Calphalon is one of the most highly regarded cookware brands in the world.
With over ten unique cookware collections, they offer something for everyone.
In this review, I dive deep into one of the brand’s most popular and best-selling collections: Calphalon Contemporary.
You’ll learn everything you need to know about this collection, including:
- How it looks and feels (with lots of pictures)
- How it performs in the kitchen
- What I wish was different about it
- How much it costs
- And much more
By the end, you’ll have all the important facts to decide if Calphalon Contemporary cookware is right for you.
Note: Calphalon discontinued the Contemporary collection in 2021. However, you can still buy it on Amazon while inventory lasts. Check out my in-depth review of Calphalon to learn about the brand’s several other cookware collections.
Let’s get started!
Use the links below to quickly navigate the review:
- Calphalon Contemporary Review: Quick Summary
- Materials and Construction
- Cooking Performance
- Bottom Line: Should You Buy Calphalon Contemporary Cookware?
Calphalon Contemporary Review: Quick Summary
If you’re seriously considering Calphalon Contemporary cookware, I highly recommend reading this entire review.
I go into detail about its pros, cons, and everything in between.
But, if you only have a minute, here are the key facts you need to know.
Materials and Construction: Calphalon Contemporary cookware comes in two varieties: stainless steel and non-stick. The stainless steel version is fully-clad with a thick aluminum core encapsulated by stainless steel on each side. The non-stick version is well-made with a hard-anodized aluminum base and three layers of PTFE non-stick coating.
Design: All pans feature a long, brushed stainless steel handle that connects to the base with a curved two-pronged design to disperse heat, so the handle stays cool. The exterior of the stainless steel cookware has a brushed finish (not shiny like a mirror), while the non-stick pieces have a dark grey exterior. The tempered glass lids are topped with a sloped steel handle.
Cooking Performance: This cookware heats up fast and evenly without any hot or cold spots. Its thick construction allows it to retain heat well. The triple-layer non-stick surface is ultra-slick and doesn’t scratch easily.
Oven-Safe: Both stainless steel and non-stick pans are oven-safe up to 450 degrees Fahrenheit (stainless steel is safe up to 500), but the non-stick pans are not broiler-safe.
Cooktop Compatibility: The stainless steel cookware is compatible with all cooktops. The non-stick cookware is compatible with all cooktops except induction.
Cleaning: Calphalon claims this collection is dishwasher-safe, but I always recommend handwashing premium cookware to avoid unnecessary damage from high temperatures, harsh detergents, and contact with sharp utensils. Check out my guide to cleaning Calphalon hard-anodized cookware for more details.
Downsides: The most significant downside of Calphalon Contemporary cookware is the price. It’s premium cookware that demands a premium price. Besides the cost, food sticks if you don’t use the proper techniques, you can’t use metal utensils with the non-stick pans, and the lids occasionally seem too light allowing steam to escape.
Bottom Line: If you’re looking for cookware that heats up fast and evenly, has an elegant and functional design, and it’s constructed to last, yes you should buy Calphalon Contemporary. If you’re on a tight budget, prefer a flashy, colorful design, or need induction-compatible non-stick cookware, you should keep shopping (check out my other cookware reviews).
Materials and Construction
There are two types of Calphalon Contemporary cookware: stainless steel and non-stick.
Each type has pros and cons, but, in short, stainless steel cookware is more versatile, durable, and expensive, while non-stick is much easier to use, clean, and is slightly less expensive.
If you’re not sure which type of cookware you need, check out my in-depth comparison of stainless steel vs. non-stick cookware (spoiler: it’s best to have a mix of both).
Calphalon Contemporary stainless steel cookware is made with a heavy-gauge (thick) aluminum core, which is encapsulated by two layers of high-quality, non-reactive stainless steel alloy layers.
This 3-ply (three-layer) construction, also referred to as multi-clad, takes advantage of the heat conductive properties of aluminum and the durability and versatility of steel.
In other words, the cookware heats up fast and evenly, you can use it for virtually any type of meal, and it will last for decades.
Calphalon Contemporary stainless steel cookware is fully-clad, which means the aluminum core extends throughout the cookware, transferring heat evenly.
Cheaper brands, and even some Calphalon collections, are made with an aluminum-bonded base, so the sides don’t heat as evenly as the bottom.
Calphalon Contemporary non-stick cookware is made with a heavy-gauge, hard-anodized aluminum base and features three layers of PFOA-free PTFE non-stick coating on the cooking surface.
What is hard-anodized aluminum?
Simply put, it’s aluminum that’s treated through an electrochemical process, which creates a layer of oxidation on the surface. This process increases the hardness, durability, and resistance to corrosion of the aluminum.
Back in the 1960s, Calphalon was the first brand to make cookware with hard-anodized aluminum.
