All-Clad tri-ply, officially branded D3, is pretty much the gold standard for clad cookware in the US. How does the All-Clad Copper Core line compare to it? How does Copper Core compare to other cookware?
Read on to find out.
About Clad Cookware
To compare clad cookware, you first have to understand a little bit about it. Cladding is the process that bonds different types of metals together. The process was first patented by John Ulam, who went on to found the original All-Clad company around 1970.
Cladding maximizes the benefits and minimizes the drawbacks of different metals. Clad cookware has stainless steel layers on the outside for durability, with even-heating-but-less durable metals sandwiched between. Usually this is aluminum, but can also be copper or a combination of both, as is the case with All-Clad Copper Core.
The most common configuration of cladding has 3 layers and is known as 3-ply or tri-ply. It consists of stainless exteriors with an internal layer of aluminum, as shown in this diagram from the All-Clad website:
Here's a diagram of All-Clad's Copper Core construction, which has 5 layers: stainless-aluminum-copper-aluminum-stainless:
There are other configurations, as well, including All-Clad D7, which has 7 alternating layers of stainless and aluminum.
Multiple layers have gotten more popular in recent years. However, the number of layers is less important than the thickness of the heating layers. For example, tri-ply construction with a 2mm layer of aluminum is going to have better heating properties than 5-ply construction with multiple aluminum layers that total only 1.5mm.
Figuring out the actual heating properties of a pan can be tricky. These numbers usually have to be dug for, because cookware companies don't readily release this information (not always nefariously; most people just don't know it's important and don't think to ask). Even so, if you want to buy wisely, you have to know what you're paying for. And what are you paying for, if not excellent heating properties?
Assuming comparable quality, price, and warranty, the heating properties are where it's at for cookware.
How Does Clad Cookware Compare to Other Types of Cookware?
Cookware preferences are often in the eye of the beholder. Some people love cast iron, others won't cook without nonstick, and some love glass and ceramic. However, our favorite cookware at TRK, by far, is clad stainless.
Clad stainless has these advantages over other cookware:
- Durability--corrosion and rust resistant
- Most has a lifetime warranty
- Its inner core of aluminum and/or copper gives it great heating properties (i.e., fast and even)
- Most is dishwasher safe
- Lightweight/easy to handle (compared to cast iron, enameled cast iron, glass, and ceramic)
- Stable, nonreactive surface won't break down under any cooking conditions
- Fairly easy to clean (although nonstick wins this category)
- Made of recyclable materials (unlike PTFE, glass, and ceramic).
Like any cookware, clad stainless also has some drawbacks:
- More expensive than most other types of cookware, except copper
- A lot of Chinese knockoffs can be poor quality (caveat emptor!).
We believe that the pros of stainless outweigh the cons.
A good set of clad stainless provides excellent, versatile cookware that will last a lifetime and may even get passed on to your children.
How Does All-Clad Compare to Other Clad Cookware?
When All-Clad's patent expired in the early 2000's, dozens--probably hundreds--of makers got into the clad cookware market. Today, you can find clad cookware for a fraction of the cost of All-Clad. A few brands are comparable (Cuisinart Multiclad-Pro and Tramontina Tri-Ply Clad), a few are better (Demeyere), and most are not as good.
Most of the All-Clad knockoffs are made in China, while All-Clad itself makes all of their clad cookware here in the US. Chinese-made doesn't necessarily mean a product is bad, but you really have to do your homework on it before you buy.
What makes clad cookware good, average, or awful?
Here are the things that matter:
- Quality of stainless steel used
- Quality of internal metals (aluminum and/or copper) used
- Heating properties, which are largely determined by thickness of internal metals used
- Quality of design: lids, handles, and rims, etc.
Let's look at each of these factors.
Quality of Stainless Steel Used. While nearly all clad cookware touts "18/10" or comparable stainless steel, understand that this means very little, because 18/10 stainless is not all created equally. Yes, stainless has to be at least 18% chromium and 10% nickel.
But what about the other 72%?
Some American companies that manufacture products in China do a great job of quality control; some, not so much. In those that don't, that other 78% can contain all sorts of stuff that can make the stainless steel inferior quality, from egg shells to hair to rust. (Just kidding, but you get the idea.)
(Note: You can read more about this in The Best Cookware for Every Budget.)
