For almost any serious home chef, stainless steel clad-ware has an important place in their cookware arsenal. Twenty years ago, it was really hard to find an affordable option.
Today, brands like Calphalon are making tri-ply cookware way more cost effective than they’ve ever been in the past. It’s a big win for budget-conscious buyers who want pots and pans that last more than 5 years.
I review a lot of cookware these days and am a core part of the audience I just mentioned. So if that also sounds like you, I hope my Calphalon Tri Ply review will save you time and stress in deciding if these products are right for your kitchen. I spent 20 hours looking at the line, analyzing feedback from other owners, and comparing these products with best-in-class competitors (namely All-Clad).
While it may not carry the brand-cache of All-Clad, Calphalon is a smarter buy. At about half the cost you’ll get a nearly identical product to the one that launched the clad stainless steel cookware industry.
What we like
- Nearly identical features to top-end products
- Half the price of top-end products
- Will last a lifetime, and beyond
What We don’t
- Lid handles sometimes get hot to touch.
- Some of the upgrade options are not super-practical.
- Clad cookware takes some time getting used to
Material: Durability meets fast & even heating.
The Calphalon Tri Ply line combines the best material properties of aluminum and stainless steel into a solid single construction through “cladding.”
The aluminum core, which is sandwiched between two stainless steel layers, allows this cookware to heat very quickly and evenly across the cooksurface. This is important because it will help you avoid hotspots and cold areas that might make your food cook unevenly.
The stainless steel exterior provides exceptional protection against corrosion and abrasive kitchen elements. This material is the secret sauce that makes tri-ply cladware last virtually forever, and the reason this line is safe for use with all (even metal) utensils.
In contrast to the excellent heat conductivity of the aluminum core, the stainless steel exterior provides great heat retention. When bound together using clad layers these metals provide fast even heating AND a pan that will hold its temperature.
Price: An affordable version of an American classic.
Outside of cast iron, tri-ply stainless steel has probably been the most iconic American cookware construction since the 1960s. The Calphalon Tri Ply series was modeled after the original cladware icon, the All-Clad D3.
All-Clad is still regarded as an American icon in cookware. Unfortunately for those of us watching our wallets, their pricing still reflects that notoriety. It will cost a pretty penny.
One of the big benefits of Calphalon Tri Ply is that the cookware is based on the same great materials technology, but now is available for about half the cost of All-Clad.
This fact has let A LOT of people finally get their hands on awesome cladware, when previously it may have been out of budget for them.
Calphalon’s competitive pricing on this design has only been possible since All-Clad’s original patents expired in the early 2000s. Calphalon has been part of a rush of brands who are hoping to capitalize on this great materials technology, by combining it with cheaper manufacturing set-ups in China.
The new affordable options like Calphalon are not great for All-Clad, who is now leaning even further into the luxury market with their copper core products, but probably good for a lot of us who needed a price conscious option.
Cleaning: Takes some getting used to.
Like virtually all stainless steel cookware products, for most people the cooking and cleaning will take some getting used to. If you’ve used cladware in the past then you probably already know the drill.
If you are more familiar with nonstick or cast iron cookware, keep reading this section.
The biggest part of the learning curve for most people who purchase Calphalon Tri Ply is honing in on the right temperature settings on your stove, how much oil to use, when to flip and stir.
Early on, you are likely to experience a lot of burnt food and scorched pans. After all, food sticking and burns are the most common complaints among new owners.
Don’t get discouraged though! These things aren’t too difficult to clean, and when you get the hang cooking with your new cladware then messes are much fewer and farther between.
Some of the talents you’ll develop include a preheating routine, lubricating your pan with oil, and understanding when food has reached that GBD (golden, brown and delicious) moment where it is ready to flip.
We created a fast and easy primer on cooking (and cleaning) with stainless steel that you should read over before taking your first clad pans out of the box. It’s a good starting point regardless of which brand you buy, and is certainly applicable to the Calphalon Tri Ply line.
I would strongly encourage you to not feel intimidated by the upfront learning curve. If this does still feel like a put-off to you, that’s ok. Stainless steel is not for everyone. You might consider starting with a single fry pan, or checking out a line of nonstick cookware instead.
Durability: Lasts a lifetime.
While cooking and cleaning with the Calphalon Tri Ply set may take some getting used to, the good news is that these pots and pans should last a lifetime.
For comparison, almost all nonstick cookware will need a replacement in 5 years or less. We’ve reviewed a lot of nonstick products and many don’t even last a year.
What I’m saying is that the Calphalon Tri Ply set is a great value compared to the most popular cookware materials, and not much more expensive than most of them either.
You should expect that the amount of “learning” energy you’ll invest up front to be quite small when compared to the overall lifespan of the set. By the time a year has passed, you’ll probably forget the initial learning curve anyway.
Design: Timeless base model, with a copper upgrade option.
