I remember getting excited about the Ninja blender when it first came out. I mean, it had that second tier of blades – a brilliant idea, surely it was going to pulverize even kale and celery into nothingness. I still think it’s a spark of genius and wonder why there are not more blenders with the same design.
Then, I saw it in person. I could forgive the cheap plastic housing, but I could not look over the cord. My cellphone at the time had a thicker charger cord than the one that was on this so-called kitchen power tool. All this potential was squashed by silly attempts to cut production costs. And this story illustrated my opinion of Ninja and its products.
But, cookware should be different, right? After all, it’s not an electric appliance. So, today we will see what Ninja Foodi pots and pans are all about. We will also see how they compare to (what I think is) a standard-bearer, Calphalon. If you’re ready, let’s start with the Calphalon vs Ninja pans showdown.
Calphalon is one of the brands that fall under the umbrella of the international manufacturer, Newell Brands Inc. This makes them related to other household names like Rubbermaid, Sistema, Sharpie, Crock-Pot, Yankie Candle, etc.
It was originally founded in 1963 by Ronald M. Kasperzak under the name Commercial Aluminum Cookware. It used to supply only restaurants and cooking schools with cookware, before becoming available to home cooks as well in the mid-80s. Today, the brand is still beloved by professionals and amateurs alike.
One of the best decisions Calphalon ever made was to treat home cooks the same way they treat pros. At the very least, they assume that an average cook is not in the market to buy new cookware every year or two. Many consumers report that they have had these pots and pans for years and even decades and that they are still going strong.
They are also known for innovation and overall good design. But, no matter how much they play with new and interesting features, they never forget sturdy construction and durable materials.
What’s in the box?
An 8-inch and a 10-inch frying pan, a 12-inch round griddle pan, a 1.5-quart and a 2.5-quart saucepan, a 3-quart saute pan, and a 5-quart stockpot.
- PTFE and PFOA-free nonstick ceramic coating is even more effective than their classic nonstick formula.
- Suitable for all hobs and oven safe up to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Classic Calphalon hardware and durability
- Not dishwasher safe.
I chose this set for comparison because its improved nonstick feature is the main selling point and it’s closest in price to Ninja. It’s supposed to show what one should look for when spending $300 on a cookware set. Even though this set is in some aspects inferior to other Calphalon offerings, it’s still well-made and should last for years.
This is the only Calphalon line that would not be suitable for a busy professional kitchen, yet they didn’t skimp on the quality of the hardware. Even if a ceramic nonstick coating is not suitable for commercial use, it doesn’t mean that domestic cookware should not have commercial-grade handles, nuts, and bolts. And as usual, each piece also includes small convenient features like measurement marker lines, straining lids, and pour spouts.
The whole “oil-infused ceramic” sounds a bit gimmicky, and who knows how long it takes for that “infusion” to wash away. Still, customers report that they have no issues with food sticking, even after numerous uses.
Someone who demands quality, durability, and value for money.
Ninja Foodi Pans
Ninja is a brand that belongs to SharkNinja Operating LLC together with another brand (guess which one). This Boston-based manufacturer and distributor produces home devices and appliances since the early 90s.
Ninja became widely popular due to its iconic blender that features 3 tiers of blades that promised more efficient blending, chopping, and crushing. Just around the time when they released a new version of their blender, they also got into the cookware game as well.
Whatever else may be going on, at least Ninja is never lazy when it comes to design. There’s always a feature or two that completely sets their products apart from the competition.
If they set more realistic prices or didn’t make unnecessary compromises to cut production costs, they would be very difficult to beat. As of now, there’s something very “As Seen on TV” about them: it might be an interesting product, but it feels like you’re overpaying by at least 100% for it.
What’s in the box?
An 8-inch, a 10-inch, and a 12-inch frying pan, a 1.5-quart and a 2.5-quart saucepan, a 3-quart saute pan, and an 8-quart stockpot.
- Very attractive complete set of pots and pans.
- Suitable for all hobs and oven-safe up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Textured ceramic nonstick coating for easy food release.
- Overpriced for the quality.
I know I’m coming off as very harsh, so let’s start with the good stuff. These pots and pans are gorgeous. I don’t know what it is, but there is something very attractive about the handles and hardware. It feels like the set was designed by a car or a watch company and not by a kitchen appliance manufacturer.
When opening the box, you’ll notice that this set comes with an 8-quart pot, a very welcome rarety in cookware sets. The handles are cast from one piece of stainless steel, and the body is thicker for even heat distribution and temperature retention.
The nonstick surface is also well thought through. The manufacturer combines a ceramic coating with a bumpy texture to prevent the sticking of most foods. They also claim that they create their cookware at the infernal temperature of 30,000 degrees Fahrenheit, which is supposed to help the nonstick coat last longer.
So, where’s the problem? They fall at the very last hurdle. All elements are there to make an amazing cookware set, but the craftsmanship is poor. The overall quality would be absolutely acceptable at a lower price point, but costing this much, it should perform a lot better.
Someone with a 50% off coupon.
The showdown: Calphalon vs Ninja Pans
Calphalon offers 8 cookware collections, while Ninja only offers 3. Technically, Ninja has 4 cookware lines, but their Vivid line is the same as the Premium line, only red.
While Calphalon is famous for providing high quality and durability at an affordable price, Ninja is kinda doing the opposite. The pieces are not particularly bad, but they don’t come out that great when compared to competition within the same price bracket.
If you’re looking for an easy tell, Calphalon often offers a lifetime warranty, while you’ll get only 5 years out of Ninja.
All Ninja cookware collections have a similar price, and you could get a complete set from each line for about $300. In comparison, Calphalon offers a wider range of product prices, so you can get a cookware set for anything between $150 and $700.
Both brands are available from major retailers and their online stores. However, you will find Calphalon pots and pans in specialty professional kitchen stores as well, while Ninja retails in Canada and UK as well.
Neither of the brands uses Teflon. They both have their proprietary PFOA-free nonstick coating formulas the apply to their pans.
Calphalon’s parent company, Newell Brands, did have some labor disputes in recent years. Even though they are related to other brands they own, you have to know that one of those issues had to do with them closing factories in Britain and moving them to China, and another was related to safety concerns during the lockdown in Australia.
Ninja manufactures its products in China, so that leaves possibilities for potential ethics issues. When asked, they don’t give any details in which province, so we can rule out internationally recognized problematic areas like Xinjiang (area with Uyghur labor camps).
Which one should you pick?
This is one of the rare times when I can’t find a reason to recommend a cookware brand. It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Calphalon, but I can always see a reason why you may want to pick its opponent in any match. Not this time.
Ninja pans are not catastrophically bad, but it’s criminal how bad they are for the price. I would accept the same performance from a 12-piece set that retails under $100 with no complaints – after all, you get what you pay for. However, at $300+ I expect a set that can truly compete with Calphalon (which will set you back the same amount).
As it turns out, as it seems to be usual with Ninja, they may have started well, but they chose to cut the cost on things that matter. So, if you have $300 to spend on a new cookware set, spend it on Calphalon. Heck, even if you spend half as much on one of their cheaper collections, you will fare better.