All-Clad D3 vs. D5: Which Stainless Steel Cookware Is Better?

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If you’re in the market for new cookware and are planning to go with All-Clad, you’ve already made a great choice.

They’re well-known for making the highest-quality, most durable, and best performing cookware money can buy—and they’ve been doing it for decades.

But now the question is:

Should you buy the D3 collection (also called Tri-Ply) or the D5 collection?

What’s the difference between All-Clad D3 and D5?

The key difference between All-Clad D3 and D5 is that D3 has 3 bonded layers (steel, aluminum, steel), and D5 has 5 (steel, aluminum, steel, aluminum, steel). D3 heats faster and is more responsive, while D5 heats more evenly and is more forgiving. Due to its added layers, D5 is more expensive.

That’s the short answer, but there’s much more to know before you decide which collection is right for you.

In this in-depth comparison of All-Clad D3 vs. D5, you’ll how these two cookware collections are similar, how they’re different, and why those differences matter.

You’ll learn exactly how they compare in terms of cooking performance, design, product options, price, and so much more. 

By the end, you’ll have all the information you need to decide which All-Clad cookware is right for you.

If you’re looking to quickly compare the price of All-Clad D3 and D5 cookware, both are available on Amazon at these links: All-Clad D3, All-Clad D5, or you can skip ahead to the price comparison chart.

Let’s dive right in!

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All-Clad D3 vs. D5: Quick Summary

If you only have a minute and are looking for a quick comparison of All-Clad D3 vs. D5 cookware, here’s what you need to know.

Differences Between All-Clad D3 and D5

Number of Bonded Layers: The most significant difference between All-Clad D3 and D5 cookware is how they are constructed. D3 cookware is constructed with three bonded layers (or ply’s), which is why it’s often referred to as All-Clad Tri-ply. D5 cookware is constructed with five bonded layers (5-ply construction). I’ll go into detail about why this matters in a minute (skip ahead to it).

All-Clad D3 Cookware Bonded Layers
All-Clad D3 Three Bonded Layers
All-Clad D5 Cookware Bonded Layers
All-Clad D5 Five Bonded Layers

Cooking Performance: D3 cookware heats up faster and responds to temperature changes more rapidly. D5 cookware heats up slower, more evenly, and is more forgiving, which means you’re less likely to overcook or burn your food if you set the temperature too high. Both have flared rims to make it easy to slide food onto a plate or pour liquids into a bowl, but D5’s rims have a more pronounced flare. Since D3 cookware has fewer layers, it’s slightly lighter and easier to handle.

Design: With D5 cookware, you get the choice of a traditionally polished (shiny) exterior or a brushed (matte/dull) exterior. D3 cookware is only available with a polished exterior. D5 cookware lid handles are thicker and feature an engraved All-Clad logo. D3 cookware lid handles are sturdy but thinner and don’t feature the All-Clad logo.

Polished Exterior of All-Clad D3
Polished Exterior of All-Clad D3

Product Options: D3 cookware comes in three varieties: D3 Stainless, D3 Compact, and D3 Armor. D3 Stainless is their best-seller and comes in a variety of sets. D3 Compact is designed to stack easily, so it takes up less space (only four sets available). D3 Armor features a textured cooking surface to reduce sticking and make it easier to release food (only five individual pieces available). D5 cookware comes in only two varieties: D5 Brushed and D5 Polished (sets and individual pieces).

Price: Both collections are expensive, but, in general, D3 cookware is less costly than D5. Prices vary based on the products you’re comparing and the retailer that you’re shopping. To compare their current prices, check out D3 cookware and D5 cookware on Amazon, or skip ahead to the All-Clad D3 vs. D5 price comparison chart.

Similarities Between All-Clad D3 and D5

Bonded Construction: Both feature All-Clad’s industry-leading bonded metal technology that combines the durability of steel with the heat conduction of aluminum. Unlike disc-bottom cookware that only has aluminum at the base, every All-Clad collection is fully-clad, which means the aluminum core extends throughout the entire cookware.

Materials: Both are made with an 18/10 stainless steel cooking surface that is non-reactive and cleans easily, a magnetic 18/0 stainless steel exterior that’s safe on induction cooktops, and a bonded pure aluminum core.

Handles and Lid: Both have comfortable stainless steel riveted handles that stay cool while cooking on the stove top and stainless steel lids (included with most pieces) that effectively trap heat and moisture.

