Last updated: October 2020
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All-Clad Copper Core cookware is one of All-Clad's most popular lines. It's beautiful, durable, and performs well--but it's also expensive.
Copper Core cookware is probably the last cookware you'll ever buy, but it is a big investment. To make sure it's the right cookware for you, you need to compare it to your other options.
In this detailed review, you'll find out:
- How Copper Core cookware compares to other All-Clad lines,
- How Copper Core cookware compares to other clad cookware,
- How Copper Core cookware compares to other copper cookware.
- How to shop for clad cookware (the important features),
- How to compare sets to open stock (and which option is best for you),
- Tips for buying cookware online and getting the best deal.
You'll also get a look at the entire Copper Core lineup (there are a lot of pieces--and sets--to choose from), with several buying options so you can get the best deal.
By the time you're done reading, you'll have all the info you need to decide if Copper Core is worth the investment. And, you will understand exactly what you're paying for.
About All-Clad (and Copper Core)
All-Clad Cookware was founded in 1971 by John Ulam, the metallurgist who invented the cladding process. He discovered that bonding stainless steel to aluminum created durable cookware with excellent heating properties. His earliest design evolved into the still popular Master Chef cookware line (2-ply aluminum-stainless), and quickly after that into D3, the tri-ply stainless-aluminum-stainless cookware for which All-Clad is best known.
Since its inception, All-Clad Cookware has been known for top quality clad cookware made in the United States. Clad stainless cookware is considered to be the best all-around cookware by most people, and worth its premium price tag. To this day, All-Clad's D3 (stainless-aluminum-stainless) sets the standard that all other clad stainless cookware makers are competing against.
All-Clad Cookware still makes all of its clad cookware in the USA. They make their aluminum nonstick cookware, lids, utensils, and electronics in China.
To stay ahead of their competition, All-Clad has introduced several different configurations of clad cookware over the years. Copper Core cookware was one of those, and has been one of All-Clad's most successful and best-selling lines. Its stainless-aluminum-copper-aluminum-stainless design is lightweight, responsive, and durable--as well as being one of the few copper cookware lines compatible with induction cooktops.
To learn more about All-Clad cookware, see our Ultimate All-Clad Cookware Review.
All-Clad cookware is more expensive cookware than that sold by many of its competitors. This is partly because it is still made in the USA, where labor costs are higher, but that's not the whole reason.
To understand what makes All-Clad better cookware than the vast majority of competitors, you have to understand in a little more depth the important traits of clad stainless cookware and what separates the good stuff from the junk.
What Exactly Is Clad Cookware?
Cladding is the process that bonds different types of metals together. Cladding maximizes the benefits and minimizes the drawbacks of different metals. Stainless steel is durable, but has terrible heating properties. Aluminum and copper are soft and reactive, but spread heat quickly and evenly. Thus, clad stainless cookware has stainless steel layers on the outside, with aluminum and/or copper sandwiched in between. The result is super durable, non-reactive cookware with excellent heating properties.
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 of the tri-ply D3 line from the All-Clad Cookware website:
Here's a diagram of All-Clad Copper Core cookware construction, which has 5 layers: stainless-aluminum-copper-aluminum-stainless:
The external layer of stainless is magnetic, making Copper Core cookware (as well as all All-Clad clad cookware) induction compatible. 18/10 stainless is more durable than magnetic stainless (18/0), so the magnetic stainless is only used externally for induction compatibility, while the more durable stainless steel is used for the cooking surface.
Though Copper Core cookware has both aluminum and copper, the primary heat conductor is the copper. The aluminum layers are very thin, and mainly there to help the materials bond, because copper alone bonds poorly to stainless steel and is notorious for bubbling and separating without the aluminum to help it stay put.
What You Need to Know About Multi-Ply Cookware
There are other cladding configurations, as well. All-Clad D5 has 5 alternating layers of stainless and aluminum, while Demeyere Industry 5 has 3 internal layers of aluminum. (Why 3 layers, you ask? They're different alloys: the internal aluminum has better heating properties, while the outer aluminum layers bond well to the stainless steel).
Multiple layers have become popular in recent years, but having more layers doesn't automatically mean better cookware. The number of layers is less important than the thickness of the heating layers.
As an example, tri-ply cookware with, say, a 1.5mm layer of aluminum is going to have better heating properties than 5-ply construction with 3 aluminum layers that total only 1.0mm. In other words, the total thickness of the aluminum and/or copper is more important than the number of layers.
