I sometimes find myself proselytizing to friends about certain products I’ve purchased — genuinely proselytizing. Questioning why they don’t own product X, and how product X will improve certain aspects of their lives, and how once they’ve purchased product X, they’ll never understand how they got by without it.
While this instills a small degree of shamefulness for drawing friendships into a commercial arena — one from which, I assert, I stand to gain nothing, as I own no stocks of any kind — I must say in my defense that I honestly believe in the products I praise. Mine is not a personality generally prone to selling. At least, I hope not: after all, I hated the few telemarketing jobs I’ve had, cash bonuses and travel incentives notwithstanding.
That said, I feel no compunction in advising any and all to purchase, as soon as possible, Ultrex cookware.
Ultrex is the 18/10 stainless steel, nonstick cookware marketed by Innova. The nonstick surface, called “Excalibur”, is applied in a patented process, in which molten nonstick is sprayed onto stainless steel (see this schematic from a different cookware company, which gives a general idea of the process).
This renders the nonstick virtually unscratchable, unpeelable and unflakeable. That Ultrex cookware (including their tempered glass lids; including the welded attachment of handles; including utensils; including cutlery) comes with a 55-year warranty should bespeak of the calibre of Excalibur. (Sorry, had to do that.)
The process is patented, and licensed out: different cookware suppliers can use the Excalibur name, provided the patented production process is followed exactly.
Ultrex features include:
- tri-ply aluminum base, totally flat bottom (no ridges), good for any stovetop surface, from electric to gas to ceramic; provides impressively even heating, such that food, whether at the periphery of the pan or at the centre, is evenly browned during cooking. This sounds, perhaps, an insignificant point, but if you’re swayed to purchase by this review, you’ll find yourself more than pleasantly surprised at the difference this heating surface makes. Recently I cooked some chicken breasts loaded with chopped garlic; I used but a small tablespoon of olive oil and no other liquids. Yet the small pieces of garlic, which in my other pans seem burn well before the meat is ever cooked, instead*caramelized*to beautiful toffee colour. Caramelized garlic? That alone should convince you.
- 18/10 stainless steel — the highest grade possible; professional chefs use 18/10. Like 24K gold, this is the highest standard.
- high-domed tempered glass lids with extra-large handles, providing a large gripping surface that prevents fingers being scorched by heating lids;
- welded, not riveted handles. Innova claims this is a benefit, as it provides no area between rivet and pan, in which bacterial colonies could otherwise proliferate. Maybe a dubious claim, as I figure one should clean thoroughly enough to preclude bacterial growth, anyway; however, not having to scrub around and beneath a rivet is a welcome convenience;
- - extra-long handles; a good several inches longer than standard pans. Also, some pieces feature a second “helper handle” 180 degrees opposite the main gripping handle, which provides much relief for anyone with hand or wrist problems, such as repetitive stress injuries, and provides added convenience for anyone else.
- - the BEST nonstick surface I can imagine. Burnt marshmallows, as Art Krull, company spokesperson, loves to demonstrate on the Ultrex segments of USA Broadcasting’s Home Shopping Network, you can BURN marshmallows until they’re stinky and smoking, pour in some puffed rice, shake the pan from side to side for a few seconds, turn the pan upside down over a plate and*BAM*(borrowing from Emerill), not a*trace*of marshmallow left in that pan. This is what nonstick was meant to do; this is rarely, in inferior brands, what it does. I once overcooked some milk I was heating for a sauce. Using the vegetable sprayer in my sink caused the milk crust to literally, amazingly, peel off in one large piece. No scrubbing. NO SCRUBBING. And with Excalibur, one is no longer restricted to nonmetal, wooden cooking tools; i.e., you can use metal utensils. Art Krull calls it “guy-proof”. (His words.)
I’ve seen Excalibur nonstick offered online in a few other cookware lines (e.g., at www.eternity-enamel.com, which offers an aesthetically appealing porcelain enamel version, a la Creuset), but the polish of the stainless steel is, to me, the most homey. Plus, any other brand of cookware I’ve searched out on the Web that offers Excalibur has been up to several times the cost of Ultrex.
Ultrex can be purchased from the Home Shopping Network (HSN; do a keyword search for Ultrex) and at FirstAuction.com. Neither, though, ships to Canada, so for Canadian shoppers, eBay is the best alternative, though the prices may be a fraction higher.
I was skeptical of the testimonials I’d heard from callers-in to the Ultrex broadcasts on HSN. But after using it, I cannot praise this product enough. The only drawbacks are the recommended hand-washing (despite the fact that INNOVA markets Ultrex as dishwasher-safe), and its addictive quality. I started off with a single US$135 purchase for a set, which included a 1-qt covered saucepan, 2-qt covered saucepan with steamer insert, 12″ covered high-sided saute pan, 10″ omelette pan, 9″-square baking dish and a 5-qt dutch oven — i.e., a most ample array.
Yet I’ve since been compelled to purchase: a kettle, a covered wok, a covered grill, a muffin pan, a 3-qt saucepan, a double-boiler insert, an 8-piece knife set with wooden block, a springform pan and a fondue set. And this despite the fact that I’ve barely been cooking recently.
If call-in testimonials are to be believed, I am not the only such addict. But it’s a healthy one, I reckon, for all but my chequebook.
Ultrex cookware, 95%
negatives: recommended hand-washing; not readily available in Canada
positives: insane guarantee (any defects in 55 years, mail it back, get a replacement); ridiculously high quality