Is All-Clad worth it?
All-Clad is the original clad stainless cookware: the founder of the company invented the cladding process. All of its clad cookware lines are still made in the USA, and it is the industry standard for clad cookware. Few people would argue that it's high quality stuff.
But is it really worth the high price tag?
When most people think of All-Clad, they think of All-Clad D3, their tri-ply stainless cookware line with an aluminum core. But All-Clad actually makes several lines of cookware. In addition to D3, they make Master Chef (MC2), LTD, Copper Core, D5, D7, hard-anodized nonstick (HA1/NS1), Thomas Keller, and their newest line, C4, a gorgeous-but-expensive 4-ply copper cookware line. Thomas Keller and C4 are exclusive to Williams-Sonoma.
In this review, we look at all the All-Clad cookware lines in detail, from who the company is to a review of every line on the market as of late 2019. You will learn everything you need to know to make the right cookware buying decision--even if it is to not buy All-Clad.
If you don't want to read the whole review, use the table of contents to skip to the sections you want to read:
We want to be clear here: not all of All-Clad's cookware lines are a smart purchase. Yes, they are all high quality, and yes, they are all well made, durable, and good performers. But some lines are just too overpriced to be considered a good buy.
Find out which lines we recommend, and which ones we don't--and why--in the reviews below.
Price Tables: Comparing the All-Clad Cookware Lines
Here are the approximate prices of the sets and individual skillets.
These prices are approximate and subject to change. This table is meant to help you compare the price points of the different All-Clad lines, not to give exact prices.
Where cookware wasn't available in the standard configurations, we noted the differences. For example, Thomas Keller skillets are only available by piece in a nonstick finish, while if you buy the set, the skillets are not nonstick.
All-Clad Line Price Comparison and Recommendations
$ 5/7/10 Pc Set
$ 8"/10"/12" Skillet
$500/800 (7/10 pc)
$340/400/600 (8/10/13 pc)
$60 for 2 pc 8" and 10"'
$100 for 2 pc 10" and 12"
$1000/1600 (7/11 pc)
$ 800/1500 (5/10 pc)
* We recommend buying nonstick skillets but not an entire set of nonstick cookware.
All-Clad: A Brief History of the Company
This is the story of All-Clad, very much abbreviated.
All-Clad was founded in 1971 by metallurgist John Ulam, the man who invented the cladding process. At the time, most cookware was aluminum, which was cheap, abundant, and spread heat evenly and quickly. However, aluminum isn't very durable, scratching and warping easily, and it reacts with certain foods, imparting an off-taste (as well as possible health hazards).
Stainless steel was also cheap and abundant, as well as durable and non-reactive. But because of its terrible heating properties, nobody considered making cookware out of it.
Ulam developed an aluminum pan with a stainless cooking surface, which solved these problems. All-Clad was born. All-Clad cookware review
At first, Ulam used leftover metals and gave pans away to his friends. Then he began selling at fairs and trade shows. When a representative from Bloomingdale's fell in love with his pans, the company took off.
Over the years, All-Clad has changed hands a few times. Today, it's owned by the French kitchenware conglomerate Groupe SEB since 2004. Groupe SEB owns several well-known American brands, including T-fal, Wearever, and Mirro.
Groupe SEB, as well as previous owners, considered moving their clad stainless production over to China to save costs, but were reluctant to relinquish the "Made in USA" brand. Today, All-Clad clad cookware is still manufactured in the US.
As competition grows and other brands make cookware overseas that's almost as good for a fraction of the cost, this may change--but for now, all of All-Clad's clad cookware is made in the US.
All-Clad's Overseas Products
All-Clad also makes electronics and cooking utensils. While many of All-Clad's products get great reviews and all are good quality, all of All-Clad's products, except for their clad cookware, is made in China.
This includes their HA1/NS1/B1 cast aluminum nonstick cookware, which is also made in China.
Patents and Competition
All-Clad's patents for their hugely popular two-ply (Master Chef) and tri-ply (D3) cookware expired in the early 2000s. To combat the competition that was sure to follow--and boy, did it!--All-Clad came out with new lines of cookware, including 5-ply (D5), 7-ply (D7), a few iterations of copper cookware, and some other creative designs, each with varying degrees of success. With its innovative lines, as well as customers still willing to pay a premium for their top-end tri-ply product, All-Clad has managed to stay competitive and successful in today's cookware market.
All-Clad's D3 line (tri-ply) remains its most popular line, despite substantial competition in the marketplace. This is a testament to the quality and durability synonymous with the All-Clad brand.
We list all of All-Clad's current cookware offerings (as of late 2018) in the table above, and review each of them in detail below. But before we get to that, let's talk a little more about clad cookware in general.
What Is Cladding?
Cladding, according to Wikipedia, is simply "the bonding together of dissimilar metals."
As simple as this sounds, the cladding process itself is difficult to do well. Dissimilar metals bond together only under intense pressure. And even then, not all metals bond to each other easily. Copper, for example, is notoriously difficult to bond to stainless steel. And only certain alloys of aluminum and copper will work for bonding to stainless steel at all.
