Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Cookware >
Nov 8, 2010 10:47 AM

thickness of the aluminum layer in tri-ply

Hi to all!

I am shopping for a new cookware set. I would like to buy tri-ply (or clad I think it's named...) pots.

I would like to know what to look for regarding the thickness of the core aluminum layer or maybe the total thickness of the layers including the stainless steel?

Also, for this kind of pots, does the base need to be more thick than the side of the pots?

I would like to buy something not very expensive, say a maximum of 300$ for a 10 pieces set. I have seen mentionned here Cuisinart Multiclad pro, Tramontina, Calphalon. Tramontina from Walmart seems interesting but it is not available in Canada, well does not seem to be..

Thank for your help!


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. lololo, Wittingly or unwittingly, you have answered your own questions. Your topic line positively addresses the thickness of the aluminum layer, which is the most important parameter, and that indirectly negatively addresses the first sentence of the text of your post.

    There is near consensus, among cooks generally, and on this board in particular, that unless you get a really, really, really good package price, there is no reason to buy cookware by the set, and lots of reasons not to buy cookware by the set. And one of the "not" reasons is that sets tend (tend, not always) to have uniform construction across all pieces, while good practice dictates differing construction for different kinds of cookware. A rough rule of thumb is that pots with vertical or tall sides are better if they have disk bottom construction, while pans with rounded contours between base and sides, especially shallower pans, benefit from a clad construction. The really top-end cookware manufacturers (such as Demeyere) construct saucepans that have non-clad vertical sides with disk bottoms and construct sauteuses and fry pans that have rounded sides with clad construction, and for very good reasons.

    For saucepans -- what Europeans call "casseroles" -- in which you cook primarily liquids (and solids that are suspended in liquids), the best way to get even heat throughout the pot is to encourage strong convection currents within the liquid, which is best accomplished by using all of the energy that you have available at the bottom of the pot while using the walls of the pot to confine the heat without leaking out too much of the liquid's heat to the room outside the pot. A conductive sidewall just aids the agenda of using the pot as a radiator to heat the kitchen with heat stolen from the liquid inside the pot. Therefore, best practice for saucepan construction is a disk bottom to avoid hot spots where the energy is applied, and a sidewall that is more or less nonconductive.

    For pans where you will be frying or sautéing, where there is no significant convection, and where there may be some advantage to having controlled temperature gradients across the inside surface of the pan (so you can move individual pieces toward the center to accelerate browning while moving already mostly cooked pieces up along the sides to keep them cooking slowly without overcooking), clad construction is usually the best practice.

    But to address the question of your topic line, the thickness of a conductive layer needs to be inversely proportional to the conductivity of the material used in the layer. Copper layers can be relatively thin and still do a good job in spreading heat. However, aluminum is less conductive than copper, so some of the best disk bottom pots have aluminum disks that are seven or eight millimeters thick; because the aluminum disks are thick, they are effective heat spreaders and the pots see very few hot spots on the bottom, no matter how high the heat that is applied.

    In clad construction, no less than in disk bottom construction, an aluminum layer needs to be thick, much thicker than a middle copper layer would have to be, to be an effective conductor. If the aluminum middle layer in a clad pot is thin, transmission losses practically guarantee that the amount of heat that makes its way up the side of the pot via that route will make minimal contribution to cooking. Meanwhile, a thin profile of aluminum at the bottom of a pot will do little to alleviate hot spots. So if a clad pot is the same thickness throughout, the middle conductive layer needs to be fairly thick overall, in order to minimize hot spots at the bottom, and to increase the amount of heat that can get up the sides without transmission losses. A one or two millimeter thickness of aluminum between a couple of layers of stainless steel will not cut the mustard on either count.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Politeness

      Another thorough and informative post Politeness. THANK YOU!

      I would suggest buying some "cheap" "try me" pieces first to make sure you spend your money wisely and get what you really want. You might find an aluminum disc pan is better then a multi-clad pan. For cheap pans, my Sitram Profiserie have out "cooked" some more expensive pans. They aren't the prettiest or most expensive but they really cook well.

      Also, will you use all the pieces in your set? Sets generally have pans you will never use or redundant pans. How many skillets and 8 quart stock pots does one person need to store in their kitchen anyway? Today, I buy the pans I need and avoid the urge to buy sets.

    2. Thank you very much for your responses! So, I am going to rethink my strategy. I have read so much about the tri-ply, it's seems always to be mentionned better than bottom disk, whatever the situation. This is a good argument toward branching out my purshases!

      I find it quite hard to shop for pans, there is not a lot of information on what and how to buy. Also, in the majority of the shops I did go, they were not very helpfull to givebinformation on each compagny. And then, on the web sites of thoses compagny, there not always giving all the information, particularly on the thickness of tri-ply...

      Sorry for my english, I am french speaking...

      1 Reply
      1. re: lololo

        I am in Canada and I love the Tramontina tri-ply so much I managed to buy two sets ( for two kitchens) and brought it from the US - not so difficult to do if you really want it. I had it shipped.

        I also have several 'individual' pieces of All-Clad, Le Creuset, Cuisinox, de Buyer,Calphalon tri-ply, Cuisinart disc bottom stock pot; some pieces of old Wagner Ware cast iron and some carbon steel. (ok, yes, I have far too much cookware!)

        If you are in Canada esp in Quebec the Cuisinox line is superb and easy to buy.

        My view on sets is that if you will use each piece then it's fine to buy a set. Well, I DO use each piece of the Tramontina set, without exception, so I do not regret that purchase at all. I know some people don't like the smaller sized pieces but I find I use them regularly. That's a personal thing. I think it all comes down to what you think you will actually use.

      2. Thank's Knet! I need about everything, thats why I was looking for a set!

        I got to say that I have my eyes right now on this set from Sears, a Lagostina with 6mm disc bottom, wich is on sales so in my budget:

        To this one day i will add somes frying pans wich are clad, from a good brand.

        Does anyone as a comment on the Commercial Lagostina set?