Copper is the Ferrari of cookware.
Copper is not only beautiful to look at, it is beautiful to cook with, and so durable it will last for generations. Pictured above is the eight piece Matfer 8 Piece Bourgeat Copper Cookware Set. This is one example of getting what you pay for. While it is top of the line in quality it is also top of the line in price. Click on the picture to go the Amazon page for that item, and read all the reviews.
Copper has the highest conductivity of all commercially available cookware. A well made copper pot responds almost instantaneously to temperature changes. Turn up the heat and liquids boil lightning fast. If your sauce has reached the perfect thickness, remove the pan from the heat source and it stops cooking.
When your food takes less time and energy to cook, you save money. Some have reported switching to copper cookware has reduced their energy bills for cooking, by half.
Most cooks have grown accustomed to the lag time built in to other types of cookware. Copper cookware is so responsive it demands your attention. So there is a small learning curve involved before you become accustomed to the unique properties of copper cookware.
Copper heats evenly. You will not get hot spots and find one portion of your food cooks faster than another. You will turn out beautiful, evenly browned chicken, meat and fish every time.
Copper can be used on every type of stove except induction.
Most objections to copper cookware center around the oxidation or discoloring of copper even when unused. Copper gets brownish spots over heat, and will tarnish, or oxidize when left out on display. Brushed exterior copper can be easily and effectively cleaned with Barkeeper’s Friend and a Scotch Brite pad. Mirror-finished exteriors must be cleaned with polish or (less effectively) with vinegar and salt.
Unlined copper can be used for serving, mixing dry ingredients, making jam, and a large unlined copper bowl is unsurpassed for beating egg whites to a stiff merangue with out the addition of cream of tartar. Do not use unlined copper for cooking anything acidic such as tomatoes or vinegar, as copper and acidic foods can create a chemical reaction that is unhealthy.
This Old Dutch 10-Inch Beating Bowl, Copper is ideal for making light, fluffy eggwhite merangues. The bottom is rounded to allow your wisk to completely cover the work area. Just set the bowl on a towel on your lap or counter, and whisk to a stiff froth. Use for merangue cookies, or fold into delicious mousses and souffles. Click on the picture or link to go the Amazon page for that item, to check prices and read all the reviews.
This Copper Polenta Pan is the traditional pot for making polenta, an Italian rice dish. Click on the picture or link to go the Amazon page for that item, to check prices and read all the reviews.
The Mauviel Copper 1.9-Quart Sugar Saucepan with Copper Handleby Mauviel, a French manufacturer of top quality copper cookware, is essential for the home confectioner who wants professional results. Click on the picture or link to go the Amazon page for that item, to check prices and read all the reviews.
Copper lined with tin
Tin lined copper is a top ranked choice of professional chefs. Tin does not have the "stickiness" of stainless, and food will not adhere as it does with stainless. Tin lined copper is also the choice of many home cooks as well. However, there are three drawbacks to consider. First, tin will discolor if you cook acidic foods in the pot. While this does not affect performance it does detract from the beauty of the piece if you want to put it on display. Second, the tin lining is thin. It is just a coat of tin to stand between the higher thermal properties of thick copper, and your food. While the copper will last forever, you may have to have your pots re-tinned, which can cost 30 to 50% of the cost of a new pot. The adventurous can attempt to retin their pots at home as all materials are readily available at your local hardware or plumbing store. Instructions can be found HERE. The third drawback is, tin melts at 447F. Tin will melt if you put your pot on a direct heat source or into an oven while empty, and the temperature exceeds 447F.
Copper Risotto Pan with Spoon by Ruffoni. One of the better names in copper cookware, the Italian manufacturer carries a complete line of tin lined, hand hammered copper cookware. If you want to enjoy the thermal properties of copper while cooking you need to look for cookware lines that have thicker and heavier copper bonded to tin or stainless steel. Click on the picture or link to go the Amazon page for that item, to check prices and read all the reviews.
Mauviel Tin Lined Copper Egg Pan with Bronze Handles.: Diameter 5 1/2", Height 1" also by Mauviel. The even heat distribution of copper, combined with the non-stick properties of tin, result in perfectly cooked eggs every time. Click on the picture or link to go the Amazon page for that item, to check prices and read all the reviews.
Copper lined with nickel
Nickel is no longer used to line copper cookware due to the prevalence of nickel allergies. However there is still a large quantity of nickel lined copper cookware in antique shops, and being sold on ebay, Craigslist, etc. You may still find tin lined accessories such as ice buckets, but the tin will be coated with a heavy laquer. Usually the first sign of a nickel allergy is a rash, called contact dermatitis, under rings or on the skin where a watch, bracelet or necklace lies. Once you develop an allergy, there is no cure, the only solution is to avoid all contact, including ingesting food cooked in nickel lined copper and even stainless steel pans due to the small amount of nickel it contains. For this reason The Frugal Kitchen recommends you only use copper lined with nickel for display.
Copper lined with stainless
Today's high end copper cookware is lined with stainless steel. This provides the best of both types of professional cookware - copper for the thermal properties and steel for hardness and durability. Because the interior is lined with stainless, you get the same stickiness that is prized in all-stainless cookware, with unsurpassed responsiveness to heat.
