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

Calphalon Contemporary vs. Signature

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Are you shopping for a new set of cookware but not sure whether to buy Calphalon’s Contemporary or Signature collection?

Calphalon Contemporary cookware is elegant, yet rugged enough to endure the demands of everyday, high-performance cooking.

Calphalon Signature cookware is more expensive than Calphalon Contemporary, but it comes with special features and unique construction that make it stand out.

Is it worth spending extra for Calphalon Signature? Or, is Calphalon Contemporary cookware more than enough?

In this in-depth comparison of Calphalon Contemporary vs. Signature cookware, I’ll show you how each collection measures up in terms of:

  • Design
  • Construction
  • Cooking Performance
  • Product Offerings
  • Price
  • And much more.

By the end, you’ll understand the differences and similarities between the two collections and be able to decide for yourself whether it’s worth spending more for Calphalon Signature.

If you’re looking to quickly compare prices between the Calphalon Contemporary and Signature collections, both are available at these links on Amazon: Calphalon Contemporary, Calphalon Signature.

Let’s get cooking!

Use these links to navigate this comparison:

Calphalon Contemporary vs. Signature: Quick Summary

In a hurry? If you’re looking for a quick comparison of Calphalon Contemporary vs. Signature, these are the key points you need to know.

Note: I dive much deeper into each of the points later in this article.

What Are Their Differences?

Construction

Calphalon Contemporary stainless steel features a three-ply construction with a heavy-gauge aluminum core (heating element) sandwiched between two layers of quality stainless steel.

Signature boasts a five-ply construction with a three-layer core of heavy-gauge aluminum fused between two layers of stainless steel for even heat conduction and longer heat retention.

Cooking Performance

Signature non-stick cookware differs from Contemporary non-stick cookware in that it features a proprietary, textured non-stick surface that mimics the results of stainless steel when it comes to searing and sealing in flavor of meat, seafood, and vegetables.

Additionally, Signature non-stick is oven safe at a higher temperature than Contemporary (500 degrees F) and is scratch resistant against metal utensils.

In terms of stainless steel cookware, the Signature collection heats up faster, retains heat longer, and responds to changes in temperature more quickly compared to Contemporary cookware.

Price

While both collections are at the higher end of cookware offerings, the Signature collection is more expensive than the contemporary Contemporary collection due to its unique non-stick surface and 5-ply construction.

Compare the current prices on Amazon at these links: Calphalon Contemporary, Calphalon Signature.

What Are Their Similarities?

Warranty

Calphalon Contemporary and Signature stainless steel and non-stick cookware come with a lifetime warranty that covers defects in materials and craftsmanship.

Construction

Both Contemporary and Signature stainless steel are multi-clad, constructed with high-quality stainless steel bonded to an aluminum core.

Calphalon Contemporary and Signature non-stick cookware feature a triple-layer, PFOA-free non-stick coating, and a hard-anodized aluminum base.

Design

Contemporary and Signature stainless steel and non-stick cookware features sloped sides and flared rims for expert manipulation of food.

Cooking Performance

Contemporary and Signature stainless steel are oven safe, broiler-safe, dishwasher safe, and compatible with all cooktops, including induction.

Calphalon Contemporary and Signature non-stick cookware is oven safe, but not broiler safe.

Both collections are dishwasher safe and compatible with most cooktops (except induction), including gas, electric, halogen, and glass.

Bottom Line: Which Collection Should You Buy?

If you’re looking for high-quality stainless steel cookware and are willing to pay for the best performance, go with Calphalon Signature.

Its five-ply construction delivers superior durability and heat conduction. In other words, it has better cooking performance than most.

Since stainless steel cookware will last nearly forever, it’s worth the splurge. 

If you’re leaning toward non-stick, save some money and get the Contemporary set.

Since you’ll eventually need to replace your non-stick cookware, there is no need to spend more for the Signature collection.

Contemporary non-stick is oven safe up to 450 degrees Fahrenheit, has a triple layer of PFOA-free (chemical-free) non-stick, is made with hard-anodized aluminum, and is dishwasher safe.

If you’re looking to buy an individual piece, like a frying pan, go with Signature.

Why?

  • One pan won’t break the bank.
  • You’ll get a textured non-stick layer for optimal searing.
  • You can use any utensil without damaging the surface.
  • It’s oven-safe up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit (vs. 450 with Contemporary).

