Professional chefs and serious home cooks love copper cookware. Copper has the unique ability to conduct heat faster than any other metal that is normally used in cookware. Because the copper heats up so quickly, it moves the heat evenly throughout the pan, eliminating hot spots that can cause scorching and sticking.
Some cooks believe that having the right pans can improve the performance of their kitchen even more than buying a brand new range. Copper pots and pans respond quickly to any change in the temperature of the burner, far quicker than pans made of stainless steel or cast iron. This gives cooks much more control over the cooking process.
There are several types of pans that feature copper. The copper itself cannot come into contact with food, so there must be another metal on the inside of the pan.
Copper Plated Pans:
Some cookware is made with aluminum or stainless steel, and has been plated with a thin copper exterior. The bottom will usually have a thicker layer of copper, and the inner surface is usually stainless steel.
Solid Copper Pans:
Several European manufacturers make solid copper cookware lined with stainless steel; Falk Culinair from Belgium, Mauviel and de Buyer from France. Lara Copper cookware is hand-made in Australia. The Hammersmith Corporation is the last surviving maker of solid-copper cookware in the United States.
Solid copper cookware is much more expensive than plated or clad cookware, but the pots and pans made of solid copper respond much more quickly to changes in heat than any other pans. Professional chefs insist on solid copper, while a serious home cook may choose just one – perhaps a sauté pan or medium-sized saucepan – that is used most often.
Caring for Copper Cookware:
Copper pots and pans should always be hand-washed. Never put them in the dishwasher.
Unlike stainless steel and aluminum, copper will oxidize, or change color. To keep the copper shiny as new, a copper cleaning paste is recommended. The Mauviel Corporation makes a copper cleaner called Copperbrill, which works very well, but, like their pots and pans, it’s expensive. A more affordable choice is Twinkle Brass & Copper Cleaner and Wright’s Copper Cream, made by Weiman. All three of these fine cleaners are available through Amazon.com.
Polishing the copper is not just an esthetic requirement. The dark spots created by tarnish can create hot spots in the pans.
Makers of fine copper and stainless steel cookware suggest that the interior of the pans should be cleaned with a fine powder cleanser, such as Bar Keeper’s Friend. After using a powder, wash the pan again in warm soapy water and immediately dry the pan with a soft cloth.
Never use scouring powders, oven cleaners, or any cleaner that contains bleach. Also avoid using steel wool. Soft cloths and nylon scrubbing pads are best.
The stainless steel interior of copper cookware can be damaged by salt, which may cause small white dots or pits. These small pits are not attractive but they will not affect the performance of your pans. To avoid salt damage, always bring liquids to a boil before adding the salt so it dissolves immediately into the water.
Discoloration can also be caused by overheating, or by reheating a pan that has a food film that has not been completely washed off.
As you can see, good copper cookware has many advantages for the serious cook, but these pots and pans do require more care to keep them looking and working their best. For people who really love to cook, the extra care is worth it.