All-Clad C4 Copper vs. Copper Core: How Do They Compare?

All-Clad C4 Copper vs. Copper Core
Photo credit: All-Clad.com

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If you’re debating whether to buy a set of All-Clad’s C4 Copper collection or a set of their Copper Core collection, you’ve come to the right place.

In this in-depth comparison of All-Clad C4 Copper vs. Copper Core cookware, you’ll learn how they stack up in terms of:

  • Construction
  • Performance
  • Design
  • Durability
  • Maintenance
  • Product Options
  • Price
  • And so much more

By the end, you’ll understand exactly how they’re similar, how they’re different, and why those differences matter.

If you’re just looking to quickly compare the price of All-Clad C4 Copper and Copper Core cookware, both are available on Amazon at these links: All-Clad C4 Copper, All-Clad Copper Core.

Let’s get started!

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All-Clad C4 Copper vs. Copper Core: Quick Summary

If you’re in a hurry to get answers, here’s our pick, plus a quick breakdown of the similarities and differences between All-Clad C4 Copper and Copper Core cookware.

Our Pick

Unless you really want cookware that features a copper exterior, I recommend All-Clad Copper Core cookware over C4 Copper.

It heats up quickly and evenly, it has a classic stainless steel design with an elegant copper ring, and it’s much easier to maintain. You also get a larger selection of sets and individual pieces to choose from and, in general, it’s less expensive.

You can check the current prices for both collections on Amazon (Copper Core, C4 Copper).

What Are Their Similarities?

Fully-Clad
Some companies pinch pennies by constructing their cookware with a disc of copper at the bottom instead of layering copper all throughout their product.

All-Clad, on the other hand, bonds layers of copper and aluminum between two stainless steel sheets and uses the resulting material to make the entire pan. So whether you go with C4 Copper or Copper Core, you’ll get a copper core that extends from the base all the way up to the rim.

Cooking Surface
Stainless steel is the undisputed champion for durable cooking surfaces. It doesn’t scratch easily as copper does, it doesn’t impart a strange taste like aluminum, and it’s easy to care for. The C4 Copper and Copper Core collections both have stainless steel cooking surfaces for a reliable, low-maintenance cooking experience.

Copper Cores
Copper is more expensive than other metals like aluminum, but its thermal conductivity beats out all the competition. Both All-Clad collections include copper cores, ensuring you get the best of the best for rapid, even spread of heat.

Handles & Lids
Both designs have riveted, contoured stainless steel handles, designed for a smooth grip that never heats up on a stovetop (always use oven mitts when handling cookware in the oven!).

Made in the USA
All-Clad sticks proudly to its heritage, sourcing their steel from American suppliers and manufacturing its products in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania.

Lifetime Warranty
All-Clad cookware comes with a limited lifetime warranty that covers defects in materials or craftsmanship.

What Are Their Differences?

Bonded Layers
The C4 Copper collection is made from four layers of alternating copper and stainless steel, with copper on the exterior and stainless steel on the cooking surface.

Copper Core has five layers, with stainless steel on the exterior and cooking surface, followed by two layers of aluminum inside, and a copper layer sandwiched in the center.

Cooking Performance
The higher proportions of copper in C4 Copper make it more reactive to changes in temperature, heating up and cooling down quickly. Copper Core tends to retain heat better, so it’ll change temperatures slower.

Design
All C4 Copper cookware has a brilliant, polished copper body with stainless steel lids and handles. Stainless steel dominates the look of the Copper Core line, except for a small band of exposed copper near the base of the pots and pans. Otherwise, their overall designs are very similar.

Product Options
Copper Core has more variety, whether you want a chicken fryer or a nonstick fry pan. Your options are somewhat limited with C4 Copper. Later in this article, I list out the sets and individual pieces are available with each collection.

Maintenance & Care
Copper can be a fussy material to take care of. C4 Copper needs to be hand-washed, and you’ll likely have to devote a little bit of time towards polishing it when it starts to get a patina.

Copper Core is dishwasher-safe, and its exterior isn’t as soft as copper, so you won’t have to worry about scratching it or tarnishing it as much.

Price
The C4 Copper collection runs slightly higher in price, but the difference is sometimes minimal depending on the product. To compare current prices, check out C4 Copper cookware and Copper Core cookware on Amazon where you can usually find great deals. Or, you can check out the comparison chart later in this article.

