Unexpected pleasant surprise cookware

Have you ever bought a cookware that is much better than you have expected? It does not mean it is your best cookware, but the one surprise you the most and possibly change the way how you operate in your kitchen or change your cooking style.
Please share.
I will start.

First pleasant surprise kni(ves) are between my Tojiro DP Chef’s knife and my Chan Chi Kee thin blade slicer. Before them, I never realize how much I have been missing in kitchen knives and the control and speed which can be delivered by a high quality knife.

Second pleasant surprise is our first microwave. I was young back then, so this is probably my parent pleasant surprise. While a microwave rarely “cook from scratch” per se, it significantly reduce the reheat.

Third surprise is my hand hammered carbon steel wok. There is a big jump in its quality compared to my previous carbon steel wok. The previous woks ok, but it wasn’t until this high quality wok that I can experience the full power of a high quality wok.

Fourth surprise is my Tiger Magic Cooker. I wasn’t too surprised by its ability to hold heat. I was surprised that how much this ability able to help me in the kitchen, especially for making stock/broth.


My biggest surprise was Tramontina Tri-Ply. I honestly can’t remember who recommended it (it’s been quite a few years), but based on the price I was dubious, so made sure I could return it if I didn’t like it.

Fast forward to now, I have a 36 inch drawer full of Tri-Ply (skillets, deep saute, sauce, stock) and couldn’t be happier with it. It is a third of the price of All-Clad, and has better handles IMHO.

I’ve even tried some of their non-stick aluminum… even induction compatible - as I bought one of their induction hobs 'cause my cooktop can not be powered by the generator when the power is out (which is way too often with PG&E).

Lifetime warranty, and pretty amazing customer service (albeit I’ve only contacted them for info, and not an actual issue with the product). So I am obviously now a fan.

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The surprise was the quality then, and not because it was a thin blade slicer?

I just got a (Global) thin blade slicer, primarily because it was on sale and I was curious about Global knives. I’ve never seen the need for a slicer. Can you you share a few examples of what you slice with it? Do you use it for things other than that?

I posted this before - my husband sent some of my father’s “heirloom walnut” to the son of the best man at our wedding who is into making hand hewn knives, and for my 70th birthday they surprised me with this gem that is weighted and fits perferfectly in my hand . His workshop is in Maine…https://www.facebook.com/photo/?fbid=5137537459641347&set=a.469201649808308&cft[0]=AZWQPl9sP6yTcXelSmWBORrC3wtkJizY9mqet1CscuygMUba-oFpf84F5MmDv8UAwN0lKM4oSwCCGanyaap6lVHSHcDomeOXnvNFMHObsBTcfLJrSuQ_OAtur0yJ1xr7tYU&tn=EH-R


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I knew the value of a vegetable cleaver from damiano’s reports in Chowhound, but was dissatisfied with the prices of the Japanese cleavers he chose, and the fit and finish of the CCK cleavers. I gambled on the Shibazi F208-2 for $33 based on reviews, and found a knife that still amazes me:



I use a small 1.5 qt saucepan a lot. I make a lot of instant noodles for lunch, and it’s perfect for that :sweat_smile:. It’s also my go-to pot to blanch or prep small portion of veggies for dinner, to re-heat soups, congee, stews or curries, and for making oatmeal in the morning. And of course for all the actual sauces I have to make, this is the only pot that is rightly sized. This thing gets used multiple times a day, and sits on my stove all the time.

I’ve gone through a cheaper pots from the local discount stores over the years, but found a Cuisinart one the last time. To my surprise this thing has lasted 10+ yrs now barely showing any wear and tear. I think it’s one of their better lines, triple play stainless steel, and I was just oblivious when I bought it.


I’ve had many, but here’s one:

Whe I was a small boy, my grandmother lived in the house built by her grandparents. She cooked (and washed, and mostly heated the house) using a wood-burning range. I remember her taking naps in a chaise/daybed placed near the range, and throwing her apron over herself.

Fast forward 50 years, when I found a near-identical Monarch Range at a Habitat for Humanity location. It was not only in great shape, but had all the original accessories and upgrades.

