There’s no denying the beauty of copper cookware. It can bring appeal and charm to any kitchen, but it’s not just good for its looks.
Whether an amateur or a seasoned chef, copper cookware can bring high performance and versatility to your dishes.
If you’re heading on a journey of purchasing new pots and pans, this article will teach you how to choose the best copper cookware.
Why is Copper Worth It?
While many people consider cast iron as the king of cookware, copper doesn’t fall far behind. In fact, copper can be great alongside cast iron as each is superior for certain kinds of dishes.
Copper is an excellent conductor of heat, more so than any other metal. Unlike other pots and pans which can develop hot spots and burn, copper evenly distributes heat throughout all parts of the pan.
Copper cookware shines in its ability to increase and decrease in temperature very quickly. Cast iron, on the other hand, heats up slowly and retains that heat for a long time once removed from the stove.
While cast iron is ideal for serving up stew and casserole-type dishes, copper works better for things like delicate sauces and dishes that require precise control over the amount of heat needed.
Copper cookware is also much lighter than cast iron, though it’s heavy enough to sit securely on your burners.
Drawbacks of Copper Cookware
With all the advantages of choosing copper cookware, there are some drawbacks.
Here are a few limitations of cooking with copper:
- It requires much more maintenance than other pots and pans, such as frequent polishing to prevent the pan from corroding.
- It can’t go through the dishwasher and instead must be hand washed.
- As with most high-quality items, copper cookware tends to come with a hefty price tag.
If you generally cook for one or don’t cook much at all, copper may lose some of its appeal. Otherwise, it can be a great addition to your kitchen.
How to Choose the Best Copper Cookware
Here are four things to look out for when choosing the best copper cookware for your needs.
1. What Kind of Lining
When you begin your search for the best copper cookware, the first thing you want to do is determine what kind of lining is going to work for you.
Copper cookware is available in three different compositions:
- Bare – no lining
- Tin lined
- Stainless steel lined
Let’s take a deeper look into each one of these to help you choose the best option for your needs.
Bare copper is the least expensive and least desirable option.
Copper is an essential mineral needed in the human diet, but cooking on uncoated copper poses a risk for copper toxicity. While it’s an infrequent and unlikely occurrence, we recommend avoiding the risk altogether.
Moreover, copper is reactive. Although it conducts heat very efficiently, it can chemically alter acidic foods such as tomatoes or lemon juice, giving off a metallic taste.
That said, bare copper does come with a few advantages.
Unlined products are commonly used to whip egg whites to create meringues and other similar dishes. The metal reacts with the egg whites allowing them to retain more air and thus peak faster.
Copper pans are also useful for making candy, jams, and melting sugar. Sugar nullifies the reaction to acidic foods in bare metal pans.
If you do a lot of this type of cooking, keeping a few pieces of bare copper cooking vessels may be handy in your kitchen.
Tin lined copper pans are a great option. They conduct heat nearly as well as copper, yet prevent the copper from leaching out into your food and your body. It also does not react to acidic foods like bare copper, so there is no change in taste or chemical composition of your food.
Another advantage of tin is that it is naturally non-stick due to its smooth crystalline structure. The only cooking material that surpasses tin in its non-stick nature is Teflon – and you may not want that in your body or the environment.
The disadvantage to using tin lined copper cookware is that is it a very soft material. This means that it requires regular maintenance and can wear out, so it will need repairing or replacing at some point down the road.
Additionally, tin is not suitable for cooking at high temperatures on a regular basis.
That said, if you treat it with the proper care, a tin lined pan can be a great option. Stay clear of using metal utensils, avoid scrubbing, be careful with the heat you choose, and you’re good to go.
Stainless steel linings are the most common and probably the best choice for home cooking.
Stainless steel pans are much sturdier than tin; they do not rust, tarnish, discolor or easily scratch. They also require a lot less maintenance, which can be appreciated by busy modern families.
They don’t consist of the same non-stick nature as tin, but you can feel free to scrub, scrape away stuck on food, and even use steel wool. Metal utensils are also fine to use on stainless steel lined pans.
The best part about stainless steel pans is that they can be run through the dishwasher. No hand washing involved!
2. Thickness of the Copper
Once you’ve determined which lining is best for you, the next most important characteristic to look out for is the thickness of the copper. The thickness of the copper separates the best copper cookware from that of lesser quality.
Thicker copper more evenly distributes heat and better resists warping. Good copper cookware should be at least 2 milliliters thick, though 2.5 milliliters is ideal. It is recommended not to use copper cookware that is less than 1.5 milliliters thick.
The thickness isn’t always apparent, so it’s important to do your research. Some signs that may indicate thinness or lower-quality cookware include rolled edges and bronze handles.
3. Appearance – Smooth vs. Hammered
Copper cookware is available in both smooth and “hammered” finish. One finish does not hold any higher quality or more significance than the other.
At one time, the hammered appearance meant a guarantee of handcraftsmanship. Nowadays, however, almost all copper cookware are made with machines, even the hammered ones.
A smooth finish is much more common throughout good quality brands, though most manufacturers do offer both finishes.
When choosing the best copper cookware, the appearance is a matter of your personal and aesthetic preferences, as well as availability of finish choices within the particular brand of your interest.
4. Individual Pieces vs. Sets
Just as with appearance, whether you buy a set or individual pieces is really a matter of personal choice. One does not necessarily have any benefit over the other.
Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of each to help you determine which direction is right for you.
Pros of copper cookware sets:
- There is an endless number to choose from
- Saves time and money
- Usually comes complete with lids, so you have everything you need
- Everything in the set matches
- All of the pieces fit well together
Cons of copper cookware sets:
- The investment of sets can be rather costly
- You may be missing out on individual pieces that are higher quality or better price
Pros of individual pieces:
- Some people like the visual appearance of an eclectic set of cookware
- Individual pieces are great if you only need a few pots and pans
- You can save money by purchasing individual pots and pans over a longer period of time
- You can choose the best quality and price for each cooking vessel
Cons of individual pieces:
- The design you like can go out of production – this can be a problem if you are planning to buy a whole set over time
- The cookware may not look good together
- The cookware may not fit well together – this can pose a problem particularly if you stack your pots and pans rather than hang them
When deciding whether you’d like to purchase an entire set or individual pieces, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons and determine which approach is best for your budget and visual preferences.
Determining how to choose the best copper cookware can be an overwhelming task. After all, it’s not just pots and pans we’re talking about here. We’re talking about meals that bring friends and family together.
Whether you cook because you love it or because you have to, food is the center of the family, so how you cook your food matters.
Also, the cookware you choose is not only a matter of high-performance but safety as well. The cookware you purchase should be safe, durable, efficient, and should be an investment that saves you money in the long run.
We hope this article enlightened you on some of the important considerations that should go into your cookware buying decisions. We hope it answered all on your questions on how to choose the best copper cookware.