Comparison Chart

 All-Clad C4 CopperAll-Clad Copper Core
Bonded Layers45
Exterior Material100% Copper18/0 Stainless Steel
Cooking Surface18/10 Stainless Steel18/10 Stainless Steel
Core LayersStainless steel bonded with one layer of copperCopper bonded between two layers of aluminum
Induction CompatibleNoYes
Oven/Broiler Safe TemperatureUp to 600°FUp to 600°F
Copper Thickness1 mm1 mm
Made in the USAYesYes
WarrantyLifetime LimitedLifetime Limited
Dishwasher SafeNoYes (but not recommended)
HandlesRiveted stainless steelRiveted stainless steel
PriceMore expensiveLess expensive

How Their Construction Impacts Cooking Performance

To understand the difference in cooking performance between C4 Copper and Copper Core cookware, you first have to understand how they are constructed.

All-Clad’s C4 Copper construction is unlike most other options you’ll find on the market. In a world of Tri-Ply (three-layered), 5-Ply (five-layered), and the rarer 7-Ply (seven-layered) cookware, C4 Copper cookware has a very rare 4 layers (4-Ply). First is its copper exterior, then steel, copper again, and finally steel on the cooking surface.

The resulting pots and pans are a fifty-fifty split between stainless steel’s durability and copper’s peerless thermal conductivity and beauty.

All-Clad’s Copper Core cookware is constructed with 5 bonded layers starting with a steel exterior, then aluminum, then copper, then aluminum again, and finally steel on the cooking surface.

All-Clad C4 Copper vs. Copper Core_Bonded Layers
C4 Copper (left), Copper Core (right). Photo credit: All-Clad.com

All-Clad’s website gives the same general praise to C4 Copper as they do to Copper Core. Both are advertised as producing “superior heat distribution,” and “rapid heat conductivity and responsiveness,” using slightly different phrasing. If that’s the case, then what makes each bonding method unique?

Here are the main advantages of each cookware’s construction:

C4 Copper (4-Ply: Copper, Steel, Copper, Steel)

  • C4 Copper heats up and cools down quickly because of its lower heat capacity and high conductivity, making it ideal for chefs who want fast response times from their pans. You are in complete control of the temperature.
  • With C4 Copper, heat spreads evenly throughout your cookware thanks to copper’s high thermal conductivity.
  • No “hotspots,” which means your pancakes don’t brown in splotchy patches.
  • It’s lighter by a pound, on average, if you need something that you can easily handle.

Copper Core (5-Ply: Steel, Aluminum, Copper, Aluminum, Steel)

  • Copper Core heats up and cools down slower (but much faster than most cookware that doesn’t feature copper), which is a good thing if you need more forgiving cookware. Your food won’t burn as readily as it would with C4 Copper cookware.
  • Its thermal conductivity is also impressive; your pancakes won’t turn splotchy on these pans, either.
  • Greater heat capacity means that Copper Core won’t drop dramatically in temperature even if you slap a really, really cold steak onto it. It’s also handy for keeping your food warm, even after you turn off the stove.
  • The stainless steel exterior makes for excellent, low-maintenance cookware. It won’t oxidize or lose its luster easily like copper will.

A Closer Look at Cooking Performance

Now that you have a general idea about how C4 Copper and Copper Core cookware compares in terms of cooking performance, let’s dive a little deeper into the details.

Thermal Conductivity

Briefly, thermal conductivity is the property that determines how quickly heat travels through a material.

Copper has 1.7 times the thermal conductivity of aluminum and 25 times that of stainless steel.

If you put a pure stainless steel pan over a burner, it might warm up in “hot spots” very slowly, and eventually, the heat will crawl up the sides of the pan, leaving most of it cold while your minced garlic burns at the very center.

Copper and aluminum are the opposite; as soon as you turn on your stove, the entire pan will begin warming evenly.

C4 Copper has a layer of highly responsive copper at its base, which essentially coats the adjacent stainless steel layer like an electric blanket, warming the whole sheet at once. The next two layers (copper, then steel) do the same.

Copper Core has a stainless steel exterior, two internal aluminum layers sandwiching a copper core, and another stainless steel cooking surface.

Although the stainless steel warms slowly, the conductive central metals in the pan will take the base’s heat, distribute it evenly, and raise the temperature of the topmost stainless layer without leaving hot spots.

The biggest difference in the construction of C4 Copper and Copper Core cookware is the buffer of aluminum and steel surrounding the copper.

C4 Copper has two stainless steel layers, each with one copper layer working on it. Copper Core has two stainless steel layers, but three layers of highly conductive material bonded between them.

The key takeaway; C4 Copper has a quicker response time because its exterior layer that comes in direct contact with the heat source is copper. Additionally, C4 Copper cookware has one fewer layer (4 vs. 5) so heat transfers more quickly to the cooking surface. 

Heat Capacity

Heat capacity is defined as the amount of energy it takes to achieve a change in temperature of one unit. Some materials take longer—or rather, more energy—to warm up or cool down.