The configuration of the layers in multi-ply cookware is also important. It can have internal layers of stainless (like D5) rather than internal layers of aluminum (like Demeyere Industry 5) or copper (like Copper Core).
Which do you think would heat better?
As long as the layers are thick enough, the pans with aluminum and/or copper are going to heat better than pans with internal stainless steel. This is why we love All Clad Copper Core cookware, and don't think so much of All Clad D5.
It can be hard to find information on cladding configuration. Cookware companies (including All-Clad) don't always supply this information, so you have to slice through cookware yourself and measure it, or get the actual data from someone who did (like us).
Cookware Cladding: The Bottom Line
Cladding is the process of bonding two different metals together to maximize benefits and minimize drawbacks. In the case of clad stainless cookware, durable stainless is on the exterior, protecting the even heating aluminum and/or copper on the inside. Good quality clad cookware is durable and heats fast and evenly.
Figuring out the actual configuration of clad cookware is not always easy because cookware manufacturers do not always supply this information. But knowing how thick the internal layers are is crucial to knowing how well the cookware will perform.
What to Look for in Clad Stainless Cookware (The Important Features)
Now that you know a little about cladding, you can look at the other properties that are important in clad cookware. These are what makes clad stainless cookware good, average, or awful.
Here are the things that matter:
- Stainless steel quality
- Heating properties, which are largely determined by thickness of internal metals used (as discussed above)
- Design and aesthetics: lids, handles, rims, etc. (and: is the cookware pretty?)
We'll look at all of these factors and find out how Copper Core cookware stacks up.
Stainless Steel Quality
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, 18/10 stainless steel has to be at least 18% chromium and 10% nickel.
But what about the other 72%?
Or, in the case of 18/0 (magnetic) stainless steel, what about the other 82%?
Steel in overseas-made products tends to be inferior to steel used in the United States and Western Europe. Inferior stainless steel can contain impurities that make it not as durable and corrosion resistant as higher quality stainless. Using inferior stainless steel is one way that manufacturers can cut costs.
Differences in steel quality can account for differences in pricing among brands of clad cookware. If you buy inexpensive clad stainless, 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 frustratingly short time.
All-Clad cookware isn't the only option for good quality steel. But the easiest way to be sure you're getting good stainless steel is to buy a known brand. Any American or European brand is a safe bet, as well as a handful of Chinese brands. (Again, our article The Best Cookware for Every Budget discusses Chinese-made brands that are worth your attention.)
Heating Properties: Cookware 101
The two most important heating properties are thermal conductivity--how fast and evenly a pan heats--and heat retention--how long a pan hangs onto heat (or, put another way, how responsive it is). Both aluminum and copper have high thermal conductivity, which means they heat quickly and evenly. Conversely, cast iron has high heat retention: it heats slowly and unevenly, but it hangs onto heat pretty much forever. (This is partly due to its mass, as well: heat retention increases with mass, regardless of the material. For example, a 2mm layer of copper is going to have longer heat retention than a 1mm layer of copper, even though both are copper.)
If you need cookware responsive to temperature changes--such as for delicate sauces and heat-sensitive dishes--then copper is the best option, and aluminum is also good. If you need extreme heat retention--such as for searing a steak to maximum browning--then cast iron is the best option.
Clad stainless is great for everything in-between, and will work in a pinch for other tasks, as well.
Good quality clad stainless cookware has great thermal conductivity and decent heat retention. These properties, along with its durability, make good quality clad stainless the best, most versatile cookware you can buy.
All-Clad Copper Core cookware, as you might guess, is more on the responsive end of the scale. But it's designed for all-around kitchen tasks, so like most good quality clad stainless cookware, it will work in a pinch for any task you throw at it.
How Much Aluminum and/or Copper Is Enough?
Now we start getting into specifics.
This goes back to the cladding discussion (above): To have great heating properties, clad cookware has to have a certain amount of heat-conducting metal. A half-millimeter layer of aluminum isn't going to heat as evenly as a full millimeter layer.
Low-cost brands of clad cookware tend to 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). This is one of the big differences between a brand like All-Clad and an unknown brand that sells for hundreds of dollars less.
These thinner pans--because they're thinner--are also more prone to warping.
How thick is thick enough? Well, the aluminum layer in All-Clad tri-ply cookware--remember: the clad stainless against which all other clad cookware is measured--is 1.7mm thick. This is enough aluminum to conduct heat rapidly and evenly, and it provides enough mass for a good amount of heat retention, as well as resistance to warping.