Also, a great deal of heavy machinery is required to make clad cookware. This adds to the expense, as well.
Cladding combines the durability of stainless steel with the great heating properties of aluminum, copper, or both. Clad stainless cookware is the most durable and versatile cookware on the market today, and is hugely popular among home cooks. A good brand of clad stainless cookware provides rapid, even heating and durability that will make it last for decades.
All-Clad makes several types of clad cookware including 2-ply, 3-ply, and 5-ply aluminum/stainless, 5-ply copper/aluminum/stainless, and 4-ply copper/aluminum. We discuss more about each in the detailed reviews below.
Why Is All-Clad More Expensive than Other Cookware?
When All-Clad's patents expired in the early 2000s, several other makers got in on the clad cookware market. Today, there are hundreds--maybe thousands--of clad stainless cookware brands to choose from. Some are made in the USA, a few are made in Europe, and the vast majority of them are made in China.
(Here's a helpful hint: If it isn't readily apparent where cookware is made, it's probably made in China. This doesn't automatically mean it's poor quality, but you should steer clear of Chinese-made cookware that isn't familiar to you--keep reading to understand why.)
Manufacturers of clad cookware are always looking for ways to cut expenses, so the quality can sometimes be poor. Demeyere, a Belgian-made cookware, is every bit as good as All-Clad (better, in fact--it's our top pick for high-end cookware). Cuisinart Multiclad Pro and Tramontina Tri-Ply Clad give All-Clad tri-ply a run for its money as well. All-Clad cookware review
In any case, All-Clad is the industry standard against which every other brand is measured. Everybody is trying to produce All-Clad quality cookware for less (except for the few makers who went in the other direction and make better-than-All-Clad cookware, like Demeyere).
Here are some of the ways manufacturers cut costs:
- Using thinner layers of stainless and aluminum (resulting in cookware that performs poorly and is more prone to warping)
- Using poor-quality alloys (resulting in cookware more prone to rusting, pitting, and separating, as well as poor performance)
- Using a less-then-optimal cladding process (making cookware prone to separating and bubbling, which renders it useless)
- Using glass lids, silicone handles, and other cheap finishing materials (glass lids and non-stainless handles almost always indicate lower quality cookware)
- Not properly polishing the final product (causing the cookware to have a stickier and harder-to-clean surface that's probably going to wear faster)
- Poor (or no) quality control, resulting in cookware with some or all of the above flaws
- Bottom (or "disc") cladding only: some cookware only has the heat-spreading aluminum on the bottom, while the sides are stainless. It's cheaper to make, and in some cases it's fine cookware. But if a price seems extraordinarily low and you can't figure out why, it may because it's bottom-clad only (like this set from Duxtop).
You can tell bottom clad cookware because the bottom cladding looks like it's "attached" to the pan (which it is):
When you buy an unknown or unproven brand of clad stainless, you are risking all of these problems. You may get lucky, and get a decent product--or you may not. Which is why you should stick to tried-and-true brands--especially if the cookware is made overseas.
Having said all of that, All-Clad is also more expensive because of its aggressive marketing and American labor costs. Even so, All-Clad remains one of the top quality clad cookware brands on the market.
No Chinese-made clad cookware will offer the same heating properties or high quality of All-Clad (although a few brands come close).
How to Buy Cookware: The 6 Attributes of Great Cookware
To understand why clad cookware is the optimal choice for most cooking tasks, it's helpful to understand the attributes that make cookware great at what it does. Here at The Rational Kitchen, we break this down into 6 categories: Heating properties, durability, stability, ease of care, design (i.e., usability and aesthetics), and value (i.e., cost).
If you understand these basic attributes, you will have the info you need to weigh one line of cookware against another and determine which is the best cookware for you.
In the reviews below, we examine these attributes for each line of All-Clad cookware.
1. Heating Properties (Thermal Conductivity and Heat Capacity)
Heating properties are the most important aspect of cookware. After all, that's what cookware is for, right? Heating (cooking) your food?
What are good heating properties? You want heat to spread evenly and rapidly throughout a pan, without hot or cold spots that can cause burning or uneven cooking.
A material's ability to spread heat is called its thermal conductivity. Copper and aluminum have the best thermal conductivity of all cookware materials, meaning they provide rapid, even heating. Copper has about twice the thermal conductivity of aluminum, although since different manufacturers use different alloys, this is approximate. Essentially, it means that you need about half as much copper as aluminum to get similar results. (Example: A 2mm layer of aluminum roughly equals a 1mm layer of copper.) All-Clad cookware review
You may also want a pan to hold onto heat for a long time, such as if you're pan searing a steak and don't want the temperature to crash when you drop the steak into the smoking hot pan. A material's ability to hang onto heat is called its heat capacity.
Different materials have different heat capacities, with cast iron having one of the highest (hangs onto heat for a long time) and copper having one of the lowest (responds to temperature changes very quickly).
