I am constantly on the lookout for high-quality cookware. It allows me to prepare healthy, delicious meals for my family.
It’s tough to beat classic stainless steel pots and pans.
Yet sometimes, the added benefit of a cookware piece doesn’t justify the cost. After all, I want to afford not only the cookware but also the food to cook in it!
So that’s why I’ll be looking at the premium All-Clad D3 vs D5 cookware sets to see which one provides the best performance and value.
At a Glance
All-Clad Cookware is widely considered among the best in the cookware industry. All-Clad began in Pennsylvania in 1971 when metallurgist John Ulam was able to create cookware by using bonded metal technology.
This pioneering development led to All-Clad’s reputation for superior-quality stainless steel pots and pans, a reputation that has lasted to the present day.
All-Clad’s D3 and D5 cookware collections are two of the more popular lines. I found the All-Clad D5 line to have slightly superior performance and ease of maintenance. But the much higher price tag makes it cost-prohibitive for many.
The D3 gives you almost all of the benefits of multi-ply cookware, but it doesn’t have quite the same heat distribution and sturdiness of the D5 set. There are different factors to consider.
Watch this short video on how to choose your All-Clad pieces:
When it comes to the All-Clad D3 vs. D5 cookware sets, which one is right for you? Read on to learn more.
Things to Consider Before Buying Multi-Ply Stainless Steel Cookware
Defining the Terms: Multi-Ply, Multi-Clad, Full-clad, Bonded Construction
Multi-ply or Multi-clad: These terms are interchangeable. They both refer to cookware that is constructed from layers of different metals. Ply means layers, so these terms essentially mean multi-layered cookware.
You might also see tri-ply, which indicates the cookware has 3 layers of metal. 5-ply would mean 5 layers, and so on. Be aware that some cookware only features layers in the base, whereas other cookware has layers throughout the entire piece.
Full-Clad: Full-clad or Fully-clad means the cookware has layers throughout the entire body, as opposed to just the base.
Bonded Cookware: Cookware with a bonded construction has metal layers that have been bonded together. All multi-ply cookware has a bonded construction.
Impact-bonded: Impact-bonded typically refers to cookware that has a metal disc attached to the bottom. Impact-bonded cookware is not as heat efficient as full-clad cookware, but it is more cost-effective.
Impact-Bonded Base vs. Full-Clad
Full-clad cookware is constructed with a “sandwich” technique. It’s made with multiple layers throughout the entire body.
The number of layers varies among cookware sets. Tri-ply is the most common and features three layers. Most often, tri-ply has two layers of stainless steel surrounding an aluminum core.
Aluminum has high heat conductivity, so it helps cookware heat quickly and efficiently, yet aluminum cookware is highly reactive and susceptible to warping. But that’s not a problem with multi-clad cookware, as the stainless steel provides structural strength.
Stainless steel is non-reactive, so it’s safe for all types of food. Plus, stainless steel has decent heat retention, giving home cooks the best of both worlds.
Combined together, aluminum and stainless steel provide excellent heat distribution.
You’ll also see 5-ply, which has five layers of metal. These typically include stainless steel and aluminum. 5-ply cookware might also include a copper core.
Impact-bonded cookware features a heavy-gauge layer of aluminum or copper that is on the bottom of the cookware. This extra layer helps the bottom of the pan heat more quickly.
While both methods transfer heat efficiently, full-clad construction is optimal because the aluminum core transfers heat throughout the entire cookware piece. This results in more even heating.
Full-clad cookware is more expensive than impact-bonded cookware. All-Clad’s cookware is fully-clad, a major factor in its superior reputation and premium price tag.
How to Use Multi-Ply Stainless Steel Cookware
It’s no use spending the money on All-Clad cookware if you don’t know how to use it properly.