If you’ve ever scorched your mouth on the insides of a molten mozzarella stick, then you’ve experienced how heat capacity varies by material first-hand. The breadcrumbs might dissipate their heat quickly and turn into a deceptively room-temperature crust, while the cheese inside is still retaining heat.

This property applies to cookware metals, too.

In terms of cookware, steel has the highest heat capacity followed by copper and then aluminum. Essentially, stainless steel will warm up and cool down slower than copper, and both steel and copper will warm up and cool down slower than aluminum.

So, how does this impact the cooking performance of C4 Copper and Copper Core cookware?

Due to their differences in materials, C4 Copper cookware has a lower heat capacity than Copper Core cookware. This means that C4 Copper cookware is more responsive to temperature changes but won’t hold onto heat for as long.

Design

In terms of design, the most significant difference between C4 Copper and Copper Core cookware is their exteriors.

All-Clad C4 Copper vs. Copper Core_Design
Photo credit: All-Clad.com

C4 Copper has the magazine-cover kitchen aesthetic, with a copper exterior body and accents of mirror-polished steel. The palette is great if you’re looking for a warm touch to your kitchen.

All-Clad C4 Copper 10 piece set
All-Clad C4 Copper 10 piece set. Photo credit: All-Clad.com

The Copper Core line, in comparison, is more sleek and modern. It’s all stainless steel with a pop of copper around the base, which helps it stand out from the traditional crowd of steel cookware.

All-Clad Copper Core 10 piece set
All-Clad Copper Core 10 piece set. Photo credit: All-Clad.com.

Besides the drastic difference in their exteriors, there’s a lot of similarities in the design of C4 Copper and Copper Core cookware.

Their handles are stainless steel and riveted, made to fit comfortably in your hand without heating up.

Their lids are crafted from more polished stainless steel, with the same heat-proof and elegantly rounded handles.

Unlike cookware with copper disks at their bases, these two products have copper layers that extend all the way to their easy-pour, flared edges.

They both have the All-Clad logo emblazoned on the bottoms of their cookware and below the handles.

Durability

When you hold a C4 Copper or Copper Core pan in your hand, you’ll immediately feel its heft, solidness, and durability.

Since both collections are composed of multiple layers of metal including two layers of steel, they are both equally durable and will last a lifetime—as long as you use and care for them properly.

Some may argue that Copper Core is more durable because it has an extra layer of metal, but there’s no evidence that suggests it makes a meaningful difference.

The only durability advantage that Copper Core has is that its steel exterior is less likely to scratch and tarnish compared to C4 Copper’s copper exterior. More on this in the next section.

At the end of the day, both collections come with a lifetime warranty that protects you against any defects in materials or craftsmanship. So as long as you don’t purposefully abuse your cookware, they should last a lifetime.

Maintenance

If you’re looking for cookware that’s easy to maintain, you probably want to skip C4 Copper and go with Copper Core.

Copper is a notoriously difficult material to upkeep. It’s a soft metal, which means it scratches easily despite its durability, and it’s prone to tarnishing and oxidation.

Since the exterior layer of C4 Copper cookware is entirely copper, it requires a little extra love to maintain.

All-Clad recommends hand-washing C4 Copper cookware to avoid damaging its exterior copper layer. Every once in a while, you’ll need to polish with a special copper cleanser, like this one (link to Amazon), which will remove any discoloration and restore its original beauty.

Although Copper Core cookware has small bands of exposed copper on its surfaces which can scratch and tarnish too, the majority of its exterior surface is stainless steel which is practically scratch and tarnish-proof.

According to All-Clad, it’s okay to pop your Copper Core pans into the dishwasher, however by doing so, the copper bands might lose some of their luster. If that happens, you can always use a copper cleaner to polish it up to a beautiful, like-new shine.

My recommendation—wash both of these All-Clad collections by hand only. Washing it in the dishwasher exposes the cookware to high temperatures and harsh chemicals that can tarnish its exterior over time. Besides, it’s easy enough to wipe them down with soapy water.

Proper Usage

Oven and Broiler: Both collections are oven and broiler safe up to 600 degrees. Since the handles are cast in stainless steel, be sure to use oven mitts when taking them out.

Cooking Utensils: Stainless steel is resistant to most materials, so feel free to use metal or wood spatulas and other utensils on their surfaces.

Cooking Ranges: Induction cooktops are only effective when paired with a pot or pan that has a magnetic exterior, which is no problem for the stainless steel outer layer of Copper Core. However, copper is not suitable for induction ranges, so if you have that type of cooktop, you won’t be able to use C4 Copper cookware. 

Product Options

In terms of sets and individual pieces, you get significantly more options with the Copper Core collection while the C4 Copper collection is somewhat limited.

With the C4 Copper collection, there are two frying pans and neither of them is nonstick, while Copper Core boasts two nonstick varieties and six frying pans overall.