Anything thicker than this can start to get bulky--though if that doesn't bother you, there are clad stainless options that out-perform All-Clad (Demeyere Proline, we're looking at you). Mass is also why cast iron is the traditional go-to for putting a crust on steaks: that thick, heavy iron hangs onto heat superbly, putting a crust on a steak like nothing else can.
Copper Core Cookware Heating Properties (The Specifics)
What about Copper Core cookware? Copper heats up roughly twice as fast as aluminum (depending on the alloy), so you need about half as much to get results similar to aluminum.
This is almost exactly what Copper Core cookware provides. It has a 0.9mm layer of copper sandwiched between two thin layers of aluminum, equaling just over half of the 1.7mm of aluminum in D3.
This provides excellent heating properties: fast and even, in a pan light and thin enough that it's also very easy to handle.
You may be wondering, doesn't this make Copper Core cookware about the same in performance to D3?
The answer is yes--sort of.
Copper Core's heating properties are similar to D3, but because of the copper, it's going to be slightly more responsive than D3. It's also thinner and lighter, making it easier to handle.
(In fact, All-Clad tends to gear most of their cookware to a somewhat narrow performance window, with a few exceptions. So whether you buy D3, Copper Core, D5, Thomas Keller, or even Master Chef, you're not going to notice a huge difference in performance. They are all versatile, all-purpose lines of cookware.)
Design/Aesthetics (And How Copper Core Cookware Stacks Up)
Design is a personal preference, for sure, yet there are some objective standards for what makes cookware both functional and beautiful.
Copper Core has several features that make it supremely usable cookware--as well as very pretty cookware. Here are the considerations we think are the most important.
The best cookware has stainless, not glass, lids. Stainless lids are more durable, easier to store, and can withstand higher oven temperatures.
Copper Core, like all All-Clad clad cookware, has stainless lids (as shown above).
Vented lids are gimmicky, and largely unnecessary for any cooking you do with a lid. A lid should fit snugly, yet lift off easily. The handle should be comfortable and easy to grasp.
If you want a lid that "vacuum" seals, like those found on waterless cookware, you won't find that here. However, this, too is gimmicky, and you can achieve similar results with any snugly fitting lid, even if it doesn't provide a vacuum seal.
Good cookware should have handles made of a durable material like stainless steel. Plastic and silicone handles are comfortable, but they wear out long before the pans themselves do. So we recommend buying cookware with all metal handles; all All-Clad cookware has stainless steel handles.
Helper handles on the heavier pieces are nice, too:
Copper Core cookware handles, like all All-Clad cookware handles, are U-shaped, with a grooved top so you can stabilize a pan with just your thumb. They also have a stop on the bottom which helps to ease slipping (especially if you don't use the thumb-in-groove technique).
All-Clad handles get a lot of hate for being uncomfortable, but we're in the minority of people who think they're great--probably the safest handle design in the entire cookware industry. That groove makes them amazingly easy to hang onto and stabilize, even if uncomfortable at times.
Curved vs. straight rims may be a minor concern for most people, but a curved rim is nice for pouring because it helps to eliminate drips. All Copper Core cookware pieces have curved rims to facilitate pouring without drips.
Sauce Pan Shape
The shape of a sauce pan is probably the most important factor in whether you love the pan or hate it, and if you find it easy to use or a huge pain.
Some sauce pans 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 wash.
Some sauce pans are narrow and deep, which is almost as bad as curved sides.
We really like the shape of Copper Core sauce pans. They're wide and shallow (but not too shallow), with vertical sides for easy stirring, scraping, and washing. This is the most practical shape for pretty much any purpose.
Unless you're into sauce making, in which case you may want to consider a saucier pan, as the curved sides are better for whisking. (For more info, see our article on How to Pick Out the Best Sauce Pan for your kitchen.)
Skillets can have a surprisingly different amount of flat cooking surface, depending on how sloped the sides are. A 10-inch skillet can have anywhere from less than 7 to almost 10 full inches of cooking surface.
The Copper Core skillet has fairly straight sides, providing a good amount of flat cooking surface:
While some pans can be almost wok-shaped, like this Anolon Nouvelle Copper nonstick pan:
And others can be almost as straight as sauté pans, like this Demeyere Industry 5 skillet:
There's no right or wrong shape, although a lot of flat cooking surface can be useful for many things. Skillet shapes are just something to be aware of when you're buying.
