Aluminum Core vs Copper Core Cookware: How to Choose

Sirwan Ajman
Sirwan Ajman

Sirwan Ajman

Sirwan writes cooking guides and product reviews for The Skillful Cook. In his writing, he draws from his experience running a health-conscious café.

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Aluminum Core vs Copper Core Cookware

Stainless steel cookware is a staple of modern kitchens. It’s durable, sleek, and versatile. But if you’re making the switch to stainless steel, the range of product options can be a lot to sort through!

There are impact-bonded, 3-ply, and 5-ply stainless steel pots and pans. You can find aluminum or copper cores, each promising the best results. Are these bells and whistles just gimmicks, or do they really make a difference?

In this article, we’ll talk about:

  • Multi-ply stainless steel cookware
  • Aluminum core stainless steel
  • Copper core stainless steel 

We’ll discuss the pros and cons of each of these types of cookware to help you make more informed decisions. 

Aluminum Core


  • Low price
  • Easily available
  • Lightweight 


  • Lower thermal conductivity than copper.
  • Cookware may be thicker than copper core overall.

Copper Core


  • Superior thermal conductivity.
  • Excellent responsiveness.
  • Higher density, requiring less metal in cookware.


  • Higher prices
  • Poor heat retention

What is Aluminum Core or Copper Core Stainless Steel Cookware?

Stainless steel cookware isn’t made of pure stainless steel, mainly because steel doesn’t conduct heat well despite its impressive weight and durability.

This is where aluminum or copper core stainless steel cookware comes in. Copper and aluminum are excellent heat conductors, but they’re soft and way less durable than stainless steel. So, manufacturers place a layer of aluminum or copper between two stainless steel layers to improve heat conductivity and remove hot spots.

Aluminum pots and Pans

The inner and outer stainless steel layers act as a barrier between the food and the core layers, improving the strength, corrosion resistance, and safety of the cookware. 

A layered combination of these metals takes advantage of the benefits of both and compensates for the others’ drawbacks. 

Impact-bonded vs. Clad Stainless Steel

Manufacturers use conductive metals in stainless steel cookware in two different ways. 

Impact-bonded cookware has a thick aluminum disc pressed onto the outer bottom of the vessel. These pots and pans only have improved heat conductivity at the bottom and not their walls.

Impact-bonded vs. Clad Stainless Steel

On the other hand, clad cookware has this layered structure in the entire vessel. The cookware can consist of three or five layers—aka, 3-ply or 5-ply, respectively. This creates thermal conductivity all around the vessel, and not just the bottom. 

How do Aluminum and Copper Compare?

Aluminum and copper are both great heat conductors, a property that makes them excellent for multi-ply stainless steel cookware. However, their differences outweigh their similarities. 

The most important difference is heat conductivity. Although both are conductive, copper takes the crown. Copper is the third most conductive material behind diamond and silver. Aluminum comes sixth in the list of most conductive materials.

Copper pan

Thermal conductivity is measured in W/m.k ( Watts per meter per kelvin) in the International system on Units (SI). Copper’s heat conductivity is 398 W/m.k, while it’s 247 W/m.k for aluminum. So, aluminum has 60% of copper’s conductivity. That means you need a thinner layer of copper to achieve the same conductivity as aluminum. Still, aluminum is used in clad stainless steel cookware more frequently. Here are some facts about aluminum and copper in cookware.

  • Aluminum is more available. Aluminum is the most abundant metal on earth. And although it has many other applications, it’s readily found for cookware purposes. So, it’s easier to source and cheaper. On the other hand, copper has widespread applications in electronics. It’s highly sought-after but rare on the earth’s crust. That’s why it is more expensive than aluminum. Copper costs about four times as much as aluminum. 
  • There are health and safety concerns with both materials. Aluminum and copper can cause health issues if they come into contact with our food. If acidic foods are cooked in copper or aluminum, they can react with the metals, transferring metals to the food. The risks of ingested aluminum are controversial. The human body needs a small amount of copper to function well, but too much can quickly become toxic. For this reason, copper cookware is always lined with another metal such as tin or stainless steel.
  • Aluminum is lighter than copper. Copper is three times as dense as aluminum, which means aluminum is much lighter than copper. That’s particularly helpful in cookware since you can make aluminum layers thicker without adding much to the final product’s weight. This lower density also means aluminum is softer than copper, making it less durable. 

Pros and Cons of Copper and Aluminum Cores

Aluminum and copper bring their benefits to 3-ply and 5-ply stainless steel cookware. Still, they have drawbacks that make them unfit for specific applications. Let’s review their pros and cons. 

Copper Core Pros

The most significant benefit of copper cores is superb heat conductivity. This property makes it highly responsive. The faster a metal transfers heat, the more effectively it can respond to thermal changes. This is an essential property for cooking delicate proteins —-like fish— and sauces, which need to cool down quickly when they reach a specific cooking stage. 

Another benefit is copper’s high density. So, you can achieve great conductivity with a thin layer. This makes cookware less bulky and lighter than aluminum. 

Copper Core pan Pros

Copper Core Cons

After a quick search in multi-ply stainless steel cookware, you’ll see that there are only a few copper core options available. The main reason is its higher costs. Most home chefs don’t sense copper’s superior performance and can do most of their cooking using aluminum-core cookware. So, a copper core is kind of an overkill. 

