All-Clad cookware sets buying guide
Nonstick cookware is a mist for most of us nowadays. This cookware is easy to use and no food sticks to the surface. Cleaning up takes a minute, which is perfect for busy people. Just a wipe with a clean cloth or a sponge is enough to remove everything from this cookware. And many people choose nonstick surfaces because they prefer to cook without oil. This is an easy way to have a healthier diet.
The truth is that nonstick cookware has one problem, which is its short lifespan. Modern coatings last for 3-4 years and then you need to replace the whole set. For most coatings, 1-2 years of daily use is enough to stop being nonstick. The surface peels and chips, making cookware impossible to use. Some people say that the surface becomes dented. If you choose quality cookware, it will serve you for 3 years, but if not, you might have to buy a new one in 5 months.
Luckily, there is a way to choose quality nonstick cookware that will stay with you longer. There is no guarantee that if you buy expensive sets you will get quality pieces, but there are some tips and tricks to help you reduce the risk of having to buy a new set faster.
All-Clad is a cookware manufacturer that’s trying to defy this trend. While their non-stick pans have a finite lifespan, most of the rest of their high-quality cookware can last in your kitchen for decades. This means that when you buy an All-Clad cookware set, you can be sure that it’ll be around in five or ten years — or longer.
You can find many happy All-Clad customers that picked up their cookware set literal decades ago. These old pots and pans aren’t just decorative pieces, either. Instead, they’ve put in lots of hard hours of kitchen work and survived to tell the tale.
While All-Clad products last a long time, they’re also pretty pricey. Let’s go over a few specific pots, pans, and cookware sets in order to examine whether or not the increased cost of All-Clad products is worth it.
Where are these cookware sets manufactured?
The company has multiple manufacturing sites, so the country of origin depends on the product. Some of them are made in China. According to the company’s rules and regulations, single-layer products (lids) can be made outside of America, most often in China. This is why some lids are 18/10 and others are 18/0. Cookware that has many layers (steel walls bonded to other material) is made in the YS, except the Emeril Pro-Clad that you can’t buy anymore. Emeril Pro-Clad used to be thinner than other sets with standard lids. The company had controversy with quality and prices, so they don’t manufacture pans and pots in China anymore. Their Chinese lids are of high-quality, so the price is deserved.
Most cookware sets are made in the US. It’s notorious for the high-quality materials and splendid performance. All-Clad provides warranties which are worth something when you buy from a reputed company.
Is All-Clad too expensive?
There are many reasons why the manufacturer sets the price so high, for example:
- All-Clad is one of the most reputable companies in the US that charges more for the brand and a lifetime warranty.
- The cost of labor is higher in the US than in China, and the company spends more on regulatory compliance that Chinese-based brands. All-Clad focuses on marketing, control and environmental compliance, not to mention the responsible sourcing of the materials. The main factory is located in Pennsylvania where the company produces their quality stainless steel. Extra costs are necessary to deliver high-quality products to the customers.
- Most companies nowadays choose to import everything from China and then resale, and they often don’t spend match on checking the quality. All-Clad makes sure that their products don’t contain any chemical contaminants, lie flat, polished to perfection, have convenient handles and feature only high-quality materials.
- All-Clad is unheard for structural failures and chemical contamination, which is a problem of many Chinese factories.
The main features of nonstick coatings:
- Coating. Cookware gets more expensive depending on the number of layers and the formula composition used in it. Some manufacturers develop their own formulas and then brand the coating claiming it has better food release and longer lifespan. As a rule of thumb, choose the one that has at least 3 layers. The cheaper versions use the roller coating process to add a nonstick layer. If you feel that the surface is rough, there are only one or two layers used. If the surface is smooth, it will probably last longer. More quality surfaces also often have a matte finish while cheaper options have it shiny.
- Weight. The most common material used for nonstick coating is aluminum. This material heat up quickly and holds the heat longer. The heat spreads across the bottom and delivers higher temperatures up the sides. Thick aluminum is better, thus the cookware pieces will be heavier. Cast aluminum is even heavier and thicker, so it’s one of the most expensive options. However, some cookware are too heavy, make sure you can hold a piece with one hand.
- Oven-safe. If you like cooking in the oven, make sure your cookware can withstand at least 400 degrees. Most of the cookware can handle 350 degrees and it’s enough for many recipes, although those that can be safe up to 400F are better. If you can’t find the oven-safe feature anywhere, there should be a reason for it. For example, rubber handles can melt if they’re made of the wrong material.
