Ludo Lefebvre, a French-born chef, asked for copper pans as a present for Christmas when he was 10 years old.
Every chef’s favorite cookware – copper pans and pots are known for their fantastic heat properties that can top that of iron by five times. As a perfect conductor, it evenly distributes heat. Hence, it is apt cookware to prepare a ton of different dishes.
It’s also one of the most seamlessly beautiful cookware to adorn your kitchen counter with. By adding an opulent touch to your kitchen, copper really does stand out from other cooking metals. However, keeping all the praise aside, there is a very serious concern tied to cooking with copper cookware.
As a highly reactive metal, it is prone to releasing toxic chemicals that infiltrate the food you cook. This has been a huge concern amongst many cooking experts, and therefore, you will find that almost all of the copper cookware is lined with either tin or stainless steel.
Why Do Chefs and Homeowners Use Copper Cookware?
Not only chefs but also many homeowners prefer copper cookware for the following reasons.
There can be a lot of misses and burnt food by someone who has recently stepped near the stove. While there could be many reasons for this, in most cases, either the pan was too hot or not hot enough.
However, with copper, this issue is entirely eliminated.
Copper is a soft metal and an excellent conductor, which means it heats up exceptionally faster than other metals. When you change the stovetop temperature, it can take a while for the pan to adjust to it. With copper, the change is instant.
Any delicate sauces, lean meats, or veggies can be quickly prepared in this versatile cookware.
Additionally, it can also make heat distribution more efficient and even. High-grade thicker copper pans offer amazing heat distribution, which can make your cooking a whole lot easy. This is especially important when you need a reliable cooking temperature for braising sauces or grilling meat.
Easy to Clean
Cleaning and maintenance determine the major part of your decision in choosing the cookware.
Unfortunately, cast-iron has a very bad rap for being a hard-to-clean metal. They rust easily and scrubbing off stubborn food residue is a hassle of its own.
Copper, however, can be rinsed, wiped, and on the kitchen counter in under a minute. You don’t have to worry about re-seasoning it every now and then to prevent warping as is the case with cast-iron.
All you need is a gentle soap and some water to rinse and leave your copper pans looking squeaky clean.
Copper is by default an anti-microbial metal. This is because the metal’s structure is an inhabitable place for any sort of bacteria or harmful microbes to survive.
As of now, food industries use stainless steel; however, there are no anti-bacterial properties found in it. If it actually catches any bacteria, you can expect it to stay on the pan’s surface for a long time. In fact, according to a study, it was found that the bacteria can actually cause further erosion of the cookware and tends to linger for over two weeks.
This is beyond the day-to-day dishwashing.
Bacteria exist on a microscopic level and will linger as long as you use your cookware. However, cooking with copper cookware fully ensures that no bacterial activity thrives on the pan’s surface.
So, if you’re a hygiene freak down to the microscopic level, copper cookware really is your best choice.
Resistant to Corrosion
Since copper is an undercoat layered with either tin, steel, or aluminum, it makes for a great undercoat.
It offers a seamless and uniform coating that isn’t prone to rust or warp. This, in turn, provides resistance against corrosion.
Hence, instead of having to clean a charred pot, you’ll have a beautiful pink finish on your copper cookware.
Just like its unmatched heating ability, copper is also one of the best metals to offer adhesion between surfaces.
This means it will perfectly support the smooth coverage on both non-ferrous and ferrous base metals. This also makes it a great pan to use for induction cooktops.
As cookware, since it’s mostly layered with stainless steel or tin, copper keeps the surface tightly connected.
This, in turn, improves heat dispersion and improves the product life.
Aesthetic and Unique Design
Copper has a distinctive look that sets it apart from other steel or iron. You can even hang your copper pans on the racks for metallic decoration.
Copper cookware is really one of the prettiest metals to cook in, as the heat only beautifies its light-pink finish.
However, even though copper cookware may sound like the perfect option to keep in your kitchen, it does have its share of drawbacks.
The Not-so-Good things about Copper Pans
Copper cookware can be tricky to understand for first-time users.
You will definitely have to adjust your recipes when using copper as owing to its conducting qualities, both the heat and cooking time might just have to be reduced by half. There can be hassles when cooking with copper and here are a few of them.
A Reactive Metal
Yes, copper is reactive, but there’s more to this issue. Industries will layer the copper surface with steel or tin, which can be a fantastic coating on their own.
Tin, for example, is impressively non-stick and doesn’t need any seasoning the way a cast-iron does.
However, tin also has a very low melting point at around 230 degrees Celsius. Your copper pans will quickly reach this temperature if they’re left empty on the stove or unattended for a long time. This is one reason why tin-lined copper must never be pre-heated. Furthermore, it is not a good option for high-heat sizzling and searing.
