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 All-Clad’s classic D3 collection (also called Tri-Ply) or their newer, more complex D5 collection?
In this article, I will help answer that question by providing an in-depth comparison of All-Clad D3 vs. D5. I cover all the ways 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.
I promise that by the end of this article, you’ll have all the information you need to decide which All-Clad cookware is right for you.
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Let’s dive right in!
Use the links below to navigate this article:
- All-Clad D3 vs. D5: Quick Summary
- Quick Comparison Chart
- Cooking Performance: Tri-Ply vs. 5-Ply
- Product Options
- Bottom Line: Which Cookware Should You Buy, D3 or D5?
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.
What Are Their Similarities?
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; the base and sides all the way up through the rim.
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.
What Are Their Differences?
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).
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.
Product Options: D3 cookware comes in three varieties: D3 Stainless which is their best-seller and has the most sets to choose from, D3 Compact which is designed to easily stack so it takes up less space (only 4 sets available), and D3 Armor which features a textured cooking surface to reduce sticking and make it easier to release food (only 5 individual pieces available). D5 cookware comes in only two varieties: D5 Brushed (sets and individual pieces) and D5 Polished (individual pieces only).
Price: Both collections are expensive but, in general, D3 cookware is less expensive 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.
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.
|All-Clad D3||All-Clad D5|
|Where They Are Made||Canonsburg, Pennsylvania||Canonsburg, Pennsylvania|
|Exterior Material||18/0 Stainless Steel||18/0 Stainless Steel|
|Cooking Surface||18/10 Stainless Steel||18/10 Stainless Steel|
|Core Layers||Aluminum||Stainless steel wrapped in 2 layers of aluminum|
|Lids||Stainless Steel||Stainless Steel|
|Handles||Stainless Steel||Stainless Steel|
|Oven Safe Temperature||Up to 600 degrees||Up to 600 degrees|
|Cleaning||Dishwasher safe, hand wash recommended||Dishwasher safe, hand wash recommended|
|Appearance||Only available in polished finish||Available in polished and brushed finishes|
|Lid Handles||Thin, no logo||Thick with logo|
|Flared Rims||Yes, on most pieces||Yes, on all pieces|
|Cooking Performance||Quick temperature response||Gradual temperature response|
|Warranty||Limited Lifetime||Limited Lifetime|
|Price||Less expensive Check Current Price on Amazon||More expensive Check Current Price on Amazon|
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 biggest 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 great conduction without sacrificing durability.
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.
The illustration below shows exactly what I just described.
So we now know that D3 cookware has 3 bonded layers and D5 cookware has 5, 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. This has 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 which slows heat transfer to the cooking surface. This ensures that the temperature is spread completely even 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. This 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 extra 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 over the course of 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 important to understand these small differences and know every detail about what you’re getting into.
From a design standpoint, D3 and D5 cookware have three main differences. Their exterior finish, lid handles, and rims.
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.
One important thing to note, with D5 cookware, you have the option to buy individual pieces with a polished exterior finish exactly like D3 cookware, however, multi-piece sets are only available with a brushed finish. 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.
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 the rims of D5 cookware are more prominently flared than the rims of D3 cookware.
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 difficult to pour liquids.
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 easily move food out of a pot or pan, the downside is that they make it more difficult 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.
All-Clad not only offers many different cookware collections to choose from, but they also have special variations within their collections.
Let’s take a look at the variations within the D3 and D5 collections so you know exactly 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
This is All-Clad’s most popular and best-selling cookware by far. It’s their original bonded stainless steel collection and it’s used by millions of home cooks and professional chefs across the globe.
In total, there are 54 D3 Stainless Steel products available including 8 different sets ranging from 5 to 14 pieces and 46 individual pieces. Check out all D3 Stainless Steel options on Amazon.
This cookware is, as All-Clad calls it, “a modern twist on classic All-Clad D3 Stainless”.
It has the exact 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 6 total D3 Compact products including 4 different sets, an 8.5-inch non-stick skillet, and a 4.5-quart roasting pan. Check out all D3 Compact options on Williams-Sonoma.com.
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 very limited. It’s really 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.
This 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 5 sets ranging from 5 to 14 pieces and 21 individual pieces. Check out all D5 Brushed options on Amazon.
D5 Polished cookware is exactly the same as D5 Brushed except it has a polished exterior finish instead of brushed.
There are 32 D5 Polished products available, however, All-Clad only offers this cookware as individual pieces. So if you’re looking for a complete set, you’ll have to buy whichever individual pieces you want to curate your own.
Although you’ll get to customize the set exactly how you want, you end up paying a lot more because individual pieces tend to cost more than if you were to buy them as a predetermined set.
In my opinion, All-Clad created D5 Polished cookware so that customers who want the advantages of 5-ply construction but don’t need it for every piece in their kitchen can add one or two pans to a set of D3 Stainless Steel. Check out D5 Polished options on Williams-Sonoma.com.
Whether you go for the D3 or D5, it will be a hefty upfront investment. However, I truly 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 larger and more expensive sets.
Use the chart below to compare the current prices of D3 and D5 cookware across a few popular sets.
D3 Stainless Steel and D3 Compact cost almost exactly 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 only comes in individual pieces. D5 Brushed will be cheaper if you’re buying a set, but if you’re picking individual pieces, they’ll cost about the same.
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 D5 polished cookware doesn’t come in sets.
Last, but not least, is price. Both are quite expensive, but you get what you pay for. If you’re trying to stay within a certain budget, D3 is less expensive 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.
Plus, if you don’t have a huge 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:
- All-Clad D5 vs. Copper Core: How Do They Compare?
- All-Clad HA1 vs. B1: Which All-Clad Non-Stick Collection Is Better?
- Is All-Clad Cookware Worth the High Price? An In-Depth Review
- All-Clad vs. Calphalon: Non-Stick and Stainless Cookware Compared
- T-fal vs. Calphalon: In-Depth Cookware Comparison
- All-Clad vs. Cuisinart: How Does Their Cookware Compare?