- Dish-washer safe. Not all non-stick cookware is dish-washer safe. Yes, it is convenient to dump everything into the dish-washer but if you do put it in, the warranty can become void as a result. So, if you like to use the dish-washer to wash everything, invest in one that is dish-washer safe like the T-Fal Signature Total Nonstick. The heat from the drying cycle in the dish-washer could possibly affect the finish on the interior coating which could make it lose its non-stickiness over time.
- Purpose. Browning and searing aren’t the strong sides of nonstick coatings. It’s not suitable for high heat either. It’s a good investment for everyone who cooks at medium heat with little or no oil at all. More expensive sets are good for searing steaks but cheaper options will burn your meat. Nonstick cookware can be useful in many recipes but it can’t replace all other materials and cookware sets.
The above non-stick cookware buying guide is a start to help you get the right pan for your kitchen. Of course, there are other considerations as well and that apply to buying any cookware such as size, price and customer rating. Take your time to shop around and if you are prepared to invest a significant amount in your cookware, check out the customer service and warranty limitations too.
Copper Core All-Clad Cookware Set
Like most modern cookware manufacturers, All-Clad makes a pretty wide range of cookware. This includes a couple varieties of non-stick pans, hard anodized cookware, and even a fairly unique line of pots and pans with a textured stainless steel cooking surface that’s designed to prevent food from sticking. What it’s most known for, however, is the high quality, innovative multi-ply lines.
The Copper Core line is a great example of this cookware. While it’s expensive, even by All-Clad standards, its’ also one of the finest cookware sets available on the market, period. All-Clad has of experience designing and manufacturing multi-ply cookware, and this experience has been put to good use with the Copper Core line. It’s got some of the absolute best performance of any cookware set, anywhere, when it comes to the most important thing of all: cooking.
To understand why, let’s talk about what “multi-ply” or “multi-clad” means. The material that something is made out of has a huge impact on how that thing can be used. A heavy steel hammer, for example, is handy for driving nails or breaking rocks. That same hammer wouldn’t be useless if it was made out of wood, but it would serve a very different purpose.
So what does this mean for cookware? Different materials provide different attributes to your pots and pans. Stainless steel is strong, easy to clean, and somewhat heavy, but it doesn’t conduct heat amazingly. Aluminum is light, cheap, and conducts heat pretty well. In order to give customers the best of both worlds, cookware manufacturers often layer these materials together. This means that you get tough, durable stainless steel on both the outside edge and the cooking surface of your pot and pan. Sandwiched between these two layers of steel, an aluminum core keeps weight down and helps spread heat out evenly and quickly.
This is all well and good if you’re content with how well aluminum conducts heat. If you want an even better thermal conductor, however, you’ll choose copper instead. Copper is a lot more expensive than aluminum and is a fair bit heavier, but it’s a significantly better conductor of heat. All-Clad has added it to its copper core line as an additional layer. While it’s still paired with aluminum to keep both weight and costs down, the copper core of these pots and pans helps give you incredibly precise temperature control on any sort of stovetop.
With a set this expensive, the most important factor is durability. All-Clad has this angle covered very well. They offer a fairly comprehensive lifetime warranty, meaning that you’re covered against manufacturer defects for the foreseeable future. Since the whole set is made out of solid metals and has a stainless steel exterior, you don’t have to worry about this set breaking or decaying over time. The stainless steel cooking surfaces will continue to work for quite a while.
This cookware set features metal lids and handles. This helps ensure that it’s safe in the oven to a higher temperature. It also means you don’t have to worry about your rubber handles wearing out or your glass lids shattering. In other words, the whole cookware set is built to last.
This set is available in a few sizes. I think that the 10-piece set is a pretty happy medium, personally. Since this is NOT a non-stick set, you may have to spend some time learning how to properly cook on a stainless steel surface. Once you’ve done that, however, you’ll have no problems cooking most recipes while keeping cleanup easy.
Overall, the All-Clad Copper Core line is one of the finest cookware sets on the market. While it’s pricey, the great temperature response, good looks, and incredible durability make it a luxury choice for anyone who wants an incredible cookware set.
For our saucepan, let’s take a step back and focus on a more traditional multi-ply All-Clad line. The Master Chef 2 line is crafted in All-Clad’s original, signature style. It’s got a simple tri-ply construction that still delivers both excellent durability and great thermal handling. Again, for more information, check out our detailed All-Clad MC2 reviews here.
