Are Copper Pans Worth the Money? Let’s find out.
With so many different kinds of cookware on the market, it is easy to get a little confused as to what the right types of cookware is best suited for your kitchen. There is a myriad of choices, including:
- Stainless steel cookware
- Anodized aluminium cookware
- Cast-iron cookware
- Glass cookware and more
Online, you will find hours of reading on which is the best value for money, which is the healthiest to cook with and also, which ones could be hazardous for your health. At the top of the list for cost and quality is copper cookware.
Copper cookware can be a considerable investment. However, just like all cookware, it comes with its pros and cons. Read on to discover more about the world of quality, copper cookware, and if it is worth the extra dollars.
What is so special about copper Pans and Copper cookware?
Humans have been working with copper pans for a very long time, approximately 11,000-years. This is nearly as long as we have practiced agriculture. Copper was a popular metal for cookware as it is soft enough to hammer into shape, yet robust enough to withstand high heats.
Copper pans have excellent thermal conductivity. Thermal conductivity is the rate at which heat is transferred via conduction through a section of material, in this case, copper.
In the case of copper cookware, this means that when heated, copper quickly and easily distributes the heat across the base, providing even cooking across the pan or pot.
Other metals used in cookware, like iron, are less efficient at thermal conduction as compared to copper pans, and can produce “hot spots”. This means your pan or pot can have some spots that are cooking perfectly and other places that are burning or undercooking your food.
Are copper pots made of just copper?
Although solid copper pots and copper pans were used in the ancient world, today copper is not considered safe to cook on alone. Copper is usually lined with other metals like nickel, stainless steel, tin, or silver in high-end copper cookware.
Why must copper pans be coated?
Copper can react with alkaline substances or acidic foods like tomatoes. It can also be released into food when overheated during cooking or when left on the heat too long without oil or liquid to dissipate the heat.
This not so much of a problem in small quantities. Copper in trace elements is essential to a healthy body and is found in foods like seafood, kale, nuts and mushrooms. However, in large amounts, copper salts (verdigris) can make you very ill with symptoms including nausea, diarrhea and vomiting.
If consumed in large amounts, or cumulatively over time, then you can also risk significant damage to your kidneys, liver and stomach, as well as run the risk of developing anemia. In fact, many countries have made it illegal to sell unlined copper pots and copper pans.
Is it safe to use copper pots and copper pans?
Even with these health concerns noted, the answer to this question is yes. Nearly all commercially sold copper cookware is lined. These thin linings of inert material also do not affect the thermal conductivity of copper.
Many high-quality stainless steel cooking sets actually have a copper core in the base to improve heat distribution across the pan or pot. So which inert material is best for lining copper cookware?
Tin lined copper cookware is common. It is easy to apply and easy to relined when it starts getting thin. Tin, however, is softer than stainless steel and is susceptible to wearing down considerably, especially if cleaned with harsh abrasives or chemicals.
It also has a lower melting point than many other linings, so it is essential to ensure there is oil or liquid in the pan when heating to keep the temperature low and disperse the energy created by the heat source.
If you have a high-quality set of copper cookware with tin lining, then there are some specialists who can reline your pots and pans as they develop as the tin wears thin, taking your cookware back to brand new.
Stainless steel lining is standard in most contemporary copper cookware today. It is easy to clean and is generally safe to use, as well as being much more durable than tin.
Tin melts at around 450°F while stainless steel has a melting point of over 2500°F making it considerably more durable. It can also stand up to more wear and tear, meaning less maintenance and cleaning time.
There is a downside to stainless, however. If the steel does separate from the copper, then your pot or pan is ruined and cannot be relined. You may get a dollar or two at the scrap metal yard. So care should still be taken.
If you want to go pro in your home kitchen, then silver-lined copper cookware is about as premium as you can get. Silver, like copper, is also a great conductor of heat, making them the perfect match for precision cooking.
The drawback for silver though is it requires considerable care when cooking and cleaning. Silver pans need to be hand-washed. Ensure it is with no abrasives, and they can be considerably more expensive than other types of copper cookware.
So you need to ask yourself if you wish to take the extra time to care for your expensive silver-lined cookware after each use. You may find something like stainless steel less time consuming for day to day use.
Is copper cookware worth the investment?
If you are really passionate about cooking, then yes! When cared for properly, copper cookware is a fantastic investment that will serve you well for many years.
As is often the case, you do get what you pay for. Still, a quality copper cookware set can be picked up for less than you may think.
So if you consider your home cooking as more of a hobby than a chore, no matter what type of copper cookware you decide on, you will guarantee yourself reliable, consistent cooking performance every time.
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