The Tri Ply series from Calphalon is sleek and attractive, with matching pieces that boast a lustrous stainless steel finish. Aesthetically, this is a great looking set.
The handles of each piece is made of the same stainless steel used on the base for a sleek, seamless look. Thanks to the handle’s v-shaped structure, heat escapes into the air instead of transferring to the handles. This design keeps them cool enough to touch when cooking safely.
All handles are triple-riveted, which means that they’re securely bolted to the body of the cookware. You don’t have to worry about the handle coming loose or wiggling around, even when dealing with heavy loads.
The handles of Calphalon pans are long and thin, which, while attractive, can pose a problem for larger cookware. It can be challenging to balance a full pot when moving it around. What’s more, there’s no texture on Calphalon handles, so they can be a challenge to grip.
The tempered glass used in this collection is shatter-resistant when dropped, making the lids safer and more durable than those made of traditional glass.
Compared with solid metal lids used by some other brands, the tempered glass is cheaper to replace if you lose or break one. And they make it easy to monitor each dish while the lid is still fastened tight.
Handles are securely bolted to the lid with metal brackets to ensure that they don’t accidentally detach during use. The lid handles occasionally can become hot to touch, so it’s a good idea to have a potholder ready to go.
Calphalon also makes a copper variant of the Tri Ply line that uses brushed copper for the exterior of each piece. The copper adds some temperature responsiveness, and significantly more price per dish.
- Copper Exterior And Aluminum Inner Core Combine For Superior Conductivity And Precise Cooking Control
- Non-Reactive Stainless Steel Interior Offers The Reflective Cooking Surface Many Chefs Prefer;It’S Brushed To Maintain Its Like New...
- Brushed Copper Exterior Complements Both Traditional And Contemporary Decor
If you need your cookware to be precise and responsive in how it adjusts to changing element temperature then the copper-ply version may be a good set for you. Unfortunately though, the copper-ply set isn’t compatible with an induction stove which is preferred by many cooks who do candy making, cheese making, and other operations that require precise temperature control.
For most home chefs, the performance value of the copper doesn’t equate to the extra cost. It does look nice though.
Another note, the lids that come with the copper option are solid stainless steel. They work fine, but I find the tempered glass lids used for the standard line is preferable so it’s easy to keep an eye on how the meal is progressing.
Sizing and Piece Selection
This line offers a wide range of sizes, from single-quart saucepans to eight-quart stockpots. All pieces are true to size. No matter what you plan on cooking, you can find a Calphalon pot or pan to fit.
If you’re not sure what size pot or pan you need, Calphalon offers sets containing standard-sized cooking ware. Pieces are able to nest inside each other or hang for easy storage without creating damage to the individual pieces.
Each piece in this collection has a smooth outer rim that flows outwards seamlessly from the base’s sides. It forms a lip around the edge of the unit for easy plating.
However, keeping in mind that Calphalon cookware doesn’t have a pouring lip. It’s best to use caution when dealing with liquids and sauces so that they don’t spill.
Heating Capacity: Oven safe and fully clad.
The heavy-gauge aluminum core helps transfer heat efficiently and effectively. It runs through the pot’s base and up along the sides, so the entire unit heats evenly.
Some of the competitor stainless steel cookware brands sandwich an aluminum disc in the base of the pan, rather than using a clad layer that extends from rim to rim. You should expect better heating from a full clad pan like the Calphalon Tri Ply, compared with another product that only uses an aluminum puck in the base.
Preheat the pan for best performance. If necessary, you can test how hot the pan is by seeing how quickly a small pat of butter browns. It’s easy to wipe away the residue before you get started cooking.
All of the pans are oven-safe, so they’ll work well for bake-and-sear type cooking.
Competition: Similar product at a better price.
This is a historic American brand that still produces all of it’s clad cookware in Pennsylvania, though some of the other lines, lids and handles are now made overseas.
Calphalon Tri Ply is basically a knock-off of the original products that All-Clad developed in the 1960s; a time when Calphalon was building a reputation for Anodized Aluminum cookware products.
All-Clad D3 is the company’s most affordable line of clad stainless steel cookware, and is basically identical to the Calphalon Tri Ply line we’re covering in this article. The biggest difference most people notice is the cost. D3 is usually about 2x as expensive.
A lot of owners buy All-Clad based on the brand’s reputation, the fact that it is American made, and for the customer service in case they need a future repair or replacement.
If you’re still feeling uneasy about learning how to cook with stainless steel, Scanpan may provide a good alternative. The Danish company is known for its quality non-stick products, and a commitment to recycled materials used in their construction.
Scanpan offers a few of their more “premium” lines that feature a five-ply product with stainless steel exterior, aluminum interior, and Stratinum+ nonstick on the cook surface – like HaptIQ.
This product is inspired by cladware, and combines the heating properties of aluminum and stainless steel. At the same time, you get the benefit of user-friendly cooking and cleanup provided by the PTFE-based nonstick coating.
