An Expert Guide to All-Clad Cookware

Published on 04/19/2023 · 13 min readAll-Clad Cookware is considered the best by gourmet chefs around the globe! Learn why professionals rank this maker among the very finest in the market.
Alex Alcarraz, Kitchen Expert
By Kitchen Expert Alex Alcarraz

Photo by Didriks, courtesy of Flickr

Where Is All-Clad Cookware Made?

All-Clad has been made in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania since 1971. John Ulam, the founder of the company, was not an engineer but a renowned metallurgist who held 75 patents on metal crafting. These patents brought innovations to the plane- and car-building industries.

Ulam was also an established home cook. He noticed the need for better cookware at home and set off to work creating a pan that performed the way he wanted it to. He layered steel and aluminum sheets, then bonded them together. This resulted in pans with great heat distribution and retention throughout the entire cookware piece.

What Makes All-Clad So Good?

Let's further expand on how All-Clad cookware is made. It is a process that has not changed since its founding and involves a total of nine steps which are divided into four stages.

Stage 1: Bonding

  • Step 1: Layers of stainless steel are sandwiched together with aluminum sheets. These are bonded by hand with the help of a mechanical press. Small debris is carefully removed during the layering process to ensure the next step has no flaws.
  • Step 2: An oven adds heat to the layered metal sheets, then a press rolls the heated metal sheets back and forth so they can stick better. Finally, a second oven heats the pressed metal layers for a final time, yielding a fully bonded sheet of metal.
  • Step 3: Once the metal sheet is cool, it is leveled, flattened, and punched into discs. These discs are then ready for the next stage.

Stage 2: Forming

  • Step 4: A fourth craftsman uses a spinning press to give the metal the shape of either a pot or a pan. This process is very similar to the way pottery is made on a wheel.

Stage 3: Finishing

  • Step 5: After shaping, a high-speed buffer shines the pan to a mirror-like finish. This is also done by hand for the best quality results.
  • Step 6: A sixth craftsman polishes the inside of the cookware piece by hand to get it ready for a final examination.
  • Step 7: A machine gives the bottom of the pan its final design and print, and also measures the angles of the sides to ensure they are properly made.

Stage 4: Riveting

  • Step 8: Two holes are punched on the side of the pan to fit the handles. The handles are then fastened with rivets at very high pressures.
  • Step 9: A final, ninth craftsman inspects each pan and pot for imperfections. This is the last check before the cookware pieces are packaged and ready for sale.

This rigorous manufacturing process brings both high-end engineering and a human touch to each piece of All-Clad cookware.

As a chef, I admire fine craftsmanship. It dictates the level of standards that a company has and their attitude toward their consumers. Notably, All-Clad has continued a consistent cadence of quality and durability throughout all its years. Let’s go over a few series that highlight All-Clad’s commitment to their shoppers.

D3 Stainless Cookware

Making a sausage stuffing in the D3 Stainless 3-ply 10 inch fry pan. Photo by Alex Alcarraz

D3 Stainless Cookware 101

If you are ready to purchase an All-Clad pan or pot for the first time, this classic line is a good starting point. The D3 Stainless 3-ply 10-inch fry pan, specifically, will provide a great overall feel for how other cookware pieces within the same line will behave and will set expectations for other more expensive pieces.

This initial line offers an amazing distribution and retention of heat. Heat distribution is measured by simply noticing the hotter spots in a pan when cooking. The D3 line offers a very even cooking experience, and the edges of the pan are slightly cooler than the immediate bottom. However, as a professional tip, this is typical.

Diagram by Alex Alcarraz

As you can see above, the back of the pan facing away from you is always warmer than the front. This is caused by the larger air circulation that is in the front of the stove versus the back.

With the D3 line, there is very minimal difference between the front and the back of the pan during cooking. This becomes a very useful feature when needing to sear multiple pieces of protein for an even color across all of them.

Heat retention can be measured by how long the pot or pan will continue to be hot. A good piece of cookware will retain a high heat for at least two minutes before slowly cooling down. This is crucial in maintaining food’s warmth when needing to plate or when placing the whole pan on the dinner table for a family-style experience. The D3 line delivers this exact expectation.

Cleaning the pan is fairly easy. Simply add water or stock when the pan is still hot to release the bits that have gotten stuck, then wash with mild soap and a sponge throughout the entire pan afterward. Using steel wool, harsh chemicals, or putting it into the dishwasher is not recommended as these could damage and shorten the lifespan of the pan.

