When it comes to buying cookware, I am always faced with a dilemma. Do I spend a fortune and buy a set that will last for a lifetime? Or, do I go with a cheap option and hope that they last?
Neither choices work out well. Expensive cookware will blow my budget and cheap brands break, need to be replaced, and don’t end up being cost-effective at all.
That’s why I was excited to come across the All-Clad HA1 range of cookware. At first glance, this prestigious brand seemed way out of my financial reach. But looking closer, I discovered that the HA1 is a very affordable option.
Who is All-Clad?
The official name of the company is All-Clad Metalcrafters, LLC, based in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania (1). The business was founded in 1967 by a metallurgist, John Ulam. Its main focus was manufacturing bonded materials such as coinage for the United States Mint. The cookware range was accidentally created after the owner made a pan for himself using these exceptionally strong bonded materials.
After the brand launch in 1971, Bloomingdale’s acquired it as part of its upscale homeware offerings and All-Clad became a sought-after name. Adding to the hype was a 2000 TV show featuring Chef Emeril Lagasse, who collaborated to form a range called Emerilware.
What is special about All-Clad cookware?
If All-Clad can survive Gordon Ramsay’s tantrums in Hell’s Kitchen then I guess it will do for me and my family!
The main feature that sets this high-end range apart from others is the construction technique. To keep it simple, each piece is made up of multiple layers of metal materials.
Depending on the range, the layers will be a combination of –
- 18/10 Stainless Steel Steel
- Stainless Steel Core
- Induction Stainless Steel exterior
- Magnetic Stainless Steel exterior
This multi-layer construction leads to a pot that is ultra-strong and durable. It heats up fast and evenly and the base won’t bend, warp, or burn. The Stainless Steel exterior surface is scratch and erosion-resistant, ensuring that the cookware always looks new and shiny. These finishes have stylish names like Stainless Steel, Brushed, Polished, and Copper Core.
What does the HA in HA1 mean?
If you are not yet bored with the scientific info, I have a few more nuggets of info for you …
HA stands for Hard Anodized.
Hard Anodized surfaces are metal surfaces that have a thicker layer of natural oxide on the surface. This results in a material that is resistant to corrosion and is strong and durable. It also has an attractive matte black finish that will enhance the décor theme of any kitchen. The HA1 Collection has a Hard Anodized outer surface and an Aluminum core.
Let’s look at the details
The HA1 Cookware Set is a more affordable option under the All-Clad banner.
Here are some of the features that impress me – and some that don’t.
Hard anodized exteriors
HA surfaces will never corrode or rust. They are extremely durable and long-lasting. The material is food-grade and safe. An HA anodized exterior is oven-safe up to 450 degrees. It is also chemically stable and won’t decompose. How awful is it to think that some cheaper pots and pans may leach tiny metal particles into your food?
Steel bonded bases
Steel bonded bases can withstand high heat and will never warp. They are ideal for gas, traditional stovetops, and induction stoves. You can, theoretically, leave your pot on an induction cooktop and not find a blackened object when you come back. The manufacturer recommends using these pots on medium heat, so I wouldn’t experiment with blistering heat.
Stainless steel handles
One thing that I am sure we have all experienced with cheaper cookware handles is how they decide to fall off as you are about to serve up your MasterChef creation. HA1 handles are made of Stainless Steel that is riveted to the sides of the pots, ensuring that they never come loose.
One problem with Stainless Steel is that it gets hot. You may need to have a small towel or a pot holder close by to prevent burning your hands. For me, this is a con. I am sure I will grab the handles without thinking and possibly burn myself.
Most non-stick surfaces require a level of care and attention. Hand washing is recommended to preserve the coating and ensure that it does not get scratched.
This applies to the PFOA-free surfaces used on the HA1 Collection. For people who are concerned about harmful chemicals leaching into their food, HA1 products are coated with a 3-layer nonstick surface that is PFOA free.
PFOAs are man-made chemicals often used for products that require resistance to heat, sticking, grease, and stains. The non-stick coating on All-Clad products is considered safe as it does not contain PFOAs.
Glass lids allow you to watch your cooking process and look stylish at the same time. The lids also have Stainless Steel handles that are riveted to the sides. On the con side, glass lids can break and may not suit everyone. The manufacturer states that the glass is tempered, making it stronger than normal glass, but this is still a concern for me. Glass lids do however reduce costs, allowing this range to come in at a less formidable price.
Yes, the pots are heavy! This is due to the construction design of multiple layers of solid metal. This is what makes them expensive and of higher quality than your average tin pots that weigh very little.
Heavy pots can be an important factor to consider if you cook a lot and have weak hands or arms. You don’t want to struggle with your cookware.
If you use your cooking pots to store cooked food in your fridge, you will need to be aware of the weight. Stacking too many on a fridge shelf could lead to the shelf cracking. It may be safer to empty the contents into more suitable, lighter, plastic fridge containers.
I love the rounded design inside the pots. I don’t have to worry about nasty crevices where food gets stuck and I can never get it out, no matter how hard I scrub. Scraping food out of these pots is easy with a soft spatula and the pot is always hygienically clean after washing.
Although the manufacturer states that the pots and pans are dishwasher safe, I would not suggest putting them into a dishwasher. Dishwashers will eventually destroy the non-stick surface and ruin the pans. Washing by hand with mild detergents and non-abrasive pads will ensure that your cookware lasts for years to come.
Made in China
This may be a no-go for some people, considering the high-end ambiance that the product claims to have. Some of the All-Clad lines are made in the USA. But, the Hard Anodized products are made in China. I personally don’t have a problem with this, as the products do come with an impressive lifetime warranty.
My choice would be the All-Clad HA1 10-Piece
The HA1 Collection offers an 8-piece, a 10-piece, and a 13-piece set. The one that caught my eye was the 10-piece set as it has everything I need for a meal with family and friends.
The main features of the set are
- Heavy-gauge, hard-anodized cookware
- Attractive mat-black exterior color
- 3 layers of safe, PFOA-free nonstick covering
- Compatible with all cooktops, including induction
- Durable, anti-warp stainless-steel base
- Oven safe up to 450°F
- Securely riveted stainless steel handles
- Durable, clear tempered glass lids
The set includes:
- 8 inch fry pan
- 10 inch fry pan
- 2.5 quart sauce pan with lid
- 3.5 quart sauce pans with lid
- 4 quart sauté pan with lid
- 8 quart stockpot with lid
HA1 Cookware Set Pros to consider:
- Renowned brand name
- Made of multiple metal layers
- Strong, durable, and long-lasting
- 3-layer Non-stick coating that is PFOA-free
- Rounded design for easy cleaning
- Oven safe up to 450°F
HA1 Cookware Set Cons to consider
- Stainless Steel handles get hot
- Glass lids
- Pots and pans are heavy
- Made in China
The HA1 Cookware Set is a great middle-of-the-road choice between a bank-breaking option and a cheap one. It will suit people who love to cook and want better quality than your average local-store choice.
If you are serious about cooking and are prepared to spend a LOT more, you may want to consider the USA-made All-Clad Stainless Steel Sets, or the high-end Copper Core 5-Ply Sets.