Copper has become the pinnacle of luxury kitchenware. But why use copper cookware? What are the benefits of copper cookware?
Does it have a magic ability to make your food taste better? Cook more efficiently? Or, do people just love it for its shiny, bronzed appearance?
Well, the truth is, there are several reasons why you should use copper cookware. And today, we’ll discover everything there is to know about copper pots and pans.
History of Copper
Copper dates back just over 10,000 years, where for roughly five millennia, it was the only metal humans knew. Its popularity grew as civilizations improved their metallurgical technique.
Soon, copper replaced stone as the primary material for tools and cookware.
One of the places where the use of copper was well-documented was in ancient Egypt. Not only was it used for containers and cookware, but also in medical practices.
You see, copper has antimicrobial abilities. A medical text—the Smith Papyrus—records the use of this material to sterilize wounds and even drinking water.
So, it isn’t that surprising that copper remains so popular today.
Are Copper Pans Good?
Yes, copper pans are good. Copper is a fantastic heat conductor—it distributes heat evenly and efficiently, minimizing hot spots.
This metal also performs best with low temperatures, which saves you energy. In addition, copper contains antibacterial properties, making it more hygienic than traditional kitchenware.
Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of copper cookware in more detail…
Copper Cookware Benefits
Superb Heat Conductivity
Copper pots and pans are supreme heat conductors. In fact, copper transfers heat five times more efficiently than iron and is an impressive 20 times better than stainless steel kitchenware.
This, in turn, makes it easier to regulate the temperature and minimize hot spots.
Can Cook at Lower Temperatures
This is another way copper helps you cut back on your energy usage.
Due to the high heat conductivity, you can use copper cookware at lower temperatures. This makes copper pots ideal for making sauces since there’s less chance of them burning.
Germs and bacteria can’t survive on copper, thanks to its antibacterial properties. It’s also for this reason that we use copper for so many things.
For instance, we often see copper door handles in hospitals to prevent the spread of germs.
Water pipes are also copper, thereby protecting our drinking water from harmful bacteria.
Even the dairy industry utilizes this versatile metal.
One of the main benefits of copper might be its durability—pots and pans from before World War II are still in use.
Copper Looks Amazing
I can’t scroll through Instagram without seeing a kitchen donning copper cookware.
There’s something about the shiny bronze that simply catches your eyes and refuses to let go.
So, even if you aren’t a master chef, copper cookware can still benefit your kitchen.
Disadvantages of Copper Cookware
Beautiful items tend to be pricey, and sadly, copper cookware is no different.
Depending on the quality, some copper kitchenware is beyond most of our budgets—more on this below.
Copper pans require frequent and careful maintenance to ensure their longevity. For instance, if the dishwasher is your primary cleaning tool, copper isn’t for you.
It’s best that you only wash and dry it by hand. Otherwise, you run the risk of discoloration and spotting.
Lingering moisture is a common culprit of tarnished copper, too. Once this process starts, the development of patina is inevitable.
Patina is a copper cookware killer—it’s that blue-green film that coats the surface. On some copper products, it’s prized for giving that vintage look! But it’s not something you want your food to touch.
Too much exposure to copper can result in a condition called copperiedus—copper toxicity. Fortunately, most copper cookware has a lining made with tin, stainless steel, or ceramic making it safe.
However, this is also why maintenance is vital. You should take extra care not to scratch or damage the lining. If your kitchenware has a tin lining, ensure that you get it re-tinned as needed.
Types of Copper Cookware
Pure copper cookware doesn’t have a lining. Instead, you’re cooking directly on the metal.
When there’s no coating, it’s crucial that you avoid letting food cool down in the pot. Allowing it to cool can lead to verdigris—or, patina.
Although these aren’t suitable for everyday cooking, they’re often used by pastry chefs for making sweet foods, such as jams, syrups and caramels.
Tin is the most common coating used for copper pots—it’s also the oldest method.
However, although it effectively prevents the development of patina, it can change color over time.
Tin is also quite fragile, so you have to take care of which utensils you use for stirring and for cleaning—non-metallic ones are best.
You’ll mostly find stainless steel coatings on copper pans and pots. These are more robust than tin-plated copper and won’t lead to any discoloration.
Ceramic-plated copper cookware is on the more modern end of the spectrum.
These are highly durable, similar to stainless steel, and they aren’t scratch-sensitive.
Ceramic-coated copper is easy to clean and to cook with.
Are Copper Skillets Good?
Yes, and no—they’re fantastic for foods like pancakes. However, not everything is compatible.
What foods to avoid when cooking with copper cookware depends on whether the pans are lined or not, and which material they’re lined with:
- With pure copper, you should avoid anything acidic. Copper contains ions that react negatively with acid, which results in off-flavors. In significant amounts, it can be toxic. Steer clear of ingredients such as tomatoes, lemon juice, and wine, among others.
- Tin-lined copper is compatible with almost any food. However, you should be mindful of high temperatures—don’t cook something you want to sear or blacken. Tin can quickly melt at high temperatures, so you should also avoid letting it heat up empty.
- Avoid spicy and acidic foods with tin-lined copper. Acidic and spicy ingredients will discolor or “eat” tin, making it unusable.
How Do You Keep Copper Pots Shiny?
Copper cookware is normally not exposed to high heat, as it simply isn’t needed. However, if you got a little too impatient—or excited—and cranked up the heat, it can lead to dark spots.
To keep copper cookware shiny, try these hacks:
- Lemon and salt: Use half a lemon with some sprinkled salt as a mild abrasive to remove soot and other dark spots. Rinse with water and dry with a clean cloth.
- Baking soda and lemon paste: Create a paste using equal parts of baking soda and lemon. Apply to a soft cloth and proceed to rub the copper. Rinse and dry.
- White vinegar: Take a soft cloth and saturate with white vinegar. Then, rub the surface. Keep changing to a clean spot on the cloth, and soon, you’ll be able to see your reflection—it’s one of my favorite methods!
Why Are Copper Pans So Expensive?
Copper kitchenware is pricier than traditional pots and pans due to several factors.
For starters, as a raw material, copper is more expensive than aluminum, steel and cast iron. It’s also pricier because it’s not a high-demand item.
I can imagine many wondering why use copper cookware when you can have the convenience of non-stick or light pans? Still, if you have the money, a good copper skillet is hard to beat.
So, why use copper cookware?
Well, there are several reasons why this type of material is worth its high price tag.
For starters, it’s superb at conducting heat, which makes cooking more efficient and eliminates hot spots. Secondly, it’s both hygienic and looks amazing.
When choosing copper cookware, it’s best to pick variants with either stainless steel or ceramic coating. This ensures the food won’t have direct contact with the copper and allows you to cook a variety of ingredients.
And, remember, keep up with maintenance. I like to give my copper skillet a vinegar rub to keep it looking pristine.