Inherited Bronze Skillets - Amazingly unable to find any solid advice on care or cleaning, please help
Family friends from South African moved to Australia (from Canada) and left me behind with two absolutely beautiful cast bronze skillets. To pre-empt your question, I am 99.9% sure that it is indeed bronze, not iron or copper. They're bloody heavy, I'm a very large guy but I wouldn't want to hold the larger one in the air for any length of time, let alone above my shoulders. The general shine and design (two side lips, opposing bump for grip) is similar to the one shown here:
Except that mine have wooden handles that I've figured out how to remove (they're on a steel rod).
I have been cooking with these and have absolutely loved them, but I was starting to wonder whether things were sticking more over time. More importantly, they were loosing their shine and gaining discolourations. So I went looking and started to wonder about seasoning and cleaning. Especially since I suspect my friends inherited them and kept them as decorative pieces, so I'm not sure when they were last used.
What it comes down to is that there is absolutely nothing I can find about the proper care, cleaning or seasoning of cast bronze beyond one pitiful link (http://www.ehow.com/how_4663344_stain...) that doesn't even to be talking about the same kind of item. So, do they require seasoning? Will soap or soaking hurt (found conflicting accounts)? Should I use lemons/vinegar/salt/baking soda? All advice is welcome.
In summary, I'm at a loss, there seem to be no skillets like this on the Internet and few in the world, and I'm hoping that one of you has the answer.
Bronze will form patina and will discolor. I am always concern about bare copper cookware due to the possibility of copper poisoning, which is why most modern copper cookware have tin and stainless steel interior surface.
I'm wondering if you're not correct about the possibility that they were kept as decorative pieces, which their wooden handles may further indicate. I have never come across bronze cookware in my many years of cooking, just bronze handles on coper cookware. I think the fact that you can't find any info or skillets like them online is an indication of their possible limited use for cooking applications, although bronze, as it's mainly copper, is a good heat and electricity conductor. Possibly it's the weight issue, but it seems that solid bronze and solid copper are about the same weight, as with cast iron. Steel is stronger and holds a better edge than bronze, which is less brittle than iron, so that's why we don't have bronze or iron knives. Iron age, bronze age, modern steel age thing, remember history?
The closest I've seen for bronze cookware is "bronze-hued" exteriors on pans, not the same thing as solid bronze and not bronze at all. I've also seen bronze handles on high-end copper cookware and bronze flatware, which is quite beautiful. Bronze is used for hinges, door hardware, handles, bookends, faucets, statutes, tools, shipware, decorative stuff; apparently just not pots and pans. The bronze skillet in your link apprears to have a good percentage of copper in it, with a bronze handle. Are your skillets lined with anything like tin or just solid? I might be concerned about copper leaching, as Chem mentioned, if there's no lining in the skillets.
That said, the patina or discoloration on bronze (which is a copper and tin alloy, with added metals like aluminum and silicon) can be cleaned with baking soda and lemon juice, applied with a soft cloth as a paste to the wet pan, and allowed to remain on the piece for 20 minutes or so, then rinse and dry. You may have to repeat the process if discoloration or a greenish patina remain. Cleaning bronze can take time as the patina can be quite stubborn to remove. Occasional polishing is good, overpolishing will dull the finish over time. Besides, a patina is sometimes a thing of beauty.
I highly doubt that your pans would require seasoning.
I posted this in another location along with pictures ( http://imgur.com/4aRri&jVA7S and http://imgur.com/4aRri&jVA7Sl ) and another response suggested that perhaps they are nickel plating on copper or brass. the consensus seems to be no seasoning and any cleaning to be done with lemon/baking soda or vinegar/salt. But there have been a few suggestions that copper content should preclude their use at all, which I'm now wondering about.
Prolonged contact of any copper alloy with acidic foods or liquids (including milk) can leach the copper out of the alloy. Long-term exposure to low doses of copper can lead to cirrhosis.
If you want to continue to use the skillet, get it tinned, or try to get a layer of seasoning to stick to it.
Yes, as long as whatever you're putting in it isn't acidic, you're generally ok. In the case of egg whites, the copper acts as a sort of catalyst. However instead of a copper bowl for mixing egg whites, may I suggest a copper whisk instead? Or even both.
No need for bare copper for butter, though.
You definitely have a bronze pan. My boyfriend just brought one back from Ecuador for me and, after seaching the web, I could not find out how to season it either...it is brand new and is starting to get a few green pitting marks from sitting around & not being seasoned. He just called his brother to find out how to prepare it for cooking and was told to fill it halfway with milk and simmer--he did not specify how long!!--then clean--again not specified, but I'll clean with hot soapy water. Rub with oil--I will use olive oil like I do with my cast iron pans. Normally, with cast iron, you have to put the pan/pot in a hot oven so the oil permeates the metal, but I was not instructed to do this, so for now I will not and see what happens--I'll just wipe on a thin layer of oil on the pan after cleaning with each use for awhile.
The pot I have (not a pan) is used for rice and is to make 'cocolón', a plain rice with a crispy layer at the bottom (made by cooking the rice the regular way, and when done, raising the heat & adding some oil to the pot).
Hope the seasoning works! I dying to use this cookware....