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Apr 17, 2010 03:16 PM

Does this sound safe to cook in? And... if so, what is my next step??

I've just brought home a very old large copper pan with tin lining that doesn't appear to have been used for many years. There is only one small line of copper visible, so I think we're OK there (for now- I'll have it re-tinned when needed). So my questions are all about the interior of the pan only.

I have thoroughly hand-washed the interior with liquid dish soap & water a few times, so it seems clean. Is my next step to boil some water in it? Or...?

Also, I noticed that as I wet the tin lining, some spots darkened, as if they were porous. This concerns me a bit, as my other tin lined pan does not do this. Could this be from some "incorrect" cleaning method by a previous owner? Is it safe to cook in or is there something I can do to remedy this? Or is this normal for aged tin and perfectly fine? (my other pan's lining is fairly new)

Any input is greatly appreciated. I'm hoping to use it tonight, but I'd also like to wake up tomorrow feeling well!

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  1. Dost,

    Maybe it is porous or maybe the tin surface has a lot of scratches, so the light reflect looks different when it is dry vs when it is wet. Most healthy adults can handle some level of copper, so if you don't have a genetic defect you should be fine. However, babies have a lower tolerance. I know this almost sound obvious to say, but you may not want to make baby food out of that thing.

    Aside from that you are fine. Also, copper poisoning, unlike lead poisoning, tends to be acute and not chronic, so you will know before tomorrow morning :)

    1 Reply
    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

      Thank you. To be honest, I'm not too worried about the copper... I guess I'm wondering if it could be some other type of metal... It's an old french pan, so I can't imagine anything other than tin... but still a bit concerned...... Maybe I will post a photo .... Be back in a few minutes...

    2. Chemical, some of my tinned pots have developed some blotchy looking areas too and have not yet killed me. Jamie, with Atlantic, does impeccable tinning that seems to hold up better than anyone else's but dealing with him took FFE. The lesson I learned was whenever you send a pot out for re-tinning, send only one and have a backup. I have a gratin that never had a decent tin lining, but the only things I cook in it are pretty much non-reactive. (It gets 90% of its use in cherry season turning out clafouti.

      I have used pans for things that were reactive, like sauces with a little wine, even though a hint of copper showed through. I just didn't let it sit long. I am here to say it worked. Phew!

      If you use tinned cookware a lot invest in a few of those French wooden spatulas and a silicone whisk. I have a few tinned pans that have been spared abuse and done fine for 35 years without needing to be re-tinned. I have two that are steel lined, and although heat transfer properties work just as well, at least to my senses, the way steel sticks is aggravating. A little oil and a little butter and my tin lined pots cook as if they were non-stick yet can still develop fond. Wow.

      2 Replies
      1. re: tim irvine

        OK Here are some int pics: 2 photos dry, 2 photos wet. This is all amusing and silly, but need to do it for my peace of mind.

        Tim, thanks for the recs on utensils. I have another copper pan, so I'm stocked with wood & silicone. What's your opinion on the plastic/nylon and bamboo implements?


        1. re: dost

          neat pan...personally, I'd probably cook in it if what I was making wasn't acidic and was not going to be in it long, but that sure isn't a guarantee! The darker patches look like some I have in some of my pans, but there is one that looks more brownish-reddish which, to me, would indicate either a good bit of copper showing through or presence of iron (weird in a supposedly tin-washed pan). It is a REALLY neat looking pan from those limited top shots...sort of a large fait tout?

          I am not a fan of plastic anything and have not tried much bamboo. Since I SLT only charges about a dollar and a half for the French spatulas, I usually have a couple of them on hand and they seem very versatile. The few plastic items I have tried seemed to pick up melt marks easily, meaning something people were not intended to eat was probably ending up in what I was cooking. I also hear various vague concerns about the glues used to piece together many bamboo products, much like the concerns about cast iron from China.

          When I can find them my favorite wood utensils are olive wood.