Any home-chef knows the importance of good cookware. But when it comes time to pick your next set of pots and pans, you might find yourself overwhelmed by the enormous amount of options available. With so many different cookware sets that claim to be the best, where do you even start?
In this article, we’re checking out one of the top cookware brands on the market – All-Clad. More specifically, we’re examining and reviewing two of their most popular cookware lines – the D3 and the D5.
The “3” and “5” in their titles represent the “plies” that are present in the cookware, and we’ll explain these distinctions below.
First, let’s cover a background of the company itself.
Founded in 1971 in Pennsylvania by John Ulam, All-Clad has become among the most popular cookware brands in the world. The company is mostly known for its cookware line (including the D3 and D5 lines), but it also offers a wide selection of kitchen accessories and ovenware.
Although known for quality cookware, their product line-up can be a little overwhelming at first glance. In this article, we’ll help you understand which cookware is right for you, starting with the D3 line of cookware:
The D3 Line
The D3 line is All-Clad’s most popular line of cookware. Its affordable price mixed with its high-functionality is mostly to thank for that. The D3 line contains many pots & pans of various shapes and sizes.
The D3 is named for it’s 3-ply design, which means that 3 different layers make up the cookware, each having its own functionality.
It has a thick-gauge aluminum core, which is ideal for quick heating and proper/consistent heat dispersion. The interior of the cookware is made from stainless steel with a starburst finish.
Stainless steel provides natural non-stick capabilities, and also prevents food from adapting a metallic taste. The base of the cookware is also manufactured with stainless steel, which provides for excellent heat induction, and is also highly durable.
The handles on the cookware are also made with stainless steel, and are permanently affixed using rivets.
Overall, the D3 line is renowned for its quality and durable cookware. It heats quickly and evenly, and the stainless-steel interior ensures that food doesn’t stick.
The best thing we can say about D3 cookware is that it simply works. It cooks food in a consistent and reliable way, and helps you achieve recipes with ease and predictability.
- Top-Layer: 18/10 Stainless Steel
- Core: Bonded pure-aluminum
- Base: 18/10 Stainless Steel
- Handle: Stainless Steel
D3 Product Options - Standard, Non-Stick, and Compact Line
It is also worth noting that the “D3” designation comprises an entire line of cookware, with many pots & pans, and even entire sets to choose from. The D3 line is basically broken down into standard, non-stick, and compact pots and pans. Each of these variants differ slightly within the D3 line.
The primary difference between the Standard and Non-stick line is that the Non-stick options contain a non-stick coating on top of the interior ply of stainless steel.
The compact line is built for home-chefs who are space-limited. The pots and pans are built a bit smaller than other options, but are also built so they can “stack” inside each other for easy storage.
If you think this is getting a little bit confusing, then we don’t blame you! The D3 is a big product line, and it definitely took some digging to figure out all the options available. But we did the work so you don’t have to!
- Aluminum core for quick heating and proper dispersion.
- Stainless steel interior with starburst design for non-stick capabilities.
- Stainless steel base for durability and proper induction.
- Overall quality design – pots and pans heat quickly and evenly for consistent and reliable home cooking.
- A lot of options to choose from – can get a little confusing.
- Lacks some features of the D5 line.
The D5 Line
Next up, we have the D5 line. The D5 line is positioned as All-Clad’s “premium” version of the D3. If you haven’t already guessed, the D5 title refers to a 5-ply design, meaning this pan has 5 layers of material for added performance and reliability.
All-Clad touts the D5 line as offering superior performance over 3-ply design. Understanding how each layer benefits the performance of the pan is a bit of a confusing task, but here’s a general outline of how each layer works:
- The base layer of the D5 is made from stainless steel (similar to the D3). This stainless-steel outer layer is meant to provide reliable heat induction, as well as durability for the cookware overall.
- The “core” of the pan is actually made of 3 layers – 2 aluminum “cores” which surround a stainless steel “core”. The aluminum cores allow the cookware to heat very rapidly, as aluminum is very good at retaining heat. The stainless-steel core is meant to provide a consistent heat across the surface of the cookware, reducing “hot spots”.
- The interior, or top-layer, of the pan is made from stainless steel (similar to the D3). The stainless steel is ideal for evenly dispersing the heat across the cooking surface. It also contains a starburst pattern which helps with the non-stick nature of the stainless-steel surface.
As you can see, the D5 is a pretty impressive piece of cookware! Aside from its 5-ply design, it also has permanently affixed stainless-steel handles. It also has All-Clad’s classic flared edges, which allow for drip-free pouring of sauces, soups, and other liquids.
Overall, the D5 is another quality cookware line from All-Clad, although it has clearly been positioned as the superior line (and that is represented in its price).
It boasts more durability and performance than the D3, particularly when it comes to induction, durability, and consistent heat dispersion.
Both are quality lines of cookware, and in the next section we’ll compare them head-to-head to decide a verdict.
- Top-Layer: 18/10 stainless steel.
- “Core” 3-layers: 2 bonded pure-aluminum layers surrounding a stainless steel layer.
- Bottom-layer: 18/10 stainless steel.
D5 Product Options – Brushed and Non-Stick
Similar to the D3, the D5 is a big product line, containing all sorts of pots & pans, and full sets for you to choose from.
The D5 offers two main design options – brushed and non-stick. The D5 “brushed” products sport their signature brushed finish, for extra style and appeal. The non-stick line coats the top-layer of stainless steel with a non-stick formula.
As with the D3 line, there are a lot of options here, and it all gets a little confusing to sift through.