Another drawback with tin is that it’s soft and wears away over time. If you scrub it with harsh dish soaps and metal scour pads, the tin lining will lose its luster and efficacy.
As far as stainless steel is concerned, yes, it’s a very durable coating. However, when it comes to adhesiveness, there isn’t much to expect. No matter how great the copper, your food can seriously get stuck to the stainless steel coating.
And, if you end up disturbing the stainless lining, you’re out of luck.
Investing in another copper pan might just be the next option. And, considering how expensive stainless steel lined copper pans are, you might have to invest responsibly.
If you think you don’t have to deal with the hassle of re-seasoning your cookware, you may need to re-think. Copper cookware needs frequent polishing to prevent it from corroding.
That gorgeous, distinct shine which defines a copper pan can quickly wear away if it is polished at the right time.
In order to maintain a bright and shiny finish, you need to polish it with copper paste every now and then.
Even when your cookware is simply sitting on the counter, the exterior surface of the copper is such that it will tarnish naturally. Hence, you will have to get it polished anyway.
Not Dish-Washer Safe
Even the best copper cookware can’t be washed in a dishwasher as the metal will corrode over time. The harsh chemicals in the detergents and the hot water will dull the finish.
Your cookware might just start resembling dark, rusted cast-iron.
Don’t burden yourself with further cleaning by throwing your pans in the dishwasher. Everything in that machine is corrosive for your delicate copper pans and pots.
It can even cause pitting, which even the best elbow grease or copper cleaner won’t be able to fix.
How to Choose the Best Copper Pans
When choosing a copper pan, always keep a close eye on the thickness of the metal, the lining, and the pan-handle.
Here are some tips to help you invest in a high-quality pan.
Measure the Thickness
When it comes to a high-grade copper pan, the thicker the material, the longer its product life. This is one reason why copper cookware is one of the most expensive in the market.
A thick pan provides ample control overheat. Your pan will gradually warm-up and will retain the heat for a little while after it’s off the stove. A 2.5 mm thickness is perfect to maintain that fine balance between the heating up and cooling down of the pan.
If you were to invest in a greater thickness, say 3 mm, it will take longer for your pan to heat up.
Choosing Between Stainless or Tin Lining
We all know that tin has been traditionally used as a coating, while stainless steel is a recent addition.
However, tin is non-stick and will not endure heat above 230 Degrees Celsius. It is more prone to scratches and hot spots, which means more money to get your pan re-tinned.
Always opt for either stainless or aluminum lined copper pans, as they are more stable and sturdier than tin-lined ones. They are also easy-to-clean, stronger, and less susceptible to damage.
Picking the Right Pan Handle
Not many people consider the pan’s handle as an important feature when buying cookware.
However, knowing that the pan-handle is literally what allows you to use a copper pan, it needs to be considered.
Most pans have iron handles that are as thick as 2.5 mm.
Avoid pans covered in the stainless lining as they don’t offer any grip or support. Bronze handles, on the other hand, lose their color over time.
How to Look After Your Copper Cookware
Just like every metal, copper does have its share of drawbacks.
However, it’s not world-class cookware for no reason. When treated with care and precaution, your copper cookware can last you a life-time.
Here are tips to follow when you are cooking with copper cookware.
Always Cook on Medium-High Heat
Since copper heats up very quickly, it’s best to only treat it with medium-high heat. Anything more than that runs the risk of hot spots.
This is true, especially if you’re new to cooking with copper cookware as a med-hi heat will help you adjust to this idiosyncratic metal.
Use Either Silicone or Wooden Utensils
If you have tin-lined copper cookware, you need to be wary of using hard metals over it.
To avoid scratching off the beautiful finish, always choose wooden or silicone utensils.
They are soft and scratch-free.
Prepare All the Ingredients Beforehand
Considering how fast food heats up over a high-performance metal such as copper, you need to prepare for faster cooking times.
Moreover, since the pan will heat up evenly and quickly respond to any temperature changes, you need to have all your ingredients ready!
Knowing that the tin-ling will start melting once you reach 450 degrees F, try not to sear over copper pans.
For high-heat foods, resort to cast-iron, stainless steel, or aluminum.
Don’t Pre-heat Empty Copper Pans
You really don’t have to pre-heat copper cookware as it’s highly conductive. Always have your ingredients ready once you turn on the flame.
Even if it’s just a spoonful of oil or butter, throw it in so you don’t burn the surface of the pan.
If you think the food residue is hard to clean, simply soak the pan in some water with dish soap. Don’t scrub off the grease as it will damage the coating.
You can use a gentle bamboo scraper to slough off the food gently.
Copper cookware has many cookware benefits. As long as you treat it gently and look after it properly, your cookware will never disappoint you.
However, instead of just sticking to one, it’s always a good idea to cook with a combination of metals to reap all the benefits!
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