Made in the USA: Both are made in All Clad’s U.S. factories where they uphold high manufacturing standards and strict quality control processes.

Oven-Safe: Both are oven and broiler-safe up to 600 degrees Fahrenheit (315 degrees Celsius).

Lifetime Warranty: Both are built to last a lifetime and are known to be so durable that they’re often passed down from generation to generation. Superior durability isn’t just a sales pitch or marketing ploy, All-Clad guarantees both of these collections (in fact, all of their cookware) with the same lifetime warranty.

Now that you have a general idea of how All-Clad D3 and D5 cookware compare, let’s dive deeper into their differences so you can understand why they matter and how they impact the value of each collection.

But first, a quick comparison chart so you can see their similarities and differences side-by-side.

Quick Comparison Chart

 All-Clad D3All-Clad D5
Where They Are MadeCanonsburg, PennsylvaniaCanonsburg, Pennsylvania
Bonded Layers35
Exterior Material18/0 Stainless Steel18/0 Stainless Steel
Cooking Surface18/10 Stainless Steel 18/10 Stainless Steel
Core LayersAluminumStainless steel wrapped in 2 layers of aluminum
LidsStainless SteelStainless Steel
HandlesStainless SteelStainless Steel
Oven Safe TemperatureUp to 600 degreesUp to 600 degrees
Induction CompatibleYesYes
CleaningDishwasher safe, hand wash recommendedDishwasher safe, hand wash recommended
AppearanceOnly available in polished finishAvailable in polished and brushed finishes
Lid HandlesThin, no logoThick with logo
Flared RimsYes, on most piecesYes, on all pieces
Cooking PerformanceQuick temperature responseGradual temperature response
WarrantyLimited LifetimeLimited Lifetime
PriceLess expensive Check Current Price on AmazonMore expensive Check Current Price on Amazon

Cooking Performance: Tri-Ply vs. 5-Ply

Every All-Clad cookware line, including D3 and D5, is constructed by bonding (or cladding) layers of different types of metal together.

You might be wondering, what’s the purpose of layering different metals?

They do it to create cookware that has the optimal mix of heat conduction and durability.

Aluminum conducts heat more effectively than steel but is not very durable. Aluminum alone would make a weak pan and terrible cooking surface. Steel, on the other hand, is durable but heats up slowly, unevenly, and doesn’t retain heat well. Aluminum and steel are opposites on the spectrum of heat conduction and strength.

All-Clad figured this out decades ago and, since then, constructs all of their cookware, including the D3 and D5 collections, with a steel exterior for strength and durability and an aluminum core for fast and even heat transfer.

So, how are D3 and D5 cookware constructed differently?

The most significant difference between D3 and D5 cookware is that D3 cookware is constructed with three layers (Tri-Ply), while D5 cookware is constructed with 5 (5-Ply).

The D3 line uses a standard cladding procedure, layering a stainless steel cooking surface with an inner layer of aluminum and magnetic steel exterior. The magnetic steel exterior makes this cookware safe for induction cooktops. The three layers provide exceptional conduction without sacrificing durability.

If you hold an All-Clad D3 pan and look closely at the rim, you can see the three layers:

All-Clad D3 Cookware Bonded Layers
All-Clad D3 Cookware Bonded Layers

The D5 line uses a more experimental cladding. You get the same stainless steel exterior, steel cooking surface, and an aluminum core, but instead of just one layer of aluminum, there are two separated by a thin steel core. So from the outside in it goes steel, aluminum, steel, aluminum, and back to steel.

Again, if you hold an All-Clad D5 pan and study the exterior of the rim, you can clearly see all five layers.

All-Clad D5 Cookware Bonded Layers
All-Clad D5 Cookware Bonded Layers

Here’s another look at the differences between the construction of All-Clad D3 and D5 cookware..

All-Clad D3 vs. D5 Bonded Layers
Photo Credit: CooksWarehouse.com.

So we now know that D3 cookware has three bonded layers, and D5 cookware has five, but what difference does it make?

With D3 cookware, the single aluminum core layer heats up quickly and transfers that heat evenly to the steel cooking surface. When you turn on the burner, you can expect your pan to be ready for action within a couple of minutes.

With D5 cookware, heat has a bit more distance to travel (two extra layers) before it makes its way to the cooking surface. These additional layers have both positive and negative effects on cooking performance.

