If you’re shopping for a set of All-Clad cookware, you might be wondering:
What’s the difference between each collection?
Which All-Clad collection is the best?
Here’s the key takeaway:
D3 is All-Clad’s best-selling collection due to its classic, polished exterior, even heating, extensive options, and relatively low price. D5 offers a sleek brushed exterior and forgiving performance. Copper Core is the most elegant, delivering precise heat control for expert-level chefs. The best All-Clad collection depends on your cooking style.
That’s the quick summary, but there’s much more to know about each collection before buying.
In this guide, I break down the best All-Clad cookware collections, including D3, D5, Copper Core, C4 Copper, HA1 Non-Stick, and Essentials Non-Stick.
You’ll learn the important factors to consider when shopping for All-Clad, and the benefits and drawbacks of each collection.
After reading this comprehensive breakdown, you’ll have all the facts to decide which All-Clad cookware is best for you.
Let’s get started!
Use the links below to navigate this guide:
- How to Decide Which All-Clad Collection Is Best
- All-Clad Collections: Comparison Chart
- All-Clad D3 Stainless Steel
- All-Clad D5 Brushed Stainless Steel
- All-Clad Copper Core
- All-Clad C4 Copper
- All-Clad HA1 Non-Stick
- All-Clad Essentials
- Bottom Line: Which All-Clad Collection Is Best For You?
How to Decide Which All-Clad Collection Is Best
Shopping for new cookware goes beyond just picking the first thing you see on the store shelves.
This is especially true with All-Clad since you’re investing quite a bit of money in cookware that could last your lifetime.
It’s important to do your research, understand all the options, and make the right choice.
Before I break down each collection, these are the most important factors to consider when shopping for All-Clad cookware.
You already know that All-Clad cookware is expensive, but most people don’t realize that some collections are significantly more costly than others.
Before you fall in love with a particular collection, you need to know which ones you can and can’t afford.
- When it comes to performance, the key factors to consider are:
- How fast and evenly the cookware heats up
- How well the cookware holds heat
- How fast or slow the cookware reacts to changes in temperature
- The strength and sturdiness of the cookware
- How easy the cookware is to clean and maintain
Since each All-Clad collection is constructed differently, the performance across varies significantly.
For example, the D5 collection has 5-ply (five-layer) construction with a steel core. The steel core defuses heat transfer, which results in cookware that heats slowly, but very evenly.
By contrast, the Copper Core collection has 5-ply (five-layer) construction with a copper core. Since copper has high thermal conductivity, this collection heats up incredibly fast and quickly responds when you turn the heat up or down.
So, it’s not a matter of one All-Clad collection performing better than another. It’s a matter of matching the cookware to your cooking style and preference.
All-Clad is the type of cookware that you’ll have forever. So buy a collection that makes you happy every time you look at it.
In terms of design, the biggest thing to consider is the exterior. Some collections, like D3, come in a polished (shiny) stainless steel exterior, while others, like the D5, come in a brushed, matte exterior.
Another factor to consider is the type of cooking surface you want: stainless steel, non-stick, or both.
If you’re after stainless steel, you’ll have a lot more options since that’s All-Clad’s signature style. But, they also offer complete non-stick collections, including HA1 and Essentials.
Keep that in mind if you’re looking for stainless steel and non-stick, but don’t want to mix and match different collections.
Lastly, before you decide which collection to buy, you need to understand which sets and individual pots and pans are available.
Every All-Clad collection includes the staples: frying pans, skillets, saucepans, stockpots, etc. But some collections have many more sizes and set combinations available.
The last thing you want is to buy a cookware set and realize later that a piece you need is not available, forcing you to mix collections.
So, if you’re looking for specific items, make sure the collection you choose has what you need.
All-Clad Collections: Comparison Chart
Now that you understand what factors to consider when shopping for All-Clad, let’s break down the pros and cons of the top collections.
But first, here’s a comparison chart so you can see the differences between each one side-by-side.