Another downside of copper is its poor heat retention. Thermal responsiveness and heat retention are opposite qualities. If a metal is highly responsive, it has lower heat retention capabilities. 

Cookware with high heat retention shouldn’t be responsive to heat changes. Heat retention comes in handy when cooking steaks. So, that would make your copper-core stainless steel pan pointless because you can’t take advantage of its biggest benefit, responsiveness. 

Related: Best Copper Cookware Sets of 2024

Aluminum Core Pros

The biggest upside of aluminum is its lower price. That’s why manufacturers use it generously in their multi-ply cookware. They also use it as a bonding agent between the layers. 

Most manufacturers use a thick aluminum core sandwiched between two stainless steel outer layers. They use two thinner, lower-quality aluminum sheets to bond the core to the stainless steel layers.  

Aluminum Core Cons

Aluminum’s lower cost and widespread availability make up for its downsides. It’s less conductive than copper. However, manufacturers can make it thicker. And since it’s four times less expensive than copper, making the core thicker doesn’t drive up the cost. 

Should I Buy Aluminum or Copper Core Cookware?

Aluminum core cookware is more popular among home chefs because it can deliver similar results to copper but costs less. 

If you use multi-ply stainless steel cookware for regular home cooking, you won’t notice much difference between the two. Unless you need a highly responsive pan for making delicate sauces, you’ll be fine with a decent-quality aluminum-core pan for every other cooking method. 

For cooking stews and soups or boiling water, a pot with great heat retention is better than a responsive one. In such cases, the cookware’s thickness is more important than the number of plies or the metals used. The thicker the cookware, the higher the heat retention. Either of these fully clad options will perform much better for this purpose than an impact bonded pan.

If you’re concerned about food safety, both options are fine since they’re covered with stainless steel. It takes considerable damage for the core metal to become exposed and leach into your food. 

If you want to enjoy copper’s outstanding qualities, skip the products sold as “copper core stainless steel” and go for full-on copper cookware. It has an outer copper layer lined with stainless steel or tin to prevent copper from leaching into your food. When copper is in direct contact with the heat source, like in traditional copper pans—-unlike stainless steel cookware with copper core—you can feel its superiority over other metals. 

Best Aluminum Core Stainless Steel Cookware Set: Cuisinart 12 Piece Cookware Set

Top Pick Aluminum Core!


Our rating:

Set includes: 8" skillet, 10" skillet,1.5-qt saucepan with lid, 3-qt saucepan with lid, 3.5-qt sauté pan with helper handle and lid, 8-qt stockpot with lid, 20cm steamer insert with cover. 

If you want a complete set for your kitchen at a reasonable price, this 12-piece set is your best bet. 

The pots and pans are 2.6 mm thick, so you’ll get excellent heat retention. The 18/10 stainless steel is tough and corrosion-resistant, allowing you to abuse it while standing the test of time. Plus, the aluminum core offers smooth heating without hotspots.  

The gorgeous outer layer is brushed stainless steel. It’s also dishwasher-safe and becomes nonstick if you heat it at the right temperature

Quick Overview:

  • Color: Silver
  • Metals: 18/10 stainless steel, aluminum
  • Handle material: Stainless Steel
  • Oven safe: up to 550°F
  • Induction compatible: Yes
  • Dishwasher safe: Yes


  • Even heating
  • Great heat retention
  • Tight-fitting lids to retain flavor


  • Handles can get hot
  • Handles aren’t comfortable
  • The skillets are small

Best Copper Core Stainless Steel Cookware Set: All-Clad Copper Core Cookware

Top Pick Copper Core!

Our rating:

Set Includes: 8” and 10” fry pans, 2 and 3-qt saucepans with lids, 3-qt saute pan with lid, 8-quart stockpot with lid.

When it comes to copper-core stainless steel, All-Clad is the ultimate choice. The 5-ply construction features a copper core bonded to the stainless steel outer layers with two aluminum sheets. This construction gives the cookware enough thickness to retain heat well and enough conductive metals to make it responsive. 

The brushed stainless steel exterior and the elegant copper ring give it a sleek and gorgeous look. 

The handles may feel weird for some, though. The angles aren’t comfortable, making the pots and pans feel heavier. 

Quick Overview:

  • Color: Silver
  • Metals: 18/10 stainless steel, copper, aluminum
  • Handle material: Stainless Steel
  • Oven safe: up to 600°F
  • Induction compatible: Yes
  • Dishwasher safe: Yes


  • Induction compatible
  • Oven safe up to 600°F
  • Even heating


  • Handles can get hot
  • High price tag
  • High maintenance

Find More: Best Stainless Steel Cookware Sets Without Aluminum


Copper and aluminum-core cookware are both great at offsetting stainless steel’s shortcomings. They can give it great heat conduction to make it suitable for cooking. Aluminum can offer these benefits at a much lower price because it’s cheaper and more available. If you want to reap the benefits of copper in your kitchen, go for products sold as “copper cookware” that are lined with stainless steel. 

Don’t hesitate to share your comments about copper or aluminum core cookware.

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Sirwan Ajman
About The Author
Sirwan is a food writer and a proud owner of a health-conscious café. He enjoys experimenting with new flavors. Mexican and Mediterranean cuisines hold a special place in his heart.

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