For example, if you like a particular brand of skillet but wish it had more flat cooking surface, you may want to jump up to a 12-inch size, which largely solves the problem.
We talk more about pan size, and how to get the right sizes, below in How to Choose the Right Cookware.
The weight of cookware is an issue for many people. If you're young and strong, then your only buying concern aside from budget is which cookware performs the best. Because in general, heavier cookware--like the Demeyere Atlantis Proline skillet--is going to provide the best, fastest, most even heating, the greatest durability, and the best heat retention to be found in clad stainless cookware.
However, if you don't want pans that weigh as much as a small building, then you have to go for a middle ground: pans that perform well, but are also easy to handle.
All-Clad cookware has, for decades, provided the perfect middle ground for most people. Their pans aren't the best-performing out there, but they perform well enough to produce excellent results in your kitchen, and they are light and easy to handle.
Copper Core cookware is one of All-Clad's lightest, nimblest lines. The layer of copper provides as much conductivity as an aluminum layer twice as thick, so you really get the best of both worlds: light, nimble pans with great performance.
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 cookware is no slouch in the beauty department: it's one of the prettiest lines of cookware on the market:
What to Look for in Clad Cookware: The Bottom Line
The important properties to look for in clad cookware are 1) Quality of stainless steel used, 2) Heating properties (how thick is the layer of aluminum/copper?), and 3) Design that's practical as well as beautiful.
How Does Clad Stainless Cookware Compare to Other Types of Cookware?
NOTE: If you know you want clad stainless cookware, you can skip this section. If you're not sure, you should read it to find out why we like it so much.
Cookware preferences are in the eye of the beholder. Some people love cast iron, others won't cook without nonstick, and some folks even love glass and ceramic.
Our favorite cookware at TRK, by far, is clad stainless.
There's no right or wrong answer--but our love for clad stainless cookware is based on these attributes:
- Durability--corrosion and rust resistant
- Most has a lifetime warranty
- Its inner core of aluminum and/or copper provides great heating properties (assuming it is good quality)
- 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 when a few simple rules are followed (although nonstick wins this category)
- Made of recyclable materials.
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!)
- Not as easy to clean as nonstick (though if you follow a few simple rules, it's not nearly as hard to clean as people think).
We think the pros of stainless outweigh the cons by far.
A good set of clad stainless provides excellent, versatile cookware that will last a lifetime; maybe even get passed down to your children. All Clad Copper Core cookware certainly belongs in this category!
Clad Stainless Cookware Vs. Other Types of Cookware: The Bottom Line
Cookware is largely a personal preference, but many cooks prefer clad stainless for its durability, good heating properties, and ease of maintenance. However, to get all of these great qualities, you have to do some research to buy wisely: not all clad stainless cookware is created equally.
How Does Copper Core Cookware Compare to Other Brands of Clad Cookware?
Very few All-Clad competitors make a product like Copper Core cookware, but here are a few we found. Sharff & Mueller is configured almost exactly like All-Clad Copper Core (and is made in Canada). But we haven't tested it so we can't say for sure how well it performs (and at the much lower price, we suspect it's got less copper in it than Copper Core). Calphalon AccuCore is a 5-ply clad with a copper core, but this cookware is thin and doesn't come close to Copper Core performance--so we can't recommend it.
One "knockoff" we do recommend is Falk Copper Core. It's made by an established copper cookware company and sold like copper cookware--so you know exactly what you're paying for. Falk Copper core contains an internal layer of copper almost 2mm thick--yes, almost twice that of All-Clad Copper Core cookware. You will pay a premium for it, but if you want to get close to true copper performance in a stainless package, Falk is the way to go.
This is not the case with most knockoffs, though. Even if a brand does contain a sufficient amount of copper for great heating, then another problem is bubbling and separation of the layers: copper is notoriously difficult to bond to stainless steel (the reason for the aluminum layers in Copper Core), which makes buying an off brand a risk.
This is not to say you should avoid all brands of clad copper cookware except Copper Core (or Falk), because there are probably good brands out there. Just be sure to do your research before you buy.
Another potential issue is that any brand not charging a premium price is not likely to contain enough copper to affect heating performance. Several brands of clad copper-stainless cookware are really just aluminum cookware with enough external copper to provide color but not enough to give true copper performance (it can still be nice cookware, just don't pay too much for it thinking you're getting "real" copper cookware).
You can read more about copper cookware in our Copper Cookware Review and see the brands we recommend.