If you choose Scanpan, then you’re picking convenience over durability. And you should get familiar with the most common ways that owners ruin their nonstick pan, so that you can avoid them.
With regular use and proper care the HaptIQ will survive in many kitchens for 2-5 years.
- Five–layer clad–aluminum construction with mirror–polished stainless steel exterior
- Commercial–grade nonstick surface is metal–utensil safe
- For all stovetops, including induction
Frequently Asked Questions
Does Calphalon offer a warranty?
Calphalon offers a lifetime warranty against manufacturer’s defects on the Tri Ply line.
The warranty doesn’t cover damage from improper use. If you accidentally chip, burn, or otherwise damage your cookware, you won’t be able to get a replacement product. Damage due to improper cleaning or neglect isn’t covered either, nor is theft or property loss.
If you find that there’s a manufacturer defect, you can return it to the company for an equal value replacement. In most cases, you’ll get an exact replacement. However, if the item has been discontinued, Calphalon will replace it with the closest product currently in stock.
The company inspects each return to ensure that damage is due to a manufacturer defect. If Calphalon sees no issue or finds the customer at fault, they’ll send back the original item with an explanation of why the warranty claim was rejected.
What is clad cookware (cladware)?
Until the 1960s, most home cookware was made of iron or copper. Aluminum was also a popular choice, as it’s lightweight, cheaper than copper, and transfers heat well. However, untreated aluminum is also prone to warping and tends to react with acidic foods.
The Calphalon brand was one of the first to solve this issue by hard-anodizing each aluminum cookware piece. To this day, the company uses the same method to create durable aluminum cores for their products.
All-Clad, another big name in clad cookware, bonded metal in their products in layers to create a more durable and efficient kitchenware line. In this configuration, a layer of conductive aluminum rests between two stainless steel layers that offer protection against warping or reactivity. This manufacturing process is known as cladding.
Since the All-Clad patent expired in the early 2000s, other kitchenware manufacturers have copied their design to offer a wide range of different clad cookware options. Brands such as Calphalon work to bring down costs by outsourcing production to countries like China.
What are the main benefits and disadvantages of cladware?
Clad cookware offers even heating using an aluminum core, while two outer layers of stainless steel prevent scrapes, scratches, and dents. Pieces are highly durable, and they aren’t constructed with dangerous “forever chemicals” like Teflon.
This type of cookware is ideal for most kitchen applications. The outer layer of stainless steel is most often magnetic, allowing you to use clad cookware with gas, electric, and induction stoves.
The interior is typically coated with a nonporous satin finish, which helps to prevent staining and sticking. It also makes each item’s surface resistant to regular wear and tear, so you don’t have to worry about your pots and pans losing their shine.
Unfortunately, clad cookware tends to be more expensive than other types of pots and pans because it contains many high-grade metals and materials. It can also take longer to heat and cool the aluminum core than with standard, single-ply cookware.
Does the number of layers matter?
Clad cookware is typically constructed of three-to-seven layers that help heat the cooksurface and protect your pot at the same time. When shopping for tri-ply clad ware, you should look for a high-quality aluminum core and two stainless steel layers protecting either side.
Some clad cookware options offer additional layers, such as a copper finish for both aesthetics and heat transfer. You can also find varieties with more than one layer of aluminum sandwiched between stainless steel. Extra layers tend to cost substantially more, and the primary benefit is aesthetic (not performance) oriented.
Does the thickness of materials matter?
The thicker a pot or pan’s base, the more heat it can hold. You should look for clad cookware with a thick, sturdy base, but you don’t want something that’s too heavyweight. A pan that’s too thick will take longer to heat up, and it will be more of a challenge to maneuver in the kitchen.
The aluminum core of any clad cookware piece should be the thickest part of the base. The stainless steel surrounding it should be thinner, often less than 2mm thick. If there is a copper layer, it should also be relatively thin to promote efficient heat transfer.
How does Tri-ply compare with Calphalon’s other lines?
Calphalon was historically known for their anodized aluminum pots and pans, which still feature heavily in the brand’s cookware lineup today. We published a full roundup of Calphalon products recently which are mostly oriented toward non-stick, but also include a few different stainless steel options.
My Recommendation: It’s a smart buy.
With their Tri Ply collection, Calphalon makes a virtually identical product to original and top-dollar brands like All-Clad for a fraction of the cost. It’s a smart buy.
If price were not an option, I would personally choose All-Clad because of the name cache, manufacturing transparency and their overall commitment to customer service.
If I’m being objective though, and detaching from this unusual need to impress myself, Calphalon is the smart buy. Aside from the branding, most owners won’t be able to tell the difference between Calphalon and All-Clad products. You will find both lines at the top of our best stainless steel cookware options.
You might consider starting with a single piece rather than the full collection. An omelet pan may be the most practical way to get started.