It’s not often that I buy into gimmicks and I must admit that I’m very stubborn when it comes to change. The fact is that I’ve used All-Clad pots and pans for over eight years now. Why? Because I know I can depend on them. They have the reliable track record, high quality construction and a lifetime warranty that covers anything but damage resulting from abuse. The sauté pan is practically an extension of the chef’s arm, just as much as a sword is to a samurai. You get to know the weight, the balance and the imperfections.
For the last five years, I have always used an All-Clad 4-quart saucier whenever I’ve made risotto. For me, it was the perfect pan for this preparation. The high gauge steel makes for good conduction of heat, the sides flare out at a gentle angle, which aids in stirring the rice, and the size allows for larger portions or helps to avoid spills when the stirring gets a little wild in the heat of battle. The perfect match, right? Maybe, or so I thought.
Imagine my fascination when I learned that Emile Henry had a pot designated as a ‘risotto pot.’ My initial reaction was to blow it off. How could someone make a better risotto pot? But then curiosity began to sink in and, before I knew it, I had set up an Emile Henry versus All-Clad risotto pot challenge.
The first thing that makes the Emile Henry risotto pot different is that it’s part of their “Flame Top” line, made from a ceramic that is able to withstand gas, electric and halogen stove tops. The benefit of ceramic is its absorption and even distribution of heat. Some of my favorite cooking vessels are ceramic, but none of them permit me to place them over a burner. I’ve used them for all manner of baked goods, casseroles and quiche, but never would I think to throw one over a burner and sear off a steak. The ability to place this pot on a range was a huge benefit and one that immediately piqued my interest.
Also, the size was the exact size that I chose five years ago to use for making risotto. When you look at the pictures of the All-Clad and the Emile Henry next to each other, you see that someone was thinking along the exact same line as I was when they designed this to make risotto. The gentle slope of the high sides of the pan allows the same control of the rice through the stirring process; the ceramic lends to slow and even heat distribution (much better that stainless steel); and the pot isn’t so heavy that it becomes a nuisance to move around. The one flaw I found with the Emile Henry is that the handles became much hotter during the cooking process than the normal home cook would expect; and so, I would recommend using a hand towel (something professional chefs are never without).
So what about the food?
The Emile Henry risotto pot produced a lighter yet creamier sauce, smoother rice and a much more even consistency than the All-Clad. I honestly couldn’t believe it. Each dish was made with the exact same ingredients over the exact same temperatures. Yet somehow, the Emile Henry managed to better infuse the stock into the rice, whereas the All-Clad seemed to reduce more stock into the air. The rice was still al dente, yet with a succulent quality and velvety mouthfeel. All tasters agreed that it was a superior bowl of risotto on the consistency and mouthfeel alone.
The end result is that I’ll be using the Emile Henry in my home, going forward, and I plan to look into some of their other products as well.
Disclaimer: Eric Guido received the pot from Emile Henry to review at home. All opinions expressed here are his own.
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