And that lifetime warranty that All-Clad offers? It won’t cover misuse, so knowing how to use this cookware is crucial. Follow these easy steps to help get the most out of your multi-ply cookware:
- You MUST preheat your stainless steel cookware. Adding food or oil to a cold stainless steel cooking surface will cause major sticking. To check if your pan is sufficiently heated, add a drop of water to the pan. If the water rolls in droplets and sizzles? You’re good to go.
The reason behind this is that stainless steel has tiny pores. When cold, these pores will actually “pull in” oil and food. When hot, those pores close up and allow oil to coat the pan without sinking in, meaning food releases more easily.
- Stick to low or medium heat. High heat will cause food to stick. A stainless steel cooking surface will retain heat, so if you preheat your cookware, it will stay hot while your food cooks.
- Add oil first. A stainless steel cooking surface will not release food effortlessly like a non-stick surface, so you’ll want to use oil or another form of cooking fat. Avoid non-stick sprays.
Be sure to add the oil before adding food. Dumping them in together will worsen sticking. Let the oil heat for a minute, and then add food. Doing so will give you the best results.
- Avoid metal utensils. While stainless steel can handle metal better than non-stick, it can still scratch. Gently using a metal spatula to release food may not damage the pan, but using a metal fork very well might.
Also? Using metal tools will invalidate the warranty, so why take the chance? Wooden or heat-resistant silicone utensils are best.
How to Clean Multi-Ply Cookware
Cleaning is one of the biggest complaints consumers have regarding stainless steel pots and pans. But with a few simple tips, you can take the cleaning process from burnt toast to a piece of cake.
- Be sure to cook with your multi-ply stainless cookware properly. If you aren’t sure how to do that, refer to the above section. Proper usage is the BEST way to make cleanup easier.
- Hand wash with mild soap and warm water. This is the best way to clean your cookware. Even though several sets will advertise as dishwasher-safe, I wouldn’t go that route.
There are just too many ways to damage a pan, from harsh detergents to high heat to contact with other objects. Hand washing is best.
- For stuck-on food, let the pan soak. 15 minutes should work. Use a plastic scrubber or scraping tool to remove food.
- Remove stains and/or polish by using Bar Keeper’s Friend. Several customers recommended using this product to clean your polished cookware to a beautiful shine.
If you prefer not to use cleaners like Bar Keeper’s Friend, you can polish naturally with vinegar and remove stains by boiling a mixture of baking soda and water.
- Towel dry immediately. If you leave a wet stainless steel frying pan to dry, you’ll end up with stubborn spots.
All-Clad D5 vs D3 Product Reviews
The All-Clad Tri-ply set is labeled as the D3 collection, and features three layers of metal. A stainless steel exterior and stainless cooking surface encase a layer of conductive aluminum for the core.
There are options for a 5-piece, 7-piece, and large 14-piece set. But the 10-piece set is the best fit for most people. It comes with the following pieces:
- 8-inch (20 cm) and 10-inch (25 cm) frying pans
- 2-quart (1.9 liters) and 3-quart (2.8 liters) saucepans with lids
- 3-quart (2.8 liters) sauté pan with lid
- 8-quart (7.6 liters) stockpot with lid
This All-Clad D3 set has excellent heat distribution and efficiency. It performs well and provides a lot of value.
Customers loved their D3 cookware set overall. They liked the beautiful finish, the quick heating, and the cooking performance.
They didn’t like the handles, and there were some reports of poor customer service, with some customers feeling that the company didn’t stand behind its limited lifetime warranty.
Just like the D3 set, this All-Clad D5 cookware set comes in various sizes. The 10-piece set comes with the following pieces:
- 8-inch (20.32 cm) and 10-inch (25.4cm) frying pans
- 1.5-quart (1.42 liters) and 3-quart (2.84 liters) sauce pans with lids
- 3-quart (2.84 liters) sauté pan with lid
- 8-quart (7.57 liters) stockpot with lid
Unlike the polished exterior of the All-Clad D3 cookware, this set features a brushed matte exterior. Users loved the performance of this set. They raved about the heating and cooking performance.