My Recommendation

The All-Clad cookware set to consider for this specific line is the 12-piece set. The reason for the push for a more complete set from the beginning is that it is extremely durable, meaning years of usage will pass before having to consider adding more pieces to the collection. This set carries all the essentials needed to have a strong set of tools to tackle most cooking projects. Notably, there is a stock pot that has a steamer insert which is hard to find in similar sets from other makers. There are also two different saucepans, a 2-quart, and a 3-quart. One can make rice while the other is slowly reducing some beef sauce or lightly simmering a béchamel for some delicious mac & cheese. It is a big set, but a big set that will work.

HA1 Hard Anodized Non-Stick Cookware

Making pancakes in the HA1 Hard Anodized Nonstick Roaster with Rack, 13x16 inches. Photo by Alex Alcarraz

Non-stick cookware can be a hit or a miss. Often enough, the non-stick surface of most pots and pans quickly gets lost after a couple of uses. This damage can be caused by the heat being too high, the pan being scratched by a metal utensil, or even stacking a pan without a buffer that protects the non-stick surface.

HA1 Hard Anodized Cookware 101

HA1 Hard Anodized cookware has three layers of PFOA-free, nonstick material on a heavy-gauge construction, and is a step above most non-stick pieces. But before going on about the wonders of this pan, let’s discuss what anodized means.

An anodized surface is created from a metal, like aluminum, that has undergone oxidation. This specific oxidation can reach a depth of .3 millimeters. Thanks to the oxidation process, the metal becomes non-reactive, and very sturdy, which allows it to last for many years with proper care.

Now that the technicalities are out of the way, let’s see what makes this line of All-Clad cookware so great. The main pan that will be discussed is the HA1 Hard Anodized Nonstick Roaster with Rack, measuring 13x16 inches. The reason for choosing this specific pan is its versatility beyond being just a roasting pan.

Roulade is built ready to be poached in the HA1 Hard Anodized Nonstick Roaster with Rack, 13x16 inches. Photo by Alex Alcarraz

The large non-stick surface makes it excellent for a diverse number of tasks that don’t involve a turkey or a prime rib. Think of an overgrown breakfast pan that will outperform the usual griddle pan or smaller non-stick. Cook a large batch of bacon that won’t stick or burn on the bottom of the pan. Drain the excess fat and keep a bit for pancakes with a bit of bacon essence instead of butter. Don't forget to scramble some eggs or try some sunny-side-ups.

For an even more diverse use of this pan, it can be a great poaching pan for roulades that won’t fit in a conventional pot.

Poaching a turkey roulade in the HA1 Hard Anodized Nonstick, Roaster with Rack, 13x16 inches. Photo by Alex Alcarraz

The stainless steel handles on this roasting pan will not melt away and are sturdy enough to handle heavy proteins over and over again whether it is used on the stovetop or in the oven. This is a great, versatile pan that is well worth the price.

My Recommendations

The nonstick sets to consider for this specific line are the 10 and 12-inch nonstick pan set and the 10-piece set. The first set is great for eggs in the morning if you don’t have a large stovetop, while the 10-piece set complements the two pans by offering a more diverse set of pots and saucepans that will be used for other tasks. It is highly recommended not to use metal utensils against the inside of these pans. Instead, use rubber utensils to avoid scratching and damaging the surfaces, which will make food stick to the pan in the end.

Is Pricier All-Clad Cookware Worth It?

Let’s compare the more expensive lines versus the ones discussed above. For the sake of focusing solely on build, we’ll go over the D5 series, the G5 Graphite Core, the D7 Stainless, and the Copper Core series.

1. D5 Series (Brushed and Polished)

The All- Clad D5 Brushed Stainless Steel 5-Piece Cookware Set

Like the D3 series which has a 3-ply metal construction using two stainless steel sheets and one aluminum core, the D5 series uses a 5-ply bonded construction with alternating layers of All-Clad's stainless steel and aluminum. This creates a warp-free pan that conducts heat extremely well, leaving hotspots out of the picture.

The constructions of these pieces of cookware work in the same way as the D3 series. However, the additional layers bonded together provide more heat retention and distribution. There is a warp-free perk on top of that, as the D3 series is built strongly enough that it will not warp. The best feature on the D5 series is the superior heat conductivity, and it is very much worth the extra cost to own a set or an individual piece.

2. G5 Graphite Core

The G5 Graphite Core Bonded Cookware Sauté Pan with Lid 3 Quart

The G5 Graphite Core is quite a special series in the All-Clad family. On average, All-Clad cookware is a bit heavier than other pans because of the layered materials used. Unlike other pieces, G5 Graphite Core cookware is equipped with a disc of graphite in the middle layer at bottom of the pan, along with two aluminum layers, followed by stainless steel and an induction stainless steel bottom layer.