Differences in steel quality partially account for the vast differences in price among brands of clad cookware. If you buy on the low end, you may get lucky and get decent pans that last and don't rust. You might also get unlucky and get pans that rust, pit, and corrode in a very short time. If they're too thin, they may even warp; warping is actually a pretty big problem with inexpensive clad stainless cookware (as well as other types of inexpensive and cheaply made cookware).
This doesn't make All-Clad the only option for quality, and in fact there are Chinese brands that offer comparable quality (like those we mentioned above). It just means that if you buy cheap, caveat emptor: don't buy low-priced brands if you don't know how well they're made.
Quality of Internal Metals (Aluminum and/or Copper) Used. Aluminum and copper are rarely used in their pure form. Rather, clad cookware uses alloys, and different alloys are going to have slightly different heating properties. Alloys aren't inherently bad--they're used even in top brands like All-Clad and Demeyere. In fact, they're necessary, because alloys typically bond to stainless better than pure forms of these metals. However, low quality alloys of aluminum and copper cab have poor heating properties. They can also cause bubbling--separation from the stainless steel--which renders clad cookware useless (the air bubbles create areas of insulation, and the pan will no longer heat properly).
The alloys used in clad cookware are almost always unknowns. This is another reason to stick to known brands! Again, it doesn't have to be All-Clad or Demeyere, as there are decent brands of Chinese clad cookware. But ideally you should pick from among a few top Chinese brands we mentioned earlier like Cuisinart Multiclad-Pro or Tramontina Tri-Ply Clad.
(Note: See our article for a comprehensive review of Tramontina Tri-Ply Clad cookware.)
Thickness of Internal Metals (Aluminum and/or Copper). To have great heating properties, clad cookware has to have a certain amount of heat-conducting metal; it's only logical that a half-millimeter layer of aluminum (or copper) isn't going to have the same properties as a full millimeter layer.
Low-cost brands of clad cookware usually have thinner layers of aluminum than higher-end brands. The difference can be significant. Some pans have such a thin layer of aluminum that they barely conduct heat better than stainless alone (which is to say, terribly).
These thinner pans are also more prone to warping.
Another example are pans with a copper bottom exterior, like this:
The copper on this pot (if it's even real copper and not just copper coloring) is so thin that it functions primarily as decoration.
Even decent Chinese brands, like Cuisinart Multiclad-Pro and Tramontina Tri-Ply Clad, have ever-so-slightly thinner layers of aluminum than All-Clad tri-ply. The difference is quite small, so the performance is almost as good; but the aluminum layer is definitely thinner in these brands than in the All-Clad.
How thick does the aluminum or copper layer have to be? Well, the aluminum layer in All-Clad tri-ply--the clad stainless against which all other clad cookware is measured--is about 1.7mm thick. This is enough aluminum to conduct heat rapidly and evenly, and it provides enough mass for a nice amount of heat retention (the thicker the layer, the better the heat retention), as well as resistance to warping. Anything more can start to get bulky (although if you want excellent searing, this is exactly what you're looking for--this is why cast iron is the traditional go-to for putting a crust on steaks or frying chicken: it heat up slowly and unevenly, but once hot, it hangs onto heat like a champ, even when you toss that cold food into the pan).
Thus, tri-ply, or even Copper Core, isn't great at everything. But it is probably the best all-around choice for many, if not most, cooking tasks.
As for copper, because it heats up roughly twice as fast as aluminum (again, depending on the alloy) and is also a stronger material, you need about half as much to get similar results to aluminum. High-end Mauviel copper cookware comes in two options: 1.5mm and 2.5mm. Both are excellent cookware, but the 2.5mm is, of course, the top choice.
All-Clad Copper Core has just under 1mm layer of copper sandwiched between two thin layers of aluminum (about 0.9mm). This gives it really good heating properties, although not quite as good as a brands with a higher copper content like Mauviel.
Quality of Design: Lids, Handles, Rims, Pot Shape. Design is a personal preference, but there are some objective standards for what makes cookware highly functional.
The best cookware has stainless, not glass, lids, because stainless is more durable, easier to store, and can withstand higher oven temperatures.
Good cookware should also have stainless handles because plastic or silicone handles will wear out long before the pans themselves do. Helper handles on the heavier pieces are nice, too.
