Copper Dilemma - How Thin Can You Really Go?
I've been researching some copper cookware. I've read that the copper should be at least 2.5 mm thick to be considered "worth" it. I've seen a paella pan (16 inch diameter) in Williams-Sonoma by Mauviel. The WS website claims the piece has 2mm copper. In doing more research, I've discovered that this particular line of Mauviel is anywhere from 1.2mm to 2mm thick. They don't specify ANYWHERE what the thicknesses of each individual piece are. I've called Mauviel USA and annoyed their customer relations woman until she looked it up and found the same information I did (she was actually extremely nice about it ). So, basically, I don't know the thickness of this pan (neither does anyone else, it seems). What I like about it is that it has a very large surface area (13 1/2 inches!). I thought it would make a great fry pan. So, let's say, worst case scenario, it is only 1.2 mm (I'm guessing that it actually might be 1.6mm). How much of a difference would I notice cooking in this pan versus a 2.5mm thick one? (The reason I am interested in it at all is that I have not seen 2.5mm copper pans larger than 11 inches in diameter).
anything that is a whole lot wider than the heat source, even thick copper, will pose the problem of the stuff at the center cooking faster than the perimeter. The only things I have found that help are wait for the WHOLE pan to get up to heat before you start and move things around as they cook so that they all get some center time. Copper of any thickness seems to get up to heat all over the quickest, an obvious nod to its conductivity. In my experience being thick is going to help hold the heat once the food hits, so in that respect thickness is important. My guess, not having done an A/B test, is that for the applications of which you are speaking, the thin copper paella pan will be ok but not great if it is a whole lot wider than your heat source. Even if you could find a thick (2.5mm) very large (14" range) copper frypan, unless you have a very broad burner I am betting you will have the same problems. maybe lessened, between center and perimeter. Personally, as much as I love copper and have been willing to spend irrationally for it, I am very happy with the way my big French steel pan cooks chicken and considering the price differential I submit that it was worth the risk to try it. (BTW, my CM cookie sheet makes a fine lid for it, melting that cheese on saltimbocca!) It would also be fine for starting a fish or roast on the stove and then moving to the oven. One option that occurs to me if you are talking about a REALLY big pan is a roasting pan. Remember I admitted I was irrational! I have a big Mauviel copper roasting pan that is so large it straddles two burners and so heavy it is unwieldy, but it is exceptional for making gravy and would probably be a good way to cook a zillion pieces of chicken at once.
re: tim irvine
After I read this post, I looked at a deBuyer pan. Very interesting piece of cookware. I noticed it was made out of the same material as woks. I'm not sure if it would serve my needs, though, especially since it's heavy and requires seasoning much like my cast iron skillet. The roasting pan is beautiful but also very heavy. Although big enough, two things come to mind when using it for frying. The sides might be too high to allow for enough evaporation (needed when frying breaded things) and also I might burn my hands on them when turning the food.
The really really nice Mauviel lady called me back! The pan (Mauviel M'heritage 6537.40) is 2mm!! Woo hoo! Happy Day! Just in case anyone wants information on the oval roaster they carry (Mauviel M'heritage 6524.45) that one is also 2mm. It took a lot of time and effort for me to get this information (she had to email France, sheesh) so I just thought I'd share. I'm fantasizing about all the possibilities already . . .
I have an older Mauviel oval skillet that I'd say was in the 1.5 range and a "brand I have never heard of elsewhere" casserole (Jean Matillon) that is probably about that thickness, too. Both are good performers, but my heavier pieces are a saute pan and saucepans. So it is very hard to compare them since they do very different things. What I love about them all is not just how evenly they heat but how quickly they respond to changes in flame, especially when I turn it way down, even the thinner ones. My double boiler is rarely used as a result. I have been using all of the thicknesses from the lighter to the very heavy for many years and frankly I do not notice that much difference in how quickly or evenly they heat. The biggest difference is that I NEVER touch the brass handles which seem to be on all of the thinner pans. I have collected and used copper for a long time, and I have to say that it is at its best on low heat things. For frying I will turn to my cast iron skillet or the big (14") DeBuyer French steel frypan. I have a 12" thinner copper fry pan I picked up long ago at Fante's. The DeBuyer has put it out of business on large frying jobs. It is very heavy and does not suffer from that initial drop off in heat when your food hits the pan. The thin copper one does.
On the subject of paella, within limits hot spots are okay for making that nice crisp stuff at the bottom. (Isn't it called soccorat or something like that?) I picked up a cheap, thin steel one (16" at SLT) and love it.
re: tim irvine
Thank you so much for all the information. I do turn to my cast iron skillet for fry jobs but find that the unevenness of the temperature makes the foods in the center cook way faster than the ones in the outer edges (for small things like chicken cutlets). Then after I've flipped and taken the center ones out, I have to move the outer ones in so that they can catch up. All the while, waiting for the second batch to go in (I often cook many portions - small pans are just not for me). I don't think anything in the world would beat my cast iron for putting a nice crust on a steak or chop, though - but those are larger foods to begin with. I have never made paella, nor intend to. I just thought this pan could be the answer to big batches of chicken cutlets (which I cook over a medium flame no matter what the pan) or maybe even a whole fish (started on the stove and ended in the oven). Would the thinner copper matter in these cases?
I ran across this and I don't know if this is going to be helpful, but it ain't going to hurt. Here you can look at the cookware by their copper thickness. There are the 2.0mm Cookware, the 2.5mm, the 1.6mm
In term of thickness, you will notice the biggest difference in fast high heat cooking and that makes sense. At low flame/heat, the cookware will have enough time to distribute the heat across the pan. At very high heat, then you may start to notice heat spots. That also depends how you cook your foods too. If you are going to constantly stir and flip your foods like some people do for small items saute or stir fry, then it matters less. It also matters less if you are cooking thin texture soup or sauce because these liquids move on their on.
However, if you cook your large item foods with minimal touching or if you are making very delicate thick texture sauce, then an even heating (thicker) copper help. Best.
The paella pan is from their M'Heritage line. It has bronze handles. As per their website "Pans with bronze handles are 1.2 to 2mm thick copper." I haven't been able to find any other information than this (neither could the customer relations dept at Mauviel USA - she said she would email them in France). The WS website says 2mm, but I'm a little suspicious. So, what you're saying is that you wouldn't use this for frying, say, a large batch of chicken cutlets, but sauteeing veggies should be ok? (I don't make paellas at all - I was just excited to see such a large copper pan that could be used as a fry/saute pan). I'm just wondering if the copper would be too thin (not conductive enough) for such a large diameter pan.
Oh, and here's a link to the pan,
:) Now if you buy it from WS and if turns out to be thinner, then you can always return it. Seriously, ask WS consumer service and if they say it is 2mm and you later find out it is not, you can return it. Save the emails for record.
Actually, I use a cast iron skillet which has very bad heat conduction in comparison. I think you can fry anything as long as you can move/check your food. You would want to do it anyway, just to check if the underside is cooked correctly. Practically, I think the only time it really makes a huge difference is when you are cooking a delicate fish fillet, which obviously cannot be moved around a lot, or when you are making a delicate thick sauce which can easily burned.
I think some of the arguments are really:
1) Copper is a great heat conductor, better than even aluminum.
2) However, copper is expensive,
3) so there is no reason to spend a lot of money on a thin copper cookware, when a cheaper and slightly thicker aluminum based cookware can do the same.
I don't think 1.6mm copper cookware will perform poorly. You may just not get your money worth, that's all.
*Edit* here amazon also states it is 2.0mm, by amazon can be wrong: