I’ve spent hours exploring each line that Calphalon offers, and what real-life owners think of the products. The company has been making cookware for almost 60 years, and today focuses on nonstick and stainless steel pots and pans.
In this article I’ll break down what you can expect of each line, and explain how they compare with other nonstick and stainless steel cookware products. My Calphalon review is based on an incredible amount of owner feedback and my own experiences cooking at home and in multiple professional kitchens.
Calphalon Contemporary – Best Nonstick Option
The Contemporary line is not the most expensive from Calphalon, but it is one of their more premium offerings. There are only a handful of pieces available in this trim. They are all nonstick, and they include some of the most useful shapes and sizes.
The nonstick coating is a three-layer design that is bonded to a heavy-gauge, hard-anodized aluminum body. The layer closest to the aluminum acts to improve adherence to the pan, hopefully eliminating any peeling.
The next layer adds durability just in case you nick or scratch the cooking surface. On top of that is the nonstick cooking surface. This is PFOA-free but it is a Teflon based coating.
Calphalon recommends using wood or silicone utensils, and the cookware is rated as dishwasher safe. The pots and pans can also handle oven temperatures up to 450 F.
A majority of owners find that the nonstick design works as it should especially when the proper heat and tools are used. However, some note that they received products that had some flaking and imperfections upon arrival.
The aluminum body conducts heat well and because it is quite thick and heavy, it distributes heat very nicely as well. The downside of the solid aluminum base is that the cookware is not induction compatible.
The design of the contemporary line is modern, as the name implies, and it is a very attractive set of cookware. The stay-cool stainless steel handles work as they should and are very sturdy.
If you purchase any of the pieces with glass lids, it’s worth noting that water has a tendency to get stuck between the glass and the metal rim of the lid.
Since durability is often the biggest concern when it comes to nonstick cookware, the three-layer design and heavy gauge aluminum give these pots and pans an edge. But due to the higher price point, going all-in on a full set may not be worth it. The nonstick fry pans on their own though would be a great addition to any cookware collection.
What we like
- 3-layer nonstick at a more affordable price
- The heavy-gauge aluminum body is very durable
- Conducts heat well through the entire pan
What We don’t
- A somewhat expensive nonstick option
- Lids can trap water and grease
Calphalon Signature – Most Features
The Signature series is another of Calphalon’s premium lines. It’s billed as their “professional-level” cookware series. Most of the line consists of hard-anodized aluminum nonstick, but there are some stainless steel pieces as well.
Similar to Calphalon Contemporary, the nonstick coating is made up of three layers of material bonded to the same aluminum base. The big difference here is that the topmost layer features what Calphalon calls their Sear Nonstick interior.
That interior is a textured, Teflon based nonstick that is designed for better searing and browning of foods. Calphalon claims that the textured layer mimics the results you can get from stainless steel cookware. While the browning abilities may be increased, I am doubtful that they are truly comparable.
The Sear Nonstick interior is also built to be used with metal utensils. But, the sentiment of many owners would disagree with that claim. If their proprietary coating adds durability and longer life, that’s a great advantage, but I would always avoid using metal utensils.
These pots and pans can handle oven temperatures all the way up to 500 F and are rated as dishwasher safe.
Aside from the nonstick offerings are a handful of stainless steel pots and pans. These options are heavy-duty and high-quality pieces. They feature 5-layer cladding, with three layers of conductive aluminum sandwiched between durable stainless steel.
The overall look of the signature line is attractive and high end. The problem is that the additional features don’t necessarily add enough value to make them worth the higher cost. Calphalon offers more affordable lines that perform equally well in most cooking situations.
Calphalon has a partnership with Williams Sanoma where they exclusively offer the Elite series. This is another hard-anodized aluminum nonstick line, with almost the exact same features as the Signature series.
They are available in a wide range of shapes, sizes, and sets. The handles have a slightly different design, but from a performance standpoint, Signature and Elite are as close to the same as you can get. But, you will pay a slight premium for having the Williams Sanoma name attached.
What we like
- The entire line is very attractive and looks like professional cookware
- 3-layer nonstick is durable (not with metal utensils)
- 5-layer stainless steel is very durable and functional
What We don’t
- The most expensive options from Calphalon
- Premium features aren’t that useful in daily use
Calphalon Premier – Best Stainless Steel Option
The Premier series falls between the “professional” level options and their more budget-friendly lines. This is a high-end selection, but you won’t be paying a premium for features you may not use like with the Signature and Elite series.