Heat capacity is also affected by mass. That is, the thicker and heavier the pan, the better it will hold onto heat, regardless of the material.
This is why cast iron is an excellent choice for searing steaks, frying chicken, and other tasks that require a high heat capacity: cast iron itself hangs onto heat very well, and its mass increases this ability.
The same is true for clad stainless: the heavier and thicker a clad stainless pan is, the higher its heat capacity is going to be, regardless of the type of cladding. This is why All-Clad's le Creuset competitor, D7, has 7 layers of cladding and weighs almost as much as cast iron--the mass adds to the pan's ability to hang onto heat, even though it's aluminum and stainless (and not cast iron). So it will have a higher heat capacity than thinner clad stainless cookware, though not as high as a cast iron pan of similar mass.
Of the two properties, thermal conductivity is usually considered the more important one because rapid, even heating is crucial to good performance, while heat capacity is only important in certain situations (e.g., searing and deep frying).
In fact, a good heat capacity is kind of a by-product of cookware with good thermal conductivity, because a pan with enough aluminum or copper (or both) to heat evenly is also going to have enough mass to hang onto heat fairly well.
(Remember that a clad stainless pan needs approximately 2mm of aluminum or 1mm of copper to have a good thermal conductivity rating. If a pan is too thin it might heat quickly, but it won't heat evenly; it will have hot and cold spots where the aluminum/copper is too thin to conduct heat. The number one issue with cheap cookware is that it's too thin to heat evenly. This is true whether clad stainless, aluminum, or even copper.)
So when shopping for general-use cookware, you're looking for a balance between good thermal conductivity--fast and even heating--and enough mass to provide adequate heat capacity. But which is more important is really a personal preference.
All cookware is a trade-off between thermal conductivity and heat capacity. Heavy clad stainless cookware--Demeyere Atlantis, All-Clad D7, for example--will heat evenly and hang onto heat well, but the greater mass will cause them to heat up more slowly. Cast iron will hang onto heat well, but it will heat slowly and unevenly.
All-Clad D3 (as well as several other All-Clad lines) is good cookware because it offers the best of both worlds: it's lightweight and easy to handle, yet it has good thermal conductivity, meaning it will heat rapidly and evenly, and its lighter weight keeps it responsive and easy to handle--but it won't hang onto heat as well as a heavier pan.
This is what most people prefer, largely because of the lighter weight and greater maneuverability: If you can only afford one skillet, an All-Clad D3 clad stainless skillet is one of the most versatile you'll find.
You might think that high-end copper cookware (like Mauviel) will have a poor heat capacity, but even their less expensive line has enough copper for good heat capacity: that is, it's heavy enough to hang onto heat fairly well.
Cast aluminum cookware is usually thick enough, at 3mm or more, to provide excellent thermal conductivity and decent heat capacity. Thinner, stamped aluminum (like this T-fal skillet) is thinner, and can have mediocre conductivity (i.e., it may have hot and cold spots), as well as terrible heat capacity.
There's a lot more to heating properties than this (here's an excellent article, with more details than you could ever want), but these are the main ideas: thermal conductivity and, to a lesser degree heat capacity, determine how well a pan will cook your food.
Can you begin to see here what you're paying for when you buy cookware?
Thermal conductivity is a measure of how fast and evenly a pan heats, while heat capacity is a measure of how well a pan hangs onto heat. Aluminum and copper provide the best thermal conductivity, while heavy pans of all materials (especially cast iron) have good heat capacity. All cookware is a trade-off, with All-Clad D3 clad cookware being some of the best all-around cookware because it's heavy enough to have good heating properties, but light enough to be easy to handle.
The second most important attribute of cookware is durability. When you're investing a small fortune in high quality cookware, durability should be a major consideration.
Clad stainless is one of the most durable types of cookware in existence.
In fact, cladding came into existence as an attempt to marry the two most important cookware properties, heating properties and durability.
Stainless steel is an extremely durable material. Most clad cookware comes with a lifetime warranty, including All-Clad. You may even pass it down to your children.
Not only that, but when you buy products that last for decades, you are not contributing to our landfill problem. We at Rational Kitchen are huge advocates of long-term use products, even though they generally cost more up front. All-Clad cookware review
(In fact, when you buy clad stainless cookware, you can rest assured that all the materials in it are recyclable. This is not the case for many other types of cookware, including "green" ceramic cookware and nonstick cookware, which are not recyclable.)
The only material more durable than stainless steel is cast iron--and that has a number of drawbacks, such as reactivity (it reacts with acidic foods and it rusts), bulkiness, and uneven heating. Clad stainless cookware has none of these drawbacks. All-Clad cookware review
For durability, clad stainless is hard to beat.
Clad stainless is extremely durable cookware, and a good brand will last a lifetime and may even get passed on to the next generation. This makes the cost-per-year small, no matter how much you spend on it.
3. Stability (Lack of Reactivity)
Stability refers to how reactive the cookware is. Will material in the cookware react with foods and affect flavor? Will it leach into foods? Will it rust?
