Copper cookware has a striking visual appeal that seems to automatically suggest the cook using it is a highly skilled one that routinely turns out gourmet-level dishes. It is also one of the most durable and efficient cooking materials available. Older generations used it to make everything from porridge to perfect pastry, but, in recent years, it has been replaced by stainless steel and non-stick aluminum options.
Nowadays, copper pots seem to be a niche product reserved for people who have a large budget for stylish, high-end kitchen equipment. But a good set of copper cookware can bring far more value to the table than visual eye candy. Read on to learn whether the benefits of copper cookware warrant making space for some in your family kitchen.
Why Do Professional Chefs Use Copper Cookware?
Culinary masterpieces require pure and even heat distribution, so it is critical that a chef has the ability to control the heat during the cooking process.
Many chefs will cook on gas stoves because they can exercise absolute and precise control over the heat distribution. But, to match that, they need equally responsive cookware. One of the significant benefits of copper cookware is that it delivers that responsiveness in bucket loads.
As a metal, copper has superior conductivity, and this is why it is used in electrical cables in your home. This inherent ability to conduct makes it ideally suited for precision cooking, and this creates a level of reliability and trust in the metal unlike any other.
Cast iron will retain heat very well but is not nearly as responsive as copper. Copper cookware will heat up and cool down as the heat is raised or lowered while cooking. So if you need to sear a salmon quick or shut off the heat to avoid burning a sauce, then copper cookware is the way to go.
A good copper cookware set offers the aspiring and professional chef an energy-efficient experience with little risk of scorching, so foods can be prepared to perfection using less fuel, whether gas or electricity.
A Word On The Lining Of Copper Cookware
Copper cookware without a lining can leak copper into your food. It will react with other chemicals under heat – particularly acidic foods. This can lead to copper ingestion which, in high quantities, can lead to digestive issues and nausea.
Most copper cookware is lined either with tin or stainless steel for safety, and these linings add to the excellent conductivity and longevity of the cookware. Tin does not react with anything cooked in it, and it also has superb non-stick properties.
From fish to eggs and pancakes, tin-lined copper cooking is exceptionally versatile, and if you are beyond frustrated having to deal with food that sticks, this is a solution that will leave you with some hair after you’ve finished cooking.
The small disadvantage of tin is that it has a melting point of around 450F and should not be left on heat unattended and empty.
Stainless steel is the other material commonly used for lining copper cookware, and this is a very durable and conductive metal. It is tough and will withstand much higher temperatures than tin, but its only real drawback is that food LOVES stainless steel and will stick to it.
Benefits of Copper Cookware No. 1: Efficient Cooking
In an age where time and energy efficiency are increasingly sought in all arenas, cooking is no different. The excellent conductive properties of copper, as discussed above, elevate copper cookware above all others.
When using cookware made from cast iron, stainless, aluminum, or ceramics, the amount of energy needed to achieve the proper heat will take longer than copper. Copper conducts heat up to five times more efficiently than iron and TWENTY times faster than stainless steel.
One of the main factors to consider when looking at copper cookware is the thickness of the base and the metal. As a general rule, to truly capture the benefits of copper cookware, the thickness should be between 2.5mm and 3mm.
Any thicker than this and you will lose the heat conductivity. Thinner than this and it becomes more of a decoration than a functional piece of cookware.
Whether at home or in a professional environment, the impact of energy-saving when cooking is a considerable one, and when you think that copper can use up to five times less energy to achieve the same heat levels as cast iron or other cookware, it’s no wonder why so many people elect to invest in copper cookware.
If you are energy-conscious and looking to reduce your carbon footprint, investing in copper cookware will save you energy and time, which is a win-win scenario.
Benefits of Copper Cookware No. 2: Easy Clean-Up
Cleaning copper cookware is easy as the non-stick properties of the linings make wiping away food and residue quite effortless. Remember that stainless steel linings would require more effort to clean than tin.
Because copper is a unique metal in the world of cookware, you need a bit more than just conventional dish soap to get it to shine. You want to bring out that incredible color in your copper when you clean it and show it off to the world.
Copper cookware is not dishwasher safe and while the prospect of having to handwash your copper cookware may not appeal to you, remember that if you bought an expensive sports car, you would probably wash it by hand too!
Copper cookware is the Ferrari of cookware, so hand washing and care will preserve its value and performance.
In general, the benefits of copper cookware include that it’s much easier to clean than stainless steel, aluminum, and cast iron. This is yet another reason it is often found in top-rated restaurants and kitchens around the world.
Here are six easy steps to bring out that gorgeous shine when cleaning your copper cookware.
- Put your copper pan or pot in the sink and then coat it with salt.
- Add white vinegar to the pan or pot, and then add more salt.
- Leave the pot or pan alone for about 15 seconds or so.
- Add some white vinegar to a sponge and start scrubbing.
- Add more salt to the outside of the pan, scrub it some more.
- Rinse it off and see the transformation!
