If, like me, you enjoy little better than gazing at expensive cookware you'll be pleased to know that Smeg has its first ever range of pans coming out. The Italian brand has obviously looked long and hard at the success of Le Creuset and thought, "We'll have a slice of that!" And then they probably said 'Mama mia!' and gave a big chef's kiss. Mwah!
Smeg actually stands for Smalterie Metallurgiche Emiliane Guastalla – I expect you already knew that. It is rightly renowned for its large and small kitchen appliances, which weld fine build quality to stylish design, and then add big doses of style, passion, flair and other stereotypically Italian things. Its small appliances – coffee machines, kettles and the like – have a vibe that is somewhere between art deco and 50s Americana for instance. in collaboration with Dolce y Gabbana, it even makes beautifully painted appliances that look like something you might find in a renaissance church. You really can't get more Italian than that.
This is Smeg's first foray into cookware and true to form, the results are chic, tastefully coloured, and
bloody reassuringly expensive. What more could you ask?
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Smeg's cookware collection comprises a casserole dish – or Dutch oven if you're from America – a non-stick frying pan and a non-stick wok. Resisting the urge to smother it in prints of Florentine frescos and Italianate design flourishes, Smeg has gone for a more restrained aesthetic here. In fact, you could be forgiven for thinking the unnamed collection hails from Denmark or even Germany. Some of the brand's iconic colours are used, however.
Proudly made in Italy, Smeg’s casserole, wok and pan are all crafted from six layers of stainless steel and cold-forged aluminium, with a 'perfectly thickened' bottom – whatever that means. The layered metals mean you should get uniform heat distribution without having to wait too long. On top of all that metal, there's a non-stick primer coating, so you don't have to worry about your meatballs sticking.
Smeg also adds that the heavy-duty construction means the 'product retains its shape in high temperatures', which I think we can all agree is a good feature. It also means the cookware is compatible with that shiny new induction hob you just got.
In addition, Smeg's cookware is dishwasher proof – although putting even the best non-stick pan in the d-wash too often isn't necessarily a great idea – and oven-proof to a very creditable 250ºC/480ºF.
What else can I tell you about these pans? The frying pan/skillet has a long stainless-steel handle to 'provide extra control during cooking'. The casserole dish has a vent hole 'to prevent over-boiling or rattling'. Almost certainly of more use, the handles all have holes in to aid drainage and drying when washing. Chef's kiss!
It's no surprise to see that, while Smeg may be gunning for Le Creuset's crown as the world's favourite premium cookware brand, they aren't doing so by copying Le Creuset. These pans look a lot more modern and a lot less, well, French.
Whether they can match Le Creuset's consistent quality and widespread appeal very much remains to be seen of course, but look at it this way – everyone has Le Creuset pans; even people like T3's Paul Douglas. Smeg is much more, how do you say? Esclusivo. Or is it esclusiva? Whatever. They're definitely not commonplace and certainly not basic.
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Smeg cookware: price and availability
The Casserole dish is £169.95 (24cm) or £189 (26cm). The frying pan is £99.95 (24cm), £109 (26cm) or £119.95 (28 cm). Finally the 30cm Wok is £139.95. Is anyone really going to buy an Italian wok? We shall see…
The cookware range is also available in the USA with pricing from $99. It is not yet available in Australia but when and if it does become available, it should cost from about AU$250.
The good news – particularly for me – is that I have a Smeg pan on the way and will be able to tell you more about it very soon.
• Shop Smeg cookware from £99.95 in the UK