Getting new cookware is both an exciting process and one that can be a bit difficult. Assuming you are looking to buy even remotely durable cookware, chances are you can expect to have the pieces for a very long time. In fact, there are some persons who have used a single set of cookware for their entire life. Therefore, it is in your best interest to get your selection right the first time to minimize the chance of regret and/or having to spend even more to get what you need.
One of the cookware brands you may have your eyes on is All-Clad. I can see why they are appealing as they have been knocking it out of the park with cookware for decades. Not only do their models perform exceedingly better than most brands on the market, but they are made to be highly durable, and you can tell that All-Clad does full quality assurance as opposed to plain quality control.
All-Clad’s classic collection (the D3 line) has been serving households well for years and the fact that is has not disappeared with time is a testament to its performance and success. However, some time ago All-Clad introduced a newer collection known as the D5 line, which has many potential buyers asking the question “which one do I get?”
This is where I come in to shed some light on what you are getting with each by doing a deep dive into the similarities and differences between the two, their composition and what it means for you, and various design aspects of the two collections. Hopefully, by the time this article as ended, any doubt in your mind is cleared and you are ready to commit to one of the two collections depending on your specific needs.
Let’s kick of with a brief summary of these two collections and a comparison between the two.
Composition – The cooking surface of both collections is made up of 18/10 stainless steel.
This chromium to nickel ratio ensures superior rust resistance, a high durability (which is why the cookware holds up regardless of the period and frequency of use), stain resistance, easy maintenance, and dishwasher safety.
The exterior of both collections is made up of 18/0 stainless steel. Unlike the 18/10 variation, there is no nickel in this kind of stainless steel. It still offers durability and it is safe to use on induction cooktops. It is also dishwasher safe, which means that the entire thing can be thrown in the dishwasher. Between the layers of steel is a bonded aluminum core.
Bonded Design – All-Clad is industry famous for the bonded metal technology that is has implemented in its cookware over the years. The design of all cookware is fully-clad. This means that the aluminum core extends throughout the entire pot as opposed to just being at the base as it is in all disc-bottom cookware.
Warranty – All-Clad has always stood behind the quality of its products as they are built to be near indestructible. Therefore, they speak about the durability and advertise it so heavily. In fact, they are so confident in their products that buyers are offered a lifetime warranty with every purchase.
Thermals – Both collections are built to support direct induction cooking. Additionally, they can all withstand up to 600 degrees Fahrenheit in an oven or a boiler. The handles are made to be heat resistant for easier handling during operation.
Layers – The construction is the biggest difference between the two collections. This is at the heart of other differences. The collections both have multiple layers (which are also referred to as ply’s). The number in the name of the collection represents the amount of these layers. So, D3 has three bonded layers and D5 has five bonded layers.
Aesthetic and Design – The traditional D3 line of cookware has a polished exterior finish. Additionally, the heat resistant handles on them are thin (though sturdy) and plain.
The D5 line on the other hand is available with a polished exterior finish or a brushed exterior finish, which while duller than the polished version has an exquisite look. The heat resistant handles are sturdy, thick, and feature an engraved All-Clad logo.
The D5 collection is also noticeably heavier and a bit harder to handle than the D3 collection.
Cost – The All-Clad brand is a premium one. Therefore, it is no surprise that the cookware associated with the brand has a hefty price tag. However, the traditional D3 line is generally cheaper than the newer D5 collection.
Performance – Due to the way each collection is constructed, they respond differently to the application and the removal of heat.
The D3 collection has a faster response to temperature changes while the D5 collection has a slower response to same. This means that if you either leave your food on too long of if you set the temperature too high, the D3’s response is less forgiving.
Options – Both the D3 and D5 collections offer different purchase options. The D3 line provides the following options:
- D3 Compact – stackable for better storage
- D3 Armor – Easier food release and stick resistant
- D3 Stainless – traditional and the best seller
The D5 line provides the following options:
- D5 Polished – Polished finished exterior
- D5 Brushed – Matte finished exterior
Cooking Performance: D3 Vs. D5
Now that you have a better understanding of how the cookware collections compare, let’s have a look at the performance. This is determined by the way the construction is done. All-Clad uses both aluminum and stainless steel in both builds as they offer different merits to the design.
Aluminum is a superb conductor of heat. This is great for passing heat from the heat source to whatever is being cooked in an even manner. The problem with making cookware purely from aluminum is it makes for a bad cooking surface and it is not very strong. Unless you decided to budget for cookware purchases regularly, aluminum alone cannot get the job done.
Steel on the other hand is incredibly durable and can provide the long-lasting property and the high quality that cookware users need. The problem with steel is that it is not a good conductor of heat. While it does heat up over time, the process is very slow, and you end up with hot spots while some others remain cool for longer. This means that cooking meals on pure steel means burning meals in some areas and having them be undercooked in others.
All-Clad took made the decision to blend the benefits of the two by using a layering method. The idea is to get the heat conductivity of aluminum with the strength and durability of the steel. As stated before, D3 has a three-layer build while D5 has a five-layer build.
The D3 collection’s cladding procedure sees a layer of aluminum being enclosed by a 18/10 stainless steel interior cooking surface and a magnetic 18/0 stainless steel exterior. This layering method means that the steel, which is more durable is used as both the cooking surface and is directly exposed to the heat. However, the aluminum allows for stable and even conduction of heat.
The D5 collection’s cladding procedure is a bit different and expands on the layering concept. The outermost layers remain the same but, on the inside, there are two layers of aluminum as opposed to one. These two aluminum layers are separated by a thin steel core. This adds up to five layers in total.
What does this mean for cooking performance? Based on the overview of how steel and aluminum respond to heat, you have probably already imagined what the difference is but let’s cover it all the same.