I recommend the MC2 line over competitors like Cuisinart for one simple reason: it’s got a lot of history. MC2 is made with the same manufacturing techniques that revolutionized the cooking industry when All-Clad pioneered them in the 1970’s. This means that you don’t have to guess what these pots and pans will look like in a few decades — you can find someone who bought a nearly identical set twenty or thirty years ago and see how their pots and pans have held up! In many cases, you’ll find that the owners of traditional All-Clad cookware still use these pots and pans today.
The Master Chef 2 line is simple and elegant. It’s got a core of pure aluminum, a stainless steel cooking surface, and an exterior layer of brushed aluminum. Like I mentioned earlier, aluminum is both lighter and a better conductor of heat than steel. This means that the Master Chef 2 line has excellent heat distribution, even beating tri-ply sets with a stainless exterior. If you want the best thermal conduction, however, be sure to check out the Copper Core line above and here.
This saucepan comes with a metal handle and lid. You’ll want to use a potholder (or a towel) if you shift it around after simmering things for a while. It’s available in three sizes, all of which are covered by All-Clad’s standard lifetime warranty.
The All-Clad products reviewed above are from the traditional, multi-ply lines that feature stainless-steel cooking surfaces. In order to mix things up a bit, let’s look at one of the aluminum non-stick lines for this skillet review. Bear in mind that this product is available as both a skillet and a full cookware set. For more information, check out the All-Clad B1 and HA1 reviews on this page.
I’m usually on the fence about whether or not All-Clad products are worth it. The high cost is usually offset by genuine American construction and pretty spectacular durability. These non-stick pans are somewhat harder to justify. The reason is simple: non-stick coatings wear out over time.
To be clear, the particular type of PFOA used in these pans is both scratch resistant and safe to 500 F. It’s still PFOA, however, which means it will eventually start to flake off of your pan. The way you handle and clean your pans and the temperatures you cook with will modify the exact lifespan of this coating, but you can reasonably expect it to last between two and five years.
So why do I recommend this set? Simple: it’s pretty affordable, especially as far as All-Clad is concerned. This two-piece frying pan set is less than the cost of a single high-end frying pan from some other luxury cookware brands. Even if you don’t plan on using the second frying pan immediately, it can serve as a useful backup for when your primary pan gives out.
These pans are made of hard anodized aluminum. This material is nearly as hard and durable as stainless steel on the outside and is both light and an incredible conductor of heat. The handles are made of metal, but they’re long enough that you should be able to move these pans around on your stovetop without a potholder most of the time.
While the non-stick in these pans won’t last forever, it’s incredible while it lasts. You don’t have to season these pans or follow complicated instructions about burner temperature or how much fat or oil you should use. Instead, you can throw an egg (or whatever you want to cook) on the pan and go to town. Everything slides around like butter without any additional lubrication at all.
If you’re a big fan of the All-Clad name and you want a pair of affordable, high-quality nonstick pans for eggs and other tricky foods, this set of two non-stick frying pans is a great purchase. You’ll appreciate the excellent performance, great handling, and easy cleanup.
Tri-Ply D3 All-Clad Cookware Set
For our final review here, let’s talk about the extremely popular Tri-Ply D3 line. This cookware line differs from the MC2 collection in one important way: the outside of the cookware is made of polished stainless steel, not aluminum. While this slightly degrades the thermal conductivity, it has the upside of making the cookware slightly more durable and arguably better looking.
The tri-ply D3 line is just a little bit different from All-Clad’s 5-ply D5 line. If you’d like to learn more about these differences and find out how the D5 cookware stacks up, be sure to check out our All-Clad D5 reviews here.
This particular cookware set has both metal handles and lids, giving it excellent oven safety (600 F) and helping to keep it visually consistent. The shiny steel sides will impress your family and dinner guests alike, while the authentic All-Clad branding serves as the icing on the cake.
Without a non-stick coating, this durable All-Clad set has the potential to last for decades in your kitchen. The D3 line doesn’t have quite the same storied history as the MC2 collection, but you can still find plenty of people who have had similar All-Clad tri-ply cookware in their kitchen for a very long time. They’ve got lots of positive stories to tell about how well their pots and pans have handled throughout the years.
Most importantly, however, this is one of the cheaper All-Clad sets. If you’d like a way to get a full set of genuine All-Clad cookware in your kitchen, the stainless steel D3 set is a great way to start your collection.
All-clad D5 technology
All-Clad delivered their new D5 stainless steel pans that have an extra layer of steel. The company claims that a new layer makes heat distribution more even, and the energy use is more efficient. The company also says that new products are more durable and long lasting. With the D5 technology, their cookware features 5 layers of metal.