Swipe or scroll left and right to view the entire chart.
|D3 Stainless||D5 Brushed||Copper Core||C4 Copper||HA1 Non-Stick||Essentials Non-Stick|
|Performance||Fast and even heating.||Most forgiving, heats up slowly but very evenly.||Reacts quickly to changes in temperature for precise control.||Reacts quickly to changes in temperature for precise control.||Food doesn't stick.||Food doesn't stick.|
|Construction||3-ply||5-ply||5-ply||4-ply||Hard-anodized aluminum||Hard-anodized aluminum|
|Cooking Surface||Stainless steel (includes non-stick pans)||Stainless steel (includes non-stick pans)||Stainless steel||Stainless steel||Triple-layer non-stick||Triple-layer non-stick|
|Core||Aluminum||Two layers of aluminum, one layer of steel||Two layers of aluminum, one layer of copper||Copper||Aluminum||Aluminum|
|Exterior||Polished stainless steel||Brushed stainless steel||Polished stainless steel||Copper||Hard-anodized aluminum||Hard-anodized aluminum|
|Oven-Safe (degrees F)||600||600||600||600||500||500|
|Where It's Made||U.S.||U.S.||U.S.||U.S.||China||China|
|Top Reasons to Buy||Most affordable stainless steel collection||Most forgiving||Elegant design and precise heating||Unmatched responsiveness and gorgeous copper exterior||Easy to clean and incredibly durable||Most affordable non-stick collection|
|Top Reasons to NOT Buy||Uncomfortable handles||Slow response to temperature changes||Very expensive and requires skill||High maintenance and very expensive||Expensive compared to other non-stick options||Not compatible with induction cooktops|
All-Clad D3 Stainless Steel
I think it’s appropriate to start with All-Clad’s most popular, best-selling, and least expensive stainless steel collection: D3 Stainless.
It’s called D3 because it’s made with 3-ply bonded construction: an 18/10 stainless steel interior, a heavy-gauge aluminum core, and a magnetic stainless steel exterior.
It’s dishwasher-safe, oven-safe up to 600 degrees, and compatible with all cooktops—even induction.
There are over 50 products in the D3 collection, including sets and individual pieces. So, if you’re looking for a particular sized pot or pan, you’ll find it.
Why You Should Buy All-Clad D3
Here’s why this collection is such a great choice.
Fast and even heat distribution:
With its fully-clad 3-ply construction, the D3 collection delivers heat evenly from the base to the rim. Also, since it has only three bonded layers, it heats up fast and reacts to changes in temperature quickly, giving you ultimate control.
It won’t react with food:
Stainless steel doesn’t react with food, unlike some materials such as carbon steel and cast iron. So you can cook anything in these pots and pans without worrying about that yucky metallic taste.
The stainless steel interior has a starburst finish, which is achieved by a chemical-free sanding operation. This unique finish results in a stick-resistant cooking surface that promotes browning and searing.
Although the pots and pans in the D3 collection have some heft, they’re lightweight compared to other collections. For example, the D3 12-inch frying pan weighs 3 pounds, and the D5 12-inch frying pan, which has thicker, 5-ply construction, weighs 4 pounds.
Lots of options:
With over 50 products, including eight different cookware sets, D3 is All-Clad’s most extensive collection.
You’ll find anything from fry pans and french skillets to dutch ovens and saucepans.
The D3 collection has two sub-collections: Compact and Armor.
D3 Compact has the same 3-ply construction and polished finish, but it’s designed so that the pieces nest neatly on top of each other.
D3 Armor cookware has small bumps on the interior which maintain space between the food and the cooking surface, allowing for quick release. There are only five D3 Armor products available: 8, 12, and 10-inch fry pans, an oval fish pan, and a 3-qt saute pan.
Although it’s not cheap, the D3 collection is one of the All-Clad’s least expensive.
Due to it being 3-ply rather than 5-Ply, and not containing any copper (a more expensive material), it’s the best option if you’re on a budget.
Why You Should NOT Buy All-Clad D3
This collection has a lot to love, but it’s not perfect. Here are some reasons why you might want to avoid All-Clad D3.
Non-stick coating peels off:
The D3 collection includes a few frying pans with a non-stick surface, but they get poor reviews on All-Clad.com.
They’re made with a steel exterior, an aluminum core, and PFOA-free non-stick coating, but customers say that within a couple of years, the non-stick coating wears off.