Positive impacts of the additional layers in D5 cookware

Even Heating: The extra core layer of steel creates a barrier that slows heat transfer to the cooking surface. This ensures that heat is spread evenly across the entire pan by the time it’s ready to go. The way All-Clad explains it is, “The alternating layers of higher and lower conductive metals promote the lateral flow of cooking energy and eliminate hot spots.” This is not to say that D3 cookware heats up unevenly, it’s just that the additional layers in D5 are an extra measure to ensure it happens every time.

Heat Retention: Since aluminum holds heat well, the two layers of aluminum in D5 cookware help keep the cookware hot for longer than D3’s single layer of aluminum. The longer heat retention comes in handy when you’re finished cooking but want to keep your food warm before you eat.

Forgiving: Since D5 cookware heats up and cools down slower than D3, you’re less likely to overcook or burn your food when you accidentally turn the temperature too high. This doesn’t mean that you can’t burn food with D5 cookware; it just means that you have a little more leeway.

Durability: The extra layers add heft that improves its durability, although D3 cookware is nearly indestructible too, so there not much to gain with a couple of additional layers of metal.

Negative impacts of the additional layers in D5 cookware

Heats Up Slow: Compared to D3, D5 cookware heats up about 10% slower. This might not seem like much, but throughout your lifetime (yes, this cookware lasts that long), that 10% can add up. Besides, when you’re in a rush, a slower heating pan is not helpful.

Less Responsive: D5 cookware won’t react quickly to changes in temperature. As I mentioned, this helps you avoid burning food but doesn’t give you the precise temperature control you might need for certain dishes.

Heavy: The extra layers make D5 cookware heavier and more difficult to maneuver than D3. To give you an idea, when comparing a 12-inch fry pan with a lid, D5 weighs 4 pounds 14 ounces, and D3 weighs 4 pounds.

Bottom line—D3 and D5 cookware both high-performing and dependable in the kitchen. It’s why you pay the premium for All-Clad, and it’s why professional chefs across the globe put their trust in the brand.

The truth is, the differences in cooking performance between Tri-ply (D3) and 5-ply (D5) cookware are difficult to notice if you’re not paying close attention. However, if you’re serious about cooking and plan to use your cookware for a very long time, it’s essential to understand these small differences and know every detail about what you’re getting.

Design

From a design standpoint, D3 and D5 cookware have four main differences: their exterior finish, lid handles, rims, and panhandles.

First, the exterior of D3 cookware has a traditional polished finish, which is shiny and beautiful, what you expect with stainless steel cookware. On the other hand, D5 cookware has a brushed, matte finish, which is dull but gives it a modern and elegant look.

All-Clad creates this unique brushed finish by lightly sanding the exterior with a non-abrasive pad towards the end of the production process.

The difference is purely aesthetic and has no impact on cooking performance. Below is a look at brushed and polished finishes side-by-side.

Brushed vs Polished All Clad Cookware
Brushed (left) vs. Polished (right)

One important thing to note, with D5 cookware, you have the option to buy individual pieces and sets with a polished or brushed exterior finish. However, D3 cookware is NOT available with a brushed finish regardless if you’re looking for individual pieces or sets.

The second difference between the design of All-Clad D3 and D5 cookware is in the lid handles.

Both are stainless steel and firmly secured with steel rivets; however, the lid handles on D5 cookware are significantly larger, more substantial, and feature an engraved All-Clad logo while the D3 handles are thinner and smooth with no logo.

You can see a side-by-side comparison below.

All-Clad D3 vs. D5 Lid Handles
D3 (left), D5 (right). Photo credit: D5 is from Williams-Sonoma.com

In theory, the larger, heavier handles on D5 cookware are easier to grab and keep the lid more firmly in place, but in reality, it doesn’t have any noticeable impact on cooking performance or handling.

The third design difference is in the flaring of the cookware’s rims.

Both D3 and D5 cookware have flared rims, but D5 rims are more prominently flared than D3 rims.

Also, while all pieces in D5 sets have flared rims, only the frying pans, skillets, and a few of the saucepans in D3 sets have flared rims. The other saucepans and stock pots have straight rims that make it somewhat tricky to pour liquids.

All-Clad D3 vs. D5 Flared Rims
D3 saucepan without flared rims (left). D5 saucepan with flared rims (right).

Unlike the other two design differences, the rims actually have an impact on performance. The distinct flaring on the rims of all D5 cookware allows you to easily slide food, like eggs, sauce, or glaze onto a plate.

