Pros: Inexpensive, thick gauge, almost indestructible (almost), non-reactivity
Cons: Sidewalls cook at different temperatures, possible danger if they boil out
Before there was All-Clad and Anolon and Kitchen-Aid yada, yada, yada, there was Farberware. If you cook, are middle-aged (or just noticed what was going on in the kitchen), you can probably summon up in your mind shiny steel pots with their little dimpled bakelite knobs and handles bubbling away on the stove-top. Turning one of these pots or pans over you would have noticed the flat dull finish of its thick aluminum bottom.
My mother cooked (loosely defined) with Farberware Stainless. As used by Mother Xeno, they were more like religious articles used for ritualistic animal sacrifice than what we currently consider cooking. But, she used them nonetheless.
When I met Mrs. Xeno (yes, the lovely Veronica), as Im sure youre all aware by now, it was love at first sight.
Now a dowry would have been nice, but short of some furniture and a set of well-worn Farberware Stainless Steel Cookware it was not to be had. But, at least it was Farberware. The cookware looked heavily used (grease caked-bottoms), but stood in stark contrast with the then current contents of her fridge which consisted at the time of exactly one half bottle of water and an apple. Figured it must have been a bad break-up.
After reclaiming and reconditioning her beaten cookware with some Zud Heavy Duty Cleanser for the bottoms and Bar Keeper's Friend, for the shiny interiors and exteriors, we used them for several years. Once they were thoroughly scoured it was hard to tell them from new. There lies some of the charm of this cookware.
Included in this set were: Sauce pans of 1, 2, 3 and 4 quart sizes all with lids; an 8 Quart Stock Pot with lid; straight sided fry pans of 8 and 10 inches with lids. It was a pretty nice set. The lovely Mrs. will admit to at least 20 years of ownership and guesses they cost in the area of $129.00 when new. Since shell probably never read this piece, Id guess a little longer and just a bit higher.
Cooking with Farberware
Owing to the heavy but unclad aluminum bottoms of these pots youll find that cooking at lower heat settings are in order. While the heat is very evenly spread across the pot and pan bottoms, the sidewalls are a single ply of heavy gauged stainless steel. You may notice that contents near the sidewalls cooks at a faster rate and may stick if not stirred frequently. For the average cook, this isnt going to be too great an issue.
Except on long boils and simmers, the bakelite handles and lid knobs stay cool to the touch on the stock pot. The long handles of the sauce and fry pans generally always stay cool enough to handle. The handles and knobs are oven safe and can withstand temperatures of 350F for prolonged periods. When placed in the oven remember that these handles will be as hot as the pan themselves. This should be obvious, but writing will make it just a tad more obvious. Use oven mitts.
Since the cookware is stainless steel, acidic ingredients such as wine, vinegar and lemon juice will not react with the metal (something you have to keep in mind when cooking with aluminum). The pans deglaze nicely with a touch of liquid at the end of a cook and will produce a nice gravy or sauce out of the pan remnants (the fond).
The edges of Farberware Classic pots and pans are tightly rolled to give them added strength. What that means to us chronic spoon tappers (you know who you are) is, feel free to tap away.
The single ply of stainless steel used in the earliest examples of this cookware was so strong that its not unusual to find a 40 year-old set without as much as a ding on it. More recent releases use a somewhat lighter gauge of steel but are still substantial.
I mentioned earlier that the heavy aluminum bottoms are unclad. Should you ever unknowingly boil a pot dry (I did) and leave it unattended on the burner (yup), you can actually melt the aluminum right off the pan. The result is molten aluminum coating your burner and range-top, and a house full of acrid smoke. Trust me when I tell you its not pretty!
Newer versions have the aluminum encapsulated completely in a stainless steel disk held to the bottom of the pot by an epoxy. While superior to the exposed aluminum bottom, Consumer Reports in their December, 2005 issue reported that their testers had succeeded in melting and rupturing the similarly designed bottom of a piece of Emerilware. So remember to be careful when you cook and remember, the Marsala wine goes in the pan.
Farberware Classic can be used on all heat sources with the exception of the new induction (magnetic) range-tops.
Caring for Farberware Classic Cookware
Like all stainless steel, Farberware Classic is easy to maintain. Usually all thats necessary to clean them is a quick soak in warm soapy water and a sponge. Discolored interiors can be quickly restored with a little Bar Keeper's Friend, while scorched bottoms can be reclaimed with Zud Heavy Duty Cleanser. Farberware Classic Cookware is dishwasher safe.
To Season or Not To Season
Many people continue to season their new stainless before using it for the first time, then periodically throughout its life. Save your time, energy and oil. Seasoning stainless steel is both unnecessary and ineffective. Stainless steel cannot be seasoned. When cooking start with a warm pan and add a tablespoon of or two of vegetable or olive oil. If youre following a low fat regimen simply give the bottom of the pan a quick spray of oil using something like the Misto Gourmet Olive Oil Sprayer.
When I purchased my Tramontina Tri-Ply Clad Stainless Cookware in 2005, I had briefly considered getting rid of our Farberware Classic. But then I thought better of it. It still serves as a worthy back-up set when an extra pot/pan or two are needed while preparing a number of dishes or multiple entrees. Sure, I can buy additional pieces of Tramontina, but the frugal Xeno prefers to employ the Farberware. After all these years its certainly earned a place in the bull-pen if not the starting rotation.
Farberware Classic Stainless Steel Cookware has been around for at least two generations. For the everyday cook whos just trying to keep the family fed, theyre as much as you will probably ever need. Recommend? Yes.
Now go cook something good tonight.
Helpful Cooking Links:
Bar Keeper's Friend
Zud Heavy Duty Cleanser
Misto Gourmet Olive Oil Sprayer
Tramontina Tri-Ply Clad Stainless Cookware
© Rudi Xeno 2007