Cast iron is not good for use with acidic foods because the acid dissolves the iron and it gets in your food; this is not unsafe because the human body needs iron, but it can impart a metallic flavor and ruin your dish.
Aluminum, which is a rather soft metal, will also leach into foods over time, and there is some evidence that aluminum is toxic to humans.
Copper will also react with acidic food and impart off flavors, which is why most copper cookware has a tin or stainless cooking surface. All-Clad cookware review
Stainless steel is one of the most stable cookware materials known to man. It doesn't react with any foods, it's hard so it doesn't scratch easily, and it is almost completely impervious to rusting and corrosion.
The only cookware that's less reactive than stainless is glass/ceramic, which has a number of other drawbacks (terrible thermal conductivity, for example).
Nickel and chromium leaching: Stainless steel cookware has been known to leach tiny amounts of nickel and chromium into food, but the evidence on this is mixed. Some studies have found that stainless cookware sheds nickel and chromium, and some studies have found that it does not.
However, no studies have found that this leaching occurs in unsafe amounts. In fact, according to this study, you are probably going to get more nickel and chromium from your food than you are from your stainless cookware.
If you have a nickel sensitivity, you may want to avoid clad stainless cookware, or buy a nickel-free brand (although stainless without nickel is more prone to rusting and corrosion). If you've had symptoms of nickel sensitivity--usually dermatitis--not using clad stainless cookware may help.
Clad stainless is very stable cookware. It doesn't react with any foods, leech into foods, or rust. This makes it both 1) safe and 2) low maintenance.
4. Ease of Care
On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the easiest to care for, clad stainless cookware is probably a 3.
If Ease of Care were the only factor, though, we'd all have nonstick cookware, because it's the easiest cookware to wash. Unfortunately, nonstick cookware is fragile, so it doesn't make good everyday cookware. You have to use low heat, plastic or wooden utensils, gentle scrubbers, etc. And this is true even if manufacturers claim you can do otherwise--if you want your nonstick cookware to last as long as possible, you will baby it.
For more information, see our article The Best Nonstick Frying Pan: Everything You Need to Know Before You Buy.
Cast iron is also fairly easy to care for, once it's properly seasoned (a simple process), making it a 3-4 on the ease of care scale. However, cast iron also has drawbacks that make it less than optimal cookware (bulky, uneven heating). Cast iron is ideal for some things, like searing a steak, but most people find it too heavy for all-purpose cookware.
Copper is a pain to maintain, making it a 1 on the Ease of Care scale. It requires polishing to keep its gorgeous patina--so unless you have a staff of servants to do this dirty work, who wants to that? (Copper cookware's isn't affected by its patina, but why buy it if you're not going to keep it beautiful?)
This leaves clad stainless in the middle. But because of all of its other great properties, being a little on the sticky side is a decent price to pay for most people.
Interestingly, there are some interesting paths around the stickiness of stainless:
- Always heat oil in a stainless pan before adding the food. The hot oil creates a barrier that helps prevent food from sticking to the pan. Then let food release naturally before trying to stir or turn--this not only keeps the pan cleaner, it creates a delicious browned crust on the food.
- Season your stainless before using: yes, you can season stainless just like cast iron to make it an almost nonstick surface. Here's an article from Epicurious describing how to do that. (If it weren't Epicurious, we wouldn't have believed it--but it works.)
Stainless steel is not the easiest material to care for, but its other excellent features make it worth the extra effort. Also, there are ways to make stainless easier to clean: seasoning is one, and heating oil before adding food (which creates a barrier) is another.
5. Design (Usability and Aesthetics)
Design refers to usability as well as everything else that matters to you: Do the lids fit? Are they domed or flat? Are the handles easy to grip and maneuver? Do the larger pots have helper handles? Is the rim straight or curved? Is it as heavy as you want it to be (but not so heavy that you won't enjoy using it)?
Also: Is it pretty? Does it make you catch your breath a little bit when you look at it? Because let's be honest here, prettiness is a factor--and why shouldn't it be? Being aesthetically pleasing adds to functionality by making a product a pleasure to use. All-Clad cookware review
Many design features are personal preference: one person's ideal handle might be another person's potential carpal tunnel syndrome. One person might consider a curved lip a deal breaker, while another couldn't care less about it.
All good quality cookware is going to perform well and have functional design: easy-to-grip handles, stainless lids that fit snugly, etc. It's up to you to think about which features are important to you.
A word about glass lids: A lot of people like glass lids because they like the idea of looking into a pot without having to remove the lid. However, the durability of stainless makes them a much better lid. Stainless lids are also an indication that the cookware is higher all-around quality. Since steam often prevents seeing what's going on anyway, glass lids don't provide much of an advantage.
What makes cookware functional and beautiful is largely a personal preference, but all good quality cookware is going to be both pretty and highly usable. Put some thought into what features are important to you before buying to ensure you get what you want.
6. Value (Cost, Cost-Per-Year-of-Use, and Warranty)
The final attribute is the value of the cookware. By value, we mean more than just cost. Yes, initial cost is part of value, but so is cost-per-year-of-use. Value also has a subjective element to it, meaning if you love the cookware, you may be willing to pay a little more for it even if another set is just as good (or almost as good).