If you need a Dutch oven, a grain & bean pot, soup pots, chicken fryers, or other miscellaneous cookware, then Copper Core is your best bet.

The highest-volume item that the C4 Copper collection offers is either an 8-quart Stock Pot or 2-to-3-quart sauce pans.

Below is the complete list of the products that available with each collection:

C4 Copper (you can find these on Amazon and Williams-Sonoma.com):

  • 10-piece set
  • 5-piece set
  • 8-quart stock pot
  • 8-inch fry pan
  • 10-inch fry pan
  • 2-quart sauce pan
  • 3-quart sauce pan
  • 2.5-quart saucier
  • 3-quart saute pan

Copper Core (you can find these on Amazon):

  • 14-piece set
  • 10-piece set
  • 7-piece set
  • 8-inch fry pan
  • 10-inch fry pan
  • 12-inch fry pan
  • 8-inch nonstick fry pan
  • 10-inch nonstick fry pan
  • 12-inch nonstick fry pan
  • 3-quart saute pan
  • 4-quart saute pan
  • 5-quart saute pan
  • 6-quart saute pan
  • 1-quart saucier
  • 2-quart saucier
  • 1.5-quart sauce pan
  • 2-quart sauce pan
  • 3-quart sauce pan
  • 4-quart sauce pan
  • 8-quart stockpot
  • 12-inch chef’s pan
  • 3-quart sauteuse
  • 5.5-quart Dutch oven
  • 4-quart all-in-one pan
  • 6-quart round roaster
  • 2.5-quart windsor
  • 14-inch open stir fry
  • 7-quart pasta pentola
  • 4-quart soup pot w/ ladle

Price

 When most people think of All-Clad, they think expensive.

It’s true, All-Clad cookware is pricey and, due to the inclusion of copper, these are two of their most expensive collections.

But, is spending more on All-Clad cookware worth it? Absolutely.

It’s made in the U.S, it’s one of the few brands that extend their heat-conductive core layers throughout the entire cookware, and it’s guaranteed to last a lifetime.

If you need more convincing, check out our recent article where we explore Is All-Clad Worth It? in great detail.

Now, which All-Clad cookware costs more, C4 Copper or Copper Core?

C4 Copper generally costs more than Copper Core, but the difference ranges from only a few dollars to several hundreds of dollars depending on the individual piece or set you want and which retailer your shopping at.

To get a better comparison of the current prices of C4 Copper vs. Copper Core cookware, check out the chart below.

 All-Clad C4 CopperAll-Clad Copper Core
8-inch Fry PanPrice on AmazonPrice on Amazon
3-Quart Saute PanPrice on AmazonPrice on Williams-Sonoma.com
10-Piece SetPrice on AmazonPrice on Amazon

Bottom Line: Should You Buy C4 Copper or Copper Core Cookware?

When you’re considering two cookware collections that are both high-performing, beautifully designed, and built to last, making a decision is no easy task.

Here are the reasons you should buy C4 Copper cookware:

All-Clad C4 Copper
All-Clad C4 Copper. Photo credit: All-Clad.com
  • It responds to changes in temperature faster which gives you ultimate control over the cooking performance.
  • It’s ultra-durable and comes with a lifetime warranty.
  • It’s copper exterior and stainless steel accents are absolutely gorgeous and add a unique elegance to your kitchen.

Here are the reasons you should buy Copper Core cookware:

All-Clad Copper Core
All-Clad Copper Core. Photo credit: All-Clad.com
  • It also responds to changes in temperature quickly, but it’s slightly more forgiving if you accidentally turn the stove too high.
  • It’s also ultra-durable and comes with a lifetime warranty.
  • It’s easier to maintain because its exterior is primarily stainless steel which doesn’t require special care.
  • It has a classic stainless steel exterior design with a subtle but elegant ring of copper around its base.
  • It’s compatible with induction cooktops.
  • You get more sets and individual pieces to choose from.
  • It’s typically less expensive.

Unless you’re in love with the copper exterior of C4 Copper cookware, I recommend going with Copper Core.

In my opinion, Copper Core cookware is more practical and will be easier to clean and maintain, especially considering you’ll be using this cookware for years to come.

Another great option is to mix and match. For your everyday cooking, frying pans and skillets, buy Copper Core. But, for small saucers that you might use for serving guests, buy C4 Copper.

No matter which way you go, you won’t be disappointed. All-Clad is one of those brands that, no matter what collection you choose, you can’t go wrong.

If you’re ready to buy, or you just want to check out more reviews and compare prices, All-Clad C4 Copper and Copper Core cookware are both available on Amazon at the links below.

All-Clad C4 Copper cookware on Amazon

All-Clad Copper Core cookware on Amazon

Also, check out our reviews of All-Clad’s other collections below.

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