All-Clad Copper Core cookware is one of All-Clad's most popular--and most expensive lines.
In this detailed review, find out how Copper Core compares to other All-Clad lines, to other clad cookware, and to other copper cookware--and if Copper Core cookware is worth its premium price tag.
Cladding: About Copper Core and Other Clad Cookware
To compare clad cookware, you first have to understand a little bit about cladding. 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. 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.
Usually the internal metal is aluminum, but can also be copper or a combination of both, as is the case with All-Clad Copper Core cookware.
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 website:
Here's a diagram of All-Clad Copper Core construction, which has 5 layers: stainless-aluminum-copper-aluminum-stainless:
Note that the external layer of stainless is magnetic, making Copper Core cookware (and tri-ply cookware) induction compatible. (The 18/10 stainless is more durable than magnetic stainless, so the magnetic stainless is only used where necessary for induction.)
There are other configurations, as well, including All-Clad D7, which has 7 alternating layers of stainless and aluminum. All-Clad D5 has 5 alternating layers of stainless and aluminum, while Demeyere Industry 5 has 3 internal layers of aluminum.
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.
For example, tri-ply construction with a 2mm layer of aluminum is going to have better heating properties than 5-ply construction with aluminum layers that total only 1.5mm. (More on this in a minute.)
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 and/or copper.
Which do you think would heat better?
That's right: the pan with aluminum and/or copper layers is going to heat better. That's why we love All Clad Copper Core, and don't think so much of All Clad D5.
You really have to do your homework to understand what you're buying--and to make sure you get what you want.
Figuring out the actual configuration of a pan can be tricky. Cookware companies don't always supply this information, so you have to slice through cookware yourself and measure it, or get the numbers from someone who did (like us!).
Cookware Cladding: The Bottom Line
Cladding is the process of fusing 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.
Figuring out the actual configuration of clad cookware is not always easy because cookware manufacturers like All-Clad do not supply this information. But knowing how thick the internal layers are is key to knowing how well the cookware will perform.
The Important Properties of Clad Stainless Cookware (What to Look For)
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:
- Quality of stainless steel used
- Heating properties, which are largely determined by thickness of internal metals used (as discussed above)
- 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 steel has to be at least 18% chromium and 10% nickel.
But what about the other 72%?
In fact, steel in overseas-made products tends to be inferior to steel used in the United States and Western Europe. (This is true not only for cookware, but all products that contain stainless steel.) 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 partially account for differences in pricing 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 frustratingly short time.
This doesn't make All-Clad the only option for quality. A handful of Chinese brands offer comparable quality (like those we mentioned above). But in general, the quality of American (and European) stainless steel is superior to Chinese stainless steel.
The moral? If you buy Chinese-made clad stainless cookware, buy a known and recommended brand. (You can see more reviews, including Chinese cookware that we like, in our Cookware Archives.)
Heating Properties (How Much Aluminum and/or Copper?)
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. For example, a half-millimeter layer of aluminum isn't going to heat as evenly as a full millimeter layer.
Low-cost brands of clad cookware almost always 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 colored) 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 small, so the performance is close; but the aluminum layer is thinner in these brands than in the All-Clad.
How thick is thick enough? 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, without being bulky and hard to handle.
Anything thicker 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 and 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).
What about Copper Core? 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 provides. It has a 0.9mm layer of copper sandwiched between two thin layers of aluminum, just over half of the 1.7mm of aluminum in D3. This, along with its thin layers of aluminum, gives it very good heating properties: better than All Clad D3 (although not by a lot).
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. (All All-Clad clad cookware has stainless lids, including Copper Core.)
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.
Good cookware should have handles made of a durable material like stainless, cast iron, or bronze. Plastic and silicone handles wear out long before the pans themselves do. Helper handles on the heavier pieces are nice, too.
Copper Core handles are stainless and U-shaped, with a groove in the top so you can stabilize the 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). You can see that it's also slightly thicker than the D3 handle (shown above):
All-Clad handles get a lot of hate, but we like them. That groove makes them amazingly easy to hang onto.
Curved vs. straight rims may be a minor concern for most people, but a curved rim is nice for pouring. All Copper Core 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, find it easy to use or a real 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 All-Clad sauce pans. They're wide and shallow (but not too shallow), with vertical sides to facilitate stirring, whisking, scraping, and washing. This is the most practical shape for pretty much any purpose.
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 8 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.
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:
What to Look for in Clad Cookware: The Bottom Line
The 3 important properties to look for in clad cookware are 1) Quality of steel used, 2) Heating properties (how thick is they layer of aluminum/copper?), and 3) A design you can live with.