Using acids like vinegar or lemon juice will bring out the beauty in your copper cookware, and there is no other metal that emanates that gorgeous copper honey color! Rinse your copper under warm water, and then let it dry completely.
While many people may find cleaning their cookware more a chore than a pleasure, having your copper pots and pans sparkle is the sign of a job well done!
Some Other Unusual Ways To Shine Your Copper Cookware
Due to its chemical properties, copper can be cleaned with everyday items you’d have in your homes like baking soda, lemon, salt, and even beer.
- Beer – Yes, beer! Using beer on your copper cookware is another excellent way to restore shine in cookware. The acidity in the beer has the same effect as lemon juice and other similar products. Just pour a little beer on the pan or pot, let it sit for a bit, and then wipe it clean!
- Ketchup – Besides going great with fries, ketchup’s acidity can help you significantly improve the appearance of your copper cookware. Add some to a cloth and then gently buff and polish your pot or pan.
- Baking soda – This is another good option to keep copper cookware clean and shining. Use a little on a cloth or add to the pot or pan and then buffed.
- Lemon and Salt – It seems that while this combination is usually reserved for tequila, the acidity and coarseness of salt make a great combination to clean your copper. Add salt to the lemon and then rub the lemon over the metal.
- Lemon/Salt paste – This is very useful to remove tough stains. Squeeze some lemon juice into a bowl and add salt. The paste formed is an excellent cleaner to remove difficult stains with ease.
Benefits of Copper Cookware No. 3: Durability
Copper itself is very durable; this is why it has been used for cookware for the last 9000 years. It is not as tough as stainless steel or cast iron, however, and thinner copper can pick up a few dents along the way.
But these can be hammered out using only your fist with no need for heavy-duty tools. Because of this, you need to use suitable materials for your cooking implements. Wood and plastic are best as they won’t scratch the copper or the lining.
Using steel on your copper cookware is not recommended, and neither are steel scourers or wool when cleaning.
Cleaned and treated correctly, your copper cookware will last a very long time, and while tin-lined pots and pans may require replacing the lining over time, the cookware itself could quickly find its way through a few generations.
Health Benefits Of Copper Cookware
Copper is renowned for its anti-bacterial properties. Many door handles and other hospital fittings are made from copper, so unlike other cookware, your copper range keeps you safe from potential bacterial infections.
In a 2012 study done at The University of Arizona Department of Veterinary Science and Microbiology and published in the Journal of Food Microbiology, Copper was shown to destroy harmful bacteria like Salmonella, while stainless steel showed no anti-microbial properties at all.
For the professional chef or home cook, one of the benefits of copper cookware is that it’s unlikely that guests would be at risk from food poisoning during cooking or in storage. This is a great comfort for anyone concerned about this risk.
Does Copper Cookware Improve the Taste of Food?
As discussed earlier, copper has superb conductivity, and as such, foods cooked using copper cookware often taste better as the subtle flavors in food can be brought out and experienced.
This is because the optimum heat for any food can be achieved quickly and accurately and without scorching or having too much or too little heat; this will enhance the taste and flavor of your food.
The ability of chefs to masterfully control temperature and have the reactivity to heat that copper offers is one of the reasons that they prefer copper when cooking, as it elevates their ability to produce culinary delights that overflow with a depth of flavor.
Which Appliances Support Cooking With Copper Cookware
Off the bat, copper is not suitable for induction cookers and is far better off on the gas, normal electric stovetops, and ovens, and some copper can be used in ovens. Remember that the lining of your copper cookware will determine the maximum temperatures it can withstand.
If your lining is stainless steel, then the cookware can deal with high oven temps, but if the lining is tin, the 450F is maximum, so always know what the limits of your lining are.
Why Copper Doesn’t Work With Induction Cookers
The reason that copper is not suited to induction cooking is that it does not have ferromagnetic properties. Induction cookers use an electromagnetic field to create heat through friction at a molecular level.
If the copper pan is not clad with a magnetic material, this process cannot happen. So a stainless steel pan with a copper core would be fine. To check if your copper cookware is induction compatible, take a fridge magnet and hold it to the base; if it sticks, then you can use your cookware on an induction cooker.
The other aspect of induction cooking is that you need a perfectly flat base, and copper cookware bases can often be slightly uneven.
When Is The Best Time To Use Copper Cookware?
The answer to that is every time! One of the great benefits of copper cookware is its versatility. Unless you want to do something specific like sear a steak, then cast iron may be better for that. Still, otherwise, copper cookware is designed for everyday use, whether professionally or personally.
Another great time to use your copper cookware is for entertaining as the color and shine are captivating and will bring your guest crowding into the kitchen to see these beautiful pots and pans in action.
The Bottom Line
You’ll find numerous benefits of copper cookware for almost any kitchen. It offers excellent all-round heating, excellent corrosion resistance; it’s also super responsive to heat changes when cooking, which is why professional chefs use it. It’s also easy to clean, has a great cooking weight, and is beautiful to behold!
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