I leapt and installed it.


Oh yes. I remember the discussion about Tramontia triply as early as my Chowhound days. I am glad they work out for you. Are you happy because of the inexpensive price or are you happy because the quality is better than usual?

A little of both. CCK (Chan Chi Kee) is not the only Chinese knife maker. However, most other Chinese knife markers did not make the thin slicer as well as CCK did. I actually the famous (or is it infarmous) ShiBaZi Chinese slicer. The SBZ is completely out of league compared to the CCK. I wrote a Chowhound review. The review is gone now, but the photo can still be found.

The Chinese style slicer is a different knife than the Global slicer. A Chinese thin blade slicer looks like the photo above. The Global slicer resembles a traditional meat slicer. I would use it as such for slicing ham and turkey

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I remember you wrote a Chowhound post a few years back. Did it do a better job than you thought?

Thank you! I guess I won’t have to worry about sharpening that one two much!

Both really.

I don’t remember where they were recommended but recall the testing was pretty extensive comparing them to All-Clad D3. Heat retention was actually better with the Tri-Ply, while the All-Clad was better at evenness.

But in both cases the differences were so marginal the consensus was there was no difference while actually cooking (plus really like the Tri-Ply handles better). So gave a couple a try and was pleasantly surprised… and saved hundreds.


Was it this comparison of All Clad vs Tramontina skillets on Serious Eats? Your post above about Tramontina got me thinking that I might want to look into that brand. And thanks for sharing your experience—useful information.

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Yes… that was one of them. And there was another that pretty much came away with the same consensus.


Yes, it did an excellent job. Stovetop cooking was easy, and it was intuitive to adjust the heat up and down. It was quite even, too. I never quite got the hang of baking, probably because there were a lot of extra draft/damper variables. Also, a very hot oven required “biscuit wood”, much finer-split wood fed constantly.

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This was a major discovery for me that has changed my batterie of knives in my kitchen, and even the way I cook–so it didn’t come easy. I reviewed with interest Chem’s Chowhound posts on CCK–even went to look at them at Action sales in Monterey Park followed by a trip to Torrance to see the Japanese Sugimoto.

Then I saw posts by damiano, describing his home cooking transformation with a beautiful Shun vegetable cleaver, later his purchase of a Sugimoto, and I was hooked.

Now to find one that meets my cost/value concerns and design requirements.

I opted for full size (8" X 4"), good f/f, weight in the 300-400 gm., performance as good as my Wusthof, and price no more than 2X the cost of a CCK in Hong Kong (about $35).

Amazon listed more than 100 Chinese cleavers, AliExpress at least as many. The one that most met my requirements and stood out in terms of number of reviews was the Shibazi F208-2. The problem was–it was too cheap–it even met Hong Kong CCK prices.

So I gambled. For $33 at AliExpress, how wrong could it be?

Then came Chef Panko’s reviews. First, the Shibazi I purchased–several other models. Then the Deng–several models. Then CCK–purchased in the Netherlands–just as they went through a model change. He followed up with a personal trip to Hong Kong, where he discovered (and reviewed) the inexpensive Leung Tim line of cleavers.

For my part, I personally verified most of what Chef Panko reported about the Shibazi f208, and appreciated his further explorations. I’ve gone on to purchase a much smaller cleaver to replace my Seki Magoroku nakiri, and use both these cleavers in rethinking my prep work.



Shibazi make cheap quality knives. They do not make good knives. As for Chef Panko review, a Chinese vegetable cleaver is not a Chinese slicer.

Chinese vegetable knife (菜刀) is thicker than a Chinese slicer (桑刀/ 片刀), but not as thick as the 文武刀.

Yep. Definitely, discussed and reiterated on Chowhound. Glad that they are working out for you. The original test was probably on American Test Kitchen of sort.

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I don’t recall ATK ever testing Tramontina, which is one of my biggest issues with them. So many things from cookware, appliances, and food items seem absent from their consideration.

Hi Chem,

Chef Panko has many vegetable/dual purpose cleaver reviews , including both slicer and chopper by Leung Tim. Well worth your time.


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