Nowadays, most non-stick cookware is made with a hard-anodized aluminum base, but Calphalon Contemporary cookware still stands out.
It’s made with heavy-gauge, hard-anodized aluminum, which is significantly thicker and more durable than the competition. When you pick up one of these pans, you’ll be surprised at how hefty it feels.
To make this real, a 10-inch Contemporary frying pan, which is made with heavy-gauge hard-anodized aluminum, weighs 3 pounds and 11 ounces. A 10-inch Calphalon Classic frying pan, which is made with medium-gauge hard-anodized aluminum, weighs 1 pound and 12 ounces.
Regarding the cooking surface, most cheap non-stick pans are coated with one non-stick layer, which scratches and erodes quickly, requiring you to replace the pan frequently.
But, with a triple-coated cooking surface, Calphalon Contemporary cookware is much more durable and long-lasting.
The non-stick material that Calphalon uses for its Contemporary collection is called PTFE, which is short for polytetrafluoroethylene. It’s one of the most commonly used substances for non-stick cookware. Most people know PTFE as its branded name: Teflon.
PTFE is a man-made resin that is non-reactive and completely safe with a couple of caveats:
- Replace non-stick cookware when the coating starts to peel.
- Never overheat a PTFE-coated pan over 500 degrees Fahrenheit as it can release a harmful gas.
Get a behind-the-scenes look at how Calphalon Contemporary cookware is made with this short video, which shows you some highlights of the process on the factory floor.
Calphalon Contemporary cookware, both stainless steel and non-stick, has an understated beauty.
It’s not flashy; it’s well-made and thoughtfully designed. With rounded lines and neutral elements, I guess you could say the design is…contemporary.
Although the stainless steel and non-stick versions of Calphalon Contemporary differ in materials and construction, they’re virtually identical in design.
Below is a look at the two versions back-to-back:
The handles are brushed stainless steel and ergonomically designed for a comfortable grip, even if you are wearing an oven mitt or using a potholder.
The Calphalon name is etched in, appearing just after the half-moon spacing, which minimizes heat transfer from the pot to the handle.
The long handle, while designed to stay cool on cooktops, should still be handled with care, especially if transferring between your cooktop and oven.
Two rivets secure the handles to the sides of the pot or pan to ensure sturdiness.
The lids for both stainless steel and non-stick cookware are made from see-through tempered glass, and feature brushed stainless steel handles and wide, pronounced rims.
They are slightly domed, allowing for condensation to form and drop back onto food to seal in moisture and retain pan juices.
The lid handles are curved and attached with rivets on both sides.
Unlike some glass lids that are not safe in the oven at all, Calphalon Contemporary lids are oven safe up to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
Lastly, every lid features the Calphalon name and logo.
Calphalon Contemporary stainless steel cookware has a brushed finish, while the non-stick pieces have a dark grey appearance made from hard-anodized aluminum.
Brushed stainless steel doesn’t have the shining luster of polished stainless steel, but, unlike polished stainless, it hides scratches and fingerprints well.
Hard-anodized, just like brushed stainless steel is more forgiving as it can take a lot of abuse and still look good.
The pans, over time, have a rustic look that holds up well. Hard-anodized pots and pans are smooth, extremely durable, and resistant to minor scratches.
Although constructed from different materials, the shapes of the stainless steel and non-stick pots and pans of the Calphalon Contemporary Collection are identical.
From the fry pans to the pots, the cookware has sloped sides with flared rims. A steel ledge runs along the circumference of the lids near the rim.
When it comes to cooking performance, I look for a few things: heat conduction and retention, ease-of-use (especially for non-stick), and versatility.
You want cookware that heats fast and evenly (no hot spots), maintains heat well, is easy to cook with and clean, and can be safely used on all types of cooktops, and in the oven.
Good news—Calphalon Contemporary checks almost all of these boxes.
Both the stainless steel and non-stick cookware are constructed with a thick layer of aluminum. In the case of stainless steel, it’s the core layer. And, in the case of non-stick, it’s the entire base
Since aluminum is a great conductor of heat, this cookware has no issues in terms of conduction and retention.
Additionally, since this cookware has thick construction, it’s incredibly durable and resistant to warping.
The triple-layered non-stick coating is ultra-slick, which makes flipping eggs and pancakes a breeze.
Although both the stainless steel and non-stick versions are dishwasher-safe and oven-safe up to 450 degrees Fahrenheit, the non-stick version is not broiler-safe, and not compatible with induction cooktops.
Additionally, metal utensils will scratch the non-stick version. So, you need to stick to wood and nylon spoons and spatulas.
So far, I’ve been singing the praises of Calphalon Contemporary cookware. But no cookware is perfect, and this collection is no exception.
But, besides the relatively high price, the collection has some other drawbacks you should know.
- The ledge around the circumference of the top of the fry pans is excellent for snug lids but makes it a challenge to flip omelets and pour sauces without dripping.