We wish All-Clad would categorize their products a bit better. Because simply put, sifting through the D5 line is complicated, which might present an extra hurdle to the average consumer.
- 5-ply design improves durability, heat induction, and heat dispersion.
- Handcrafted in the USA.
- Flared edges for drip-free pours.
- More consistent heat than D3 cookware.
- All-around quality cookware. Heats fast, retains heat well, and disperses heat consistently.
- Takes slightly longer to heat than D3 (due to additional layers).
- More expensive option.
- Confusing product options.
Above, we gave you a full run-down of the D3 and D5 lines of All-Clad cookware. But you might have a more important question on your mind – which one is best? And even though the D5 is positioned as the more “premium” option, that doesn’t automatically make it the best!
In this section, we’ll compare each product in terms of its most important functions, and render a verdict about which line of cookware we like best.
D3 vs. D5
Perhaps the easiest way to understand the differences between the D3 and D5 line of cookware is how they are constructed. Of course, the obvious difference is that the D3 is a 3-ply design, while the D5 is a 5-ply design.
The pans are similar in their exterior construction. Both pans contain stainless steel base-layers and top-layers. The stainless-steel base layers provide superior heat induction, while the stainless steel-top layers contain a starburst groove pattern for ideal non-stick capabilities. It also makes both lines highly durable.
Both lines of cookware also contain permanently affixed stainless steel handles.
So the difference between the two pans is pretty much only within the “core” of each cookware line. The simplest difference is that the D3 has a one-layer core, while the D5 has a 3-layer core.
The D3 has an aluminum core, which is meant for quick heating above all. It rests between two layers of stainless steel to heat the cookware very fast, while the stainless steel allows proper heat dispersion.
The D5 has a core which is made from 2 layers of aluminum surrounding a layer of stainless steel. The 2 layers of aluminum provide the same function for quickly heating the cookware, while the interior layer of stainless steel adds additional benefits which pertain to even heat displacement.
The D5 definitely places more emphasis on heat displacement, and the reduction of “hot spots”, while the D3 places more emphasis on quick heating.
Above we examined the construction of each line of cookware, but construction is only important if it properly influences how the cookware actually performs.
The D3 and D5 share similar performance advantages, with some noticeable differences which might influence your buying decision. The main differences are affected by the 3-ply and 5-ply design.
The D5 line is primarily focused on consistent heating and heat displacement. The extra core layer of stainless-steel allows for consistent heat dispersion across the entire cooking surface. The D5 definitely emphases an even cook.
It also contains 2 layers of aluminum in its core, both of which are designed to increase the speed at which the cookware heats. All of these features combine to give you an extra level of control over the temperature of your pots and pans.
So, if you want a pan that heats evenly and retains heat longer, go with the D5.
But there are also some downsides that come along with additional layers. Primary among them is that the D5 heats slower than the D3. More layers mean the cookware takes longer to heat, which gives the D3 the edge if you want a speedier cook. If you’re confident in your abilities to control the temperature on the fly, then you’ll probably prefer a D3.
This being said, both the D3 and D5 perform quite admirably. They heat fast, consistently, and reliably. They both feature All-Clad’s signature starburst non-stick pattern.
If you’re just looking for quality cookware, you’ll be happy with both. But if you’re a stickler for detail, consider the performance differences outlined above.
Other Design Features
Of course, the cooking surface isn’t the only worthwhile consideration when it comes to cookware. Both the D3 and D5 line sport All-Clad’s signature design features, including permanently-affixed stainless steel handles and flared edges for easier pouring.
The D5 cookware line is more expensive than the D3 cookware line. This is because the D5 has been marketed as the “more premium” of the two options due to its extensive construction (5-ply design).
The difference in price isn’t outlandish, but it is significant enough to affect a purchase decision. The real question is whether you think the added features of the D5 line (5-ply design) are significant enough to justify the increase in price, which we’ll examine directly below.
As we mentioned throughout, both the D3 line and the D5 line are quite extensive cookware lines. Both lines feature multiple pots & pans of different sizes and shapes, and also feature full cookware sets that you can choose from.
In fact, consumers might find both cookware lines a little bit confusing to peruse. The reason for this confusion is that both lines seem to be separated into various categories.
For example, the D3 line is separated into standard, non-stick, and compact options. The D5 line is separated into brushed and non-stick options (with the compact line suspiciously absent).
Simply put, both the D3 and D5 offer several product varieties, but we think that both lines could be more organized in their offerings.
The bottom line, which cookware line did it best – the D3 or the D5? A rather loaded question, and the real variable should be which cookware line is best for you.
Both the D3 and D5 are excellent cookware lines, and we think either will be more than suitable for certain home-cooks or chefs. The key is to evaluate the strengths of each product line, and see how they align with your personal preferences.
The advantages of the D3 include:
- You want to spend less!
- It heats faster than the D5 for more control over cook-speed.
- It offers more product options, including their Compact line of cookware (smaller sizes and stackable.)
The advantages of the D5 include:
- It has 3 core layers which improve heat retention and heat displacement (less hot spots, more even heat).
- Easier to maintain consistent temperatures, as the cookware doesn’t change temperature as rapidly.
- More layers of stainless steel – more durable pots & pans.
All that being said, our personal top pick is the D3 line of cookware. The D5 clearly offers performance advantages, but we don’t think these advantages justify the bump in price for us.
The D3 is highly capable cookware. It is very durable, highly functional, and highly precise. It does offer a bit less consistent heat dispersion than the D5, but the difference seems minimal to us.