While flared rims allow you to move food out of a pot or pan easily, the downside is that they make it more challenging to keep food contained inside.

When you need to shake, stir, or flip whatever it is that you’re cooking, you’re more likely to accidentally send an egg flying or spill sauce all over your stove with the prominently flared rims of D5 cookware.

The last deign difference between D3 and D5 cookware is the panhandles. D5 handles feature a small bump on the bottom side to warn you when your hand gets too close to the heat. D3 handles are completely straight, they don’t have this bump.

You can see what I’m talking about in the photo below. The D5 pan is on top, and the D3 pan is on the bottom. 

All-Clad D3 vs. D5 handles
All-Clad D5 handle (top). D3 handle (bottom)

Product Options

All-Clad not only offers many different cookware collections to choose from, but they also have unique variations within their collections.

Let’s take a look at the variations within the D3 and D5 collections, so you know what options you have to choose from and the core differences between each.

D3 Product Options

D3 cookware comes in three varieties.

D3 Stainless Steel

D3 Stainless is All-Clad’s most popular and best-selling cookware by far. It’s their original bonded stainless steel collection, and millions of home cooks and professional chefs across the globe use it every day.

In total, there are 54 D3 Stainless Steel products available, including eight different sets ranging from 5 to 14 pieces and 46 individual pieces. Check out all D3 Stainless Steel options on Amazon.

D3 Compact

D3 Compact cookware is, as All-Clad calls it, “a modern twist on classic All-Clad D3 Stainless”.

It has the same tri-ply bonded construction and polished finish as their classic version, but each piece is designed to nest nicely on top of each other, allowing storage options that don’t eat up kitchen space.

Also, unlike the classic D3 Stainless, which has straight handles, the handles on D3 Compact cookware are slightly curved. If you have a smaller kitchen with limited storage space, you’re much better off buying D3 Compact cookware.

The only downside is that your options are somewhat limited. All-Clad only offers six total D3 Compact products, including four different sets, an 8.5-inch non-stick skillet, and a 4.5-quart roasting pan. Check out all D3 Compact on Amazon.

D3 Armor

This cookware is like D3 Stainless Steel, but it features small bumps on the cooking surface that allows for a quick release.

In essence, you get the durability and scratchless properties of stainless steel, with the release of a nonstick.

Like D3 Compact, your options with D3 Armor collection are minimal. It’s designed to complement a larger D3 Stainless Steel set. There are only 5 D3 Armor products available: 8, 12, and 10-inch fry pans, an oval fish pan, and a 3-qt saute pan. Check out all D3 Armor options on Amazon.

D5 Product Options

D5 cookware comes in two varieties.

D5 Brushed

D5 Brushed is All-Clad’s signature 5-ply collection. It features a beautiful and unique matte exterior that is sure to draw compliments from your guests while entertaining.

Some people say that the brushed exterior hides scratches better than a polished exterior, but I’ve been cooking with polished cookware for years, and, as long as you take care of it, it will stay shiny and gorgeous too.

All-Clad offers a total of 26 D5 Brushed products, including five sets ranging from 5 to 14 pieces and 21 individual pieces. Check out all D5 Brushed options on Amazon.

D5 Polished

D5 Polished cookware is the same as D5 Brushed except it has a polished exterior finish instead of brushed.

There are dozens of D5 Polished products available, including individual pieces and sets (the sets aren’t as easy to find in stores, but they are available on Williams-Sonoma.com and Amazon). 

Price

Whether you go for the D3 or D5, it will be a hefty upfront investment. However, I genuinely believe that All-Clad is worth the high price because it will last a lifetime and, since you won’t have to replace it, you’ll end up saving money long term.

I analyzed the prices of D3 and D5 cookware (sets and individual pieces) across several different retailers and found D5 cookware to be anywhere between 10% and 35% more expensive than D3 cookware. Individual pieces tend to be closer in price, but the margin increases when you look at more extensive and more expensive sets.

Use the chart below to compare the current prices of D3 and D5 cookware across a few popular sets. 

Note: These prices are pulled in real-time from Amazon. You can click on the image or the price to check out more details and read dozens of reviews on Amazon. 

Prices and images pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on:

D3 Stainless Steel and D3 Compact cost almost the same; however, D3 Armor cookware is typically a little more expensive, probably due to its unique textured cooking surface.