They didn’t love the customer service. For several customers, it took a long time to get a response.
All-Clad D3 vs D5: Feature Comparison
The All-Clad D3 and D5 cookware sets have almost identical pieces. The only difference? The D5 cookware set comes with a 1.5-quart (1.42 liters) saucepan, whereas the D3 set has a 2-quart (1.89 liters) saucepan. Both also include a larger saucepan of 3 quarts (2.84 liters).
There were some complaints with the D5 14-piece set that the advertised 8-quart (7.57 liters) stockpot was actually a 6-quart (5.68 liters) pot. These complaints were scattered, but it could still be an inconvenience if you’re shelling out the money for a large set of All Clad.
For the 10-piece sets, there is only a minuscule difference. But I like having that extra capacity, even if it is small. So when it comes to All-Clad D3 vs. D5, the D3 line gets the edge in this category.
Winner: All-Clad D3
Both cookware sets feature bonded layers of aluminum and stainless steel. The bonded aluminum core extends from the base all the way to the rim of the cookware, meaning both sets are fully clad.
The main difference lies in the number of layers. The D3 set has two layers of stainless steel surrounding an aluminum interior.
The D5 cookware set, on the other hand, has alternating layers of stainless steel and aluminum. These alternating layers feature two aluminum layers and three bonded layers of stainless steel.
The thin steel core is to help distribute heat evenly, whereas the textured stainless steel surface provides extra durability and scratch resistance.
Although both sets of All-Clad cookware have excellent construction, the five bonded layers of the D5 are tough to beat. 3 layers will suffice, but those additional layers provide an extra boost of even heating. So for D3 vs. D5 construction? D5 wins.
Winner: All-Clad D5
Both the All-Clad D5 and D3 cookware lines are broiler and oven-safe up to 600°F (315°C). That makes both of these collections great for stovetop-to-oven dishes.
User reviews confirmed the oven safety of these sets. They were also able to put the lids in the oven, although they emphasized using an oven mitt or potholder to remove the lid. Those handles can get quite hot!
Both the D3 and D5 lines performed well in the oven and handled the full range of normal cooking temperatures. There is no clear winner here. Or should I say, both sets win.
All Clad Tri-Ply and All-Clad D5 cookware are compatible with all types of stovetops, including induction cooktops.
User reviews were pleased with both sets in regards to their compatibility. Several users had induction cooktops and were able to use both the D3 and D5 cookware without problems.
As always, make sure the cookware piece you choose completely covers the gas or induction burner. This gives you the best heating results while preventing burns or discoloration on the exterior.
Heating, Cooking Performance
Both the D3 and the D5 have excellent heat distribution and heat retention. They heat quickly for stainless steel, due to the interior aluminum layer.
Users raved about the even heating. They said there were no hot spots, and their food was cooked thoroughly and evenly while retaining moisture.
Although both collections performed well, the additional layers of the D5 collections gave it an extra advantage.
Both sets have flared rims for drip-free pouring. The flared edges are on all the cookware pieces for the D5 set, but they don’t appear on the D3 saucepans.
Customers didn’t say much about the flared rims. Some did complain about sharp edges on the D3 rims, however. They said the aluminum core was exposed along the rim, which would wear down and cause the stainless steel to sharpen.
This may have been due to dishwasher use. But regardless, the smoother rims and additional layers give the D5 collection a slight edge in this category.
Winner: All-Clad D5
Lids and Handles
All-Clad’s D3 and D5 cookware both have stainless steel lids and stainless steel handles. The handles are dual-riveted for sturdiness, and the lids are safe for oven use.
The stainless steel lids do not have vents. A few users said they would prefer glass lids, but others liked the stainless steel. Several said the lid handles got hot for both the D3 and D5 lids, so use potholders when removing the lid.