There are a lot of options within the Premier line. They offer a wide range of shapes and sizes in both stainless steel and nonstick varieties. Many of the options also feature Calphalon’s unique space-saving design.
This allows you to neatly stack several pieces, including lids, which can save a huge amount of space in your kitchen. It’s a great feature for smaller spaces, but even in larger kitchens, you can free up significant amounts of shelf space.
Like the other higher-end lines, Premier nonstick features Calphalon’s durable three-layer coating and heavy-gauge hard-anodized aluminum. The cooking surface is not textured like the Signature and Elite lines, but it is rated to be used with metal utensils.
Using metal utensils will generally decrease the life of any nonstick coating, so try to stick to plastics and wood. Since stacking nonstick cookware can lead to scratches, the space-saving pieces have a smart interlocking feature that protects against such damage.
The Premier stainless steel pots and pans are the real winner in this line. They feature a fully clad 3-ply design that is excellent for daily use. If you’re familiar with All-Clad’s D3 stainless steel cookware, then these are a comparable and more cost-effective alternative.
These pots and pans are built with a thick aluminum core for fast and even heating. That layer is sandwiched between stainless steel that can be used with any cooktop including induction.
The stainless steel pieces are available in a wide range of sizes, as well as stacking sets. In order to make the space-saving pieces stack nicely, they have fitted them with flat glass lids rather than traditional domed ones. For the same reason, they also switched from a classic top handle to one on the side, similar to a panhandle.
Both nonstick and stainless varieties are oven safe up to 450 F and can be thrown in the dishwasher in a pinch. We always recommend handwashing, and some owners even had issues with nonstick pans peeling after several wash cycles.
If you’re looking for nonstick cookware, the Premier Series offers durability and useful features that rival Calphalon’s more expensive options. But they are still not a budget-friendly choice.
The stainless steel options in this line are a great value for their excellent performance and durable design. If this sounds like a good fit for you, we did an in-depth look at Calphalon’s Tri-Ply stainless steel cookware.
What we like
- Available in a large number of sizes and shapes
- Unique stacking system really does save space
- 3-ply stainless steel is ideal for daily use and more affordable than 5-ply
What We don’t
- Nonstick options are expensive compared to other brands
- The flat lids on the stacking sets can be awkward to use
Calphalon Classic – Best Overall
Calphalon’s Classic cookware is at the higher end of their more affordable options. Here you can choose between hard-anodized nonstick, oil-infused ceramic nonstick, and stainless steel.
The stainless steel options cover all your basic sizes, from fry pans to saucepans, and a large stockpot. These pots and pans are not fully clad, meaning they do not have multiple layers through the entire cookware.
Instead, they are made from one piece of stainless steel with a multilayered base plate attached to the bottom. The stainless steel and aluminum base gives pretty good heat distribution to the bottom of the cooking surface. But that heat will not travel up the sides nearly as well as with clad ware.
I think that spending slightly more on the fully clad Premier stainless steel will serve you better in the long run.
When it comes to the hard-anodized nonstick, you will see a clear separation from Calphalon’s higher-end options here.
First of all, the aluminum body is made from medium gauge aluminum. This is a thinner version of the heavy gauged stuff featured in all of the previous lines. Even though it is thinner, it is still thick enough to provide solid heat distribution and durability.
The second big difference here is that the nonstick coating is made from two layers rather than three. Even with one less layer, the nonstick coating seems pretty durable when proper use and care is exercised.
The handles are still made from sturdy stainless steel, but some owners have found that they get very hot during regular stovetop use.
The pots and pans are oven safe up to 450 F, but they are not dishwasher safe. This shouldn’t be a problem since handwashing will actually extend the life of the cookware.
If you go for the 10 piece set, keep in mind that two of those pieces are “no-boil-over” inserts for the pots. Many owners found that these work as intended, but end up taking up cupboard space without getting much use.
Within the Classic line, you also have Oil-Infused Ceramic nonstick options. The hard-anodized aluminum body, stainless steel handles, and tempered glass lids are the same across the Classic line. The nonstick coating is the major difference here.
Most of Calphalon’s nonstick options feature a Teflon-based coating. This option uses ceramic and is free from potentially harmful PFOA and PTFE.
The ceramic options are also safe to 450 F in the oven and are not dishwasher safe.
When compared to the Classic PTFE nonstick pans, the ceramic choice seems to work great initially, but loses nonstick properties much quicker.
This is not surprising since, in our research of dozens of different nonstick brands, the Teflon options are almost always more durable.