Curved vs. straight rims is kind of a minor concern, but a curved rim is nice for pouring. Note that all Copper Core pieces have curved rims to facilitate pouring; only certain pieces of the All-Clad tri-ply only have curved rims (not including sauce pans).
Sauce Pan Shape. Some sauce pan are narrower at the top than the bottom or have curved sides with flared tops. These designs can be pretty, but they're not practical. Pans with wider bottoms than tops are harder to scrape out and harder to clean.
If you fall in love with such a design, it's not a deal breaker, but sauce pans with vertical sides are more practical.
Overall, design should be a happy marriage of what's functional and what's beautiful. You may think beauty is a foolish measure of something as utilitarian as cookware, but beauty enhances everyday use, making cooking less of a chore and more of a pleasure even on those days when it takes everything you have to get a meal on the table.
Copper Core is no slouch in the beauty department: it's one of the prettiest lines of cookware on the market:
About Copper Cookware
Copper is the sports car of cookware: it's lightweight and super responsive to temperature changes. The only metal with better heating properties than copper is silver, and that's too expensive to be seen very often in cookware.
Like all cookware, copper does have drawbacks.
First, it's expensive. In fact, copper cookware is the most expensive cookware on the market.
Second, copper is reactive with food, and while it's not dangerous to ingest--human bodies need copper--it can impart an off flavor to food. Most modern copper cookware is lined with either stainless or tin to prevent this reactivity. Tin is the traditional lining, but it's a soft metal that wears quickly, requiring re-tinning every few years (depending on use). If you do go with copper, get copper with a stainless interior.
Finally, copper cookware requires a lot of maintenance to stay beautiful. Without regular polishing, copper tarnishes quickly, turning to a drab brownish green. It's still usable in this condition, but when you spend all that money, you usually want to keep it looking great. Polishing usually needs to be done a couple of times a year to retain original luster.
As beautiful and functional as copper cookware is, most people opt for clad stainless cookware these days. It performs almost as well--maybe even better, depending on which brand you buy--it costs less, it's much easier to take care of, and most of it comes with a lifetime warranty.
How Does Copper Core Compare to Other Brands of Copper Cookware?
Unlike most clad stainless brands, most reputable copper brands state clearly how much copper content is in their cookware. For example, Mauviel has two lines, one with a 1.5mm layer of copper and one with a 2.5mm layer of copper. Falk's top end cookware has a 2.3mm layer of copper.
All-Clad Copper Core has just under 1mm of copper, about 0.9mm. It also has two thin layers of aluminum to enhance the copper's heating properties (and probably to help the copper adhere to the stainless outer layers).
So in comparing All-Clad Copper Core to other brands of copper cookware, it falls somewhat short.
This doesn't mean Copper Core is poorly performing cookware. In reality it performs very well--just not as well as copper cookware with more actual copper in it (duh, right?).
When you get into less expensive lines of copper cookware, you really have to read the fine print. Some merely have an exterior coating of copper that's so thin it doesn't really add to the heating properties (just the trouble of maintenance). Some low-priced copper cookware isn't even copper; it's just copper-colored (like this and this). These beautiful pots from Demmex claim 1.2mm of copper with tin lining, but some reviewers claim it's the other way around: 1.2mm of tin with a thin copper coating--so thin that it wears off after just a few uses. As tin is a soft metal with a melting point around 450F, that is not what you want.
The bottom line: All-Clad Copper Core is not as well-performing as true, all-copper cookware, but it's better than the copper knockoffs priced too good to be true. It's also better than most tri-ply. Plus, it has features that copper cookware doesn't have, like being dishwasher safe (although we recommend hand washing for all high quality cookware) and maintenance-free (no polishing required).
How Does Copper Core Compare to Other All-Clad Lines?
All-Clad makes several lines of cookware. (You can see and compare all of them here and here.) When their patent on tri-ply ran out and they suddenly had tons of competition, they came out with several new lines in an effort to stay at the front of the pack. Copper Core was one of them, and its copper-aluminum-stainless configuration is, as far as we know, the only one of its kind.
Copper Core is closest in performance to tri-ply (aka D3). Its 0.9mm layer of copper plus the two thin layers of aluminum are approximately equivalent to the 1.7mm layer of aluminum in tri-ply, with the copper making it slightly more responsive. This may be good or bad, depending what you want to do: for many tasks, responsiveness is great. But if you're doing high heat searing, you probably want neither Copper Core or tri-ply because something heavier is the better choice, like cast iron or All-Clad D7.