 Both collections are available on Amazon where you can check out the current prices and read dozens of other reviews: Calphalon Contemporary, Calphalon Signature.

Side-by-Side Comparison Chart

Here’s an at-a-glance view of Calphalon Contemporary and Signature nonstick and stainless steel collection features:

 Contemporary Stainless SteelSignature Stainless SteelContemporary Non-StickSignature Non-Stick
Exterior MaterialBrushed stainless steelBrushed stainless steelHeavy-gauge, hard-anodized aluminumHeavy-gauge, hard-anodized aluminum
Core MaterialHeavy-gauge aluminum (multi-clad)Heavy-gauge aluminum (multi-clad)Hard-anodized aluminum throughoutHard-anodized aluminum throughout
Cooking SurfaceBrushed stainless steelBrushed stainless steel3 layers of non-stick coating (PTFE)3 layers of non-stick coating (PTFE)
HandlesCast stainless steelCast stainless steelCast stainless steelCast stainless steel
LidsTempered glassTempered glassTempered glassTempered glass
Oven-Safe Temperature (degrees F)450450450500
Broil Safe?YesYesNoNo
Dishwasher Safe?YesYesYesYes
Compatible with InductionYesYesNoNo
Unique FeatureThree-ply, fully-clad construction for even heat distributionFive-ply, fully-clad construction for even better heat distributionExtra layers of non-stick coating (3) for superior scratch-resistanceTriple-layer, textured non-stick surface for searing, compatible with metal utensils
WarrantyLifetimeLifetimeLifetimeLifetime
Price (click to see on Amazon)$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

Calphalon Company Background

At the heart of this company is a foodie—a man who loved cooking, entertaining, and top-shelf ingredients. Ronald Kasperzak combined his passion for business and food, founding the Commercial Aluminum Cookware Company in 1963.

Ron focused on commercial cookware at first, and over time, his company became a leading foodservice supplier of professional-grade cookware.

By the late 1960s, he was spearheading innovations to change the professional cookware market by applying an electrochemical process used in aerospace and architecture industries.

At the time, applying the process to cookware was unprecedented.

This process, known as hard-anodizing, created a surface 80% harder than stainless steel, making cookware exponentially more durable. The company called this new product, Calphalon.

In 1997, with the success of their new and unique product, they decided to rename the company from Commercial Aluminum Cookware Company to just, Calphalon Corporation.

The Toledo, Ohio-born company holds the honor of being the first company to offer pans made from hard-anodized aluminum and bridging the gap between professional and home cookware options.

Calphalon was purchased by Newell Brands in 1998 but remains committed to its role as a leader in culinary innovation.

Design

At first glance, you may not notice the design differences between Calphalon Contemporary and Signature cookware.

Both collections have a simple but elegant design. They not only look great in the kitchen, but they perform exceptionally well too.

Despite their similarities in design, each collection has subtle yet important differences.

Let’s take a look.

Exteriors

Calphalon Contemporary and Signature stainless steel collections have brushed stainless steel exteriors, as opposed to polished.

Calphalon Contemporary and Signature brushed exterior
Calphalon Contemporary (left) and Signature (right) brushed exterior. Photo credit: Calphalon.com.

What does this mean?

Polished stainless steel exteriors are bright and shiny, like a mirror, while brushed exteriors have a duller surface, similar to a matte finish.

While the shininess of polished steel cookware is more traditional, the muted exterior finish gives both of these collections a sleek and modern look.

If you prefer a shiny exterior, check out Calphalon’s Tri-Ply collection (see on Amazon). It’s their only stainless steel cookware with a polished exterior.

The non-stick exteriors for Calphalon Contemporary and Signature pieces come in a dark gray, matte metal finish made of hard-anodized aluminum. Classy without being flashy.

Calphalon Non Stick Frying Pan
Calphalon Contemporary Non-Stick Frying Pan (see on Amazon)

Interiors

We’ll get more into how the pans are constructed later in this comparison (skip ahead), but I want to mention a few things about the interior cooking surface of the pans.

All pans are crafted with sloped sides and flared edges to aid even the most amateur home chef with expert-level manipulation and release when tossing or agitating food while cooking.

Both Calphalon Contemporary and Signature non-stick pans are coated with PFOA-free surfaces.