What is surprising is that the ceramic options in this line are more expensive than the Teflon and stainless versions. If you are more comfortable knowing your cookware does not contain Teflon then this could be a good option.
But, paying more for a less durable product is something to consider.
What we like
- Wide range of sizes available
- More affordable than Calphalon’s premium lines
- PTFE-free ceramic options available
What We don’t
- Medium-gauge aluminum is not as sturdy as the premium heavy-gauge
- Ceramic nonstick is more expensive and less durable than the Teflon options
- Stainless steel cookware is not fully clad
Select By Calphalon – Best On A Budget
Calphalon Select is very similar to the classic line. Again, you can choose from Teflon or Ceramic nonstick as well as stainless steel. If you go for the stainless or Teflon pots and pans the Space-Saving stackable sets are available as well.
The Select stainless steel is built just like the Classic line. One solid piece of stainless steel for the body, with a three-layer base bonded to the bottom. The most noticeable difference on the entire Select series is that the handles are wrapped in silicon.
Some owners find the silicon more comfortable and it does a great job staying cool on the stovetop. The downside is that it limits oven useability to 400 F, and could prove less durable in the long run.
The Select series uses the same two-layer nonstick design as Classic and is bonded to the same medium-gauge hard-anodized aluminum body.
The advantage that you can find in this line is with the stackable, space-saving sets. We spoke about this feature with the Premier line above. The sets are built to be stored in a single stack with glass lids included.
Calphalon claims that they take up 30% less space than an equivalent non-stackable set. That could lead to a lot more storage real estate.
The Ceramic option in this line has the same nonstick coating as the Classic version, but it is bonded to an enamel-coated aluminum body.
Many owners found that the enamel-coated aluminum pans were very thin and had a tendency to warp, leading to wobbly and hard to use cookware.
The Select and Classic nonstick durability is very similar. They start out great but are quickly diminished.
The Select series is less expensive and that is due primarily to the non-anodized aluminum. Hard-anodized aluminum goes through a chemical process that makes it more durable and hard-wearing.
Unless you are interested in the Space-Saving sets, the Select line is a hard sell. The Classic line is very closely priced, and you get some better materials and higher heat capabilities.
What we like
- Space-Saving sets at a more affordable price
- PTFE-free ceramic nonstick available
- 2-layer Teflon nonstick works well and is durable when treated properly
What We don’t
- Ceramic nonstick options don’t feature hard-anodized aluminum
- 400 F oven limit is lower than most of the other lines
Simply Calphalon – Entry Level Option
This is Calphalon’s most entry-level option and only includes hard-anodized nonstick cookware.
The nonstick coating is similar to the other budget-friendly lines. It consists of their two-layer design, bonded to the same aluminum.
The performance and durability of the cooking surface are solid for an entry-level set. But, that all goes out the window when recommended use and care instructions are not strictly adhered to.
Although a different design than the Select series, the handles are silicon and limit the cookware to 400 F in the oven.
The Simply series is only available in an 8 or 10 piece set and is marketed as a single purchase solution for beginner cooks. The set offers performance that will get the job done for most basic cooking tasks, but it is also priced about the same as the Select and Classic options.
What we like
- Only two available choices make decision making easy
What We don’t
- No option to buy individual pieces
- Priced similarly to the higher end Classic and Select lines
Is Calphalon Cookware Any Good?
Calphalon has been making cookware since 1963. Since then they have gained a loyal following and positive reputation for their high-quality pots and pans.
The company was made famous for its introduction of hard-anodized aluminum cookware. That is still their most popular segment, but their stainless steel cookware is also a great value.
Calphalon stainless steel pots and pans were modeled after All-Clad, who is an industry leader in clad cookware. The problem with All-Clad is that it can be inhibitively expensive.
Calphalon aims to provide similar levels of performance and durability but at prices that are more accessible. This is one of the ways that Calphalon helps bridge the gap for serious home cooks that want professional-level equipment.
Another great thing about Calphalon is that most of their pieces are available individually. This makes it easy for you to try most of their cookware lines without committing to a full set. It’s an excellent way to build up your kitchen with the pieces you know will get a lot of use.
How Long Should Calphalon Pans Last?
The fully clad three and five-layer stainless steel cookware should last a lifetime with proper use and care.
When it comes to their nonstick pots and pans, it will depend greatly on how the pan is used and cared for.
The medium and heavy gauge aluminum in most of their nonstick cookware is sturdy enough to withstand regular daily use. There have been rare cases where warping has occurred, but that is usually due to very high heat cooking, or drastic temperature changes.