Copper Core is great daily use cookware. Its main drawback is its cost: it's one of All-Clad's most expensive lines, and the slightly-better-than-tri-ply performance may not justify its higher price tag.
Our recommendations are this: If you have induction, tri-ply is the best all-around All-Clad set. If induction isn't a concern, then the MC2 is the best choice: not only is it All-Clad's least expensive line, but its 3mm of aluminum give it better heating properties than the tri-ply. You can round out both of these sets with a Copper Core skillet or saute pan (if you really want one) and a cast iron or D7 pan so you've got all your sauteeing and searing needs covered.
If you fall in love with it and can afford it, Copper Core is excellent and you will love it. But you can get performance just as good for less.
How Does Copper Core Compare to Other Cookware Brands?
All-Clad Copper Core is high-end cookware with great looks and heating properties. It's going to perform better than most brands of clad tri-ply. It is also extremely durable and comes with a lifetime warranty (like all All-Clad cookware).
Unfortunately, Copper Core falls into a sort of netherworld of clad cookware: it's more expensive than tri-ply, but it doesn't provide a bona fide copper cookware experience. Yes, it performs well--a little bit better than regular All-Clad D3 (tri-ply). But with a copper layer just under a millimeter, it's not quite enough to compete head-to-head with "real" copper cookware that has 1.5mm or more of copper.
All-Clad Copper Core is great cookware, but not as good as high-end copper cookware like Mauviel or Falk.
How to Choose the Right Cookware
This is an overview. If you want more detailed information, see The Best Cookware Set for Every Budget or A Guide to the Best Induction Cookware. (Note: Induction cookware also works on other types of stove tops, so it's a good general guide even if you aren't interested in induction cooking.)
As described above, the heating properties are what you pay the premium prices for. That's why copper cookware is so expensive, that's why clad cookware costs more than aluminum cookware, that's why there's such a large price range among different clad cookware, etc.
Good clad cookware is going to have a layer of aluminum of at least 1.5mm or a layer of copper of at least 0.9mm.
How do you know how much aluminum or copper cookware has when you can't find it in the specs? Stick to recommended brands. You don't have to buy all top-end, as there are good options for less than All-Clad (also mentioned above). However, if you want the best heating properties (as well as good all-around quality), stick to the brands recommended on The Rational Kitchen.
Reactivity and Durability
Also described above, reactivity (or lack thereof, actually) and durability are important aspects of quality cookware, too. Aluminum, cast iron, and copper all react with food and can impart off flavors. Aluminum is also a soft metal and can scratch easily (although this is not the case with anodized aluminum, which is extremely durable). Glass and ceramic are non-reactive, but they're heavy , bulky, and fragile, and have poor heating properties.
Stainless is both non-reactive and very durable, and we believe it is the best overall cookware choice when bonded to heat-conducting metals like aluminum or copper.
Design: Handles, Lids, Rims, Ease of Cleaning, Overall Aesthetics
Much of this was already discussed above in "How Does All-Clad Compare to Other Clad Cookware?", but we'll cover it again briefly.
The best cookware has stainless rims and handles (not glass or silicone) for long-term durability.
Rims can be either straight or curved, with curved having an edge in the pouring department. Some people feel strongly about this, but we don't really care. For what it's worth, all Copper Core rims are curved.
Where Is It Made?
Most cookware these days, clad or otherwise, is made in China. All-Clad, however, is still made in the USA; at least all of their clad products are--some other items are made in China, such as lids, cast aluminum nonstick, and small appliances.
Made-in-China doesn't automatically mean poor quality, but once again, you have to buy known brands to avoid the inferior stuff.
Some cookware is made in Europe. le Creuset is made in France, and Demeyere cookware (the premium clad line) is made in Belgium.
Tip: If it's hard to find the country of origin when reading about a product (on Amazon or the manufacturer site, for example), it's probably made in China.
You should know approximately how much you want to spend because there's a huge range of prices. If you're reading this, you probably have a fairly big budget because Copper Core is a premium brand. If you are considering Copper Core, you may want to take a look at some other premium brands such as Demeyere and perhaps the top copper brands (Mauviel and Falk, for example).