Calphalon Signature non-stick differentiates from Contemporary in that you can use any utensil to stir and flip your food without harming the surface, including metal spoons and whisks.

Besides being metal utensil safe, Calphalon Signature non-stick cookware has a specially textured surface designed to sear and seal in flavor that, according to Calphalon, works just as good as its stainless steel counterparts.

Below is a close up look at this unique textured non-stick surface. 

Calphalon Signature Nonstick Sear Surface
Calphalon Signature Nonstick Sear Surface

Contemporary non-stick requires the use of scratch-resistant utensils such as nylon, coated, or wood.

Stainless steel interior surfaces for Contemporary and Signature cookware are both made from brushed stainless steel.

Handles

Both collections feature cast, brushed stainless steel handles designed to minimize heat conductivity. As a result, handles stay cooler on cooktops. To be safe, always use oven mitts or heat resistant gloves while handling cookware.

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

Long handles on fry pans, woks, and saucepans are slightly curved upward and securely bolted to one side of the pan, leaving space between the prongs to cut down on heat transfer.

Some pots and pans, such as Dutch Ovens and Everyday Pans, have handles on each side for stability during transport.

Design-wise, the Contemporary and Signature collection have subtle differences worth noting.

The long, Contemporary stainless steel handle is affixed to the cookware with two bolts while the Signature has a three-bolt design.

Calphalon Contemporary vs. Signature handle bolts
Calphalon Contemporary (left) vs. Signature handle bolts (right). Photo credit: Calphalon.com.

Side handles are bolted in two places on either side of Contemporary cookware. These handles are curved and flush to the cooktop surface. The Signature style features upward-angled side handles that are squared and have a double-bolt design to keep them secure.

Calphalon Contemporary and Signature handles
Calphalon Contemporary (left) and Signature (right) handles. Photo credit: Calphalon.com.

Lids

Lids for Calphalon Contemporary and Signature, both stainless steel and non-stick, are made from tempered glass designed to handle high temperatures (up to 450 degrees F).

Handles on the lids of Contemporary cookware are curved, while Signature handles are squared.

Calphalon Contemporary and Signature lid handles
Calphalon Contemporary (left) and Signature (right) lid handles. Photo credit: Calphalon.com.

Construction

Calphalon constructs the Contemporary and Signature non-stick pots and pans with heavy-gauge, hard-anodized aluminum and finishes the cooking surface with three layers of PFOA-free non-stick coating.

Why hard-anodized aluminum?

Because it makes the cookware extremely durable and predictable. In short, it’s built to last and provides even heat distribution.

Here’s where the offerings differ. The non-stick coating used to make Calphalon Signature cookware features a unique texture designed to provide an excellent sear on meat, similar to how stainless steel cookware works.

If you ask any professional chef, they will tell you that non-stick cookware is not the best for searing.

Why?

To get a good sear, it’s helpful for the food to stick to the cooking surface. Sticking maximizes the contact between the heat and the meat, creating a crust that locks in juices.

While it’s possible to sear meats with Calphalon Contemporary non-stick cookware, you won’t be able to get the same caramelization and crust that you can with Signature.

If you prefer stainless steel, you’ll be glad to know that both Contemporary and Signature cookware have fully-clad (or multi-clad) construction with steel exterior layers and a heavy-gauge aluminum core.

The process of cladding involves the layering of metal to produce a durable product with higher marks in heat conductivity than cookware with impact-bonded aluminum bases (like some of Calphalon’s less expensive collections – see our comparison of Calphalon Contemporary vs. Classic for details).

The aluminum core helps the pan get to the right temperature fast and keep it that way.

Calphalon Contemporary stainless steel has three-ply construction. Three-ply construction is when two layers of stainless steel on the exterior surface and the cooking surface encapsulate one layer of heavy-gauge aluminum in the middle.

This type of construction provides even, consistent heating. The absence of hot spots means the entirety of the food cooks at the same temperature, more quickly and accurately.

Signature stainless steel takes it up a few notches. Signature stainless steel cookware features five-ply, fully-clad construction, which consists of three aluminum core layers fused between two layers of stainless steel.

Calphalon Contemporary 3ply vs. Signature 5ply
Calphalon Contemporary (top) vs. Signature (bottom). Photo credit: Calphalon.com.