So when deciding on value, you should consider:
- Initial cost--Is it worth it to me? Can I afford it?
- Cost per year of use (e.g., if a $200 pan lasts 20 years, your cost-per-year of ownership is $10)--Even if it's more initially, will I save in the long run?
- Warranty: Most good quality clad stainless cookware has a lifetime warranty. This may add to the initial cost but if the manufacturer actually honors their warranties, it's well worth it.
You can see that clad stainless like All-Clad is very reasonably priced, as the cost-per-year-of-use is extremely small. (Example: If you spend $200 on a skillet and it lasts you for 20 years--a conservative number--that skillet costs you $10 per year of use. Compare that to cheap nonstick cookware, which you have to replace every few years. Which is the better value?)
As with many important purchases, you should buy the best cookware you can afford. Good quality cookware is a joy to use. It makes your kitchen time more fun. And even though it costs more up front, you are likely to save money in the long run because you won't have to replace it. (And if you do have to replace, the lifetime warranty ensures no cost to you.)
Buying the best you can afford doesn't mean you have to break the bank. In fact, the most expensive cookware isn't always the best. For example, copper cookware is usually at the top of the market, but as beautiful as it is and as great as it performs, it requires a lot of maintenance. Most people prefer stainless cookware, even if it isn't quite as good. All-Clad cookware review
In our opinion, some All-Clad is worth the expense and some isn't. But it is ultimately up to you to decide your kitchen budget and where you want to invest that money.
When buying cookware, you should consider the initial cost as well as the cost-per-year-of-use. All-Clad is a big initial expense, but lasts a lifetime, so its cost-per-year-of-use is actually lower than some less expensive brands.
If you do decide to buy All-Clad, some of it is worth the higher price and some isn't. You need to do your research to decide not only if you want to spend the money, but which line will provide the greatest value. Some of All-Clad's least expensive lines provide better performance than their higher-priced lines.
Summary Table of Cookware Attributes
Here's a summary table of attributes for the most common cookware materials. We leave out value because it varies too much from brand to brand.
See the above section for a discussion of each of these attributes.
Ease of Care
Clad Stainless w/Alum.
Where Is the Best Place to Buy Cookware?
The Internet isn't good for all buying, but when it comes to finding great deals on brand name products, it can be a stellar resource. Where else can you compare prices in a global marketplace?
Some people are concerned that buying online risks getting cheated, but this is actually a rare occurrence. If you buy from a reputable site like Amazon or a well-known kitchenware site like Williams-Sonoma, Sur la Table, or everythingkitchens.com, you're going to get what you pay for. And if for some reason you don't, these retailers will back their products and provide full refunds, and often some added incentive to buy from them again.
Also, you'll find that the prices are roughly the same on every.single.site. So it's nice to know that you'll be getting the best deal possible.
Thus, we are enthusiastic proponents of buying cookware online.
Amazon Vs. Kitchen Sites
While the prices will usually be the same, kitchen sites like Williams-Sonoma will often offer added value, like throwing in a free roasting pan with the purchase of a set. You might also run into a sale on a kitchen site that you won't find on Amazon.
Most of these sites also offer free shipping, at least for purchases over $50.
So even if you prefer buying from Amazon, you should check prices and deals on other sites.
It's also not smart to buy from the manufacturer's site (like All-Clad.com). These tend to have the highest prices anywhere.
Brand Name Cookware Vs. No Name Cookware
At least, all of this is true for brand name cookware. In addition to the popular and well-known names on Amazon (All-Clad, Cuisinart, Demeyere, Calphalon, Anolon, T-fal, KitchenAid, etc.), there are also a ton of other brands you may never have heard of. We're not going to say they're all bad, because they're not. However, if you stray from recognized names, it can be hard to know what you're getting.
We did an article of "micro-reviews" that covers many of the lesser-known brands on Amazon in Clad Stainless Cookware: 55 Microreviews to Help You Choose. If you want to explore other American-made brands or less expensive brands, this article has some good information.
About Online Reviews (And Other Research)
Positive reviews don't always tell the whole story. Most people review a product within a few days of receiving it, when they're still in the "honeymoon phase" with it--why do you think the sellers e-mail you asking for a review within a few days of purchase?
Then, when the negative qualities start to show through, few reviewers remember to update their review.
Add to that that many products--especially those without brand recognition--will use deceptive practices to garner positive reviews.
However, negative reviews can be equally unhelpful. For example, people often give clad stainless cookware negative reviews because they're accustomed to nonstick cookware and dislike the stickiness of stainless steel.
So you have to read positive and negative reviews carefully, and try to understand where people are coming from and if you can really trust their opinions.
For more information, see our article Can You Trust Amazon Reviews?
In addition to reading review, it's smart to do other research as well. Review sites like this one can be hugely helpful and informative, if you trust the site and that they're providing honest information.
