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Apr 20, 2006 09:48 PM

care of copper pans

  • i

I finally got some the other night and they are already completely tarnished and black after that first fry.
How do you all deal with this? If I decide to just let them be, won't that affect the flavors?
What is the home-based solution to cleaning them? I'm adverse to smelly expensive chemical cleaners.

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  1. It won't affect the flavor, but it is nasty looking and simple to take care of.
    Combine kosher salt with lemon juice and scrub gently...should clean right up.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Aaron

      Using the lemon juice and salt really works, and smells great too. You can also use ketchup ----it works as well and it's something I always have around.

    2. Ida, I must be missing something -- you say that the copper pans have become discolored with heat. Since there must be a lining of some other metal (stainless steel or tin are the usual), how does the exterior discoloration affect the food taste?

      I've used copper cookware for many years and yes, it does require maintenance, but discoloration has never been anything other than a cosmetic problem.

      Maybe I don't understand your problem ....... more info, please.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Sherri

        Well Sherrie, they are lined, I assume stainless steel? (It says Paul Revere in script on the bottom if that is a clue) the pans are very lightweight, so I wonder if that means they are lined with tin. They were shinny and new and looked beautiful just out of the box a few days ago.
        Now the inside has black streaks stuck in places (but the streaks are more like stains then stuck dried food particles) and the silverness is definitely dulled. The copper outside is just about black, but I'm going to try Arron's clean-up recipe now. Thank you!
        I'm just wondering if it's normal to have to scrub the life out of them like this, or do I have to be more careful with how I cook with them.

        1. re: Ida

          "they are lined, I assume stainless steel?"

          Your Revereware pan is not lined. You have a stainless steel pan with a copper coated bottom.

          Now the inside has black streaks stuck in places (but the streaks are more like stains then stuck dried food particles) and the silverness is definitely dulled.

          What did you cook ?, my mother has used Revereware all of my life and I have her old set that is ~40 years old at the cabin, and a set at home that is ~20 years old. We have not had problems such as yours.

          The copper outside is just about black,

          Well, the food is supposed to be inside the pan, If the outside is black you may be getting food on the outside of the pan. Your pan reminds me of the pans in the sink in the fraternity house in college.

          I'm just wondering if it's normal to have to scrub the life out of them like this, or do I have to be more careful with how I cook with them.

          What you have described is not normal, yes you have to be more careful with how you cook with them.

          I suspect your heat is too high, don't go above medium or maybe even med-low. You mentioned frying, there are better pans for frying, copper Revereware doesn't do well with high heat, if you use high heat, your frying pan will develop a "cup", you will warp the pan. If you want to saute, try using Pam and oil. If you have an electric stove, Revereware makes pots and pans for electric, they are not copper coated, they have an aluminum disk on the bottom.

      2. You didn't mention if your copper pots were tinned on the inside. If they are, you have to be extra careful about burning. It will melt the tin and ruin them.
        To clean the outside I use white vinegar and Kosher salt. It works to keep them spiffy, but I would use a commercial copper cleaner to get off the serious damage.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Fleur

          How can you tell the difference between tin and stainless steel? Like I said below, they are very thin and it says Paul Revere on the back. If they are tinned, then don't they eventually need re-tinning? Where and how do one do that? My guess is that they are stainless steel though, but what do I know.

          1. re: Ida Red

            I am pretty sure that Revere Ware has a stainless interior.All you really need be concerned about is cleaning up thge exterior.
            The heavy copper cookware has a tin interior. If you are careful not to overheat, they can last a very long time. Eventually they can be retinned.

        2. There seems to be a bit of confusion about what it is you actually have, but from your description and what I've been able to learn by Googling around the web, it appears to be a limited edition of solid, but thin, copper cookware put out by the Revere company, not the more common Revereware copper-bottom stainless steel. If it's the former it will have thin brass handles, the latter would have black bakelite plastic handles, and of course the copper would not extend fully up the sides. I'm assuming it's thin because you describe it as light in weight and also based on the prices it brings at places such as eBay. I have about 3 dozen pieces of French copper that range in size up to a large evasee (slope-sided pan) that I can barely lift - nobody would describe any of them as light. Commercial grade copper cookware varies from about 2.5 to 3.5 mm in thickness and I think yours are likely more on the order of 1 mm. They will still cook quite nicely, but they won't be as durable as the thicker lines.

