What's the Difference Between 3-Ply and 5-Ply?

Learn the composition of your stainless steel cookware and the benefits it affords you.

By Izzy Johnson
Feb 8, 2022
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Stainless Steel Cookware is composed of layers of metal bonded together — so  the major difference between 3 and 5 ply is the number of these bonded layers. The term “clad” or “cladding” describes this process of layering metals, which is why we refer to our Stainless Cookware as Stainless Clad.

In the cladding process, different metals are layered atop one another, usually with a non-reactive metal on the exterior protecting metal that conducts heat well but is sometimes less durable, and then bonded together to make a new sheet of metal entirely. The number of metal layers are the ply.

Two of the most  common types of ply are 3 and 5, and the differences between them are outlined below.

What is 3 Ply Stainless Steel?

3 ply, also called tri-ply, refers to stainless steel constructed from three different layers of metal. Typically, this consists of stainless steel outer layers bonded to a layer of aluminum core. The third layer is anodized aluminum, which is a protective oxidized layer that helps with heat retention and durability.

Advantages of 3 Ply

  • Price: Because it is constructed from fewer metals, tri-ply cookware is usually cheaper than its 5-ply counterpart.
  • Weight: 3-ply cookware is slightly lighter due to the fact that it is only three layers. This makes it easier to lift and move from stove top to storage.

Disadvantages of 3 Ply

  • Durability: Due to the fact that it’s only composed of three metal layers, 3-ply cookware is less durable and therefore more vulnerable to scratches and dents in its surface. This can also be compounded by poor quality and less strong bonds.
  • Quality of Heat: As fewer metals are used in its construction, tri-ply cookware is more prone to uneven heating. This means that pans can develop hot spots, where certain areas heat up faster than others, leading to less even cooking.

What is 5 Ply Stainless Steel?

5-ply Cookware refers to stainless steel constructed from five different layers. Our 5-ply Stainless Clad collection utilizes five sheets of four different metals. The aluminum core conducts heat, while the stainless exterior makes for a smooth and durable cooking surface.

Advantages of 5 Ply

  • Conductivity: The extra layers of metal help 5-ply cookware heat up more quickly and cook more evenly than 3-ply.
  • Durability: While the extra metal does add weight, it also helps 5-ply cookware, as it is more resistant to warping or denting. Proper care will of course also contribute to the longevity of your pan.
  • Safety: One of the reasons that Stainless Steel cookware is so safe is that it has strong bonds between the different layers of metal. This prevents less desirable metals like nickel from leaching out.

Disadvantages of 5 Ply

  • Price: 5-ply cookware is slightly more expensive because it uses different varieties of metal and more of them. When 5-ply includes copper, the price can rise.
  • Weight: Again because it is made up of more layers of metal, 5-ply cookware is going to be slightly heavier than its 3-ply counterpart.

Does Ply Matter?

While 3-ply is slightly less expensive, and slightly lighter weight, there is a reason that 5-ply cookware like ours is used in professional kitchens all over the world. You can get away with using 3-ply in a pinch, but you will notice a difference in the quality of your finished dish, especially when it comes to achieving the right sear on a steak or making sure a delicate piece of fish has a perfectly crisp skin.

Our 5-ply cookware is excellent at conducting heat, very durable, and exceptionally safe. If you are looking for a pan that will last a lifetime, we recommend 5-ply—it’s more than worth it.

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