- It’s difficult to clean around the rivets that connect the handle and base.
- Occasionally, water gets trapped between the glass and stainless steel rims on the lids; you have to allow them to dry on an angle for proper drainage.
- The lightweight lid allows steam to escape when boiling.
Stainless Steel Downsides
- Food sticks if you don’t properly heat and oil the pan, which is a downside of almost all stainless steel cookware (it’s why beginner cooks often prefer non-stick).
- Interiors of pots and pans can stain and must be cleaned intensely to retain the appearance (learn how).
- Metal utensils will scratch the surface.
- The exterior coating can peel with heavy use.
- It’s not broiler-safe.
- It’s not compatible with induction cooktops.
- The triple-layer non-stick cooking surface starts to wear down after four to five years of heavy use (this is common), so you’ll eventually have to buy new pots and pans. As you can see in the picture below, my pan is starting to show scratches and other signs of wearing down after five years.
Although you can expect wear and tear over time, Calphalon cookware comes with a limited lifetime warranty that protects you against defects in materials and craftsmanship.
Calphalon has over ten different cookware collections, each with unique design, features, and price points.
Due to its fully-clad (stainless) and heavy-gauge, hard-anodized (non-stick) construction, Contemporary is one of Calphalons’s most expensive collections.
For more specific pricing, please refer to the chart below, which shows the current prices of the most popular sets and pieces on Amazon.
You can click on the chart to learn more about each set on Amazon.
|View on Amazon
|Calphalon Contemporary 2-Piece Frying Pan Set
|Calphalon Contemporary 12-inch Frying Pan
|Calphalon Contemporary 5-Quart Sauce Pan
|Calphalon Contemporary 8-quart Stock Pot
|Calphalon Contemporary 3-Quart Saute Pan
|Calphalon Contemporary 3.5-Quart Sauce Pan
Bottom Line: Should You Buy Calphalon Contemporary Cookware?
In the world of cookware, Calphalon is known for its quality craftsmanship, high performance, and durability.
And, the Contemporary collection is one of Calphalon’s best-sellers for a reason—it heats up fast and evenly, is has an elegant and functional design, and it’s constructed to last.
But, every home chef is different, so how can you be sure in Calphalon Contemporary is right for you?
Should you buy Calphalon Contemporary cookware?
Here’s my recommendation…
You should buy Calphalon Contemporary cookware if:
- You want premium cookware that’s well-made with 3-ply or hard-anodized aluminum construction
- You want cookware that heats quickly and evenly with no hot and cold spots
- You appreciate the muted elegance of brushed stainless steel and charcoal gray aluminum
- You want cookware that you can use on the stove, in the oven, under the broiler, and on induction cooktops (only the stainless steel version is broiler-safe and induction compatible)
- You’re comfortable investing in cookware that’s going to last
- You want cookware from an innovative brand that’s been an industry leader for decades
You should NOT buy Calphalon Contemporary cookware if:
- You’re on a tight budget and aren’t ready to invest in high-end cookware
- You prefer to buy and replace lower-end non-stick pans regularly
- You quickly get distracted when you cook (these pans heat quickly; if you look away for too long, you could burn the food and scorch the pan)
- You want cookware that will brighten up your kitchen with various colored exteriors
- You need non-stick cookware that’s compatible with induction cooktops
As you can see, there are many things to consider before making a purchase. Yet, taking the time to understand the offerings and knowing what you want as a home chef will guide you in making the best choices for you and your family.
Since I have several years of experience using and testing Calphalon cookware, I feel confident that the Contemporary collection is an excellent choice, one worth having in your kitchen.
And, although it’s pricer than many mid-tier offerings, it’s not the most expensive cookware on the market.
One way to test the waters before purchasing an entire set is to buy one pan that will get regular use, such as a frying pan or saucepan. That way, you can get a feel for how the pans handle everyday cooking stress.
What are your thoughts on Calphalon Contemporary cookware? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
If you found this review helpful, you should also check out:
- Is Calphalon Cookware Any Good? An In-Depth Review
- Calphalon Contemporary vs. Signature: What’s the Difference?
- Calphalon Classic vs. Contemporary: What’s the Difference?
- Calphalon Signature vs. Calphalon Premier: Which Cookware Is Better?
- Calphalon vs. Anolon Cookware: What’s the Difference?
- Calphalon vs. Cuisinart: Which Cookware Is Better?
- T-fal vs. Calphalon: In-Depth Cookware Comparison
- All-Clad vs. Calphalon: How Does Their Cookware Compare?
- Is Made In Cookware Any Good? An In-Depth and Unbiased Review
- Select by Calphalon vs. Calphalon Premier: Which Cookware Is Better?
- Calphalon Premier Cookware Review (With Pictures)
- What Is the Best Calphalon Cookware Set? (Top 5 Reviewed)