          But, to get to your questions. Assuming I'm correct about what you have, the lining is stainless steel. If so, it should be smooth and even - a tin lining is applied by hand in a process that's something like painting and will have obvious wipe marks in it. You can also try scratching it with something - tin scratches more easily than stainless. Tin also stains, but stainless (hence the name) should not, so I don't know where the stains you describe are coming from.

          Copper is a very reactive metal that will always darken with each use, and with longer or higher heat cooking it will become very dark indeed. That's merely cosmetic, but part of the pleasure of owning copper, for me anyway, is its appearance, and old darkened copper is pretty unattractive. Any mixture of an acid (lemon juice, for example) and a salt (table salt is fine) will reverse the chemical reaction that causes the darkening. I've used that on my copper but find that it's really not able to restore that like-new shine so I use one of two commercial products that do a much better job - either Twinkle or Wrights, both commonly available in most supermarkets. I always hand-wash my copper and finsh with the cleaner (I prefer the Wrights) before rinsing and drying. I try to do it after each use, otherwise the staining thickens and gets a good bit more difficult to remove. Yes, it's a bit more work, but there's a great deal of pleasure to be had in owning and using fine things, even at the expense of extra work. Others may disagree, and I can understand that perspective as well.

          4 Replies
          1. re: FlyFish

            Thank you so much FLYfish and everyone else!
            What you googled is exactly what I have (I would have googled the same but my internet playtime is limited today)
            They do have the brass handles. So the thicker grade is more desireable for cooking than what I have? I wanted copper because I want something larger and lightweight and I am lacking non-reactive cookware in my kitchen,(I'm that cast iron fanatic from several weeks ago)
            Now I'm wondering what sort of cooking you all choose for copper. I think was it Alan? posted below that copper is not recommended for high heat cooking.
            Last night I made a delicious almond raspberry custard in the smaller pan, and it's looking a bit better now after the "acid" bath/scrub, although I tired out too soon for the other side.

            1. re: Ida Red

              "I think was it Alan? posted below that copper is not recommended for high heat cooking."

              No, it was Fleur. I thought you had the "basic" Revereware, but I did caution against high heat.

              I blame a roommate for ruining my copper pans. As Fleur posted, if your copper pans are tinned, high heat will melt the tinning off. There is a place in Southern Cal and one in NY that have been referenced on this site for retinning, they charge by the square inch, I don't remember the charge, but remember it being more than I paid for my pans.

              1. re: Ida Red

                The difference with the thicker grade copper is really more in the area of durability rather than cooking performance. Copper is such a good heat conductor that even thinner pans still distribute heat well, and they will also be somewhat more responsive to changes in heat, so can actually be better for some applications. I have a few of the thin ones with the brass handles (mine are from Italy) - sometimes referred to as "presentation" grade (vs. "hotel" grade for the thicker copper with cast-iron handles) and they really do cook beautifully. As I said in my earlier post, commercial grade copper is heavy - I'm a reasonably fit 190 lb. male and cannot lift my 12" sautoir by the handle with one hand, even empty, so they're not for everyone.

                The concerns about high heat with copper largely refer to tin-lined copper - your stainless-lined pans should be fine for most applications. When you want really, really high heat it's time for cast iron anyway. All of my copper is tin-lined and it's very easy to get a bit of melting if you're not paying attention because tin melts at around 450F (been there, done that). A quick overheating won't ruin the lining, it just makes it wrinkle a bit. I use my copper for everything that doesn't involve such high temps, which is pretty much everything in the kitchen except for some specialized stuff that I do outside because of the smoke (my kitchen has a commercial 1000 cfm hood, but Cajun blackening overwhelms even that).

                You really shouldn't have to use much if any elbow grease to keep the copper side of your pans looking nice - the Wrights cream that I like just wipes on and does most of the work. If I've had something, say, braising in the oven for hours the copper can really get dark and I might need to do a bit of rubbing, but not all that much.

                If you want to expand your knowledge of copper cookware generally, check out the link below to my friend Jamie Gibbons's retinning business in Newark. You'll probably appreciate your stainless linings even more if you look at what he charges for retinning!


                1. re: FlyFish

                  Thank you again Flyfish. I've had a good copper course in the last 24 hours. My pans are not ruined, they're just getting started. As long as I watch my heat.
                  Jamie of JC says the traditional chef's solution to cleaning up copper is a paste made of white vinegar, flour, salt, and egg whites. That was what I was trying to remember.

            2. I use CopperGlo on all of my pots and pans after each use, and they always look great.