Even if you have your heart set on something and can afford it, do your research anyway. You may not care if you save a few dollars, but you definitely care that you get the best set for your needs.
Sets Vs. Individual Pieces
You should weigh the advantages of buying sets vs. individual pieces.
Buy a set if:
- You're just starting out and need everything (it's the most economical way to go)
- You want matching cookware
- You want to save money
- You're sure you'll use all the pieces in the set.
Buy individual pieces if:
- You already have a lot of cookware and are looking to augment with a specific piece or two
- You have specific needs that you can fill with just one or two specialty pieces
- You don't care if you have a matching set.
Where to Buy Cookware?
A reader recently asked if we thought the All-Clad available on Amazon was "fake" because there were a few one-star reviews. Our answer is, absolutely not.
Some people are disappointed in clad stainless cookware. They don't think the durability is a worthwhile payoff for the harder-to-clean cooking surface (compared to nonstick). Or they saw discolorations from cooking as a major fault.
Stainless is harder to clean than nonstick or even well-seasoned cast iron; it's just a fact. And discolorations are going to happen with daily use. And some people may have had a bad experience for reasons unrelated to the quality of the cookware. So if you read the one-star reviews on Amazon and elsewhere (and you should!), don't pay a lot of attention to these complaints.
In other words, Amazon is a perfectly good place to buy All-Clad cookware. And should you get unlucky and get a knockoff piece (we've never heard of this happening, but it's possible), Amazon has a 30-day return policy on anything you buy from them. So you're covered.
We include other buying options, too, because you should check a number of online sources to see who has the cheapest price. Sure, Sur la Table or Williams-Sonoma is unlikely to have the best price. But you never know when you might get lucky and find a sale--or a free piece with the purchase of a set, often offered by premium retailers like WS and SLT.
Overall, prices are usually going to be about the same all over the Internet. But keep your eyes open for special deals, because they do happen.
To keep up with sales and special deals on kitchen products, like and follow The Rational Kitchen on Facebook.
Cookware is an excellent product to buy online. Having it delivered right to your door is an awesome perk! Just be sure to buy from a reputable dealer who will honor their return policy should you be unsatisfied for any reason.
Buying Options: Copper Core Individual Pieces
In addition to the pieces included in sets, the All-Clad Copper Core line has a huge variety of other pieces. Whether you want a larger skillet, a pasta pot, or a wok, All-Clad has you covered. You can even get the All-Clad Copper Core skillet in nonstick if you want it. All-Clad does a great job of understanding their customers and giving them a lot of options. If you want all your cookware to match, it will cost you a small fortune, but the options are certainly there.
Not every site has all the pieces, or all the available sizes--this is another reason to shop around. We've found that Amazon actually has the biggest variety of pieces--though you won't find any special deals there like you can on kitchen product sites.
If you buy a set, pay attention to the sizes of the pieces. You may want to augment with a larger or smaller skillet, sauce pan or saute pan.
For reference, the saute pan equivalent to a 12-inch skillet is roughly 5- or 6-quarts. The saute pan equivalent to a 10-inch skillet is roughly 3- or 4-quarts. This means the lid to a 5- or 6-quart saute pan can usually double for a 12-inch skillet and the lid to a 3- or 4-quart saute pan can double for a 10-inch skillet.
Skillet/Frying Pan (8-, 10-, and 12-inch)
You can get the All-Clad Copper Core skillet in 8-inch, 10-inch, and 12-inch size. Only the 12-inch comes with a helper handle.
While we honestly don't think you need Copper Core-type performance for most of your cookware, you'll appreciate it in the frying pan and the saute pan. It's a lightweight pan with great heating properties, and other than the high price tag, it hits all the notes as a great, all-around kitchen workhorse.
The lightweight copper construction has one drawback: it makes this skillet the wrong choice for high-heat searing, because as soon as you toss that steak in the pan, the temperature is going to crash rapidly. This responsiveness is a pleasure for most cooking tasks, but save the high-heat searing for your cast iron, D7, or (our personal favorite), the Demeyere Proline.
All-Clad Copper Core Frying Pan
Amazon has the nonstick Copper Core only in the 12-inch size, while W-S has it in all 3 sizes.
All-Clad Copper Core Frying Pan in Nonstick
Need a lid? Here you go:
Saute Pan (3-, 4-, 5-, and 6-Qt.)