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 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 (unlike nonstick 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 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 Compare to Other Brands of 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 literally a fraction of the cost of All-Clad. A few brands are comparable (Cuisinart Multiclad-Pro and Tramontina Tri-Ply Clad), a few are comparable or better (Demeyere, Hammer Stahl), and most are not as good.
Most of these knockoffs were made to compete with All Clad's core product, D3, their tri-ply cookware. So a comparison isn't really fair. So yes, Copper Core is going to outperform most All-Clad knockoffs. But in some cases, not by a lot: it will heat faster and more evenly, but being so close in configuration to D3, these improvements will be slight, and possibly not all that noticeable in daily use.
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 significantly less copper in it than Copper Core). Calphalon AccuCore is a 5-ply clad with a copper core, but these pans are far too thin to come close to Copper Core performance. Demeyere Atlantis (see our review here) has an interior layer of copper and silver totaling 2mm, plus it contains so much more aluminum (around 75% more than D3) that Demeyere performance is in a different class (closer to traditional copper cookware--discussed below).
In our experience, any brand not charging a premium price is not likely to contain enough copper to affect heating performance. In fact, some "copper" cookware may not contain any copper at all; it's just copper colored (we name a few of these below).
Another issue with low cost clad copper cookware is the cladding itself. Copper is a bit of a nightmare to bond to stainless steel. In fact, this is probably why Copper Core cookware contains two thin layers of aluminum: to help with the cladding process. Therefore, the quality of knockoff Copper Core can be iffy; much more iffy than knockoff tri-ply. Copper and stainless layers are prone to bubbling and separating, which is very, very bad, as it renders the cookware unusable.
So 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.
All of this is to say that Copper Core cookware is a premium brand, and overall, compares favorably with other brands of clad stainless cookware. A few of the brands that compete well with D3 tri-ply are, similarly, almost as good as Copper Core, too--and if you want to save a few bucks, you can probably find a less expensive brand of clad cookware that is almost as good as Copper Core (though not nearly as pretty).
Copper Core Vs. Other Clad Stainless Cookware: The Bottom Line
Most clad stainless brands are All-Clad D3 knockoffs, and not meant to compete with Copper Core, which will give you better performance than, say, Tramontina or Cuisinart Multiclad Pro, though the performance of these less expensive cookware brands will be surprisingly close to D3 (and thus to Copper Core). You can save some money by going with one of these brands (or with All-Clad D3). You'll sacrifice some evenness and some responsiveness, but many home cooks aren't going to notice the difference.
We recommend that you do NOT buy a Copper Core knockoff because copper cladding is a difficult process that a lot of cheaper products may not get right. Demeyere Atlantis is a good brand, but in a different class than Copper Core, being closer in performance to traditional copper cookware (and also in that price range).
How Does 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.
Pro 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 also expensive and hard to maintain. It requires regular polishing to keep its gorgeous luster (though it performs just as well whether you polish it or not).
Unlike most clad stainless brands, reputable copper brands state clearly how much copper content is in their cookware. (This is important knowledge, as the Julia Child example above illustrates.) 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_ (the letter following the number indicates the handle construction: stainless, bronze, or cast iron).
All Clad Copper Core cookware is marketed to a different audience than copper cookware: the clad stainless audience. The copper layer in it is only 0.9mm thick, which is significantly thinner than a "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. 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, so a lot of people just don't think to ask about it.)
In fact, to find out how much copper Copper Core cookware actually contained, we had to cut a pan open and measure it.
Even though Copper Core doesn't provide a "real" copper cookware experience, it's still very nice 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.
Just remember: Copper Core is closer in performance to All Clad D3 than it is to Mauviel or Falk. If you think of it as really nice, top-performing tri-ply stainless and not as a substitute for Mauviel, you've got the right idea.
What About Inexpensive copper cookware? Here there's really no comparison: All Clad Copper Core is the superior cookware.
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).
Copper Core Vs Other Copper Cookware: The Bottom Line
All-Clad Copper Core doesn't contain enough copper to compete with high-end copper brands, but it has features that copper cookware doesn't have, like being dishwasher safe, induction compatible, and low maintenance. It's slightly better than All-Clad tri-ply, and much better than copper core knockoffs priced too good to be true.
If you think of Copper Core as really nice tri-ply rather than a substitute for copper cookware, you've got the right idea.
How Does Copper Core 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 here.
D3: Copper Core is closest in performance to tri-ply (aka 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 slightly more responsive and slightly more even heating. Responsiveness 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.