If you want a non-stick pan, you’re better off going with the All-Clad HA1 collection, which I’ll cover in a minute.
Many customers complain that maneuvering, pouring, and cleaning this collection is difficult due to the handles, which have a U-shape indentation on the top side to disperse heat.
Challenging to clean:
Since stainless steel isn’t naturally non-stick, if you don’t cook on low to medium and properly grease the surface, food will stick and become a pain to clean.
Also, if you don’t wash it immediately, the food can dry and harden onto the surface.
Fortunately, I’ve recently uncovered some simple techniques for cleaning All-Clad that will help mitigate this issue.
All-Clad D5 Brushed Stainless Steel
The All-Clad D5 Brushed collection is one of a kind, and it’s the best option for busy, multitasking home cooks. I’ll explain why in a moment.
As the “5” in its name suggests, it has 5-ply fully-clad construction. You get the same steel exterior and interior as the D3 collection, but instead of one aluminum layer, the core is two aluminum layers separated by a thin steel core.
Unlike the D3 collection, which is shiny, the exterior of D5 cookware has a brushed finish that gives it a modern look. Some customers claim that the brushed finish hides scratches and wear better than a polished finish—another bonus.
With more than 25 options in this collection, you’ve got the pick of the bunch.
Why You Should Buy All-Clad D5
If you’re wondering why you should choose the D5 collection, here are the top reasons.
D5 is the only All-Clad collection with 5-ply steel-core construction.
All-Clad added the steel core layer for a specific reason; it defuses heat transfer to the cooking surface.
In other words, the cookware heats up slower, but the unique layering ensures completely even heating.
The other collections heat up evenly, too, but with the extra layers and steel core, you get more consistent results.
Out of every All-Clad collection, D5 is the most forgiving.
What do I mean by that?
If you turn the heat up too high, D5 pans take a little longer to react. The same goes for when you turn the heat down.
This might sound like a negative, but it gives you some leeway while you’re cooking, and can save a meal if you mistakenly turn the heat too high.
That’s why I recommend this collection for multitasking home cooks that need a little more margin for error.
D5 cookware is thick, hefty, and ultra-durable.
It’s not the type of cookware that will warp if you heat or cool it too fast.
And, it won’t scratch or chip, unless you abuse it.
With three layers of stainless steel, two layers of aluminum, and steel riveted handles, this collection is guaranteed to last a lifetime (with proper use and care).
Why You Should NOT Buy All-Clad D5
All-Clad D5 cookware is perfect for some, but might not be the right collection for you.
Here are a few drawbacks to this collection.
With its thick, 5-ply construction, it takes time for the heat to transfer from your cooktop to your food.
While it retains heat wonderfully and distributes it evenly, this pan might slow down your cooking process a bit.
D5 cookware takes longer to react to changes in temperature.
If you like to multitask in the kitchen and want more forgiving pots and pans, this is a good thing.
But, if you’re the type of cook that wants more precise temperature control, you should avoid D5.
Most All-Clad cookware is heavy due to its fully-clad construction, but the D5 collection is one of the heaviest.
The added weight can make this cookware more challenging to maneuver, especially when transferring a pan full of food from the stove to the oven.
Some people enjoy the sturdy feel of D5, but if you prefer lightweight pans, don’t buy this collection.
To get a closer look at the D5 collection, check out my recent comparisons of D5 versus D3 and D5 versus Copper Core. Also, you can check the current prices and read customer reviews of D5 cookware on Amazon and All-Clad.com.
All-Clad Copper Core
The All-Clad Copper Core collection will make you feel like a professional chef.
This gorgeous cookware features 5-ply construction with an 18/10 stainless steel interior, a polished magnetic steel exterior, and a copper core sandwiched between two layers of aluminum.
The Copper Core collection is one of All-Clad’s most classy and elegant, but it’s not all looks.
Copper is highly conductive, which means this collection heats incredibly fast and evenly, providing you with precise control over your cooking.
Why You Should Buy All-Clad Copper Core
With over 30 products in this collection, there’s a lot to choose from. But why should you go for Copper Core over the others?
The unique 5-Ply construction was designed to give cooks quick and even heating.