The handles have also been updated to make them more comfortable and lightweight. New pans got the pouring technology. The pans heat up faster and can hold heat longer, which is perfect for searing.
I personally find the D5 pans and pots more efficient because I need less time to prepare everything. I fried pork and placed a cold pan over medium heat, which is how I usually fry meat. I seasoned the pork and several minutes later I saw the butter was browned. It usually takes around 8 minutes and I have time to chop vegetables. With the new technology, everything takes less than 5 minutes.
According to the company, you should be placing your cookware over medium heat. If you sauté on high heat, give a try to a new method. The new D5 technology transfers heat very fast, so high heat can catch you off guard. The new pans and pots hold the heat long enough to sear everything nicely.
All-Clad Lines that Must be Hand Washed:
- Stainless collection with a nonstick interior, which includes LTD (anodized aluminum exterior and nonstick interior coating). All-Clad nonstick pieces shouldn’t be placed in the dishwasher because high heat and dishwasher detergents can dry out the non-stick surface over time.
- Master-Chef (brushed aluminum exterior) lines with a nonstick interior should also be hand washed because harsh detergents can damage and discolor the brushed aluminum on the outside.
- Cop-R-Chef collection (copper exterior, stainless steel interior, and solid aluminum core) is not dishwasher safe. Cop-R-Chef must be washed by hand and occasionally polished.
Nonstick surfaces should be washed with warm, soapy water after each use. Clean any burnt-on food soaking the pan with a mixture of baking soda and water.
Before using your new cookware for the first time, wash it in warm water with a mild dish detergent, rinse, and wipe dry with a soft cloth.
Clean your All-Clad pans with warm, soapy water after each use. To avoid warping, let the pan cool before cleaning. Never place the pan under cold water while it is still hot.
Discard any excess grease, then fill the pan with warm water. Squirt in a mild, natural dish detergent such as Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Liquid Dish Soap, which effectively cuts grease without drying your hands.
Leave the pan with water in for 10 minutes. Stuck-on food should be soaked in water for about an hour.
Use a nylon scrubbing pad to scrape off leftover food and grease. Use a sponge or soft cloth to clean exterior surfaces. For daily cleaning, don’t use steel wool, oven cleaners, steel scouring pads, and chloride-containing detergents.
Cleaning Stubborn Stains
For tough cleaning jobs (not for nonstick cookware) use the cleaning product called Bar-Keepers Friend powdered cleanser and a woven plastic scrubber.
Bar Keeper’s Friend cleans stainless steel without scratching and works well for getting tougher, brown/blue stains from burnt-on food, and for removing rusty discoloration from water with high iron content.
Pour a little warm water into the pan, then sprinkle the powder on and rub it into a paste. Apply the paste to the stained area and spread it over the exterior of the pan if needed. Allow the mixture to sit for a while, depending on the stain. Use a non-abrasive sponge to remove the stains. You should wear gloves when using Bar-Keepers Friend cleanser, because it can be rough on your skin.
To clean scrambled eggs, you can use a ringer for cast iron pans. It makes it easy to get the bottom of stainless-steel pan clean and won’t clog up with food particles like plastic scrubbers.
All-Clad Cleaner and Polish is another cleaning product option to get rid of stuck-on food and stains from overheating and using hard water.
Cleaning should always be followed by rinsing the cookware thoroughly with clean, hot water.
After washing, rinse the pan in hot water and dry immediately to remove fingerprints and prevent water spots. Use microfiber towels to absorb water immediately from the surface. Choose towels that are large enough for your utensils.
To prevent finger marks, handle cookware with a stainless steel exterior with clean gloves or cloths. To effortlessly remove fingerprints on the stainless steel exterior of your pans, you can use Stainless Steel Polish by Caron Doucet Cuisine. This product is made from plant-based ingredients, and it is safe for the cookware and your family. Use a clean microfiber cloth to spray a little of the polish and wipe evenly across the dry and dirt free surface until it is clean and shiny.
One final note
Just like any other cookware you buy, you should always check the manufacturer and the country of origin. If it’s imported from other countries, the manufacturing process was performed under different regulations. When you buy cookware from any other country, spend a bit of time on researching the guidelines of a country. It’s better to make an informed decision than to have a post-purchase regret.
No cookware set is perfect because each piece is made to serve a certain purpose. Not every person need a fancy cookware set of 17 pieces, for many a smaller 5-8 piece set is enough. I personally think that it’s a good decision to invest in a quality cookware but the choice is totally individual.