A saute pan is a straight-sided skillet. Technically they have different uses, but for many people, a skillet and a saute pan are interchangeable. If you're frying meat, a skillet's sloped sides make it easier to slip a turner in there, and if you're doing a braise or other cooking method that uses liquid, the straight sides of the saute pan make it the right choice. But for most tasks, the skillet and the saute pan work just fine.
One appeal of saute pans is that they usually include a lid with the purchase price, while the skillet/frying pan does not. (You can find All-Clad frying pans with lid included, but this is not the norm--and it adds significantly to the cost of the pan.)
In any case, depending on your cooking style and your budget, you may or may not want both a frying pan and a skillet. Either way, the Copper Core saute pan is a great addition to your collection. As you already know, it's an expensive pan, and there are cheaper alternatives, like All-Clad tri-ply (D3) and Cuisinart MC Pro, that are almost as good (as well as more expensive ones that are better, such as Mauviel). But if you want a lightweight, responsive pan with a great aesthetic, you could do worse than this Copper Core saute pan.
All-Clad Copper Core Saute Pan:
Sauce Pan (1.5-, 2-, 3, and 4-Qt.)
Every kitchen needs at least a couple of sauce pans: a small, 1.5-2 quart size for heating leftovers and small batches of sauce, and a 3-5 quart size for making pasta, boiling vegetables, and hundreds of other kitchen tasks. The Copper Core sauce pan is lovely, and if you can afford it, it's a great choice.
All-Clad Copper Core Sauce Pan:
Saucier Pan (2 Qt.)
The saucier pan is sort of like a saute pan with sloped sides. It is designed for reducing sauces: the depth makes it liquid-friendly, while the sloped sides facilitate easy whisking that reaches everywhere, as well as evaporation. Here's a discussion on Chowhound about sauciers if you want to know more.
Small sauciers (like this one--2 quarts) aren't a particularly useful pan. The small amount of flat surface limits their usefulness for other tasks, as does the small size. On the other hand, the essential pan, shown below, is basically a larger version of the saucier (at 4 quarts, twice the size) and a very nice multi-purpose kitchen pan.
If you make a lot of sauces, get the smaller saucier. However, if you want a more versatile piece, we suggest the essential pan instead.
All-Clad Copper Core Saucier Pan:
Sauteuse (3 Qt.)
What do you use a sauteuse pan for? According to recipetips.com, a sauteuse pan is "a round, lidded pan with small handles that is often used to sauté or braise a variety of foods. With short to medium height outward sloping sides, a sauteuse pan is a utensil for cooking casseroles, stews, and pasta dishes as well as meat and poultry dishes. Common in European households, this pan has a small curved handle on each side instead of a single straight handle and is typically available in sizes ranging from 2.5 quarts to 7 quarts."
The Copper Core sauteuse doesn't have sloped sides and is more like a saute pan with two short handles. Thus, you could use it as a saute pan, a skillet, and for braising--the short handles and domed lid make it perfect for the oven as well as the stove top.
Having said that, this pan is only 3 quarts, which usually equates to about a 10-inch diameter cooking surface. With sides the same height as a regular saute pan, this means you can only fit the smallest of chickens or roasts in it.
If you're cooking for one or two people, this is a nice-sized, versatile pan. However, if you want something roomier, we suggest you go with the Dutch oven or even the stock pot (both below). Both are more versatile--for example, you could use both the Dutch oven and stock pot for making soup, but you couldn't use a 3-quart sauteuse because it's too shallow.
All-Clad Copper Core Sauteuse Pan:
Dutch Oven (5.5-Quart)
A Dutch oven is a great, versatile pot, working well on the stove top and in the oven. It's large enough for most roasts and poultry (turkey the exception), and great for soups, stews, and small batches of stock.
Every cook needs either a Dutch oven or a stock pot, but most don't need both. Which one you choose comes down to your design preference: sloped sides or straight sides? And while the domed lid is nice for roasts and poultry, remember this: domed lids take up more storage space and are bulkier than flat lids. So if storage space is a concern for you, you may want to go with the 8-quart stock pot instead. It's considerably roomier and the more versatile pot unless you're strictly cooking for just one or two people.