The D5 Brushed and Polished collections cost about the same (in some cases, I found D5 Brushed to be slightly more expensive), although the Brushed collection offers more bulk options, and the Polished collection has a limited number of sets. D5 Brushed will be cheaper if you’re buying a set, but if you’re picking individual pieces, they’ll cost about the same.

Bottom Line: Which Cookware Should You Buy, D3 or D5?

The fact is, both All-Clad D3 and D5 are excellent options. Choosing the right cookware comes down to performance, design, and price, and it’s up to you to decide which factors are the most important.

In terms of performance, D5 cookware heats up slower and retains heat longer than D3 cookware. It’s also more forgiving and less responsive to changes in temperature, so you’re less likely to overcook or burn your food if you accidentally turn the stove too high.

If you’re the type that wants precise control over your cooking, go with D3. If you’re a multitasker in the kitchen and don’t have the patience to hover over the stove, you might want to consider D5.

Although the design doesn’t have an impact on performance, it’s important to choose cookware that you’ll love looking at and showing off to guests—especially since you’ll have this cookware for decades.

Although D5 cookware has larger lid handles and more pronounced pouring rims, the real difference in the design of D3 and D5 cookware is the exterior. If you love the brushed, matte look, D5 is your only option. If polished is your thing, you can choose between either, but keep in mind that there are only a handful of D5 polished sets to choose from.

Last but not least is the price. Both are quite expensive, but you get what you pay for. If you’re trying to stay within a specific budget, D3 is less costly and gives you more options. But as I mentioned, in some cases, the difference in price is only about 10%.

If you’re looking for a nudge in one direction, I highly recommend D3 cookware. It’s All-Clad’s best-seller for a reason. It heats up fast and evenly, it has a traditional and elegant polished finish, and your options in terms of sets and individual pieces are nearly limitless.

All-Clad D3 Stainless Steel Saucepan
All-Clad D3 Cookware (check price on Amazon)

Plus, if you don’t have a massive kitchen with a ton of storage, you can get a set of D3 Compact cookware that stacks nicely and takes up minimal storage space.

If you’re ready to buy, or you just want to check out more reviews and compare prices, All-Clad D3 and D5 cookware are both available on Amazon at the links below.

If you found this article helpful, you should also check out:

14 thoughts on “All-Clad D3 vs. D5: Which Stainless Steel Cookware Is Better?”

  1. Not all the D5 has a flared edge, I have a set of 9″ and 11″ frying pans that are D5 with no flare and if you go to Amazon and look for the 8″ and 10″ fry pan set they don’t have the flared edge either.

    Reply
    • Hi Kirk,

      My number one goal is to provide the most accurate information, so I appreciate your comment.

      I’m seeing that all pieces have flared edges, including the ones you mentioned. Here’s a link to the 8-inch frying pan. As you can see, it has a flared edge.

      Can you send me an email ([email protected]) with links to the pieces that you’re seeing don’t have flared edges? I’d love to take a look.

      Andrew

      Reply
  2. Another thing to consider and I believe worth mentioning that I don’t believe was; with the D5 if you are cooking something and you’ve accidentally gotten the pan/pot too hot and need to rapidly cool it down, it’s going to retain that heat longer than the D3.

    Reply
    • Hi Bryan,

      I alluded to that when I said D5 cookware is less responsive (reacts slowly to temperature changes), but it’s an important point, so thanks for calling it out.

      Andrew

      Reply
  3. Thank you for the article. I am going with the D3 for the lighter weight aspect. I also don’t feel I need a large set of pans so I may just buy the few I need.

    Reply
  4. Thank you for the article, it was very helpful in pointing out the differences between the D3 and D5 cookware. I now will be able to choose the right set for me. Incredibly informative!

    Reply
  5. Hello Andrew,
    Very informative! I am a Registered Dietitian and enjoy cooking. I was vacillating about which way to go.
    Your article really helped. Thank you!

    Reply
    • Hi Karen!

      I’m so glad you found the article helpful.

      Do you mind sharing which collection you decided to buy? And, why?

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Andrew

      Reply
  6. Polished D5 absolutely comes in sets. Look at Williams Sonoma. The 10 piece polished D5 sets are $100 cheaper than the brushed D5 set making them only about $100 more than the 10 piece Tri-Ply (D3) set.

    Reply
    • Hi Leah – thanks for sharing. At the time of publishing, there weren’t any D5 Polishes sets available. But, since there are now, we’ve updated the review to correct that section. Thanks for the heads up!

      Andrew

      Reply

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