The cookware handles are a different story. For both the D3 and D5 sets, the long stainless handles actually stay cool. Several people commented on how cool the handles stayed while cooking.
The one thing they didn’t like about the D3 set? The comfort. Customers consistently complained about the D3 handle design. They said it was acutely uncomfortable.
A few said the same thing about the D5 set, but far more user reviews complained about the D3 handles. For this reason, I would go with the All-Clad D5.
Winner: All-Clad D5
Ease of Cleaning
All-Clad advertises both the D3 and D5 sets as dishwasher-safe. However, they recommend washing these pans by hand. I would, too.
Many user reviews complained about sharp edges, discoloration, and water marks after putting these pans in the dishwasher. What’s worse? There were multiple reports that All-Clad invalidated the warranty because they cleaned them in the dishwasher.
I would definitely use caution and never put these in the dishwasher.
With that being said, if you follow proper use, these All-Clad pans should be easy to clean. Both sets wash up well, although neither set will clean like a Teflon pan.
I cannot find a significant difference in the ease of cleaning, but I will say that the brushed exterior of the D5 set will be easier to maintain over the long haul than the polished exterior of the D3 line. For that, I give All-Clad’s D5 the advantage here.
Winner: All-Clad D5
Users loved the polished exterior finish of the All-Clad D3 set. Several did complain of discoloration after use, however. A minimal amount of discoloration is totally normal with stainless steel cookware. Of course, using special cleaners can help, as well.
The D5 set has a brushed exterior finish. Not as shiny as the D3 but easier to maintain. Customers had a similar reaction to the appearance of these D5 pans. They liked the finish but found discoloration after use.
The question is, do you want a shiny mirror polish? Or is a matte brushed finish more your style? Since this category comes down to personal preference, there is no clear winner.
All-Clad D3 is certainly a pricier option, but it’s more affordable than the All-Clad D5 cookware. Those extra layers will cost you. Expect to pay significantly more for the D5 cookware set. When it comes to price, the All-Clad D3 line wins.
Winner: All-Clad D3
Are There Alternatives?
Legend is a New York-based company that makes quality stainless, cast iron, and enameled cookware. This 5-ply set comes with a substantial 14 pieces, large enough to handle any task, regardless of cooking style.
Instead of alternating layers, this cookware features three core aluminum layers with a stainless steel exterior and a stainless steel cooking surface. The long handles are comfortable, and the flared rims make for easy pouring.
It’s oven-safe up to 450°F (232°C). That’s hot enough to handle most cooking tasks, but not as high a temp as the All-Clad collections. Although some customers said they washed their cookware in the dishwasher, Legend recommends hand washing.
One feature I really like on this Legend set? The interior measurement markings. They make adding liquids an easy task that saves on dishes. As far as price, this set is comparable to All-Clad collections.
I found Calphalon’s multi-ply cookware to be a budget-friendly option that doesn’t skimp on quality. This Calphalon set features a tri-ply construction. It has an aluminum center with two additional layers of stainless steel.
The cooking surface has even heating and is great for browning. The stainless steel handles are dual-riveted and ergonomic for easy grip. They stay cool during the cooking process, too.
And for stovetop-to-oven dishes? No problem. This set is oven-safe up to 450°F (232°C). It’s also compatible with all cooktop types, including induction.
It has glass lids so you can monitor food while cooking. Lastly, this Calphalon cookware is dishwasher-safe, making for easy cleanup.
If you want multi-ply cookware at a more reasonable price point, or if you have your heart set on glass lids, this Calphalon set would be great for you.
All-Clad D5 vs D3: Which One is Better?
The All-Clad D5 seems to have a slight edge in cooking performance and ease of cleaning, but I can’t say those advantages are worth the extra cost.
If you have the spare change and want the benefit of extra layers? Go for it. Otherwise, I’d stick with the All-Clad D3 cookware set. You’ll still reap the rewards of having multi-clad, durable cookware from a top-notch brand.