were enamel, it would eventually chip. So better to leave any metal that will bang against other metal naked. (Note the naked rim is mirrored on the lid.)