Buying Cookware at a Kitchen Store
One of the worst places to buy cookware is at a mall. Although there is an advantage to trying the cookware in person, you are likely to pay the highest price seen anywhere. While websites are going to be competitive, the same brick-and-mortar stores can have higher prices. You have to be very careful if you don't want to spend too much.
Having said that, you can sometimes find clearance sales and other fantastic deals, both online and in brick-and-mortar kitchen stores. If you don't mind buying discontinued pieces, this can be a great way to get top quality name brands for a substantial discount.
All-Clad D3 (Tri-Ply) Review
Overall Rating: 4.1
Heating Properties: 4.0
Ease of Care: 3.0
Induction compatible: Yes
Dishwasher safe: Yes
Compare to: Cuisinart MultiClad Pro (see it on Amazon)
When people hear the name "All-Clad," this is the line they usually think of: the tri-ply, whose official name is "D3." Long All-Clad's most popular line, D3 is two layers of stainless sandwiched around a layer of 1.7mm layer of heat-spreading aluminum. The entire width is 2.6mm, providing enough mass to have good heat retention but not so heavy that they're hard to handle. A
D3 also comes in two other configurations:
- D3 Armor (skillets and sauté pans only): A waffled cooking surface that's supposed to be nonstick. We do not recommend this pan, as the waffled surface does very little to make the pan nonstick, but does make it harder to clean:
- D3 Compact: Squatter design for easy storage, otherwise the same as regular D3:
D3 Heating Properties
D3's 1.7mm of aluminum is pretty much the industry standard against which all other tri-ply cookware is measured. It's not the best-performing cookware out there; the Demeyere Proline skillet has 3.7mm of aluminum (yes, more than twice as much), and Demeyere Industry 5 has 2.1mm of aluminum. Thus, Demeyere performs better than All-Clad tri-ply (actually, better than all the A/C lines, with the possible exception of Master Chef and LTD). However, all Demeyere is considerably heavier cookware, and it's also more expensive than All-Clad.
So that's the payoff of All-Clad: it's almost a perfect balance of performance, durability, and lightweight maneuverability. All-Clad cookware review
Like all stainless cookware, D3 ranks highly in this category--that is, it's stable, non-reactive cookware.
Also like all stainless cookware, D3 ranks highly in this category. It also has durable, riveted handles and stainless lids that will last as long as the pans themselves.
D3 Ease of Care
While all stainless cookware can be sticky, having a highly polished finish makes a difference. D3 has a super high quality polished finish, so it's less sticky and easier to care for than some less expensive clad stainless cookware. The finish is one place that cheaper brands cut corners, so with D3, you know you're getting the best finish around.
Overall, D3 design is good: it's clean and simple and easy to use. Larger pieces have helper handles, which add to maneuverability.
Handles: Some people dislike the handles on the D3 line (and some other All-Clad lines too). They say they dig into their hands. However, the U-shaped design is meant as a groove for your thumb, which helps to stabilize the pan:
It's all what you're used to, but we do not find these handles to be uncomfortable in the least. In fact, we prefer them even to the Demeyere handles, which are too short and don't provide an easy way to stabilize a full pan.
Some people also prefer a lip on their saucepans, which D3 does not have; only the skillets have a lip:
The lids fit somewhat loosely, but they're heavy, so they create a good seal when it's needed. Being stainless, they're durable and can withstand oven heat.
D3 pans can go on the stovetop, in the oven up to about 600F (including lids), and in the dishwasher (although we recommend hand washing for best results). The versatility and usability is as good as any cookware on the market.
All-Clad D3 is a good value. You get fantastic heating, durability, and design for a reasonable price. Yes, it's more than other brands of clad cookware, but the quality is hard to beat. And with a lifetime warranty, your cost-per-year-of-use is low; even lower than cheaper cookware you have to replace every few years.
D3 is the second-most reasonably priced line of All-Clad cookware, after Master Chef. All-Clad cookware review
- Great, versatile all-around cookware by every measure.
- No lips on the sauce pans, which makes pouring a little more difficult
- Some people don't like the handles
- Expensive, especially compared to Cuisinart MultiClad Pro or Tramontina, both of which offer similar performance--though not quite as good--for a less money.
For general purpose cookware that's easy to handle and provides great performance, it's hard to beat All-Clad D3. If you can afford it, the D3 tri-ply is excellent cookware, especially considering that the price-per-year-of-use is going to be very low.
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All-Clad Master Chef 2 Review
Overall Rating: 3.8
Heating Properties: 4.0
Ease of Care: 2.5
Induction compatible: No
Dishwasher safe: No
Master Chef 2 (or MC2) is one of All-Clad's original lines, and still one of their very best. It's a thick layer of aluminum with a stainless cooking surface and a brushed exterior finish. Because it doesn't have an outer layer of magnetic stainless steel, MC2 is not induction compatible. All-Clad cookware review
The name "Master Chef 2" does not refer to the two-ply design. Rather, the Master Chef line was re-designed a few years ago with different handles and a few other small differences--this is the second generation of Master Chef.
