Calphalon Classic vs. Contemporary: What’s the Difference?

Calphalon Classic vs. Contemporary

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If you’re in the market for new cookware and are planning to go with Calphalon, you’ve already made an excellent choice.

Now the question is, which Calphalon collection should you buy, the Classic or Contemporary?

Calphalon Classic cookware comes in four varieties: stainless steel, non-stick, ceramic non-stick, and oil-infused ceramic. This collection is a fantastic value due to its quality construction, thoughtfully designed features, and reasonable price.

Calphalon Contemporary cookware comes in only two varieties: stainless steel and non-stick. This high-end collection has a sleeker design, thicker construction, and better performance. But, it comes with a much higher price tag.

Choosing between the two is a tough decision, but we’re here to help you determine which one is right for your kitchen.

In this in-depth comparison of Calphalon Classic vs. Contemporary cookware, you’ll learn exactly how they stack up in terms of construction, cooking performance, design, product offerings, price, and much more.

Let’s get started!

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Calphalon Classic vs. Contemporary: Quick Summary

If you only have a minute and you’re trying to quickly compare Calphalon Classic vs. Contemporary cookware, here’s what you need to know.

What Are the Differences?

Options

The Calphalon Classic collection is made up of stainless steel cookware, traditional non-stick cookware (PTFE coating), cookware with a non-stick ceramic cooking surface, and cookware with an oil-infused non-stick cooking surface. The Contemporary collection is made up of stainless steel and traditional non-stick cookware.

Stainless Steel Construction

Classic Stainless Steel cookware features a medium-gauge (thinner metal) impact-bonded aluminum base which conducts heat from the bottom-up.

Contemporary Stainless Steel cookware features heavy-gauge (thicker metal) aluminum and multi-clad construction which results in superior durability and even heat distribution throughout the entire pan.

Non-Stick Construction

Classic Non-stick has dual layer non-stick coating on a medium-gauge, hard-anodized aluminum base.

Contemporary non-stick features three layers of non-stick coating on a heavy-gauge, hard-anodized aluminum base.

Time-Saving Features

Classic cookware (except ceramic oil-infused version) features measuring marks, pour spouts, and straining lids on saucepans and stockpots to help save time while cooking. Contemporary cookware does not.

Product Options

With several different sets of cookware to choose from and a range of individual pieces you can add to each set, the Classic collection offers the more options (but you’ll likely find every pot and pan you need with both collections).

Warranty

Except for Classic Ceramic Non-stick and Classic Oil Infused Ceramic, which both carry a 10-year warranty, all Classic and Contemporary cookware comes with a lifetime warranty.

Price

The Contemporary collection is more expensive than the Classic collection due to its heavy-gauge, multi-clad construction, and its additional layer of non-stick coating.

Of all Classic cookware, Classic Ceramic Non-stick and Oil-Infused Ceramic are the most expensive.

To easily compare prices across the collections, check out each collection on Amazon at the links below.

What Are the Similarities?

Handles

Both collections feature long, stainless steel handles designed to stay cool on cooktops.

Cooktop Compatibility

Classic and Contemporary stainless steel cookware is compatible with all cooktops, including induction. The non-stick versions within both collections are compatible with all cooktops except induction.

Oven-Safe

All Classic and Contemporary collections are oven safe up to 450 Fahrenheit (including the tempered glass lids).

Cooking Surface

Both stainless steel collections have brushed stainless steel interiors.

Maintenance and Care

The cooking surface of all Calphalon stainless steel pots and pans can withstand a variety of utensils, but for best results, avoid metal utensils. Nonstick pans are best suited for nylon, wood, or non-stick utensils to avoid scratching.

Side-By-Side Comparison Chart

Click on the “+” to see the most important details about each cookware set.

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

Calphalon Company Background

Calphalon, once named Commercial Aluminum Cookware Company, was founded in 1963 in Toledo, Ohio by Ronald Kasperzak, a metal industry executive.

In 1968, they became the first company to bring hard-anodized aluminum to the cookware market. They named this new, innovative product line, Calphalon.

Hard-anodized aluminum goes through an electrochemical process which makes it non-porous and exceptionally durable while maintaining the superior heat conductive properties of standard aluminum.

This unique hard-anodized cookware line became so popular that, in 1992, they decided to rename the company after it—and Calphalon was born.

