Though, to be fair, it sells for a hell of a lot less than just about any car, even the most basic one, and most people own at least one of those, right? * I, a person who knows nothing about automobiles and who didn't get his driver's license until he was 29 years old, have no business writing car analogies.
Given the historic importance of copper in the kitchen, and its continued use in higher-end French restaurants and some homes, it helps to understand a bit about it. Here we'll take a look at copper cookware to suss out its strengths and weaknesses, and try to help you decide whether you want to go deeper by investing in some.
Since Serious Eats is a media company and not an investment bank, we unfortunately aren't in possession of the types of funds that would allow us to buy a large collection of copper cookware on which to get tons of firsthand experience. Jim gave us a tour of his factory, answered a litany of my copper questions, let me spin a couple pans with him, and allowed us to film him in action.
That makes the human relationship with copper about as old as agriculture, though for several millennia we didn't do much with it beyond shaping it into decorative objects. Several thousand years later, but still some time before the Egyptians raised their pyramids, our ancestors figured out how to hammer copper sheets into bowls and other vessels.
In a lot of ways, copper sits at the opposite end of the conduction and heat-retention spectrum as cast iron, making them two very different, yet complementary, materials for cooking. Put a handful of cooking geeks in a room and the conversation heats up faster than copper on a flame.
Arguments erupt over whether copper is good enough to justify its cost, and whether its relative merits really set it far enough apart from the crowd of more affordable cookware. Someone from the Modernist Cuisine team might point out that copper's unrivaled conduction isn't the full picture.
An engineer, trying to keep the peace, will kindly put together a summation of the pros and cons of the primary cookware metals, explaining in lay terms essential concepts like thermal conductivity, heat capacity, specific heat, and thermal diffusivity. But then it falls apart when specific pots and pans get called into question, and ultimately everyone just starts trolling everyone else, and we get nowhere.
I've been working as a professional cook for 15 years in restaurants and food media, and I've rarely used copper. I want to add that I personally find a well-made copper pan to be an object of beauty in the kitchen, like a great piece of vintage cast iron, and that aesthetic quality can have value in and of itself.
Second, and very importantly, tin is impressively nonstick all on its own, without any need for the seasoning we all strive to build up on cast iron. You can fry an egg, cook pancakes, or lightly sear a piece of fish on it and, for the most part, the food won't stick.
The downside is that tin has a low melting point of around 450 °F (230 °C), which a pan can quickly reach if left over a flame unattended and empty. For this reason, tin-lined copper should never be preheated while empty, and it should never be used for very high-heat searing (save your cast iron for that).
While it's a rare event, you do have to factor that in when buying tin-lined copper, as it's an extra cost in the lifetime of the pan. Lining copper with stainless steel is a much newer invention, since it's a heck of a lot more difficult to bond those two metals.
The disadvantage is that it absolutely sucks in terms of adhesiveness: food loves to stick to stainless steel. You will, on occasion, see copper lined with nickel, a practice that was briefly popular in the '90s, but has since fallen out of favor.
Silver, it turns out, is an even better conductor of heat than copper (not that conduction matters much with these ultra-thin linings), and it's supposedly very nonstick, though given the price, I don't expect to ever be able to confirm this firsthand. There's also a plain copper mixing bowl intended solely for beating egg whites: the copper prevents sulfur atoms in the whites from bonding too tightly, helping to maintain the integrity of the foamy peaks.
You're probably okay down to about 2 mm, but any lower than that and you're getting into decorative pot territory: it may look nice in your kitchen but it won't perform well. This is where a lot of companies try to skimp, so make sure to confirm how thick the copper is before handing over your credit card.
If you want some tips on where to find quality copper cookware, look at Haman's tin- and silver-lined selections at Du parquet ; the tin-lined pots and pans from Brooklyn CopperCookware ; and famous old-school makers like Marvel and DE Buyer, which now focus on stainless steel–lined pans. As expensive as copper is, you can sometimes find a deal when shopping vintage goods (I saw one guy online who bought a pot worth hundreds for just $14).
If the piece is vintage, there's no chance it's lined with stainless steel, since that's a much more recent development. Old copper pots can come from many parts of the world, but if you're in the United States, chances are good that the cookware came from either the US, Britain, or France.
