Copper cookware is gorgeous, but it's much more than just a pretty face. Copper cookware is a staple in professional kitchens because of its performance, not its looks. But we'll certainly agree that it's worth displaying in a pot rack, not hiding in the cupboards.
The Basics of Copper Cookware
Copper is an ideal material for cookware because it's such an effective conductor. This same quality is why copper is used for electrical wiring. That ought to help you grasp just how well copper handles heat.
Like cast iron, copper is also reactive. Most copper cookware is lined with nonreactive materials, like tin or stainless steel. Lined cookware allows you to enjoy the benefits of copper without being concerned that your food will taste metallic. However, unlined copper cookware is also available. It's a good choice for sugary concoctions like jam, caramel, and candy, where temperature control is key.
Another similarity between copper and cast iron: You can revive and restore vintage copper cookware. A variety of commercial products are available for removing the patina from copper, or you can try homemade solutions like lemon and salt, vinegar, and even ketchup.
Pros and Cons of Copper Cookware
The biggest advantage of copper cookware over any other type is how quickly it responds to changes in temperature. It also distributes heat evenly, so there aren't any hot spots in your pan. This sort of temperature control is particularly important when cooking with delicate ingredients like sugar, but it's useful in any circumstance.
Some stainless steel cookware features layers of copper in the cladding or on the exterior. You will enjoy some of the benefits of copper without the higher price tag. Copper cookware is expensive, though it's unlikely you'll ever need to replace it.
While copper isn't as hardy as cast iron or stainless steel, it will last for decades with proper care and maintenance. It does take regular effort to keep copper free from patina. You can scrub away the patina on the exterior, or leave it alone if you like the well-worn look. Unlined copper pans require more upkeep. Regularly scrub them to keep the patina from transferring to food.
Tips for Using Copper Cookware
Because copper is such an efficient conductor, you don't need to crank the burner up to high. Start at about half the heat level you'd normally use for a stainless steel pan. High heat levels will discolor your pan, and you may or may not be able to scrub away the marks. Also, don't preheat an empty copper pan, or you might melt it. Copper cookware is too expensive for that! It will take time and practice to learn how to control the heat.
Our staff cookware expert adores her copper pans, patina and all, but she knows not everybody agrees:
I use my pans and it shows. They’re easy to clean with Bar Keepers Friend. If you want to keep yours looking shiny, dry them immediately after washing.
Above all else, never put copper cookware in the dishwasher. Wash and dry by hand, and return your copper pans to the pot rack for everyone to admire.
Copper Cookware Recommendations
We are big fans of Mauviel copper cookware and look forward to bringing it back to our store soon. In the meantime, we offer the All-Clad Copper Core collection and Lagostina Martellata Hammered Copper cookware. All-Clad Copper Core includes a layer of copper in the cladding, and Lagostina has a copper exterior. Both options are a great introduction to the wonders of copper without the higher price tag.
We hope you enjoyed this series! Keep it in mind the next time you are shopping for cookware.