The upshot: Don't be fooled by low cost "copper" clad cookware. Copper is an expensive metal, so you're only going to find it in useful amounts in premium brands (like Copper Core).
Copper Core Cookware Vs. Other Clad Stainless Cookware: The Bottom Line
There are a few Copper Core knockoffs out there, but we haven't tested them so we can't recommend them. They may be good but do your homework before buying. The only one besides All-Clad that we know is excellent is Falk.
In general, you should avoid cheap clad copper cookware knockoffs because copper is harder to bond to stainless steel than aluminum, and can be prone to bubbling and separating.
Finally, if you're looking at "tri-ply copper cookware" or another cladded copper cookware, understand that few of these brands have enough copper to provide "real" copper performance--though it can be nice cookware, anyway, as long as you don't pay too much for it.
How Does All-Clad Copper Core Cookware Compare to Other Copper Cookware?
Copper is the cookware of choice for professional chefs. Julia Child insisted not only on cooking with copper, but also that the cookware be 3mm thick.
Professional chefs like copper because it is super responsive: it reacts to changes in temperature faster than any other cookware material. It also heats incredibly evenly. And, it's beautiful.
However, copper cookware is expensive--the most expensive cookware on the market. And it requires maintenance that stainless cookware doesn't: you have to polish it a few times a year if you want it to keep its gorgeous luster (though it performs just as well whether you polish it or not).
And here's the really interesting thing: Because copper cookware is sold to professionals and serious cooks, 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, and the amounts of copper are in the product names: Mauviel M'Heritage 150, and M'Heritage 250.
Serious cooks buy their cookware by the millimeter so they knew exactly what kind of performance they're going to get out of the cookware.
Clad stainless cookware is marketed to a different buyer, so it usually doesn't contain this information. People who buy clad stainless cookware are less inclined to care about the actual configuration of the cookware. Which is unfortunate, because the configuration determines the quality and performance of the cookware. But this is how clad stainless cookware has been marketed--especially in the US--for decades, so a lot of people just don't think to ask about it. While most clad stainless will provide passable performance, it's not going to be anything like the real, heavy duty copper cookware used by professional chefs.
Copper Core cookware is marketed to the clad stainless audience. Thus, All-Clad doesn't readily provide information on how thick the copper and aluminum layers are...and their buyers don't expect it. In fact, to find out how much copper Copper Core cookware actually contained, we had to cut a pan open and measure it.
The copper layer in Copper Core cookware is 0.9mm, which is thinner than any "real" copper brand. More importantly, the amount of copper in Copper Core isn't a selling point as it is with higher end copper brands.
Even though Copper Core doesn't provide a "real" copper cookware experience, it's still excellent cookware. It has traits that in some ways make it better than traditional copper cookware. For example, Copper Core cookware is dishwasher safe, induction compatible, and does not require polishing because of its stainless exterior. And, it's certainly in the top tier of clad stainless performance.
Copper Core Cookware Vs Other Copper Cookware: The Bottom Line
All-Clad Copper Core cookware has enough copper to provide fast, even, responsive heating, but it is not comparable to high-end copper brands. However, it has features that copper cookware doesn't have, like being dishwasher safe, induction compatible, and low maintenance. It performs better than All-Clad tri-ply, and much better than copper core knockoffs priced too good to be true.
How Does Copper Core Cookware Compare to Other All-Clad Lines?
Here we start to really get into the meat of it, because if you're reading this, you probably want All-Clad and you're just wondering which All-Clad you want. (You can see and compare the All-Clad lines here.)
But we'll summarize.
D3: Copper Core is closest in performance to D3. Copper Core's 0.9mm layer of copper plus the two thin layers of aluminum are approximately equivalent to the 1.7mm layer of aluminum in D3, with the copper making it more responsive and slightly more even heating.
D5: Copper Core is better than D5. Like Copper Core, D5 is 5-ply cookware, but instead of even and responsive copper and aluminum, D5 has 2 layers of aluminum and a stainless steel core. All-Clad markets D5 as their induction cookware, saying the inner layer of stainless evens out heating. But what it really does is slow it down, because this makes the pan heat slightly more evenly (though nothing like copper). We don't really buy this explanation, have noticed no improved performance in testing, and therefore do not recommend D5.
