Welcome to The Esquire Endorsement. Heavily researched. Thoroughly vetted. These picks are the best way to spend your hard-earned cash.
That nasty old stainless steel pot. Everybody’s got one. Whether it originated in your brother’s off-campus college dorm or dates back to your grandmother’s wedding registry, it seems virtually impossible to have a kitchen cabinet without at least one ancient, scratched-up pot inside. There’s a reason the generations before us invested so much in this kind of cookware—it’s reliable. Unlike a lot of today’s cheap teflon crap, stainless steel pots can take a beating, they distribute heat evenly, and you never have to worry about weird chemicals leaching into your foods. But that’s not to say it’s worth resurrecting your danky mystery pot for your next stir fry. New stainless steel cookware is out there. And it might be time to graduate from your beginner’s level non-stick pan and adopt the kind of cookware preferred by chefs all over the world.
Sardel was founded by three brothers who partnered with small businesses in Italy to create authentic, no-nonsense cookware. These aren’t Olive Garden Italians either. Sardel’s stainless steel products hail from a family business in Italy that’s been in the steel game for over a century. In an industry dominated by lifeless, impersonal product lines from huge corporations like Amazon and Ikea, Sardel’s old-fashioned approach is endearing. But that’s not to say the cookware isn’t modern. With a five-ply build—that’s five layers of metal for superior heat distribution—Sardel’s cookware looks as elegant as it is useful on the stove. I tried out a saucepan, skillet, and stock pot, which you can purchase piecemeal starting at $80 or get as a set for just $290. That’s a fantastic deal, especially considering that these pots could last generations.
Stainless steel is for grown-ass cooks.
You’re someone who loves to cook. You’ve been using the same non-stick saucepan for everything from teriyaki to tuna steak since college, but the teflon is starting to deteriorate. Sure, you could invest in another non-stick pan that’s going to fall apart in a few years. Or, you could get yourself in a longterm relationship with stainless steel. Sardel’s cookware takes a bit of patience. You have to become more mindful about your cooking if you want to use it for more than just homemade popcorn. This means taking the time to heat up the pots (not too hot), season them correctly (don’t overdo it with the oil), and clean them up properly (you better not throw these in the fridge with leftovers like Tupperware). But if you play by the rules, your steaks are going to cook way more evenly than that $40 non-stick pan you found on the discount rack at Marshalls. And unlike a lot of stainless steel cookware, the handles on these Sardel pots are hollow, meaning, if you fuck up, you’re not going to be icing a burnt hand for the rest of the night. If you’re a grown-ass adult, get yourself a grown-ass pan.
They’re downright beautiful.
When you live in a confined apartment, you know that the pots and pans you purchase need to serve as much more than just cookware—they become pieces of furniture in your cramped little kitchen. Sardel’s saucepans, skillets, and stock pots look so elegant that, if they weren’t already so capable for cooking, you could leave them on your stovetop all year round just for the decoration. The curvaceous, sculpted build of these pans is reminiscent of the refined craftsmanship for which Italian culture is so revered. They look so nice that you’re never going to forget to clean them—you wouldn’t dare let these pretty pots go to waste.
The non-stick pan is the best of both worlds.
Included in Sardel’s collection is a 10-inch skillet that has—believe it or not—a non-stick surface! With a distinctive honeycomb pattern that is similarly elegant and nice to look at, the non-stick skillet is the remaining ingredient for a well-rounded combination of cookware that can conquer almost any stovetop cooking task. What I really like is the size of this skillet. Not so big that it’s unwieldy to lift up and shake around, but also big enough to house a few chicken breasts, it’s the kind of pan that you’ll end up using as much as you can. With the shiny metal handle and bottom (you can also get it with a lid, if you prefer), the skillet has all the perks of non-stick pans, enhanced by the elegance and family-made craftsmanship of the Italian stainless steel. Perfetto!