American copper pots tend to mimic the French rounded triangle, but with a more elongated shape that can begin to appear bar-like (sometimes it's very bar-like). The French loophole looks like a teardrop, whereas in the UK it's more of a keyhole or an arch.
No matter how dingy an old copper pot may look, remember that, short of extreme damage (say, a hole in it), it can be fixed up like new. After re-tinning and polishing, what may have looked like a piece of trash could easily be an object of remarkable beauty and value.
Good pots and pans tend to be expensive, and that’s especially true for copper cookware, which looks gorgeous, has a sort of timeless aesthetic appeal, and is often dramatically more expensive than even its high quality stainless steel equivalents. If you’re the kind of cook who wants your pan to reach a specific temperature, there’s no beating copper.
And if you’re in the market for a roasting pan, copper is absolutely the best choice, as it will cook the contents of your pan much more efficiently, meaning your cooking times will be reduced and you’ll achieve better browning. Copper also tarnishes easily, and it’s difficult to maintain the soft gleam that makes it so beautiful.
It’s a soft metal that’s prone to scratching and denting, and when exposed to acidic foods it will develop verdigris, that greenish patina that you’ll find on pennies (and the exterior of the Statue of Liberty). For many people the benefits outweigh the downsides, and the thought of having a kitchen filled with gleaming copper pots is incredibly alluring.
It’s beautiful, is unlikely to get banged up (since you likely won’t be using utensils inside it, other than to make a pan gravy), and performs incredibly well. Jacob Dean is a food and travel writer and psychologist based in New York.
He likes beer, less traveled airports, and is allergic to grasshoppers (the insect, not the mixed drink.) To help you make your decision, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of copper cookware followed by the advantages and disadvantages of different interior linings.
How quickly copper cookware responds to changes in temperature has long made the malleable metal a favorite of professional chefs. Because copper offers high thermal conductivity, it reacts very quickly to turning the stove top heat up or down, doing so almost immediately.
Isn’t it irksome when the contents of your pan cook at different temperatures, with some bunches burning while other are left underdone? But, thanks to copper ’s excellent thermal conductivity, it doesn’t get hot in just the center area that’s directly over a heat source.
Instead, heat rapidly transfers throughout the bottom of your pot or pan, eliminating hot spots and allowing your ingredients to cook evenly whether they’re in the center or near the edge. Even quality stainless steel cookware can be too heavy to comfortably handle, due to thick-clad bottoms that attempt to assist the material’s otherwise poor thermal conductivity.
However, many people confuse three different reactions that can occur with copper, resulting in a changed appearance and possible damage. Corrosion: Repeated or prolonged exposure to acidic substances, such as citrus juice or tomato sauce, will damage copper cookware.
Place your copper cookware in the dishwasher and you risk permanently changing their color as well as damaging the delicate lining. If you’ve ever spent time polishing your family’s fancy silver tableware before the holidays, you know the pain (and smell) of restoring it to a gleaming shine.
If you have an induction cook top and are in love with the idea of copper cookware, be sure to catch our third article in this series to explore your options. However, know that finding a good match will take some extra legwork, so don’t order copper pots and pans just yet.
According to Amy Conway of Martha Stewart Weddings, in addition to being prone to tarnish, copper metal is highly reactive. “For safety, copper cookware is generally lined with a layer of tin or, for more recently made pieces, stainless steel.” Each has its pros and cons, and we’ll continue to point out their differences throughout this series.
Long before Teflon-style non-stick coatings, tin was the preferred cookware material for giving hot foods the slip. It also transfers heat almost as quickly as copper, ensuring that you won't lose a fraction of your copper cookware ’s thermal conductivity.
Just like when cooking with modern non-stick coatings, you should avoid using metal utensils, instead opting for wood or silicone spoons and spatulas. Even if you can cope with tin’s needs for an occasional revamping, there’s a final flaw in the material’s usefulness: It can’t stand the heat necessary to produce a high sear on your steak.
However, it’s melt-point (about 450-degrees) is lower than that required to create a crust on thick slabs of beef (about 600-degrees), and shouldn’t be used for this purpose. Should you ever see your tin lining start to glisten, remove the cookware from the heat source and allow it to cool.