Over the years, Calphalon has expanded into stainless steel cookware, hard-anodized aluminum cookware with PTFE and ceramic non-stick coatings, and other kitchen products such as bakeware, cutlery, and small appliances.

In 1998, Newell Brands, a leading global consumer goods company, purchased Calphalon. The New Jersey-based company represents some of the country’s most recognizable and long-standing brands, including Crock-Pot, Sunbeam, and Mr. Coffee.

Construction

One of the most significant differences between Calphalon Classic and Contemporary cookware is its construction.

First, let’s talk about stainless steel cookware within each collection.

Calphalon Classic stainless steel cookware is constructed with an impact-bonded base while Calphalon Contemporary is fully-clad (or multi-clad).

What does this mean?

Stainless steel is very durable, but it doesn’t conduct heat nearly as well as aluminum. Therefore, cookware makers often manufacture their pots and pans with a stainless steel exterior and an aluminum core.

This process of layering different metals to achieve an optimal balance between durability and conduction is called cladding.

When I say that Calphalon Classic cookware has an impact-bonded base, all that means is the base of the cookware has a core layer of aluminum.

With Calphalon Contemporary, the core layer of aluminum extends throughout the pan (including the base, sides, and rim).

Calphalon Contemporary Multi-Clad Construction
Calphalon Contemporary Multi-Clad Construction. Photo credit: Calphalon.com.

While the bonded base of the Classic collection conducts heat well, the multi-clad construction of Contemporary cookware ensures even heating from the bottom of the pan and up through the sides and rim.

The other difference between Calphalon Classic and Contemporary stainless steel cookware is its thickness and weight.

The aluminum layer in Classic cookware is considered medium-gauge, which is not as thick or heavy as the heavy-gauge aluminum layer in Contemporary cookware.

Now, let’s talk about non-stick.

The base material that Calphalon uses to construct all of their non-stick cookware, including each Classic and Contemporary set, is hard anodized aluminum.

The process of anodizing cookware involves chemicals and electricity to effectively seal the pan and ensure that the metal won’t react to acidic foods.

The result—highly conductive cookware that’s strong, sturdy, and resistant to scratches and corrosion.

By comparison, non-anodized aluminum (which some manufacturers use to make low-cost cookware) is more apt to scratch, warp (learn about why pans warp in our recent article), and react with acidic foods.

The main difference in terms of construction between the Calphalon Classic and Contemporary non-stick lines is the cooking surface.

With Calphalon Classic, you have three non-stick coating materials to choose from; traditional PTFE (which is short for Polytetrafluoroethylene and also known as Teflon), ceramic, and oil-infused ceramic.

Calphalon Classic Non-stick
Calphalon Classic Non-stick. From top to bottom: PTFE, Ceramic, Oil-infused Ceramic. Photo credit: Calphalon.com.

With Calphalon Contemporary, you only have one non-stick coating option: PTFE.

Calphalon Non Stick Frying Pan
Calphalon Contemporary Non-Stick Frying Pan with PTFE coating

In the past, there were health concerns with PTFE coated cookware because it was made with a chemical called PFOA (Perfluorooctanoic acid).

This chemical was suspected of contributing to certain types of cancers. However, since 2013, all U.S. cookware makers, including Calphalon, stopped using PTOA in their manufacturing process.

Some people still prefer ceramic coated cookware, but I believe (and many others agree) that PTFE coating releases food and is easier to clean than ceramic.

It’s not just the material of the non-stick cooking surface that differs between these two collections, but also the number of non-stick layers and the thickness.

Classic non-stick cookware features a dual-layer PTFE coating and medium-gauge hard-anodized aluminum construction.

Contemporary non-stick cookware features triple-layer PTFE coating and heavy-gauge (thicker and more durable) hard-anodized aluminum construction. 

Calphalon Contemporary Non Stick Frying Pans
Calphalon Contemporary (triple-layer non-stick coating, heavy-gauge hard-anodized aluminum).

Contemporary cookware’s additional layer of non-stick coating makes it more durable and scratch-resistant than its Classic non-stick counterpart.

Cooking Performance

When comparing cookware, cooking performance can be a very subjective category.

However, there are facts about the Classic and Contemporary lines that undoubtedly give the edge to Contemporary.

Here’s what you need to know.

Heat Conduction:

Contemporary stainless steel cookware conducts heat faster and more evenly than Classic stainless steel cookware.

Why?