MC2/LTD2: These are All-Clad's 2-ply lines. They have a thick aluminum base--about 3mm--and a durable stainless cooking surface. MC2 and LTD2 will both perform close to Copper Core, having about 2.5 times as much aluminum as Copper Core has copper. But they're a little bulkier and heavier, and though they heat very evenly, they are slightly less responsive to temperature changes.
MC2 is All-Clad's lowest priced line, and will provide great, even heating. But it isn't induction compatible or dishwasher safe.
Thomas Keller: Thomas Keller is a mix of D3, D5, and Copper Core pieces with different design, the idea being that different pieces require different configurations to achieve maximum results. But since All-Clad gears these three lines to a very similar level of performance, the differences in performance are small--too small for us to recommend the higher cost of the TK line.
C4: C4 is All-Clad's new 4-ply copper line, meant to compete directly with high-end copper cookware like Mauviel. We know this because C4 is not induction compatible and so would not appeal to many clad stainless users. It's also expensive. So C4 no doubt has more copper than Copper Core, and even though they are All-Clad's two lines that contain copper, they're very different types of cookware. Since we don't know how much copper C4 contains, we can't give a recommendation one way or the other, but we suspect that you'd be better off with "real" copper cookware like Mauviel if that's what you're looking for. If you want nimble and lightweight clad cookware, Copper Core is the better choice.
Copper Core Cookware Vs. Other All-Clad Cookware: The Bottom Line
Copper Core heats more evenly and is more responsive than other AC lines we've tested, but the differences are actually pretty small. Copper Core is excellent cookware, but if you're on a tight budget, D3 or MC2 will provide heating performance almost as good.
Sets Vs. Individual Pieces
Whatever you're in the market for, it's smart to weigh the advantages of buying sets vs. individual pieces.
Buy a set if:
- You're just starting out and need everything
- 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
- You can't find the pieces you want in a set.
Keep in mind that no set is going to have every piece you need. For example, no set we know of comes with a roasting pan (although sometimes sellers like Williams-Sonoma will throw one in with the purchase of a qualifying set).
Our recommendation is to buy a small set with pieces you know you'll use (5-7 pieces), and augment with individual pieces as you know you need them.
Avoid Sets with Filler Pieces
If you do buy a set, pay attention to the sizes of the pieces in the set, and avoid sets with filler pieces. Filler pieces are those used to round out a set and make it seem like the set has more usable pieces than it actually has. For example, if a set has two small sauce pans, such as a 1.5 qt. and a 2 qt., consider one of these a filler piece because they are so close in size (and both small) that they're only good for similar tasks.
Instead, a set should have one smallish sauce pan (1.5-2qt) and one good-sized sauce pan (3-4qt).
Sets usually come with an 8-inch and a 10-inch frying pan. While some people will find the 8-inch pan useful, many consider it too small, and thus a filler piece. You can find sets with larger frying pans, but All-Clad sets generally have an 8-inch and a 10-inch frying pan. If you want to get a larger frying pan in an All-Clad set, you have to buy a "kitchen sink" set that has way too many pieces that you probably won't use. Most people are better off just buying a 12-inch frying pan individually and skipping the huge set.
Size preferences are certainly personal, so you have to decide for yourself if a set has the pieces you want. Just be aware that many sets can include small filler pieces--including All-Clad sets.
We talk about piece sizes in the Copper Core cookware sets in detail below in the Buying Options: Copper Core Sets section below.
Sets Vs. Individual Pieces: The Bottom Line
There's no right or wrong answer here and you should buy based on your individual needs. Sets can be an economical way to get a lot of pieces at once, but buying individual pieces ensures you get exactly what you want.
If you choose to buy a set, make sure it has the pieces you want in the sizes you want. Avoid sets with filler pieces, and know that no set is going to have everything you want, so you'll probably have to augment with individual purchases at some point (e.g., a roasting pan).
How to Buy Cookware Online (And the Best Places to Find It)
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. If they're used to nonstick cookware, there's a learning curve with using stainless, and some reviewers haven't figured it out yet. Or they find that their stainless cookware discolors with use, they might think something's wrong with it (there isn't).
It's true that stainless is harder to clean than nonstick cookware. And discolorations are going to happen with daily use. 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 complaints that are largely miss the point of clad stainless cookware.
This is all to say that 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), or if you decide All-Clad cookware isn't for you, Amazon has a 30-day return policy on anything you buy from them. So you're covered.
Amazon isn't the only place to buy cookware, though. We include other buying options, too, because you should check a number of online sources to see who has the cheapest price. You may be surprised to learn that Sur la Table and Williams-Sonoma tend to have the same prices you'll find on Amazon. And if you run into a sale, you can get some amazing deals.