Even heat diffusion: An important perk of copper cookware is the lack of hotspots created, thanks to its excellent thermal conductivity. This is largely a function of the primary material of a man or pot, so a thin lining of stainless steel isn’t going to create hot spots.
If you’re willing to stick with wooden or silicone utensils and don’t mind the extra effort that comes with babying tin lining, you can enjoy a slight increase in non-stick vertical heat transfer and moderate non-stick benefits (though not as much slip as offered by PTFE/ Teflon coatings). In short, copper makes for a wonderful cookware material if you have the time and patience to accommodate its quirks.
Offering versatility, maximum responsiveness in temperature control, and lack of hotspots mean that copper is more than just a pretty face in the kitchen. However, when shifting to copper from a stainless steel set, you’ll also experience a steep learning curve, increased time cleaning, and significant polishing to keep it looking beautiful.
The process of sandwiching stainless steel around a copper core allows to clad cookware to transmit heat beautifully, without requiring the extra steps in care. Autumn draws from a reporting background and years of experience by objectively investigating topics and products in the kitchenware industry and shopping to provide you with takeaway advice.
Copper cookware looks amazing and it’s great for cooking. It’s the preferred type of cookware of most professional chefs.
You don’t get any hot spots, so the food cooks better and it doesn’t burn. Evenly distributed heat and greater temperature control mean better cooking.
Or, you can use a homemade copper cleaner made of white vinegar and salt. In this review, we have looked at a range of copper cookware sets.
So, we have included some best-quality copper cookware sets, as well as some affordable options. All the copper pan sets we have chosen are good quality, and they are all suitable for cooking any type of food.
In the following section, you will find our reviews of seven of the best copper cookware sets. We have looked at the quality of each cooking set, and we also checked out the customer reviews for you.
First in our reviews of copper cookware is this gorgeous Clifton 10-piece set. This cookware set combines traditional looks with modern triply metal construction.
These copper pots and pans are great for cooking, and they will look amazing in your kitchen. The cookware features three layers of metal. The three-metal construction provides superb heat conduction, cooking safety, and great looks.
The inner stainless-steel cooking surface protects the food from the copper outer. All the pans in this set have a good weight, which will keep them safe on the stove top.
This creates perfect heat distribution across the bottom of the pans and up the sides. Even so, you need to cook food on a low setting, because of the heat conductivity of the copper.
The Cuisinart CTP-7AM Triply Stainless-steel 7-Piece CopperCookware Set is modern looking. The Marvel M’heritage M250B 9-piece CopperCookware Set is one of the nicest that we have seen.
These copper pots and pans would make a wonderful display hanging in your kitchen. The bronze handles finish off the product perfectly.
This is a nice and comprehensive cookware set that caters for most types of cooking. You do pay a premium for the exceptional quality of this cooking pan set.
Our final selection is the lovely looking Agostini Marcella Hammered CopperCookware Set. It has a beautiful hammered copper finish. This another triply copper cookware set.
The hammered copper exteriors of these cooking pots and pans look amazing. From the gleaming lids to the base of the pans, everything looks professional.
The Agostini Marcella Hammered CopperCookware Set is very nice, high-quality product. Plus, the heat distribution properties of copper. There are several advantages of this type of cookware over traditional copper cookware.
But this cooker set is dishwasher safe, and it is suitable for use on induction stoves as well. The set consists of a 1.25-quart and a 2.5-quart saucepan, a 6.5-quart stockpot, a 3-quart sauté pan, and an 8-inch and a 10.5-inch Skillet.
So, there is a good range of different sizes of pots and pans or all your cooking needs. The base consists of an aluminum core, a copper disk, and a stainless-steel outer.
If you want wonderful looking copper cookware at an affordable price, then our next pick is for you. The Epicurus cookware set has copper -colored exteriors, aluminum construction, and stainless-steel bases.
This set also has a non-stick coating to prevent food burning and sticking. The Epicurus cookware set consists of a stockpot, two saucepans, a sauté pan, and two skillets.
They also distribute the heat evenly across the base of the pan and up the sides. A row of copper pots hanging from a shelf makes a kitchen look like it belongs to a professional chef.