All-Clad Copper Core Dutch oven:
Stock Pot (8 Quarts)
The truth is, you don't need Copper Core performance for stock pot and Dutch oven-type tasks; you can do just as well with a less expensive brand. But if you've fallen in love with the Copper Core and want your cookware to match, we recommend this versatile stock pot over the smaller 5.5 qt. Dutch oven--unless you'll be making small meals exclusively, in which case the smaller Dutch oven is also a great choice.
All-Clad Copper Core 8 Qt. Stock Pot:
Chef's Pan (12-Inch)
Chef's pans are more popular in Europe than in the US, but they are fabulous all-around cooking vessels. They're very roomy and you can use them as skillets, saute pans, sauciers, Dutch ovens, and even woks. They're called chef's pans because their versatility makes them the favorite choice for many professional chefs.
Chef's pans are usually quite large, and the Copper Core model is no exception. Its 12-inch diameter and deep sides give you a lot of room to work in.
Unless you routinely cook for crowds, you probably don't need the Chef's pan. But if you want to add another skillet-type pan to your collection, this is an excellent choice: the copper/aluminum core make this pan a superb performer for everything you'd want to use it for (and then some).
All-Clad Copper Core Chef's Pan:
Double Boiler (2-Qt Sauce Pan plus 1.5 Qt Insert)
If you own a stainless steel bowl of an appropriate size, you don't really need a double boiler; a stainless bowl works well (as long as you're vigilant): it's easier to whisk in, and it's easier to clean. But this fancy ceramic insert is awfully nice. The ceramic provides great heat protection to whatever delicate concoction you're whipping up, so if you like to do sauces, you'll probably love this pot. At only 1.5 quarts, this insert is small--but how much Hollandaise does a person need, really?
The price includes a 2-quart sauce pan, a lid, and the ceramic insert. Can you buy the insert separately? Can you find it in a larger size? We couldn't find either option, but that doesn't mean they're not a possibilities. Your friendly neighborhood Williams-Sonoma employee may be able to help you out.
All-Clad Copper Core 2 Qt. Sauce pan w/1.5 Qt. Ceramic Insert:
Pasta Pot/Pentola (7-Quart)
Pentola just means pot in Italian, so this is a 7-quart stock pot with a colander insert for easily draining pasta. The price includes the pot, the colander insert, and the lid. If you cook a lot of pasta, this is a great choice, because you get the insert as well as a nice-sized stock pot you can use for many other things.
This is not the All-Clad Copper Core, but the insert looks and works like this:
(If you're like us, you're wondering why the water is draining out the bottom holes and not the side holes. Anybody have an answer to that?)
At 7 quarts, it's one quart smaller than the standard Copper core stock pot (shown above). But you may actually prefer its taller, narrower shape, which is nicer for soups, stocks, and boiling water. Copper Core performance isn't required for boiling water and simmering liquids, but even so, it's a gorgeous, functional piece of cookware.
All-Clad Copper Core 7 Qt. Pasta Pentola w/Colander Insert:
Stir Fry Pan (14-In.)
It's just a fancy wok, and probably only necessary if you do a lot of stir-fries and want all of your cookware to match. We actually prefer the less-expensive carbon steel wok for stir frying, but this one will certainly provide superb performance.
All-Clad Copper Core 14-in. Stir Fry/Wok:
Round Roaster (6 Qt.)
This pan is sort of a cross between a Dutch oven and stock pot. It's half a quart bigger than the Dutch oven, 2 quarts smaller than the stock pot. The domed lid allows for chickens and roasts to fit nicely.
In all honesty, oven braising is probably better done in a heavier pot that holds heat really well, like a le Creuset roaster (which le Creuset refers to as a Dutch oven, go figure), while rib roasts and turkeys require more space and no cover. Thus this pot gets a bit lost in the shuffle, in our opinion. But hey, if this is what you've got in mind for your roasting and braising needs, it will work beautifully.
All-Clad Copper Core 6 Qt. Round Roaster
Essential Pan (4 Qt.)
How is this different from the saucier pan (shown above)? The saucier pan is 2-qt., while this Essential pan is 4-qt. You can think of this as a chef's pan with curved, rather than angled, sides: it's large and it has nice, high sides which make it a versatile pan. From boiling pasta to making bechamel to sauteeing meat or veggies, this pan can do almost everything (why do you think they called it an Essential pan?).