The reason to check out W-S, SLT or Bed, Bath & Beyond is that 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 these kitchen retailers.
To keep up with sales and special deals on kitchen products, like and follow The Rational Kitchen on Facebook.
Buying cookware online is smart because you can compare prices, find the best deals, and take advantage of the global competition. You should always check a few different places because you never know when you'll run into a sale or a great deal.
Buying Options: Copper Core Individual Pieces
In addition to the pieces included in sets, the All-Clad Copper Core cookware line has a huge variety of open stock individual 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 (though this is not something we recommend).
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, but availability can vary. If there's a piece you want that you can't find anywhere else, check out the All-Clad website. Prices will be higher, but they should have the best selection.
Skillets and Sauté Pans: How to Size Them
Skillets are measured by the top diameter (inches or centimeters). Sauté pans are measured by volume (quarts or liters).
For reference, the sauté pan equivalent to a 10-inch skillet is 3- or 4-quarts. The sauté pan equivalent to a 12-inch skillet is 5- or 6-quarts.
This also means the lid to a 5- or 6-quart sauté pan can usually double for a 12-inch skillet and the lid to a 3- or 4-quart sauté pan can double for a 10-inch skillet. Before you buy a separate lid for your skillet (which rarely come with lids), see if you have a sauté pan lid that fits it.
Skillet/Frying Pan (8-, 10-, and 12-inch)
You can get the All-Clad Copper Core skillet/frying pan in 8-inch, 10-inch, and 12-inch size. The 12-inch size has a helper handle.
You'll appreciate Copper Core performance in a frying pan or sauté pan. It's a lightweight pan with great heating properties--fast, even, and responsive--and hits all the notes as a great, all-around kitchen workhorse.
This responsiveness is a pleasure for most cooking tasks, but save the high-heat searing for your cast iron or Demeyere Proline.
The skillets don't come with a lid, although if you have a comparably sized sauté pan, the lid will probably fit (e.g., 3-qt sauté lid fits 10-inch frying pan; 5-qt sauté lid fits 12-inch frying pan).
All-Clad Copper Core Frying Pan
All-Clad Copper Core Frying Pan in Nonstick
Need a lid? Here you go:
Sauté Pan (3-, 4-, 5-, and 6-Qt.)
A sauté pan is a straight-sided skillet/frying pan. Technically the two pans have different uses, but for many people, a skillet and a sauté 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 sauté pan make it the right choice. Unless doing a wet heat method, which pan you use is largely personal preference.
One appeal of sauté pans is that they usually include a lid with the purchase price, while the skillet/frying pan does not. (You can find D3 skillets with a lid, but we haven't yet found a Copper Core skillet with a lid.)
In any case, depending on your cooking style and your budget, you may want both a frying pan and a sauté pan. Either way, the Copper Core sauté 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 pretty 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, Copper Core is the way to go.
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 soup, sauce, etc., and a 3-4 quart size for making pasta, rice, beans, and hundreds of other kitchen tasks. The Copper Core sauce pan is a great choice. It's lightweight and easy to handle, and it provides fast, even, responsive heating--everything you need in a sauce pan.
All-Clad Copper Core Sauce Pan:
Sauciér Pan (2 Qt.)
The saucier pan is designed for reducing sauces: the depth makes it liquid-friendly, while the sloped sides facilitate easy whisking and proper reducing (evaporation). If you want to learn more, see our article on how to choose the right sauce pans for your kitchen.
Copper Core is ideal for sauciér pans: The copper makes the pan super responsive to changes in temperature, which is exactly what you need for delicate sauces. All serious chefs should have a good sauciér, and Copper Core fits the bill perfectly.
All-Clad Copper Core Saucier Pan:
Dutch Oven (5.5-Quart)
A Dutch oven is a great, versatile pot that works well on the stove top and in the oven. It's large enough for most roasts and poultry, and great for soups, stews, braises, and even batches of stock.
If you're going to use a Dutch oven for braising (which is what most people use them for), we prefer one with a heavier build (such as le Creuset enameled cast iron). The lid of a stainless Dutch oven is too lightweight to prevent evaporation, and the pot itself is too lightweight to hang onto heat, a key trait necessary for good braising.
You can get plenty of use out of this pot, but if you're mostly interested in braising, enameled cast iron is the way to go.