Copper has a higher thermal conductivity than aluminum, which means it heats up and distributes heat quickly.
The combination of copper and aluminum that make up the core layers also results in exceptional responsiveness. In other words, the pans in this collection quickly react when you crank up the heat or turn it down.
This level of control allows you to cook your food exactly how you like it.
All-Clad prioritizes the small details with this collection, including flared edges for drip-free pouring, and a classy strip of copper along the base of each pot and pan.
Also, the handles have a small bump to prevent your hand from sliding too close to the heat.
One look at its beautiful appearance is enough to fall in love with this collection.
With many options in this collection, you can find the perfect cookware for making a stir fry, pancakes, sauces, and much more.
Each Copper Core product is compatible with any cooktop, as well as ovens, broilers, refrigerators, and freezers.
Why You Should NOT Buy All-Clad Copper Core
Although the All-Clad Copper Core collection is stunning in terms of design and performance, there are a few reasons why it might not be the best for you.
Not suitable for beginners:
If you’re new to cooking and looking for forgiving cookware, the Copper Core collection isn’t for you.
Since these pans heat up so fast and react quickly to changes in temperature, they require skill and a hands-on approach to cook with properly.
Also, the 5-ply construction makes this cookware quite heavy and difficult to maneuver.
Along with the C4 Copper collection, Copper Core is the most expensive cookware from All-Clad. You can see exactly how expensive by checking the current prices on Amazon.
It’s more expensive due to the inclusion of copper, which is a pricier material.
Depending on the pot, pan, or set you’re looking at, this collection can be twice as costly as D3.
Difficult to clean:
Because of the stick-resistant finish rather than non-stick, customers find that the Copper Core collection can be quite challenging to clean.
Plus, the copper ring can tarnish if you wash it in the dishwasher. Get ready to use some elbow grease to scrub these pots and pans back to perfection.
Read my recent in-depth comparisons of Copper Core versus D5 and Copper Core versus D3 to learn more. Or, if you’re convinced it’s the cookware for you, check the current pricing on Amazon and All-Clad.com.
All-Clad C4 Copper
C4 Copper is unlike any other All-Clad collection. Rather than having a steel exterior, this collection features a pure copper outer layer.
Another distinguishing feature is it’s 4-ply fully-clad construction—most cookware brands only offer 3-ply or 5-ply.
From the outside in, the four layers are copper, then steel, then copper, and finally steel for the cooking surface.
The two layers of copper provide an undeniably elegant look and deliver functional benefits that I’ll explain in a moment.
While C4 Copper cookware is not compatible with induction cooktops, it’s a good match for gas, electric, and ceramic, and is oven-safe up to 600 degrees Fahrenheit.
Note: All-Clad discontinued the C4 Copper collection in 2020. However, you can still buy it on Amazon while inventory lasts.
Why You Should Buy All-Clad C4 Copper
Like the look of All-Clad C4 Copper, but not sure if it’s right for you? I’ll break down some of the main reasons why you should choose this collection.
Stainless steel cooking surface:
Although this collection is named after its copper elements, it still has a trusted stainless steel cooking surface, which allows for reliable cooking and flavorful food without a metallic aftertaste.
Heats up fast:
Copper has high thermal conductivity—much higher than aluminum.
With two layers of copper, C4 Copper heats faster than any other All-Clad collection, including Copper Core.
Due to the high thermal conductivity of copper and the low heat capacity (how much heat a material can hold) of steel, this collection is incredibly responsive and precise.
In other words, it responds rapidly to even the slightest change in temperature.
In a market of mostly 3-ply and 5-ply cookware, the C4 Copper collection is a little quirky with its 4-ply construction.
With one less layer than the Copper Core and D5 collections, this collection is a bit lighter.
Why You Should NOT Buy All-Clad C4 Copper
There are many benefits to the C4 Copper collection, but also a few critical drawbacks to consider.
Although the copper exterior is fashionable and allows for quick heat up, it’s sensitive.
Copper is quite soft, so it requires higher maintenance and is prone to scratching and tarnishing.
Plus, it’s not dishwasher safe, so factor in the time it will take to hand wash your C4 Copper products.
