Some cookware, this Circulon.
Hot and brand new, it's lightweight. Cooks evenly and fast. Handles are cool. Its durable. Stylish. And above all it's non-stick.
But so are a hundred other lines of cookware on the market.
Circulon, manufactured by Le-Cook's Ware in San Francisco, is conveniently lightweight. However, it is not the inexpensive cookware that suffers dings and dents with every slight knock. A boon for some, its lightness may not be for those leaning toward the heavier commercial utensils used by chefs and other pros. For swift cooking, lightweight is one of the first stipulations on my list, along with some other refinements, of course.
Even, fast cooking are two of those other conditions. Circulon cookware sets are available in two versions: hard-anodized aluminum set and a stainless steel set which has an aluminum disc in the bottom of each pan. Nothing beats aluminum for fast, even cooking; but it has one big disadvantage: It reacts with foods and substances. Acidic foods like pineapple, cider, wine and tomatoes release oxides that impart a metallic taste. Salt water, lye-cured olives, detergents, tap water and other alkaline substances turn aluminum pans gray and dull.
What is hard-anodized aluminum? A finish that adds considerably to the cost of high-end cookware such as Calphalon and Magnalite Professional, it has been successfully adapted by Circulon. This electro-chemical process changes the surface of aluminum to a dark, glass-like, non-porous finish that is harder than steel and scratch resistant. The efficient heating properties of Circulon allow one to reduce normal cooking temperatures by 25%.
For those who prefer the gleam that stainless steel offers, this version will also please induction stove owners. According to Bob Rae, president and designer of Le-Cook's Ware, "It is the only non-stick pan designed for induction cooking in America. Along with an aluminum disc, we provided a magnetic disc on the bottom of the pan needed for induction. The bottom has 18/0 grade, meaning 18% chromium stainless steel with no nickel (nickel makes it anti-magnetic but is needed to keep it shiny), while the top of the pan is 18/10 grade, meaning 18% steel and 10% nickel."
Steam-cooking advocates will love the self-basting high dome lid in Circulon pans. The tight-fitting lid produces better-tasting food in addition to locking in nutrients. "It becomes an oven inside," Rae said. "Steam is trapped inside, condenses on the top and water runs down to cook your food for an almost 'waterless' type of cooking."
Non-stick capability is what Circulon is all about. "It's the only pan in the world that's guaranteed to be non-stick for 10 years," Rae said. "It's the only one guaranteed to release food, period." He explained that there are other non-stick pans in the market but that if people pay close attention, the guarantee is not for non-stick but for chipping, cracking or peeling.
The 10-year guarantee is possible in Circulon because of Rae's unique design concept called the "Hi-Low" system. Each pan is coated inside with SilverStone, which Rae claims to be the toughest non-stick protection in the market. The inner surface of the wok has concentric grooves. The high areas or peaks protect the low areas or valleys against the abrasive action of food, cooking utensils and cleaning agents, which would otherwise affect the non-stick finish.
Last, we enjoyed the stay-cool ribbed handles of Circulon. Designed for safety-grip, the handles and knobs are oven-safe up to 350 degrees. A dish can therefore be started on top of the stove and finished off in the oven.
Circulon, both types, are available in 8-piece ($139) and 11-piece ($180) sets, in open French skillets ($20 to $35) and the deep-sided fry pans (from $32). Wonderful for pancakes and bacon or sausage is the unique hard-anodized 12-inch griddle ($35). Previously discussed in this column is the Circulon wok ($65), a wide but low-silhouette-style wok that comes with a tempura rack as well as a stainless steel dome lid that's works great for steaming. Other pieces available are the 1 quart double boiler ($37), steamer sets (from $47), and a covered saute pan with "helper" handle on the opposite side ($50).
The Circulon stainless steel cookware sets and open stock pieces are available at the Broadway. The hard-anodized Circulon can be found at Bullock's.