All-Clad Copper Core Dutch oven:
Stock Pot (8 Quarts)
Full disclosure: you don't really need Copper Core performance in a stock pot, and you can do just as well with a less expensive brand. But if you want all your cookware to match, go for it. It's the perfect size for big batches of soup and stock. (And it sure is pretty, isn't it?)
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, sauté 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--which a chef would need, right?--and the Copper Core model is no exception. Its 12-inch diameter and deep sides give you a lot of room to work in. And you'll appreciate the lighter weight Copper Core offers in such a large pan.
If you routinely cook for crowds or like to do weekly meal prepping, you will get a ton of use out of this chef's pan. And everything you'll do with this pan will benefit from Copper Core's performance. If you're looking for just one or two investment pieces for your Copper Core budget, this pan is a great one, if it suits your cooking style.
All-Clad Copper Core Chef's Pan:
Double Boiler (2-Qt Sauce Pan plus 1.5 Qt Insert)
This fancy ceramic insert is awfully nice. The ceramic provides great heat protection, so if you like to whip up batches of hollandaise, candies, or other delicate dishes requiring gentle and precise heating, you'll love this pot. At only 1.5 quarts, this insert is small--but how much Hollandaise or candy 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 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 other things.
This is not the All-Clad Copper Core, but the insert looks and works like this:
(If you're like us, you may be wondering why the water is draining out the bottom holes and not the side holes. It's because the picture wasn't snapped until the pot was nearly done draining. If you haven't used one of these before, be careful that first time you lift it out of the pot--water comes out of ALL the holes!)
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 (because: less evaporation).
All-Clad Copper Core 7 Qt. Pasta Pentola w/Colander Insert:
Stir Fry Pan (14-In.)
This is a fancy, beautiful wok. If you do a lot of stir frying, a wok is a must-have piece of equipment. You can find cheaper ones, but none as pretty as this one.
Hint for wok use: Because home stoves can't get as hot as restaurant stoves, do your stir frying in small batches. This keeps the heat up and will produce close-to-restaurant results.
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. 6 quarts is a good size, and you'll get a lot of use out of this pan--it's probably a more versatile choice for most people than either the stock pot or the Dutch oven.
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 sauté pans in all the sizes you want, you probably 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--not to mention larger--this pan is a great addition.
NOTE: We've seen prices all over the map for this piece. Be sure you shop around before buying or you might pay too much--it's usually cheaper at W-S than on Amazon.
All-Clad Copper Core 4 Qt. Essential Pan:
Buying Options: All Clad Copper Core Cookware Sets
Here are the set options for All-Clad Copper Core cookware.
Once again: Be sure to note in particular the sizes of the skillets and sauce pans. All-Clad sets can be a mix of great pieces and filler pieces. Be sure you're getting what you want, and don't be afraid to buy larger pieces individually (rather than get a larger set).
7 Piece Copper Core Set
The 8 qt. stock pot is great for stock making, although too large to double as a Dutch oven or roaster. Also, the skillet and sauté pan are roughly the same size, and the 2-quart sauce pan is on the small side.
The good news is that the sauté pan lid will fit your skillet, and they are all versatile pieces 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.
10 Piece Copper Core Set
The 10-piece set has the same pieces as the 7-piece, plus one smaller skillet and one bigger sauce pan. This is a nice starter set for the cook who needs everything. 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 to augment with a 12-inch skillet--and of course, you'll need a roasting pan of some sort.
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.
14 Piece Copper Core Set/15 Piece W-S Copper Core Set
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 sauté 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 pasta insert and the Dutch oven, plus a larger (4-quart) sauce pan instead of the 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). It also comes with a 5qt Dutch oven, which is a very versatile piece--although maybe not as versatile as the Chef's Pan, depending on your cooking style and preferences.
We love that both of these sets come with two large skillets (10-inch/12-inch). But it's too bad you have to buy such a huge set to get that option. (If anyone at All-Clad is reading this, please, please include the 12-inch skillet in a smaller set!)
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.
Final Thoughts on All-Clad Copper Core Cookware
All-Clad Copper Core cookware is great performing and truly beautiful cookware. It's lightweight and responsive, and is some of the best clad stainless cookware on the market. It's dishwasher safe, induction compatible, durable, and comes with a lifetime warranty.
If you fall in love with it and can afford it, go for it: you'll love it. Or if you want to augment your collection with a responsive, lightweight pan, Copper Core fills that gap. It's expensive, but it's also the last cookware you'll ever need to buy.
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