The traditional D3 layering style means that heat has fewer levels to travel through making for a faster response. Therefore, not only is the application of heat received quicker, but when heat is removed, it dissipates faster as there are less layers present to retain heat.
As you can imagine, the D5 layering style makes for a slower response to temperature changes as there are two additional layers present, which prevent as quick a response as that of the D3.
Positive Impacts of the Additional Layers in D5 Cookware
In terms of the impact of the additional two layers, let’s begin by looking at the positive side of things.
The first positive impact of note is the additional durability that comes with the layers. As I stated before, the point of implementing the stainless steel was to get the benefit of improved durability while the aluminum provides conduction. When you throw in an additional layer of steel, you only heighten the durability factor, which makes the D5 collection even more indestructible than the near impervious D3 collection.
We have discussed the fact that aluminum is a superb heat conductor. A single layer of fully clad aluminum is the core reason the D3 collection can spread heat as well as it does. Though this spread of heat travels slower in the D5 models, by the time it has spread with the help of two layers of aluminum, your cookware is well heated in an even manner. This means that the chance of imbalanced cooking because of hot spots is less of a concern for D5 cookware owners than it is for D3 owners.
The third benefit is the more positive side of the D5 collection’s slower response to heat application and removal. As the D5 units lose heat at a slower rate than the D3 due to the additional layers, they can maintain warmth for their contents over longer periods when heat is removed. This is great for those instances where you want the meals in them to go for longer periods without getting cold prior to consumption.
Finally, the D5 collection allows you more room for error. I know sometimes we turn the heat up too much when we cook, or we leave our pots unattended for too long. While you still run the risk of burning your food in the D5 cookware, slower heat transmission means getting to that point takes longer than it does in the D3 cookware.
Negative Impacts of the Additional Layers in D5 Cookware
Just as there are positive effects of the additional layers, there are negative ones as well.
The first is the weight of items from the D5 collection. Steel is not the lightest compound in the world as we all know. Two layers of steel with one layer of aluminum is likely to weigh less than three layers of steel with two layers of aluminum. The difference is not hard to feel when lifting similar items from the two collections.
The second issue with the D5 collection is the slower response to temperature that it offers. This is not to such an extreme that it causes huge problems, however, there are moments where a quicker heating process is what you need and, in that sense, the D5 collection loses to the D3 collection.
In terms of aesthetics, there are a few areas in which the two collections differ.
First, there is the exterior. Items from the D3 collection always have a polished finished as is synonymous with most traditional stainless-steel cookware items. The D5 collection is offered in either a brushed (matte) finish or a similar polished finish to that of D3 cookware. Note, however, that D5 cookware sets are only available with the brushed finish so if you want the polished version, prepare to purchase the items individually.
The next difference in design is the amount of flaring on the rims. There is some level of variation in the flaring seen in the two collections. Flaring is important as it gives users greater control when trying to slide solid and liquid substances out of the cookware. Less flaring or a lack of it increases the likelihood of making a mess. Not all D3 modes have flared rims and the ones that do lack a distinct flare. All D5 models have distinct flared rims, which means the process of pouring is made easier.
Finally, there is the difference between the handles. The D5 collection models have thicker handles with a greater surface area than their D3 counterparts. Furthermore, there is an All-Clad logo engraved on the handles of D5 cookware, which is noticeably different from the blank, smooth handles that D3 models have.
All-Clad D3 Cookware Set Quick Review
If you are looking to with the D3 line, there are three different product options you can choose from. Below is a brief overview of the three.
The D3 Compact option is built with space and storage conservation in mind. The build is of the normal three layered, fully clad standard; however, pieces in a set are built in a way that allows them to be stacked. Both sizing and their curved handles contribute to this. There are six product offerings that fall under this umbrella.
The D3 Armor model is built with a slight modification to the 18/10 stainless steel cooking surface. To prevent sticking from giving you a challenge, there are bumps on said surface to promote a non-stick behavior. There is a total of five product offerings that fall under this umbrella.
D3 Stainless Steel
This seems to be the go-to option for most of All-Clad’s patron. It is by far the most popular line and is the generic option in a since. This is the normal three-layer type of cookware with no special modifications that has been trusted for decades. It also offers the most purchase choices as there are 54 product offerings in total under this umbrella.
All-Clad D5 Cookware Set Quick Review
If your preference is the newer D5 line, then you have two options.
This is not the normal variety of D5 cookware aesthetically. While it provides the same functionality and has the same composition as the brushed variety, this is for those who prefer the traditional shiny-looking finish.
At the time of writing, All-Clad does not offer the polished D5 pieces in sets. If you want them, be prepared to buy each piece individually.
There is a total of 32 products that fall under this umbrella.
This is the default version of D5 cookware. It has a brushed (matte) exterior, which while it is duller from a shine perspective, it has a more modern and more elegant look than its polished counterpart.
There is a total of 26 product offerings that fall under this umbrella.
You now have quite a bit of information, which should have helped you note the similarities and isolate the differences between D3 and D5 cookware. Deciding which collection and which option to choose now depends on what is significant to you.
For example, if you want cookware that responds quicker to temperature changes then go with the D3. If not and you want something to give you a bit of leeway in the kitchen, the D5 is for you. If you’re on a budget, then the D3 line is great as while still pricey is generally cheaper. If price doesn’t matter and you’re willing to pay for the sturdier build quality, then go for the D5.
I’m a bigger fan of the D3 for a couple of reasons. Though the D5 has a sturdier build quality, the D3 is no pushover. It has the same lifetime warranty as the D5 because All-Clad knows it is well built. It also has more options from you to choose from, and it has a proven track record after serving families and businesses for decades.