Emeril Cookware: 
Healthy Cookware on a Budget

Emeril cookware is very popular due to the flamboyant chef known for his famous expression, "Bam!", and the comparatively low cost of his lines of cookware. Emerilware is the brand developed by Emeril Lagasse, in partnership with the well-known (and much more expensive) All-Clad cookware. All-Clad has been the choice of high-end chefs for a long time, but its cost is out of the range of many people's salary.

There are six different lines of Emeril cookware, two of which will not be considered here, as I would not recommend hard anodized or hard enamel aluminum cookware as healthy cookware alternatives. The anodized surface must remain completely free of scratches or nicks and the enameled porcelain surface must be completely chip-free in order to be sure no dangerous aluminum or chemicals are leaching into your food.

The healthy lines of Emeril cookware include Pro Clad Tri-Ply Stainless Steel, Stainless Steel with Copper, Enameled Cast Iron and Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron. They are reasonably priced, especially if you buy a set, though their quality and durability get some mixed reviews. Looking at the cookware ratings and reviews, people seem to be either completely satisfied with their Emeril cookware or are very disappointed. We discuss the pros and cons of Emerilware and suggest some good, reasonably priced alternatives.

Emeril Cookware: Stainless Steel with Copper

This line of Emeril's has had the most issues as far as quality. The cookware has a copper disc on the bottom for even heat distribution, sandwiched between a layer of stainless steel on the inside and a layer of aluminum on the bottom. Though this provides even heat on the bottom of the pan, it still allows for hot spots on the sides.

Use and care instructions advise that the best performance comes from keeping the cookware on low to medium heat, which is the case for all stainless steel cookware, even the more expensive brands. High heat is generally used only for boiling or reducing liquids. However, some people have had problems with the bottom of their Emeril cookware warping, and in some cases falling off entirely. It may be due to the aluminum bottom, which doesn't hold up well to high heat. The Emerilware web site warns that if the aluminum becomes overheated it may melt and could cause injury or fire. I don't know about you, but I don't like the idea of my cookware melting!

The Cuisinart MultiClad Pro line of stainless steel cookware is comparable in price, yet provides much higher quality than this particular line of Emeril's.

Emeril Cookware: Pro-Clad Tri-Ply Stainless Steel

This higher-quality line of Emeril's stainless steel cookware has had much fewer reported problems, and while it is not the best stainless steel cookware, most people seem very happy with the quality they get for the price. As described, the cookware is formed from three sheets of bonded metal, with an aluminum core sandwiched between two layers of stainless steel. The aluminum core does extend up the sides to allow for even heating throughout, which is one of the best selling points for the more expensive lines of stainless steel cookware.

There is a difference in price of about $100 between the two 12-piece sets, but it is well worth the extra investment to have cookware that does not fall apart.

Both stainless sets come with clear tempered glass lids, which are a nice feature so you can observe the progress of what you are cooking. However, there have been a few complaints that the lids have occasionally shattered while food was cooking, which gives Emeril's trademark "Bam!" a whole new meaning.

Part of the quality control problem may be that all Emerilware is manufactured in China, as opposed to the much more expensive Pennsylvania-made All-Clad, which receives consistently high cookware ratings and is considered among the best stainless steel cookware. Though some people have had quality issues, many others seem very happy with their Emeril, so you might want to try just one or two pieces and see how they work for you before investing in a set.

Emeril Cookware: Enameled Cast Iron

Enameled cast iron cookware gives you most of the benefits of cooking with cast iron without the need for seasoning the pan, due to its enamel coating. Enamel is non-reactive and doesn't leach any chemicals or metal in the food cooked in it. It is generally easy to clean and can be used either on the stove top or in the oven. Food cooked in enameled cast iron stays warm longer, as the cast iron retains heat after it has been removed from the stove or oven.

Emeril's line of enameled cast iron cookware is very limited, consisting of only three pieces: a jambalaya pan with lid, a paella pan, and a deep dish baker. The jambalaya and paella pans are a good buy because they are unique in shape and not available from other manufacturers of enameled cast iron cookware. There is no particular advantage to having a baking dish of enameled cast iron, like Emeril's deep dish baker. Glass or ceramic work perfectly well and are considered healthy cookware.

Emeril Cookware: Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron

Emeril also offers a line of pre-seasoned castiron cookware. Always a healthy choice, cast iron cookware is tough, versatile and with proper care will last for years. Buying your cast iron pre-seasoned gives you a head-start in establishing a non-stick surface.

I would still not advise you try to cook eggs in a new cast iron pan, pre-seasoned or not, as it does take some time to build up that beautiful non-stick surface. The best castiron cookware is often something you find in a second hand store or a piece that has been handed down from your grandmother, as it has had some years of use, giving it time to build up that carbonized non-stick coating that rivals any Teflon pan. And you can be sure that this non-stick coating is not dangerous for your health!

Emeril's cast iron skillets come with a handy side "helper" handle, which can be very useful when moving or pouring from a heavy cast iron pan full of food. The round grill pan is great for grilling, especially if you're a city dweller or don't have an outdoor grill. The vertical poultry roaster may be the best of Emeril's line of cast iron. It's sturdy enough so you can roast a chicken on it without worrying that it will fall over, and the well in the center can hold various liquids and herbs/spices that will keep the chicken moist and flavorful, while making the skin nice and crispy.

One of the main disappointments is Emeril's customer service. If you can actually manage to contact the company (which I was not able to do even to have them answer a simple question) reports are that they are not likely to replace a defective item or refund your money, despite their "lifetime" warranty. Basically, it's your word against theirs that you haven't improperly used the cookware, which is one way of invalidating the warranty. But then again, you get what you pay for.

The best thing about Emeril cookware is its reasonable price, which is great for those who want to cook healthy on a budget. It's not the absolute highest quality available, but for those just starting out in their own homes or who are just getting into cooking for themselves and don't want to spend a lot of money, they are a good basic line to start with, and most people seem very happy with it.


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