Because Contemporary cookware has a core layer of conductive material (aluminum) throughout the entire pan compared to Classic cookware, which only has conductive material at its base.

With non-stick, heat conduction is the same across both collections since both are made with the same hard-anodized aluminum.

Heat Retention:

Contemporary stainless steel and non-stick cookware will retain heat longer than Classic cookware because its construction is thicker (heavy-gauge vs. medium-gauge).

Oven-Safe Temperature:

All Classic and Contemporary collections are oven safe up to 450 (including the tempered glass lids).

Cooktop Compatibility:

Classic and Contemporary stainless steel cookware is compatible with all cooktops, including induction. The non-stick sets are compatible with all cooktops except induction.

What Others Are Saying:

Customers who purchased Classic cookware love its even-heating, sturdiness, and excellent price.

The negative reviewers primarily complain that food sticks and the cooking surface quickly becomes discolored (stainless steel version) and that the PTFE coating scratches easily (non-stick version).

Most customers sing the praises of the Contemporary line. If you read some of the reviews on Amazon, you’ll see adjectives like “wonderful,” “excellent,” and “even heat distribution.”

Although most reviews are positive, the common themes within the negative reviews are that food sticks to the cooking surface, and it’s hard to remove stains. 

Design

Calphalon Classic and Contemporary cookware both feature long, cast stainless steel handles designed to stay cool on cooktops.

The handle’s design diminishes heat conductivity, as it is farther from the heating surface and has space between the bolted side and the Calphalon imprint.

Calphalon Contemporary Non-Stick Handle Design
Calphalon Contemporary Non-Stick Handle Design

As you can see below, Contemporary handles are slightly more curved than Classic handles.

Calphalon Classic vs. Contemporary handle design
Calphalon Classic (left), Contemporary (right). Photo credit: Calphalon.com.

Both Classic and Contemporary sets have tempered glass lids.

Tempered glass is more stringent than regular glass and is less likely to crack or break, especially when exposed to high temperatures.

The lid handles on Contemporary cookware feature a sleek curve while the lid handles on Classic cookware are more squared.

Calphalon Classic vs. Contemporary lid handle design
Calphalon Classic (left), Contemporary (right). Photo credit: Calphalon.com.

One of the hallmarks of the Classic collection is built-in, time-saving features.

With this collection, there’s no need for colanders, strainers, measuring cups, and the like. Etched into the interiors of the saucepans and stockpots are fill lines to help you measure the amount of liquid needed for a recipe.

Calphalon Classic pots and pans also have pour spouts and straining lids, which, aside from the obvious uses, allow for steam to escape while cooking.

Calphalon Classic Pour Spout Straining Lid Measuring Marks
Calphalon Classic Pour Spout, Straining Lid, Measuring Marks. Photo credit: Calphalon.com.

The Classic fry pans are smartly designed with sloped sides and flared edged for easy manipulation of food, whether you are turning out an omelet or jostling sizzling green beans.

The Contemporary collection is known for its simple yet sleek appearance and sturdy construction. The pans have sloped sides and flared rims good for flipping and tossing food while cooking and sliding food onto dishes.

Calphalon Contemporary Flared Rims
Calphalon Contemporary Flared Rims. Photo credit: Calphalon.com.

Both Classic and Contemporary stainless steel cookware features a brushed stainless steel finish on the exterior and interior while the non-stick versions feature a gray matte finish.

Product Offerings

Calphalon Classic and Contemporary cookware sets range from 2  to 14 pieces. Keep in mind that lids count as pieces in a collection.

Below are examples of the most popular sets in each collection, as well as the individual pieces you can add to any set.

The key takeaway here is that both the Classic and Contemporary collections offer a ton of options.

Calphalon Classic Stainless Steel 14-Piece Set (see on Amazon):

  • 8-in. Fry Pan
  • 10-in. Fry Pan
  • 12-in. Fry Pan with Cover
  • 1.5-qt. Sauce Pan with Cover
  • 2.5-qt. Sauce Pan with Cover
  • 3.5-qt. Sauce Pan with Cover
  • 3-qt. Sauté Pan with Cover
  • 8-qt. Stock Pot with Cover
Calphalon Classic Stainless Steel Cookware Set, 14-Piece
Calphalon Classic Stainless Steel 14-Piece Set. Click the image to view on Amazon.

