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Wow, it's been nearly a month since I've posted to my food blog. So this is what it's like to have a job...

The other night H-mart had a great deal on snow crablegs so I bought a few pounds and took them and 2lbs of shrimp home to cook. I threw my Emeril Lagasse signature double boiler/steamer engineered by All-Clad on the stove with water in it. We then proceded to shell and devine the shrimp which took longer than expected. During this time I hadn't noticed that the steamer was no longer steaming. Natalya turned around and asked if there was still water in it at which time everyone jumped up and ran to the stove because we all knew what that means to a pan. No matter what your pan is made of it's not going to withstand high heat for too long if it's dry. The pan was in fact dry and the burner was bright red and something curious was happening - there was a stream (literally) of aluminum pouring out of the bottom of the pan. We dumped 4 cups of water in the pan which turned to vapor on contact. I knew the pan was completely destroyed but was just trying to contain the damage. There was a pool of aluminum under the burner and a lake on the stove top. A little poured onto the floor and just as fast as you could say Bam! Natalya stepped in it. Thankfully she only got a small burn.

Now before anyone gets cute and says "you're not supposed to do that" let me say this - stick a fork in it.  Having said that I'd like to focus on the pan. This is very clearly advertised as a copper and aluminum core pan engineered by the most renowned American pan company - All-Clad.  Here's the wording from Emerilware.

The triple-layer encapsulated base of stainless steel, aluminum and copper are bound together to ensure fast and even heat distribution.

So the triple-layer encapsulated base is made of stainless which is the outside and  aluminum/copper bound together for the inside, or so it would seem. If you look at the outside you will see that it appears to have about 4mm of copper in the base. I've never doubted this fact since you can very clearly see that there's a great deal of copper there. Since I only use it for boiling pasta, steaming etc. I've never really cared outside of the fact that I knew I had a fairly reactive pan. I do admit though that I bought this pan because I've loved how well my Mauviel copper performs and we all know that copper is a better heat conducter than aluminum by several times. Granted this is only a $100 pan and I shouldn't expect too outside of the fact that you have two well known qauntities felt it important to slap their names on it.

So what came out of the pan was very clearly NOT copper which is not in itself the problem. All-Clad makes their copper core line under their own name and if you look at the drawings you'll see that there are multiple copper and aluminum cores sandwiched together. I asked a Williams-Sanoma employee why they'd use multiple cores since copper was the superior conductor and his response comically was "the more the better". Somehow I don't think a lot of metalurgists would agree.

Anyway when you look at this pan you see copper but after the other nights incident it is very clear that the core is made up of only aluminum core and the outer millimeter or less is a copper veneer to make you think you have a copper core. If you take a knife and scratch the "copper core" you will hit aluminum.

So the question isn't even whether an aluminum core is bad because we all know that Calphalon and All-Clad Alluminum core pans perform beatifully but rather what is Emeril and All-Clad trying to pull? I think it has to do with wool and a pair of pearly blues set deep in my skull. They very easily could have made an aluminum core pan and nobody would have thought less of them. The fact that they made an aluminum core pan, sprayed copper on the outside and sold it to me as a copper core pan doesn't set well with me. It makes me not want to believe what either say. I wonder now if you took a knife to All-Clads copper core line ($450 for an 8qt stock pot) you'd hit aluminum or copper. Looking at the side profile drawing again of their pans it looks like there's only a minimal amount of copper in their pans as well, perhaps 1mm at most. No wonder The America's test kitchen said there's no difference between All-Clad copper core and their standard aluminum core pans. I think this is just their strategy to keep people from going to a real copper pan. You get the shiny benefits of copper without the hassle and weight!

In researching this article I see All-Clad has something called Coper-chef now that appears "all copper". Looking at the cutaway diagram it looks like this is yet another All-Clad alluminum pan with copper sprayed on the outside. Now you get none of the benefits of copper with all the hassle. I think the most irritating thing about all of this is that All-Clad makes great pans and the marketing department just needs to go take a walk and let the engineers do their work. I don't buy large All-Clad pans though because the handles are the worst I've ever seen anywhere. If I were to pay $400 for an All-Clad pan I'd drill the rivets out and put the handle from a $20 Cuisinart on it so I could actually use it. But as far as their cooking performace goes, they're top notch.

After this though I'd think twice about buying anything with Emeril or All-Clads name on it.