If you've already got sauce pans and saute pans in all the sizes you want, you don't need an essential pan. However, if you need to augment your collection and want something a little bit different and maybe a little more versatile, this pan makes a nice addition.
All-Clad Copper Core 4 Qt. Essential Pan:
Buying Options: Copper Core Sets
We put the set options second for a reason: nobody really needs Copper Core performance for all the pieces that come in a set, so unless you really, really want matching cookware (we may have mentioned this already), we suggest only getting Copper Core in a skillet or saute type pan (including sauiers, chef's pans, and essential pans, and possibly sauce pans, depending on how you'll use them). For everything else--stock pots, roasters, Dutch ovens--you can get satisfactory performance for far less money.
But if you're set on All-Clad Copper Core (and who wouldn't be, if price was no object?), here are the set options.
Be sure to note in particular the sizes of the skillets and saute pans: If a 10-inch skillet isn't enough for you, you're going to have to buy the 12-inch separately unless you go for the gigantic 14-piece set. We recommend this out of experience: while a 10-inch skillet works for many needs, you'll most certainly want the larger one once in awhile, especially if you entertain frequently or cook for a lot of people.
Remember, you can get a larger saute pan, too, to augment your set: a 5- or 6-quart saute is roughly equivalent to a 12-inch skillet (with straight, slightly deeper sides, of course). Bonus: the lid that comes with is likely to fit a skillet or two (which don't come with lids).
The stock pot is great, but the skillet and saute pan are roughly the same size, and the 2-quart sauce pan is on the small side. The good news is that the saute pan lid will fit your skillet, and they are all versatile pieces, especially if you're not cooking for a crowd.
The 7 piece set includes:
- 10 inch fry pan
- 2 quart sauce pan, with lid
- 3 quart sauté pan, with lid
- 8 quart stockpot, with lid.
The 10-piece set has the same pieces as the 7-piece, plus one smaller skillet and one bigger sauce pan. This is a great starter set. The 3-quart sauce pan lid fits the 8-inch skillet, so that's handy. The smaller skillet can be handy for certain things (cooking for yourself, or browning small amounts of onions or other veg for garnishes, dips, etc.). This set has almost everything you'll need, except you'll probably want a 12-inch skillet or a 6-quart saute pan if you ever cook for crowd.
The 10 piece set includes:
- 8 inch skillet
- 10 inch skillet
- 2 quart sauce pan, with lid
- 3 quart sauce pan, with lid
- 3 quart sauté pan, with lid
- 8 quart stockpot, with lid.
The size of this set is a little crazy--and the price is even crazier. But it has a lot of great pieces, including the 12-inch skillet, the huge 6-quart saute pan, and that gorgeous, versatile chef's pan with the domed lid that you might never have thought of buying if it didn't come in this set.
If you go with the Williams-Sonoma set, you get the tall stock pot with the past insert and the Dutch oven, plus a larger (4-quart) sauce pan and no chef's pan.
If you're investing in this much cookware, we prefer the W-S set because you might never buy a pasta insert otherwise, and it's a nice thing to have (can double as a colander in a pinch).
The 14 piece set includes:
- 10 inch skillet
- 12 inch skillet
- 2 quart sauce pan, with lid
- 3 quart sauce pan, with lid
- 3 quart sauté pan, with cover
- 6 quart sauté pan, with lid
- 12 inch chef’s pan, with lid
- 8 quart stockpot, with lid.
Williams-Sonoma offers a slightly different configuration: a 15 piece set for a little bit more. It includes:
- 10 inch skillet
- 12 inch skillet
- 2 quart sauce pan, with lid
- 4 quart sauce pan, with lid
- 3 quart sauté pan, with lid
- 6 quart sauté pan, with lid
- 5 1/2 quart Dutch oven. with lid
- 7 quart stockpot with pasta insert and lid.
All-Clad Copper Core is great performing and truly beautiful cookware. It's lightweight and responsive. Yet it's sort of a compromise, offering the absolute best of neither world: If you want clad stainless cookware, the All-Clad tri-ply costs less for very similar performance, while true copper cookware such as Mauviel Heritage 250 offers true copper cookware performance that Copper Core can't compete with.
If you fall in love with its looks and can afford it, go for it: you'll love it. Or if you want to augment your skillet collection with a responsive, lightweight pan, Copper Core fills that gap. But for daily cookware, you can spend less and get almost as much performance.