Calphalon Classic Stainless Steel Individual Pieces:

  • 8-qt. Multi Pot
  • Roaster with Rack
  • 12-qt. Stock Pot with Cover
  • 5-qt. Soup Pot with Cover
  • 8-qt. Dutch Oven with Cover
  • 8-in. And 10-in. Omelette Pan Bundle
  • 5-qt. Sautese (large, dome-shaped sauté pan) with Cover
  • 10-in. Everyday Pan with Cover
  • 5-qt Sauce and Double Boiler
  • Flat Bottom Wok

Calphalon Classic Ceramic Non-stick Set 11-Piece Set (see on Amazon):

  • 8-in. Fry Pan
  • 10-in. Fry Pan
  • 12-in. Round Griddle
  • 3-qt. Sauté Pan with Cover
  • 1.5-qt. Sauce Pan with Cover
  • 2.5-qt. Sauce Pan with Cover
  • 5-qt. Dutch Oven with Cover
Calphalon 11 Piece Classic Ceramic Nonstick Cookware Set, Grey/White, Small
Calphalon Classic Ceramic Non-stick Set 11-Piece Set. Click the image to view on Amazon.

Calphalon Classic Ceramic Non-stick Individual Pieces:

  • 2-piece Fry Pan bundle
  • 12-in. Round Griddle Pan
  • 12-in. Fry Pan with Cover
  • 12-in. Round Grill Pan
  • 8-in. Fry Pan
  • 10-in. Fry Pan
  • 10-in. Fry Pan with Cover
  • 5-qt. Dutch Oven with Cover
  • 5-qt. Sauce Pan with Cover

Calphalon Classic Oil Infused Ceramic 11-Piece Set (see on Calphalon.com):

  • 8-in. Fry Pan
  • 10-in. Fry Pan
  • 12-in. Round Griddle
  • 3-qt. Sauté Pan with Cover
  • 1.5-qt. Sauce Pan with Cover
  • 2.5-qt. Sauce Pan with Cover
  • 5-qt. Dutch Oven with Cover
Calphalon Classic Oil Infused Ceramic 11-Piece Set
Calphalon Classic Oil Infused Ceramic 11-Piece Set. Photo credit: Calphalon.com.

Calphalon Classic Oil Infused Ceramic Individual Pieces:

  • 8-in. Fry Pan
  • 10-in. Fry Pan
  • 12-in. Fry Pan with Cover

Calphalon Classic Non-Stick 14-Piece Set (see on Amazon):

  • 8-in. Fry Pan
  • 10-in. Fry Pan
  • 12-in. Fry Pan with Cover
  • 1.5-qt. Sauce Pan with Cover
  • 2.5-qt. Sauce Pan with Cover
  • 3.5-qt. Sauce Pan with Cover
  • 3-qt. Sauté Pan with Cover
  • 8-qt. Stock Pot with Cover
Calphalon Classic Nonstick Hard-Anodized 14-Piece Cookware Set, Grey
Calphalon Classic Non-Stick 14-Piece Set. Click the image to view on Amazon.

Calphalon Classic Non-Stick Individual Pieces:

  • 10-in. And 12-in. Fry Pan bundle
  • 11-in. Square Grill
  • 11-in. Square Griddle
  • Panini Pan and Press
  • 5-qt. Dutch Oven with Cover
  • 5-qt. Dutch Oven with Cover
  • 5-qt. Shallow Sauce Pan with Cover
  • 13-in. Deep Skillet with Cover
  • 12-in. Everyday Pan with Cover
  • 8-in. Fry Pan with Cover
  • 8-in. Fry Pan
  • 10-in. Fry Pan
  • 12-in. Fry Pan
  • 10-in. Stir Fry Pan
  • 5-qt. Sauce Pan with Cover
  • 5-qt. Pour and Strain Sauce Pan
  • 5-qt. Sauce Pan with Steamer Insert and Cover
  • 5-qt. Sauce Pan with Cover
  • 3-qt. Sauté Pan with Cover
  • 7-qt. Sauteuse (large, dome-shaped sauté pan) with Cover
  • Multi-Pot
  • 8-qt. Stock Pot with Cover
  • Flat Bottom Wok
  • Roaster and Rack

Calphalon Contemporary Non-Stick 11-Piece Set (see on Amazon):

  • 10-in. Fry Pan
  • 12-in. Fry Pan with Cover
  • 1.5-qt. Sauce Pan with Cover
  • 2.5-qt. Sauce Pan with Cover
  • 3-qt. Sauté Pan with Cover
  • 8-qt. Stock Pot with Cover
Calphalon Contemporary Nonstick 11 piece Set
Calphalon Contemporary Non-Stick 11-Piece Set. Click the image to view on Amazon.