Incompatible with induction:
For induction cooktops to work correctly, the cookware material must be magnetic, such as steel or iron.
Since the exterior of C4 Copper cookware is 100% pure copper (not magnetic), this collection is incompatible with induction cooktops.
If you’re looking for a budget-friendly option, the C4 Copper collection is not for you.
Simply put, this cookware is very expensive.
All-Clad is known for being pricey, and this is one of All-Clad’s most expensive collections.
Low heat retention:
Compared to the Copper Core and other 5-Ply All-Clad collections, C4 Copper has lower heat retention.
It heats up fast and cools down quickly, but it doesn’t hold heat well.
So if your recipe calls to remove from heat for a while, don’t be surprised if you find the food has cooled down quite a bit.
If you’re intrigued by the unique look and superior precision of the C4 Copper collection, check out the current prices on Amazon.
But, if you’re on the fence and want to learn more, I highly recommend reading my in-depth comparison of C4 Copper versus Copper Core.
All-Clad HA1 Non-Stick
All-Clad may be known for its fully-clad stainless steel cookware, but they offer a few non-stick collections, including the convenient and durable HA1 collection.
The “HA” stands for hard-anodized aluminum, which is the base material for the pots and pans in this collection.
Aluminum becomes hard-anodized after it’s treated through an electrochemical process that makes it more durable, harder, and more resistant to corrosion—all while maintaining the heat-conductive properties of untreated aluminum.
With the HA1 collection, you get fast, even-heating cookware that’s easy to cook with and easy to clean.
There are over 15 products in this collection, including griddles, pots, pans, and even a panini press.
Why You Should Buy All-Clad HA1 Non-Stick
If you need non-stick cookware, here are the top reasons why you should choose the HA1 collection.
Triple-layer non-stick coating:
One of the most common complaints about non-stick cookware, in general, is that the coating wears down and scratches after about a year.
Fortunately, this won’t happen with the HA1 collection.
Unlike most non-stick pans that only have one layer of coating, HA1 cookware is coated with three layers of premium PFOA-free non-stick material.
The extra two layers add strength and longevity to the cooking surface.
Easy to clean:
After you’ve gobbled up your tasty dinner, clean up is easy.
While All-Clad’s stainless steel collections require special cleaning techniques, the non-stick coating on HA1 pots and pans makes for a convenient weeknight experience since your food won’t stick to the surface.
This collection is dishwasher safe, but I still recommend mostly hand-washing to maintain the quality of the non-stick surface.
Hard anodized cookware has undergone a hardening process to increase its durability and corrosion resistance.
But, besides the added durability, hard-anodized aluminum heats up fast and evenly.
This collection has a stainless steel bonded base, which increases durability, makes it warp-resistant, and makes it compatible with all cooktops.
Without the steel base, it wouldn’t be induction-compatible since aluminum is not magnetic.
It’s not easy to find cookware that meets the needs of professionals and beginners, but the HA1 collection is a rare breed.
The slick, non-stick cooking surface makes it easy to use and clean. And the hard-anodized aluminum base provides fast and consistent results.
As for professional use, the triple-layer coating provides a surface for incredible browning, sautéing, and pan-frying.
Why You Should NOT Buy All-Clad HA1 Non-Stick
The HA1 is no doubt a great choice, but it comes with a few flaws.
A common complaint about this collection is that the steel riveted handles are poorly designed.
You might find that they’re uncomfortable to hold, especially when you’re handling the larger, heavier pots and pans.
Important to note: the handles in this collection are the same as those in the D3 collection.
Non-stick coating scratches:
Although most customers are content with their purchase, a small percentage complain that their HA1 pans scratch over time.
Put a cloth between them for extra protection if you have limited storage space and plan on stacking your pots and pans. You can pick up anti-slip pot protectors for cheap on Amazon.
Also, avoid using metal utensils while cooking with this collection to prevent scratching the surface.
The HA1 collection is cheap when you compare it to the C4 Copper, Copper Core, and even the D5 collection. But for the non-stick category, it’s quite expensive.
If you’re looking for a $20 pan and don’t mind if you need to replace it in six months or a year, HA1 isn’t the cookware for you. If you’re comfortable spending more for non-stick cookware that will last, it’s one of the best options on the market.