Mauviel-Cuprinox Extra-Thick 2-1/2 mm 10-1/2-Inch Round Frying Pan is the chef's favorite tool for delicate dishes that require precise timing, such as veal scallopini or seared sea scallops. Click on the picture to go the Amazon page for that item, and read all the reviews.
Saute Pan Brazier, W O Lid, 5-1 4 Qts., 11'' Dia. X 3-1 8'' H, Copper, Stainless Steel Lining This pan is exactly what you want to use to brown your meat on all sides, create a delicous fond from the browned bits on the bottom, and then simmer slowly in its own juices or a touch of liquid, on the stovetop or in the oven. Click on the picture to go the Amazon page for that item, and read all the reviews.
Copper bottom, Copper core, Copper disk
Copper is beautiful. But copper must be fairly thick to take full advantage of its thermal transfer properties. A quality copper pot will be quite heavy. For that reason applying a thin layer of copper either on the full exterior, the bottom, or sandwiched within the bottom of the pot is primarily decorative and serves no real useful function. These pots, while beautiful, require a lot of upkeep for little return.
Buying Used Copper Pots
I purchased my copper pots from an ad on Craigslist. The set included a large heavy frying pan, a 3 qt saucier, a 1 1/2 qt saucier, a small sauce pot, a decorative copper strainer, and a cast iron pot rack - all for $100. Crazedlist (click for link) is a website that allows you to search across more than one Craigslist location. I search within driving distance of my home, and also the homes of willing friends and relatives who will run out to make a purchase for me should I find something near them. With a little patience you should be able to find high quality used copper pots around $50 per piece.
Decide what you want BEFORE you look for your pots. Do you want tin, or stainless, or unlined? What pieces do you want to add to your kitchen? I wanted a frying pan for veal and chicken cutlets, and a saucier for my delicate sauces, and I set a budget of $50 per pot. So getting the "extras" within my budget was a nice bonus.
Familiarize yourself with the better brands of copper cookware. Mauviel, Matfer Bourgeat, and Falk are the top names, but there are many foundries in Europe that produce excellent quality. Be able to identify brands by the maker's mark, the style and materials of handles, and a hammered, brushed or smooth finish.
The first and most important thing to look for is the thickness of the copper. The copper should be at least 2.5mm thick for the best thermal conductivity - which is why you are buying copper pots in the first place. Thinner copper cookware will be disappointing as it does not possess the thermal properties of heavy copper. Copper coated aluminum, aluminum core (copper on the outside and stainless on the inside), and stainless (such as Revereware) may be decent cookware, but again if you are looking for, and paying for, professional quality copper cookware, you want thick copper and an interior coating of tin or stainless. Do not buy unlined copper cookware unless you intend to use them for specialized purposes such as making confections, jams, and polentas.
Stainless is very durable and is rarely worn through, but tin is delicate. It can melt, bubble up, stain, scratch, and wear through. So examine the piece to be sure the tin is in good condition. Unless you can do it yourself, re-tinning is an expensive proposition. Check inside and out for dents and deep scratches, make sure all handles are attached and wiggle them to see if they are loose. Tin that is discolored from acidic foods will stay discolored, but the stains are completely cosmetic and will not affect function or impart an off taste to your food. While copper can discolor quite a bit, most of it can be cleaned back to the original condition. There are some exceptions that will affect the value of the pot. If the laquer coating was not removed prior to use it could be 'baked on' and impossible to remove. If the cookware was placed in a dishwasher it could be pitted and stained from the harsh abrasive chemical detergents. Some stains and discoloration may have to be sanded and then buffed out. That is a lot easier on a shiny copper finish than on brushed or hammered.
Cleaning Copper Cookware
This first YouTube video shows how to clean a Craigslist find with BarKeeper's Friend.
Magic happens on a badly tarnished copper pot using vinegar and salt to clean.
Tips and Tricks:
- Cook on medium or medium low heat. Copper has such excellent thermal transfer properties you never need to cook over a high heat. While food in the pot will usually keep the bot from reaching a critical temperature, do not put over heat if empty, and if your recipe calls for oven temperatures over 450F, such as cajun blackening, use your cast iron pots.
- Copper cookware, accessories and utensils often have a thin protective layer of laquer applied at the factory to keep the copper shiny and bright until you bring it home. It is important to remove this layer with "The Premium Stripper SR72" or a little acetone before using the item, as the laquer may discolor, scorch, and be almost impossible to remove after use.
- Use a little Jewler's Rouge to remove small scratches and deep stains.
- Before using an unlined copper bowl to beat egg whites, wipe down with lemon juice or vinegar, and salt. Your eggs will come out light, fluffy and will not overdry.
- Clean shiny copper with salt and lemon juice or vinegar, or use a commercial liquid or paste copper cleaner, such as Bistro Copper Paste, Copper Glo, or Wright's Creme.
- Clean brushed copper withsalt and lemon juice or vinegar or Bar Keeper's Friend.
- Many chefs prefer to let their copper age naturally, acquiring a patina that can only come from age and use.
- Never put copper cookware in a dishwasher. Copper can permanently stain from the harsh chemical acids in dishwashing detergent.
- Wash by hand with liquid soap and dry immediately.
- Apply a thin coat of oil to cast iron handles to prevent rusting.
Learn More About Copper Cookware
How to care for copper cookware.
Sales site. Wide selection of copper cookware, including Bourgeat.
Sales site. Excellent prices and free shipping over $50.
Sales site, exclusive distributor of Falk in the US.
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