Calphalon Contemporary Non-Stick Individual Pieces:

  • 10-in. And 12-in. Fry Pan bundle
  • 11-in. Square Grill
  • 11-in. Square Griddle
  • Panini Pan and Press
  • 5-qt. Dutch Oven with Cover
  • 5-qt. Dutch Oven with Cover
  • 5-qt. Shallow Sauce Pan with Cover
  • 13-in. Deep Skillet with Cover
  • 12-in. Everyday Pan with Cover
  • 8-in. Fry Pan with Cover
  • 8-in. Fry Pan
  • 10-in. Fry Pan
  • 12-in. Fry Pan
  • 10-in. Stir Fry Pan
  • 5-qt. Sauce Pan with Cover
  • 5-qt. Pour and Strain Sauce Pan
  • 5-qt. Sauce Pan with Steamer Insert and Cover
  • 5-qt. Sauce Pan with Cover
  • 3-qt. Sauté Pan with Cover
  • 7-qt. Sauteuse (large, dome-shaped sauté pan) with Cover
  • Multi-Pot
  • 8-qt. Stock Pot with Cover
  • Flat Bottom Wok
  • Roaster and Rack

Calphalon Contemporary Stainless Steel 13-Piece Set (see on Amazon):

  • 8-in. Omelette Pan
  • 10-in. Omelette Pan
  • 12-in. Omelette Pan
  • 1.5-qt. Sauce Pan with Cover
  • 2.5-qt. Sauce Pan with Cover
  • 3-qt. Sauté Pan with Cover
  • 3-qt. Chef’s Casserole with Cover
  • 8-qt. Stock Pot with Cover
Calphalon Contemporary Stainless 13-Piece Cookware Set
Calphalon Contemporary Stainless Steel 13-Piece Set. Click the image to view on Amazon.

Calphalon Contemporary Stainless Steel Individual Pieces:

  • 8-qt. Multi Pot
  • Roaster with Rack
  • 12-qt. Stock Pot with Cover
  • 5-qt. Soup Pot with Cover
  • 8-qt. Dutch Oven with Cover
  • 8-in. And 10-in. Omelette Pan Bundle
  • 5-qt. Sautese (large, dome-shaped sauté pan) with Cover
  • 10-in. Everyday Pan with Cover
  • 5-qt Sauce and Double Boiler
  • Flat Bottom Wok
  • 7-in. Glass Cover
  • 8-in. Glass Cover
  • 9-in. Glass Cover
  • 10-in. Glass Cover
  • 11-in. Glass Cover
  • 12-in. Glass Cover

Price

If you’re leaning toward Calphalon Contemporary, expect to pay a hefty price.

These sets and individual pieces tend to be significantly more expensive than the Classic collections.

Why?

Because Calphalon constructs its Contemporary cookware with more expensive materials (heavy-gauge aluminum) and extensive processes (cladding).

Prices will often vary by retailer, so shop around for the best deal.

To compare the current prices of  Classic vs. Contemporary cookware, check out each collection on Amazon at the links below.

Bottom Line: Should You Buy Calphalon Classic or Contemporary?

If you’re deciding whether to by Calphalon Classic or Contemporary cookware, it all comes down to performance and price.

With the Classic collection, you get excellent performance and convenient features (measuring marks, straining lids, and pour sprouts) at a reasonable price.

With the Contemporary collection, you get even better performance, higher-quality construction, and a sleeker design. But, you have to pay a premium for it.

If you need a nudge in one direction, I recommend going with the Classic collection for non-stick and the Contemporary collection for stainless steel.

Non-stick cookware, no matter the thickness or number of non-stick coating layers, will wear down and need to be replaced eventually. You might get a couple more years out of the Contemporary collection, but it may not be worth the extra cost.

On the flip side, stainless steel cookware, if used correctly, can last a lifetime. With this type of cookware, it’s worth investing more to get a superior product.

Even though the Contemporary stainless steel collection is more expensive, you’ll enjoy the benefits (even heat distribution, superior durability) of multi-clad construction for decades.

If you’re ready to make a decision or want to read other reviews and learn more, both the Classic and Contemporary collections are available on Amazon at the links below.

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