The Teflon coatings themselves have a good reputation for their performance and durability. No nonstick pan will last forever, but their two and three-layer designs should give several years of solid use as long as they are not abused.
That means no metal utensils, and handwashing only. That even goes for the lines that say they can take it. While they may not be damaged immediately, it will greatly shorten the lifespan of your nonstick cookware.
Is Calphalon Cookware Safe?
When we talk about cookware being safe, we are commonly referring to the presence of Teflon in nonstick coatings.
Most Calphalon nonstick cookware is built with their two or three-layer nonstick coating, and it does contain PTFE or Teflon. Modern manufacturing technology and Teflon cookware production are generally very safe.
When nonstick pots and pans are heated to very high temperatures, potentially dangerous fumes can be emitted.
Calphalon does offer a small selection of ceramic cookware that is a “safer” nonstick solution. These pieces are not made with the potential dangers associated with Teflon.
Through our extensive research of various nonstick cookware brands, we have found ceramic cookware to be slightly less effective and also less durable.
The stainless steel options from Calphalon do not contain any dangerous chemicals and are safe to use with all ingredients.
What Is Calphalon Cookware Made From?
All of Calphalon’s nonstick cookware except for the Select Ceramic line is made from hard-anodized aluminum. The higher-end options feature a heavy gauge aluminum that is 3.6mm thick. The more affordable selections use a medium gauge version that is 3mm thick.
Plane old aluminum is a great heat conductor, but it can be easily warped and is prone to corrosion when exposed to acidic ingredients. Hard-anodizing is a chemical process that alters aluminum to be more durable and less corrosive.
Simply Calphalon vs. Calphalon Classic: Nonstick Coating
Both of these lines take advantage of the same two-layer nonstick coating.
The top layer is a durable Teflon coating that’s easy to wipe clean and has good food release. The second layer gives some protection if the top layer is nicked or scratched. The primary function is to ensure a better bond to the aluminum body.
Is It Difficult To Maintain A Calphalon Pan?
If you want your nonstick cookware to have a long and useful life, it should be treated with care. This is true for all brands across the board.
Most of Calphalon’s nonstick cookware features a Teflon based coating. In general, Teflon offers better nonstick properties and durability than ceramic options.
There are three rules that you should follow to extend the life of your nonstick cookware. These should be applied to ceramic and Teflon varieties.
- Never use metal utensils. Even the Elite and Signature lines that say they are metal utensil safe, will benefit from using silicone or wood. It’s an easy way to protect your investment, especially with those very expensive options.
- Handwash your cookware. Dishwashers may be convenient, but they expose your pots and pans to harsh chemicals, fluctuating temperatures, and other dishes that can cause damage.
- Avoid high heat cooking. This will yield better cooking results, and also protect you and your cookware. Overly high temperatures can actually burn away the nonstick coating. This will diminish the nonstick properties and can release dangerous fumes into your home.
Calphalon vs. All-Clad vs. T-fal
These are three of the most well known and most popular cookware producers. Each one has a specialty and also caters to certain groups and budgets.
T-fal is one of the originators of Teflon nonstick cookware and that remains their most popular offering. They have expanded into all varieties of cookware, but all of their lines are focused on value and budget-friendliness.
T-fal is a great place to look for beginner cooks or a very functional nonstick frypan that you won’t be too upset about replacing after a couple of years.
All-Clad makes some hard-anodized nonstick cookware but is best known for its fully clad stainless steel lines. They are also known to easily break the bank.
Their stainless steel cookware is some of the best on the market and can be found in professional kitchens around the world. Calphalon’s stainless steel is actually modeled after All-Clad, and are a great, more affordable alternative.
Calphalon falls somewhere in between T-fal and All-Clad. They are best known for their hard-anodized aluminum cookware, but as we already said, they make high-quality stainless steel as well.
Part of Calphalon’s original mission was to make professional-level cookware more accessible to home cooks. As you can see from all of the different lines that they offer, Calphalon has an option for any level of cook and any budget.
Calphalon does a great job making products to meet the needs of a wide variety of consumers. So much so that it can be difficult and confusing when comparing their different lines.
If you’re just looking to add one or two nonstick fry pans to your collection, then Contemporary is a great high-performance choice. You get most of the benefits of the most expensive lines but in a slightly more affordable package.
If you’re looking for Stainless Steel, I prefer the 3-ply design of the Premier line over the Signature 5-ply option. It’s ideal for daily cooking because it’s not too heavy and it heats up quickly and evenly.
The Classic series is a more budget-friendly nonstick option that still performs well and is available in most sizes that you would ever need.