By Natalia Hook
Shopping for quality cookware for the first time can be a bit overwhelming. Choosing a brand and specific pieces is a challenge without experience within a product line. About ten years ago, I bought my husband a Calphalon stainless steel 5-quart stock pot based on a friend’s recommendation. Since then, we’ve also purchased the Calphalon Tri-Ply Stainless Steel 13-piece cookware set. Here’s my soup to nuts review!
When it comes to choosing the best cookware for your household, there are literally dozens of factors to consider. I’ve narrowed it down to five that I believe are important to every consumer:
- Quality (materials and construction)
Sure, there are other things to keep in mind, but a “thumbs down” on any of these aspects is most likely going to sink the whole set.
My first question was, “What the heck is Calphalon Tri-ply?” I mean, I know what stainless steel cookware is, and recognized the Calphalon name. As it turns out, the Tri-ply product line has three bonded layers: stainless steel, a hard-anodized aluminum core, and magnetic stainless steel — the goal of which is creating a product that heats evenly and can be used on pretty much any cooking surface.
The 13-piece set we have consists of three omelet pans (an 8-inch, a 10-inch, and a 12-inch) two covered saucepans (1.5 quarts and 2.5 quarts,) one 3-quart covered sauté pan, one 3-quart covered chef’s pan, and one 6-quart covered stockpot. If the math doesn’t seem to add up there, remember that each cover counts as a piece. There’s also a slightly different 13-piece set available that has only one omelet pan but includes a stir-fry pan and a roaster.
When you lift any Calphalon Tri-Ply pot or pan, it’s heavy. Not “I can’t hold this” heavy, but "good, solid construction" heavy. The pot and panhandle joints are strong and well-structured, and the riveting is secure. The Stay-Cool handles themselves are easy to grip and comfortable in my hands. Except for the lids, each piece, from the stockpot to the saucepan, is made entirely of metal.
The lids are tempered glass with stainless steel rims. They are designed to keep moisture inside your pot or pan during the cooking process, and they also have metal top handles — again securely riveted. They are fairly easy to grip, although it can be a little awkward when wearing a bulkier oven mitt.
Overall, the quality of the set is excellent. There’s a lifetime warranty on all pieces, provided you don’t mistreat them. The "Use and Care" warranty booklet that comes with all Calphalon pieces includes a list of no-nos that will void your warranty, such as scrubbing them with abrasive cleaners. Also, to reap the benefits of the lifetime warranty, be sure to register your products.
Although Calphalon was originally an “all made in the USA” brand based out of Ohio in the 1960s, it has outsourced some manufacturing to China since its purchase by the Newell Company in the late 1990s. The country of origin isn’t stamped on Tri-Ply, which leads me to believe it’s not currently made in the USA.
It’s built to last. Great. Now, what kind of a job does it do? Remember when I mentioned that Tri-Ply bonded construction? Well, I read all about the importance of the aluminum core and so on and so forth, but I’m going to put the science on the back burner for a minute. Does it heat evenly? Heck yes! The food at the edge cooks at the same rate as the food in the center whether you’re working in the 6-quart stock pot or the 12-inch omelet pan. Trust me. Your pancakes are going to be beautiful.
Do the Stay-Cool handles actually stay cool? Well, that depends on your definition of cool. The long pot and pan handles definitely don’t get hot on the stovetop — maybe a bit warm, getting more towards hot right at the pan joint. I’ve never needed a pot holder to touch them, and that’s cool enough for me. The handles on the lids (and the stockpot) do get a bit hotter. After all, they’re shorter, and heat rises. And the tempered glass lids themselves certainly get hot! I always use a pot holder to grab the lid handles.
Also, bear in mind that higher cooking temperatures and longer cook times will eventually heat everything to a higher temperature, so use common sense. Speaking of which, don’t expect the Stay-Cool handles to keep staying cool if you’re using the piece in the oven or broiler. Even Calphalon can’t work against the laws of physics.
As far as moisture and flavor retention in the covered pots and pans, two thumbs up. If you’re simmering, be prepared for a concentrated, delicious aroma to come wafting out when you lift the cover. And the flavor of your soup, sauce, etc. will be even better. No need to worry about recipes drying out during the cooking process, either. When the cover is on, you can see the water vapor gather underneath, keeping all that liquid well contained. This doesn’t give you a free pass on watching the temperature, however. Your dish can still burn. Quality cookware is a tool, not a failsafe.
My only complaint with the quality of Tri-Ply Stainless Steel Cookware is the balance of the pots and pans with long handles, such as the sauté pan and the saucepans. When empty, they balance fairly well. When partially to fully filled, however, they have a tendency to tip when lifted, especially if you’re using only one hand to grip the handle.
I’m not sure if the split handle design doesn’t provide enough support, or if there’s some other design flaw behind the issue. The split design, of course, helps keep heat from transferring from the pot to the handle. The chef’s pan is the only piece in our Tri-Ply collection that has a short handle on the opposite side to double grip and balance. The other long-handled pots and pans would have been well served to have the same.
The bulk of the use my Calphalon Tri-Ply gets is on our gas stovetop, but it’s actually a very versatile set as far as cooking options go. All the Tri-Ply pieces can go in the oven and broiler, and the tempered glass covers are oven-safe to 450°. I’ve used the chef’s pan in the oven, and it’s great, especially for socca bread. If you have a standard electric, electric ring, halogen, glass ceramic, or induction cooktop, relax. Calphalon Tri-Ply has you covered.
If you aren’t sure whether your cooking method is approved for any piece from any Calphalon cookware line, just flip it over and check the bottom of the pot or pan. There’s a handy picture key that will remind you what will work, and what won’t. Not all Calphalon cookware is the same, so make sure you check if you cross product lines.
Remember, too, that although each piece is designed for something specific, what you use it for is up to you. Omelet pans do a great job with crepes, pancakes, and tortillas as well, and I’ve used the 12-inch for stir fry without a problem. It will not void your warranty if you make a huge batch of homemade jam in the stock pot!
Tri-Ply has a very classic look. Like most high-quality stainless-steel cookware, it’s attractive and timeless. The lines are clean and simple, the construction is elegant. Don’t get me wrong. There are prettier pots and pans to be had, especially in enameled cookware, but who gets tired of stainless steel?
Calphalon is good looking, but how long does it stay that way? That depends on how well you take care of it. Remember the Use and Care Warranty? Read it! Not only will it fill you in on what to avoid to maintain your warranty, but it will also give you the best advice on maintaining the actual pots and pans themselves.
Clean your Calphalon Tri-Ply with gentle dish soap and a sponge. The Calphalon Company actually recommends the Scotch Brite brand non-scrubbing sponge, which, coincidentally, I already used—they even offer a more eco-friendly, non-dyed option. For occasional discoloration and yellowing issues with my Tri-Ply, I use lemon juice as a nonabrasive cleanser. Just cut a lemon in half, and go to town! Tri-Ply is dishwasher safe, but hand washing is recommended to preserve luster.
The Calphalon Tri-Ply Stainless Steel Cookware 13-piece set surpassed my expectations on almost all levels. My only issues with the set are the move away from U.S manufacture, and the poor balance of the long-handled pots and pans when filled. Lifting with two hands — one on the handle and one with a pot holder on the opposite side — is certainly an easy way to resolve the issue. Overall, I give Tri-Ply 4 out of 5 stars and definitely recommend it.
Images used with permission, courtesy of Natalia Hook