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. Since stainless is meant to make cookware more durable and has terrible heating properties, we do not recommend it.
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 outperform Copper Core, having about 2.5 times as much aluminum as Copper Core has copper. MC2 and LTD2 are All-Clad's lowest priced lines as well as its best performers. But they aren't induction compatible or dishwasher safe--the drawbacks of aluminum. If you want great performance at a good price and don't care about induction compatibility, both MC2 and LTD2 are your best options.
Thomas Keller: Thomas Keller is a mix of D3, D5, and Copper Core pieces with different design. So compare to D3, D5, or itself, depending on the piece.
D7: D7 is a different animal meant for different tasks. D7 has 7 alternating layers of aluminum and stainless steel. All of these layers are meant to provide mass, so D7 is better compared to cast iron, enameled cast iron, and Demeyere Atlantis. That is, D7 responds slowly to heat changes, which is what you want when searing a steak or deep frying. Copper Core responds quickly to heat changes, making it good for many all-around cooking tasks (but not searing or deep frying).
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 thus would not appeal to many clad stainless users). It's also very 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. If you want the "real" copper experience, go with C4 (or Mauviel, which tells you exactly what you're buying). If you want nimble and lightweight clad cookware, go with Copper Core.
Copper Core Vs. Other All-Clad Cookware: The Bottom Line
Copper Core is one of All-Clad's most expensive lines. It outperforms D3, but not by a lot, and isn't quite as good as MC2 or LTD2. It beats the heck out of D5 and is in a different category than D7 and C4.
If you can afford it, it's good quality and beautiful cookware. But if you're on a budget, we suggest D3 for induction, MC2 or LTD2 for non-induction, or one of the Chinese All-Clad D3 knockoffs we like.
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.
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).
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 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 (3-5qt).
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.
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 sets in detail below in the Buying Options: Copper Core Sets section below.
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 discoloration from cooking as a major fault.
It's true that 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. 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 beside-the-point 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--although the global marketplace of the Internet has surprisingly comparable prices wherever you choose to buy.
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 premium retailers.
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.
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, and you'll probably have to augment with individual purchases at some point (e.g., a roasting pan).
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 (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--though you won't find any special deals there like you can on kitchen product sites.
Copper Core Buying Options
Again: 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 (or avoid a set altogether).
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/frying pan 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 sauté 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; the pan simply lacks the mass to hang onto heat well. 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.
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 or may not 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 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, 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 3-5 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 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 and 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 does not have sloped sides and is more like a sauté pan with two short handles. Thus, you could use it as a sauté 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 sauté 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 small (5 qt) stock pot, but most don't need both. 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.
Also consider: If you're going to use a Dutch oven for braising (which is what most people use them for), we recommend getting one with a heavier lid (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.
We also prefer the straighter-sided shape of the le Creuset, but that is largely personal preference.
All-Clad Copper Core Dutch oven:
Stock Pot (8 Quarts)
The truth is, you really don't need Copper Core performance for stock pot 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 above--unless you'll be making small meals exclusively, in which case the smaller Dutch oven is the better 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, 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.
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 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 (less evaporation). 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 great 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 with a heavy lid that holds heat really well and prohibits evaporation, like a le Creuset Dutch oven. 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 needs, it will work just fine.
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?). Although we prefer a bit more floor space for pan searing.
If you've already got sauce pans and sauté 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: All Clad Copper Core Cookware Sets
We put the All Clad Copper Core 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 sauté type pan (including sauiers, chef's pans, 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.
Once again: Be sure to note in particular the sizes of the skillets and sauce 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 the 12-inch skillet 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: you can use a 12-inch for everything you can use a 10-inch for, but you can't go the other way. Thus, we find the 12-inch pan the more versatile size.
Also remember that you can get a larger sauté pan, too, to augment your set: a 5- or 6-quart sauté is roughly equivalent to a 12-inch skillet (with straight, slightly deeper sides). Bonus: the lid that comes with is likely to fit a skillet or two (which don't come with lids).
7 Piece Copper Core Set
The 8 qt. stock pot is great, 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 or a 6-quart sauté pan if you'll be cooking for more than 2-3 of people. And as with the 7- pc. set, the 8qt stock pot is great for stock making, soups, and pasta, but it's too big to double as a Dutch oven or roaster.
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 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). 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 large skillets 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.
It's great clad stainless cookware, but it's not a substitute for "real" copper cookware such as Mauviel Heritage 250. It's also one of All-Clad's most expensive lines of cookware, and while it's responsive and even-heating, it's not a huge jump in performance over D3, and may not justify the higher price tag.
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 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.