Made in China:
Unlike All-Clad’s American-made stainless steel collections, their non-stick collections, including HA1, are made in China.
While there’s nothing wrong with that, I wanted to call it out because most people believe that every All-Clad collection is American-made.
All-Clad Essentials Non-Stick
If you’re impressed by the HA1 collection and it’s non-stick surface, but prefer something a bit more budget-friendly, consider All-Clad Essentials.
Essentials is one of All-Clad’s newest collections. It features the same hard-anodized construction as HA1, but it’s much more affordable.
There are only a few sets and individual pieces in this collection, but, as its name suggests, it covers all the essentials.
Why You Should Buy All-Clad Essentials
If you need non-stick cookware, here are the top reasons why you should choose the Essentials collection.
The Essentials collection is, by far, All-Clad’s most affordable. Why is it so inexpensive? First, it’s made in China. Second, unlike HA1 cookware, this collection does NOT feature a steel induction plate, so it’s not compatible with induction cooktops, and it’s slightly less durable.
Triple-layer non-stick coating:
Just like the HA1 collection, Essentials pots and pans have a triple-layer non-stick coating that will out-last and out-perform almost any pan on the market.
Easy to clean:
All=Clad recommends hand washing this collection to preserve the non-stick coating. But, since it has a slick, non-stick surface, it cleans up with ease.
Unlike All-Clad’s stainless steel cookware, you never have to worry about food sticking and discoloration with the Essentials collection.
This collection is made with the same ultra-durable hard-anodized aluminum. You never have to worry about it warping or leaching metals into your food. This material conducts heat fast and evenly and is built to last.
Why You Should NOT Buy All-Clad Essentials
The Essentials collection is a solid upgrade from most non-stick cookware on the market, but it has some flaws.
Not compatible with induction cooktops:
The base of Essentials pans is aluminum, which is not magnetic; therefore, not compatible with induction cooktops. If you have an induction cooktop, I recommend going with the HA1 collection (or any All-Clad stainless steel collection).
Made in China:
All-Clad is known for its premium, American-made stainless steel cookware. Unfortunately, the Essentials collection (and the HA1 collection) is made in China. While this isn’t necessarily bad (it helps cut costs and keeps prices low), people who associate All-Clad with local manufacturing are disappointed to find out this collection is made overseas.
When you buy All-Clad stainless steel cookware, you can expect it to last for decades (or longer). With the Essentials collection, expect it to last 2 to 5 years, depending on how well you take care of it.
Several customers report that the coating easily scratches after just a few months. Others say that stacking the pieces results in damage, despite All-Clad advertising this collection as stackable.
The key point here is that the coating on all non-stick cookware can and will become damaged overtime, and All-Clad Essentials is no exception. Avoid metal utensils, and always use pot protectors when stacking.
Bottom Line: Which All-Clad Collection Is Best For You?
The best All-Clad cookware collection depends entirely on personal preferences and what you’re looking to get out of your new kitchen vessels.
There’s a lot to love about each All-Clad collection, but they have downsides to consider too.
When you’re shopping for All-Clad Cookware, keep in mind the most important factors: price, performance, design, and options.
If you’re looking for lots of options within the same collection, I recommend going with All-Clad D3.
With its 5-ply construction and steel core, the D5 collection is the most forgiving.
Copper Core might be the best looking and highest performing All-Clad collection, but it’s also one of the most expensive.
C4 Copper (discontinued as of 2020) cookware responds to changes in temperature faster than any other collection, giving you ultimate control over your cooking. Its unmatched responsiveness makes it ideal for vegetarian or vegan meals, which can be sensitive to heat.
HA1 is one of All-Clad’s few non-stick collections. With its triple-layer non-stick surface, it’s convenient and easy to use. But, it’s one of the few collections that’s not made in America.
Finally, the Essentials features the same hard-anodized aluminum base and triple-coating cooking surface as the HA1, but it’s much cheaper since it lacks the steel induction plate on the bottom.
Now that you know all the critical facts about All-Clad’s best cookware collections, it’s time to decide. Which collection is the one for you?
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