For seasoning copper pans, you must take care of what oil you use. Oils such as olive oil and butter should be avoided because they cannot stand the high heat.
Use oils such as vegetable oil, canola oil, grapeseed oil, and peanut oil.
When oils such as olive oil are used, they form a carbonized layer on the copper pan.
This layer affects the nonstick qualities of copper pans and does little to protect them from tarnishing.
This carbonization is not beneficial because it is a result of oil burning. It gets denatured before it can bind to the metal, making effective seasoning impossible.
Why is Seasoning Important for Copper Pans?
Unlike a cast iron pan, which is at constant risk of rust, copper does not rust as badly. The main reason for this is the low quantity of iron in copper.
Instead of rusting, copper oxidizes when exposed to air. Oxidation means the copper reacts with the oxygen in the air to form an oxide compound.
The oxide compound forms a blue-green layer on the surface of the copper, called a patina. This patina is toxic, with the potential to harm if incorporated into food.
These facts, however, do not mean that copper does not rust at all. It still does. It only means that the rusting will be less of a problem than oxidation.
Therefore, although rusting is not a major problem, copper pans still need seasoning.
Why Use Special Oils to Season Copper?
The reason is partly because of the nature of the oils and partly due to the nature of copper.
Let us start by explaining why copper especially needs this care.
- Exceptional heat conductor
- Great electrical conductor
- Warms quickly
- Retain heat for a long time
These outstanding heat qualities make it hold high temperatures evenly throughout its mass. It could even add to the heat through the retention.
This quality implies that anything put on the pan already needs to have a high tolerance for heat.
Secondly, we will speak about the oils.
You should only use oils with high smoke points, especially for a heat-intensive procedure such as seasoning.
Oils with low smoke points begin to smoke at relatively low heat and are incapable of going through the necessary carbonization needed to season copper pans.
It is also bad to cook with such oils on copper pans; they give food a burnt taste. This burnt, bitter flavor comes from a substance called acrolein, which is released as an oil burns.
Acrolein is sadly the least of your worries. The process that oils with low smoking points go through as they burn releases other harmful substances too.
Oils that should be avoided when using copper pans:
- Olive Oil
Oils you should use with copper pans:
- Vegetable oil
- Canola oil
- Grapeseed oil
- Peanut oil
A general rule is to use the most refined oil. Refined oils have high smoke points because refining removes the fats and other impurities that cause the smoking.
Why Butter and Olive Oil have Low Smoking Points
As mentioned above, the fatty acids and impurities lower an oil’s smoking point. Both these oils have the two culprits in abundance.
Butter is mainly composed of fat. It is made from the fatty components of milk. It is also relatively high in animal proteins which denature fast when in contact with heat.
Olive oil is also relatively high in fat.
Virgin olive oil is unrefined, and this lowers its smoking point even further because of the impurities.
The Best Oils You Should Use on Copper Pans
So far, we know that oils for copper pans:
- Need to have high burning points
- Need to have minimal free fatty acids
- Need to have the few impurities, including trace nutrients; be refined
Let’s look at how each of the recommended oils matches up to these expectations:
Canola oil has 0.2-1.2% of fatty acids as compared to Virgin olive oil, which can have anything from 0.8-2%.
This is a small difference, but it contributes to lowering canola oil’s smoking point.
Canola oil’s smoking point lowest range, 400 degrees Fahrenheit, has only a 5-degree difference with the highest range of olive oil’s smoke point, 405 degrees Fahrenheit.
Grapeseed oil has a burning point of about 420 degrees Fahrenheit, nearly 25 degrees higher than that of olive oil.
For grapeseed oil, the secret lies in its low nutrient content. The low amount of trace nutrients is essential in raising its smoking point.
Peanut oil would also have a low smoking point due to the fiber that it retains in extraction.
Thanks to refining, this is not the case at all. Peanut oil is relatively free of impurities.
Although peanut oil has high free fatty acids, it has a smoking point of 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
This number is a staggering 45 degrees Fahrenheit above olive oil’s highest tolerance.
All the oils discussed are vegetables. However, your local store may sell ambiguous vegetable oil. It may be corn oil or even palm oil.
All the other oils mentioned are rarely packaged as vegetable oil.
For this reason, there is an average smoking point for vegetable oils. It runs within the range of 400-450 degrees Fahrenheit.
Therefore, most vegetable oils are safe to use for copper pans. They have high smoking points and low quantities of free fatty acids.
Vegetable oils are also refined.
Steps for Seasoning Your Copper Pan
Here is a guide on how to season your cooper pan in 6 comprehensive steps. Use any of the oils mentioned above:
Step 1: Scrub your Pan with Soap
Clean your copper pan with mild dishwashing soap. It should be free of any grime before you start the process.
However, make sure you do not use soap on your seasoned copper pan. Soap disintegrates the patina. Eventually, it will allow tarnishing and toxic oxidation.
Use a brush with stiff bristles or a rubber scrub. Use warm, soapy, running water followed by a rinse in cool water.
Step 2: Dry Out the Pan
Use a paper towel or any other lint-free cloth to dry out your pan.
These two materials are best at absorbing all the moisture. They also leave no unwanted residue in the form of tiny fibers.
Another alternative is drying the freshly washed pan over the heat of a cooker. Using the stove is the fastest and most efficient way to dry out the copper pan completely.
You may want to let it cool a little before applying the oil to prevent scalding your fingers.
Step 3: Apply an Appropriate Oil
Put oil of your choice in a bowl, then dip a paper towel in it. Do not drench it; let it absorb enough to allow you to apply it onto the surface of the pan.
You can also use a lint-free cloth for this step. Lint may get covered under the film of oil and interfere with the formation of the patina.
Also, it may simply burn and create unpleasant smoke.
Apply a thin layer onto the pan. A thin layer is sufficient because thick layers will drip all over the oven.
They are also of no advantage to the seasoning process, hence a waste.
Step 4: Preheat the Oven and Place a Sheet of Aluminum Foil on the Bottom Rack
Preheat your oven to 350-450 degrees Fahrenheit for a few minutes; ten would be appropriate.
As it heats, prepare a sheet of aluminum for the bottom rack of your oven.
Once the preheating is done, place the sheet of aluminum on the bottom rack. Ensure you cover it completely.
Step 5: Bake the Pan
Place the oiled copper pan at the center of the middle rack. Make sure the pan is upside down so that the oil does not pool inside.
Placing the pan upside down will also allow excess oil to drain out of the pan.
Leave the oiled pan to bake for 60 minutes. This is the recommended time for the seasoning to cure sufficiently.
Step 6: Cool the Pan in The Oven
Turn off the oven, but do not remove the copper pan. Let it cool in the oven for around 30 min.
Cooling the pan inside the oven gives the pan more time to cure and the patina to bind to the iron. This improves the quality of the patina.
Doing this is also safer than removing it while piping hot. Finding a place to put it would be an unnecessary hustle because it would burn most surfaces.
Even putting baked metal on the outdoor ground is a bad idea. The heat will kill plants and affect the fauna that lives in the soil.
In summary, this is all you need to know about the oils you should use with copper pans:
Qualities of oils you should use with copper pans:
- The high smoking point, the lowest range should at least be 400 degrees Fahrenheit
- Low in impurities, refined oil is best
- Low in free fatty acids
Examples of oils you should use with your copper pan:
- Canola oil
- Grapeseed oil
- Peanut oil
- Vegetable oil
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