Technically, MC2 is 3-ply, as the out layer of brushed aluminum is considered a different layer than the internal aluminum layer. But all that aluminum makes for some really excellent heating properties:
Master Chef is All-Clad's most economical line of cookware, and the thick aluminum layer(s) provide heating properties superior to the thinner aluminum in D3. So if you want excellent heating and don't mind that the cookware isn't induction compatible, MC2 is the best All-Clad option.
MC2 Heating Properties
Whether you think of the aluminum as one layer or two, it adds up to a lot of aluminum. Master Chef has 3mm of rapid-heating, even-spreading aluminum. Yes: this is almost twice as much as D3's 1.7mm layer of aluminum.
This means that Master Chef is going to perform better than the more popular D3. It is also better than D5 and possible even Copper Core. In fact, Master Chef is one of the best-performing clad cookware products on the market.
Master Chef cookware is quite durable--it's just that the brushed aluminum exterior scratches easily. It can also discolor from harsh detergents (which is why it's not dishwasher safe). So the durability issue is more about appearance than performance. All-Clad cookware review
As great as these pans perform, they just don't stay looking new for very long. The brushed exterior camouflages scratches to some degree, but it's not going to stay shiny and pretty like a clad stainless exterior will.
If you care about appearance, this is not the cookware for you. If you care about excellent performance more than appearance (and don't need induction compatibility), MC2 is an excellent option.
The stainless cooking surface is very stable, like all All-Clad products, and won't react with food. However, the exterior of the Master Chef cookware, being aluminum, is reactive.
This won't affect your food, of course, but it does (as we already mentioned) affect the cookware's appearance.
If you don't mind the lived-in look (and don't need induction compatibility), this is really excellent, top notch, and stable cookware.
MC2 Ease of Care
MC2 pans are not dishwasher safe--again, because the harsh detergents used in a dishwasher will discolor the aluminum exterior. So we deduct another half point from 3.0, the average score we give clad stainless cookware.
Of course, we don't recommend dishwashing any good quality cookware, so this is a little harsh. But if you want cookware you can toss in the dishwasher, MC2 isn't it.
The MC2 lines are designed very much like the D3. The handles, lids, and lips are the same. They can go into a 500F oven (lids included). They're lightweight and easy to handle, and really great all-around pans.
You may not like the brushed aluminum exterior, but this doesn't affect MC2's usability, so we didn't deduct for it.
We take a point off because MC2 is not induction compatible. But if that doesn't matter to you, then give this 4 stars.
MC2 is All-Clad's least expensive line while providing excellent heating properties and usability. It's really great general purpose cookware, and its cost-per-year-of-use is as low as All-Clad clad cookware gets.
- Excellent heating properties (3mm aluminum)
- Lowest priced of all the All-Clad lines.
- Not induction compatible
- Not dishwasher safe
- Aluminum exterior scratches and discolors easily.
If you don't care too much about scratches, don't need induction compatibility, and don't mind hand-washing your cookware (and we recommend hand-washing for all stainless cookware), Master Chef 2 provides excellent performance at a good price. Highly recommended if you're looking for a great deal on All-Clad.
Most kitchen stores no longer carry Master Chef, but you can find great deals on Amazon.
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All-Clad LTD2 Review
Overall Rating: 3.8
Heating Properties: 4.0
Ease of Care: 2.5
Induction compatible: No
Dishwasher safe: No
Compare to: All-Clad MC2 (see it on Amazon)
LTD is essentially All Clad Master Chef with a hard-anodized aluminum exterior. LTD stands for "Limited" and was All-Clad's solution for the easily scratched, easily discolored exterior of MC2. Instead of brushed aluminum, the exterior is hard-anodized aluminum. Anodization is a process that "bakes" a tough skin onto the aluminum, rendering it more durable, yet retaining its excellent heating properties.
This finish is a lot more durable than brushed aluminum; in fact, it's as durable as stainless. The only problem is the matte finish created by anodizing: it's not shiny and pretty, and a lot of people prefer shinier, just-as-durable stainless steel.
However, with 3mm of aluminum and the durability of stainless, LTD is one of the best performing and best all-around All-Clad lines.
LTD Prices can be all over the place. You can find some pieces at a cost similar to MC2 and D3, and some more. You really have to shop around and pay attention to find the best price on LTD2, but you can find great deals on it.
LTD was redesigned a few years ago with new handles and a few other minor changes, which is why it's now called LTD2. If you can find a set of old LTD on clearance, it's well worth a clearance price, as the performance and durability will be identical to the newer LTD2.
LTD Heating Properties
With its 3mm of aluminum, LTD2 is going to provide excellent heating properties--equal to MC2 and better than D3, D5 and D7. 3mm of aluminum is enough to spread heat faster and more evenly than most other clad cookware on the market. All-Clad cookware review
The anodized aluminum finish is as durable as stainless steel. The dark color and matte finish isn't for everybody, but if it appeals to you, this is some of the toughest cookware on the market.