The extra layers of aluminum in the Signature collection give it a leg up in terms of heat distribution and temperature control. In other words, Signature cookware heats up faster and more evenly, and when you turn the burner up, the pan reacts more quickly.

Cooking Performance

While cooking performance can be subjective, there are a few key features I want to point out to help you differentiate between the Calphalon Contemporary and Signature cookware.

Both collections are impressive and have a lot in common, but Calphalon Signature elevates the cooking game due to its construction and unique features.

Here’s what you need to know.

Heat Conduction and Retention

Signature stainless steel has the upper hand with fast, even heat conduction simply because it has more layers of heat conductive material (aluminum) than Contemporary.

Signature cookware is constructed with three layers of heavy-gauge aluminum, fused between two layers of stainless steel for superior heat conductivity.

Contemporary has one layer of heavy-gauge aluminum sandwiched between two layers of stainless steel.

Don’t get me wrong; both stainless steel collections deliver the goods.

But, the redundancy of the cladding on the Signature collection provides faster heat conduction, more even heat distribution, longer heat retention, and more precise temperature control.

When it comes to the non-stick offerings, Contemporary and Signature cookware are both made from hard-anodized aluminum and feature triple-layer, PFOA-free non-stick coating.

They are identical in terms of heat conductivity; but, Signature cookware has a textured surface designed to mimic the performance of stainless steel when it comes to searing, browning, and sautéing.

Oven-Safe Temperature

Excluding Signature non-stick cookware, which is oven safe up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit, all other Contemporary and Signature pieces are oven safe up to 450 (including lids).

Cooktop Compatibility

Calphalon Contemporary and Signature stainless steel cookware is compatible with all cooktops. Yes, even induction.

You can safely use the non-stick offerings on every kind of stove except induction.

Cleaning and Care

In terms of cleaning and care, there is no difference in how you handle Contemporary and Signature cookware.

Calphalon and Signature stainless steel and non-stick cookware collections are dishwasher-safe, but I’m a firm believer in handwashing pots and pans of high quality.

Even though Calphalon permits using the dishwasher to clean both collections, they mention in their manual that the luster of stainless steel fares better when you use gentle detergents and a little elbow grease.

Never nest (stack on top of each other) cookware as it may damage the interior cooking surface.

Never rinse a piping hot pan under cold water. The sudden temperature change will cause it to warp (learn the six most common causes of warped pans).

Product Offerings

With both collections, you have the option to purchase a complete set or choose from an array of individual pieces.

The main difference between Calphalon Contemporary and Signature in terms of product offerings is that you get significantly more options with the Contemporary set.

Below are the most popular sets and a list of all the individual pieces Calphalon offers.

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

Calphalon Contemporary Nonstick 11 piece Set
Click image to view 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 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. 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
  • 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):

Calphalon Contemporary Stainless 13-Piece Cookware Set
Click image to view 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 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 Pan 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

Calphalon Signature Stainless Steel 10-Piece Set (See on Amazon):

Calphalon Signature 10 Piece Set|Stainless Steel Cookware, Silver
Click image to view on Amazon

  • 8-in. Omelette Pan
  • 10-in. Omelette Pan
  • 2-qt. Sauce Pan with Cover
  • 3-qt. Sauce Pan with Cover
  • 3-qt. Sauté Pan with Cover
  • 8-qt. Stock Pot with Cover

Calphalon Signature Stainless Steel Individual Pieces:

  • 10-in. Skillet Pan with Cover
  • 12-in. Omelette Pan
  •  2.5-qt. Shallow Sauce Pan with Cover
  • 4-qt. Covered Chef Pan
  • 5-qt. Dutch Oven with Cover

Calphalon Signature Non-Stick 10-Piece Set (See on Amazon):

Calphalon Signature 10 Piece Set|Hard Anodized Nonstick Pots, Black
Click image to view on Amazon

  • 10-in. Omelette Pan
  • 12-in. Omelette Pan
  • 2-qt. Sauce Pan with Cover
  • 3-qt. Sauce Pan with Cover
  • 3-qt. Sauté Pan with Cover
  • 8-qt. Stock Pot with Cover

Calphalon Signature Non-Stick Individual Pieces:

  • 8-in. and 10-in. Omelette Pan Set
  • 10-in. Omelette Pan
  • 12-in. Omelette Pan with Cover
  • 12-in. Round Grill Pan
  • 12-in. Round Griddle Pan
  • 12-in. Everyday Pan with Cover
  • 5-qt. Dutch Oven with Cover
  • 1-qt. Sauce Pan with Cover
  • 2-qt. Sauce Pan with Cover
  •  4-qt. Soup Pot with Cover
  • 5-qt. Sauteuse (large sauté pan) with Cover
  • 8-qt. Stock Pot with Cover
  • 12 in. Flat Bottom Wok with Cover

Price

In general, Calphalon is considered a mid to high-end cookware brand.

If you’re looking to save money but still get a solid cookware set, collections like the Calphalon Classic (see on Amazon) and Select by Calphalon (see on Amazon) are the best-value options.

But, if you’re looking for premium cookware built for superior performance and longevity, you’ll have to spend more for the Contemporary and Signature collections.

I mentioned at the beginning of this article that Calphalon Signature is the more expensive collection, but Contemporary isn’t too far behind.

Both collections warrant a higher price tag due to their quality, heavy-gauge, hard-anodized aluminum, and multi-clad construction.

In general, the Signature collection tends to run between 10% to 40% more expensive than the Contemporary collection, but the exact difference in price depends on which sets/pieces you buy and where you buy it.

To compare prices for Calphalon Contemporary vs. Signature cookware, check out the comparison chart below:

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

If the complete sets give you sticker shock, start by purchasing individual pieces to get a feel for the cookware. Later, you can pick up more pieces to create a custom set or, if you’re ready, go all out and get a complete set.

Bottom Line: Should You Buy Calphalon Contemporary or Signature?

Choosing between Calphalon Contemporary and Signature is a tough call.

 Both collections feature an attractive design, heat up fast and evenly, and are built to last.

The truth is, you can’t go wrong with either. But, if you need a nudge in one direction, here are my recommendations.

Price Pick

When it comes to price, Calphalon Contemporary stainless steel is the winner.

The Contemporary stainless steel collection is stunning.

It has a multi-clad (fully-clad) construction and uses high-grade stainless steel and heavy-gauge aluminum. This construction provides even heating that also minimizes cooking time. You can use it on any cooktop, in an oven or broiler, and it is dishwasher safe. What more could you want?

When you want something to last, pick fully-clad stainless steel over non-stick. No matter how expertly made, non-stick will eventually get worn down and need replacing.

Those who buy Contemporary stainless steel often comment on the beauty of the pans many years after the purchase.

But, there are also negative reviews too, mostly centered around food sticking to the pans. However, this is a common complaint across all stainless steel cookware.

In my experience with stainless steel, sticking happens when you haven’t adequately oiled the pan or are cooking on high heat when it’s not warranted.

Remember, stainless steel cookware is not non-stick, so you will need to use an oil with a high smoke point to get the best results.

Performance Pick

If price is no object, go with the Signature stainless steel collection.

Why?

The five-ply construction delivers second-to-none durability, heat conduction, and heat retention.

Only high-end All-Clad collections, like All-Clad D5 (see on Amazon), rival the cooking performance of this collection. But, All-Clad will cost you much more.

Additionally, it’s compatible with all cooktops, oven-safe, broiler-safe, dishwasher safe, and comes with a lifetime warranty.

Besides that, home chefs love it. It’s called “impressive,” “worth the money,” and “beautiful.”

Non-Stick Pick

If you’re getting a full set of non-stick cookware, my suggestion is to go with the Contemporary collection. It’s unnecessary to pay a higher price for an entire Signature non-stick set.

The only two advantages of Signature non-stick cookware are:

  • The textured non-stick surface mimics results seen with the use of quality stainless steel in terms of searing, browning, and sautéing.
  • You can use all types of cooking utensils, including metal, without damaging the surface.

To me, it’s not worth paying a premium for those benefits.

However, you could buy a set of Contemporary non-stick cookware for everyday use and purchase one Calphalon Signature pan (like this 12-inch Frying Pan on Amazon) to do your searing.

Going this route takes care of pretty much all your cooking needs at the lowest possible price (between these two collections). 

Just remember, non-stick is not broiler-safe, so if you love broiling, consider stainless steel.

Ready to make your choice? Both collections are available at most kitchen supply stores and on Amazon at the links below:

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