Graphite is a superior conductor of heat to copper and weighs 80% less. That means these pots and pans outperform classic copper pans with less weight and easier care. In comparison to the D3 and D5 lines, these will be high-performing workhorses that are beautiful and excellent for high-heat stovetop cooking and oven-roasting.

3. D7 Stainless

The D7 Stainless Stovetop Slow Cooker

This series is embodied by a single piece of cookware—the D7 Stainless Stovetop Slow Cooker. This six-quart, lidded pot is like a classic dutch oven with all of the perks of stainless steel. As the name implies, a 7-ply construction sets this pot apart from other All-Clad cookware. It is made up of four layers of stainless steel and three layers of aluminum. This forms a very thick bonded metal that insulates and conducts heat extremely well.

The D7 slow cooker is essentially a stainless steel exterior dutch oven that is two times more efficient in heat conductivity, and 25% lighter than a conventional cast iron pot of the same dimensions. The rims of cookware in the D7 line also come with flared edges for drip-free pouring.

4. Copper Core

The All-Clad Copper Core series is a celebration of new and old. Copper is used in cooking equipment because of its ability to conduct heat evenly and quickly. A thick middle layer of copper is the heart between two opposite layers of aluminum, followed by two opposite layers of stainless steel. Essentially, it is a much heartier version of the D5 series.

Continuing the comparison to other All-Clad series, the Copper Core will perform very similarly to the G5 graphite core. It will also be heavier, so if you are someone who enjoys a lighter set of cookware, this may not be the set for you. Nevertheless, the Copper Core’s craftsmanship and ability to endure a tough professional kitchen make it very much worth it for the right person.

Will there be a noticeably different experience for home cooks who are preparing meals for small groups of people every once in a while? Chances are, it may not be. However, for professional chefs and more committed amateur cooks, the performance difference of the copper core versus other All-Clad pans will be heavily noticeable. Fast and high heat conductivity will be greatly appreciated in the copper series by those who need that extra strength in their cookware. Those nuances make a world of difference when there is a large family to feed or a consistent amount of gatherings to cook for. If you are starting out on your journey to invest in higher-quality cookware, begin with a starter set of All-Clad pans, like the D3 series. Alternatively, purchase an individual pot or pan, preferably one that matches what you use the most at home, and try it out. Once you have a good grasp of what you specifically need from your pots and pans, make modifications as needed.

What Else Do I Get with All-Clad Cookware?

All of the outstanding reasons listed above are more than enough to highlight the fine craftsmanship, construction, and exceptional value of All-Clad pieces. But added to all that, the company also offers further benefits.

1. An Oven-Safe Guarantee

All All-Clad pans and sets are oven-safe. This also extends to the metal lids. Their cookware pieces are meant to withstand up to 600°F without warping or discoloration. Having mentioned their durability, it is also important to discuss their warranty.

2. A Limited Lifetime Warranty

A limited lifetime warranty is provided with all All-Clad cookware. This warranty covers manufacturing defects, or damages that occurred because of such defects. This is a very good warranty because it extends across the entire lifespan of the item. It is important to keep in mind that misuse, or damages caused by misuse, are not covered by their warranty. This includes spotting, discoloration due to overheating the cookware pieces, normal wear and tear, damage to non-stick surfaces by metal utensils, among a few others.

Remember to keep a receipt and sign up for their warranty when purchasing. Manufacturers rarely offer long warranties, so it’s a good idea to take advantage of the limited lifetime warranty offered by All-Clad.

To care for your All-Clad, the brand recommends washing all cookware with warm water, mild soap, and a sponge as All-Clad cookware is not dishwasher-safe. Although their pots and pans are durable and meant to endure high temperatures and plenty of cooking sessions, the harsh chemicals in dishwasher soap can slowly corrode those precious pots and pans. Every piece of cookware comes with a cleaning guide, and it is best to follow it as closely as possible to enjoy a lifetime of cooking with All-Clad.

3. Regular Special Offers

Feeling support from a brand goes a long way on the road towards building trust. In order to make this trust easier to attain, All-Clad does a wonderful job at creating special offers a few times a year. First-time buyers—and their budgets—will feel better about reduced costs, and long-time customers will be excited about adding some dream items to their collection.

These special offers play an even more special role when it comes to purchasing items for a wedding registry. Reduced prices mean more for less, especially when that sauté pan you’ve been eyeing drops 20% from full price.

For more personalized information on All-Clad cookware, reach out to a Curated Kitchen Expert. We will be more than happy to go into detail about all things All-Clad and more! If you’re shopping for gifts for this upcoming season, consider sending a Curated gift card to a loved one, or gifting on to yourself for a future purchase!

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