With its stainless cooking surface and tough anodized exterior, LTD is extremely stable cookware. The exterior will discolor under certain conditions--don't ever put it in the dishwasher!--but even if it does, the performance isn't affected.
LTD Ease of Care
The stainless cooking surface gets a 3 stars because it's not as easy to care for as nonstick. We deduct half a point because LTD2 is not dishwasher safe or induction compatible. Putting LTD2 in the dishwasher will corrode and discolor the finish--you may be tempted to try, but don't. Dishwashers and aluminum are not a good mix.
If you don't care about induction or throwing the cookware in the dishwasher, add a point.
If LTD2 were induction compatible, it would get at 4 stars.
Its upgraded handles are great, especially if you dislike the grooved handles of other A-C lines:
It's oven safe up to 600F. The stainless lids fit well. All the pans on the newest version, LTD2, have lips for easy pouring. (Older versions have un-lipped sauce pans and lipped skillets, similar to D3.)
All around great usability.
Unfortunately, we deduct half a point because LTD2 isn't induction compatible and it isn't dishwasher safe. But if those issues don't concern you, this cookware gets a solid 4.0-4.5 rating.
All-Clad LTD is MC2 with a tougher exterior. It's priced rather oddly, with some pieces being more than both MC2 and D3, and some pieces being less. As of this writing, the 10 piece set is actually cheaper than the Master Chef.
With the LTD prices being kind of all over the place, we give an average rating for value. Though you might get lucky and find a great deal--be sure to shop around if you're interested in this cookware.
- Superb heating properties (3mm aluminum)
- As durable as stainless.
- Not induction compatible
- Not dishwasher safe
- Matte finish is considered unattractive by some
- Pricing can be all over the place (be sure to compare before buying).
LTD is durable cookware with superb heating properties. But it's not dishwasher safe or induction compatible, and it can be more expensive than D3. If you find it for a good price--the same or less than D3--and don't mind its drawbacks, it's excellent cookware--but we don't recommend paying more than D3 for it.
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All-Clad Copper Core Review
Overall Rating: 3.8
Heating Properties: 4.25
Ease of Care: 3.0
Induction compatible: Yes
Dishwasher safe: Yes
Copper cookware is some of the most expensive cookware on the market. And with good reason, because copper is the Ferrari of cookware: it's lightweight, it's responsive, and it's very, very pretty.
Unfortunately, copper is also kind of a pain to keep looking beautiful. (Check out this tutorial from Mauviel.) Copper oxidizes easily, losing its luster and turning a dull brown without regular maintenance. This doesn't affect its performance at all, but most people love the appearance of copper as much as they love using it. To keep its luster, copper has to be polished a few times a year--more if you're finicky about it.
Copper Core has solved that problem for copper lovers by placing the copper inside the stainless. The small band of copper that shows makes the cookware beautiful, but doesn't detract much from the appearance when it dulls.
Copper Core is one of All-Clad's most popular lines. It's beautiful and it provides really good performance. It's also one of All-Clad's most expensive lines. All-Clad cookware review
Whether or not it's worth the high price tag depends on what kind of performance you want and how big your budget is.
Copper Core Heating Properties
Copper Core has 5-ply construction, with two outer layers of stainless steel sandwiching three inner layers of aluminum and copper (so, stainless-aluminum-copper-aluminum-stainless):
The total thickness of Copper Core is 1.7mm. The copper layer is just shy of 1mm thick (0.9mm), with the rest being aluminum and the stainless exterior. This is enough copper to provide nice responsiveness, but not enough to compete with high-end copper brands like Mauviel, whose lowest end line has 1.3mm of copper. (When it comes to copper, this is a significant difference.)
The aluminum layers are so thin that they don't add a lot to the heating properties. In fact, they're probably there to create a good bond; copper is notoriously awful at bonding to stainless.
In general, copper is about twice as responsive as aluminum. This varies according to the particular alloys used, so it's hard to be exact. But generally, you need about half as much copper to achieve the same heating properties as aluminum. Thus, Copper Core's 0.9mm layer of copper, plus the thin aluminum layers, is roughly equal D3's 1.7mm layer of aluminum. It's actually slightly better--so in giving out stars, we would give Copper Core about 4.25 for performance, but not 4.5.
Overall, the performance is too similar to D3 to be considered a significant improvement. Copper Core is slightly more even, meaning that the hot and cold spots in the pan even out a little bit faster than with D3. Most home cooks aren't going to notice it for the majority of cooking tasks.
Much like D3, Copper Core is good all-around cookware. But D3 is the better buy, so unless you fall in love with Copper Core and have to have it (and can afford it), D3 is our overall recommendation.
If you want one nimble copper skillet, Copper Core is about your only choice if you need induction compatibility. But if you don't, Mauviel or another high-end copper brand is the better choice for not a lot more than Copper Core.
Copper Core Durability
With its stainless exterior finishes, Copper Core is extremely durable cookware. Therefore we rated it the same as D3.
Copper Core Stability
With its stainless interior and exterior, Copper Core is also very stable cookware. Therefore we rated it the same as D3.