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Oct 13, 2010 10:24 AM

Copper pots better? why?

Yes, they are beautiful to look at...makes you look like you are a serious cook but other than that, what's the real benefit of having good copper pots and pans? Do they brown food better? i know it is suppose to conduct heat better but so what. Do serious cooks really use copper pots?
They are also so expensive!

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  1. I seriously doubt it brown foo better since you won't be using the copper surface as a cooking surface (copper is toxic). It is all about heat conductivity. All I can say is that some people swear by copper cookware due to the better thermal conductivity.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

      Just for the record, You CAN cook in unlined copper pans as long as you observe a few caveats. The copper must be scrubbed and polished to perfection immediately before cooking in it, and you must only do low acid fast cooking foods, then immediately remove them when cooked. I've done it. I'm here to tell the tale. You CANNOT do the same with unlined bronze! And unlined copper bowls for whipping egg whites are a premium choice of upscale chefs. The whites beat up in great volume without adding cream of tarter.

      As for Monica's questions, tinned copper pots are a very old tradition with excellent performance records. Before the days of aluminum, tinned copper had the advantage of being comparatively lighter than cast iron pots, and more importantly, unlike cast iron or carbon steel pots, tinned copper is rust free. In today's world, copper pots and pans are something of a status symbol, thanks to all of the multi-plied cookware that has heat conductivity close to copper.

      I recently bought a set of induction friendly multi-plied stainless steel in anticipation of going induction, and while they do cook well, when compared to my copper they just look so... so.... well, STERILE! I do very much want to upgrade to induction, but now that copper friendly induction cook tops are on the horizon, I'm undecided on whether to wait or go for it now and use the sterile looking ss. <sigh> Decisions, decisions!

      1. re: Caroline1

        I have to tell you that my copper pans rival my cast iron in weight, and may actually be heavier than cast iron or enameled cast iron in some pieces. Good quality copper is very heavy stuff. What you get with copper is extremely even heating on the bottom due to its great thermal conductivity, which means no hot spots like you find with other pans. If you have ever browned a few chicken breasts in a copper pan, you will see that they tend to brown all at about the same time, whereas even in a cast iron pan, you will have to keep flipping them around in order to brown evenly.

        Copper can heat up quickly, and most importantly -- cool down quickly. It cannot be put in the dishwasher, and all varieties, whether tin lined or stainless steel lined with either brass or cast iron handles -- get HOT. You cannot touch the lids or handles without a potholder or mitt versus the stainless steel lines. It is like cast iron in that sense.

      2. re: Chemicalkinetics

        cooking on copper is not toxic to humans. it is toxic to bacteria.

      3. You're going to get a lot of divergent answers here. If you're not cooking on induction, copper is definitely the most energy efficient and most even heat (except for silver). Yes, it browns nicely, although you should avoid searing in it. As for expense, yes, it's expensive new; quite affordable used. If you buy it once and never replace it, it is a great value (as someone here has commented, "You're not rich enough to buy cheap stuff."

        As to serious cooks using it, yes they do. "Copper is the best cooking equipment you can have," according to Henri Boubee, the former executive chef of Windows on the World restaurant in NY, and corporate executive chef for Ritz-Carlton hotels. "It heats uniformly, holds the heat best, and cooks the quickest." His opinion is shared by numerous cooks. I believe professional chefs who choose other materials do so because of unfamiliarity and the costs of care, cleaning and maintenance.

        6 Replies
        1. re: kaleokahu

          kaleokahu I've been following your writings. I have some questions about copper pots.
          Will you help me?

          1. re: Camote

            I'd be glad to, but you auto reply is annoying.

          2. re: kaleokahu

            "Avoid searing"? Huh? So how do I brown chicken, eg? Plus, I've heard that pre-heating SS pans "closes up the pores," which may or not be true; I do like to have the oil hot so that a) it can ake more than one chicken thigh, eg, to bring the heat down, and will "quick fry" the outer skin before it has time to get soggy; b) so soft vegetables don't soak up the oil (low heat), but cook quickly in it ; and c) for quick crisping of fish.

            Wassup widdat?


            1. re: rbraham

              Hi, Rob:

              I use 'sear' differently than you, I guess. For me, it's the kind of pan heat (and preheat) that makes oil smoke. If I'm reading you right, you use the term for lower heat, perhaps only sufficient to create a Maillard reaction. Many refined vegetable oils' smoke points flirt with the melting point of tin, 437F, and at least 15 common oils exceed it. So if you use 'sear' the way I do, you must be careful beyond just not heating the tinned pan empty.

              But to answer your question, thankfully Maillard reactions can and do happen well before the temperature reaches the red zone, most notably (depending on water content, water activity and alkilinity) a scosh north of 300F--well within copper's comfort zone. Consider, too, that most deep frying also occurs safely within that zone; only with the highest smoke- oils (and without a thermometer) would anyone be taking risks with their tin.

              I have not had my IR thermometer long enough to claim to know well the temperature differentials between the well-oiled bottom of a saute or poele and the dry walls. I theorize that it would be possible to hover the oil pool just below 437F and *still* degrade the tin on the walls. Interestingly, my thrice-tortured saucepan only showed evidence of tin melting at the very edge (and only at the tiny 3mm *horizontal* surface).

              So I think you're safe in counting on crispy chicken, fish and veggies.


              1. re: kaleokahu


                I'll reply in more detail later.

                Just want to say I almost always use a 50-50 of canola (or something neutral with similarly high smoke point) with clarified butter (as you know, much higher smoke point)

                Also, isn't this all moot since I'm going with SS lining...?


                1. re: rbraham

                  Hi, Rob:

                  Yes, semi-moot point--I forgot you're going with bimetal.

                  I would still be uncomfortable getting an empty bimetal pan screaming hot before putting in your fat. Might not ruin the pan all at once, but the coeffs of expansion are different enough that it can't be good long-term.


          3. I've never used copper, so I am probably not the one to comment, but I have to imagine there is a point of diminishing returns in cookware. I know that I can perform any task needing evenness of heat or heat response in my stainless-aluminum-stainless triply. I have All Clad, and after having it, while I think it is terrific and glad I have it, I am sure that similar performance can be had for less of a cost. It is a fact that copper has better conduction, but when I perform a task correctly in my cookware, I get the desired result...
            Also, if you are buying now for a lifetime of use, I would think about its induction compatibility issues (I don't believe it works on any induction ranges). Might seem like a long way away, but some really expensive heirloom cookware that is passed by technology would be a shame. All good quality cookware, regardless of copper/steel/aluminum/cast iron construction should last a lifetime anyways - I know people that still have perfect condition All Clad they got in the 70's. I have a piece of Le Creuset my parents got as a wedding present 25 years ago in perfect condition.

            20 Replies
            1. re: dcole

              dcole: "I've never used copper..." Then you should try it. You will probably like it.

              "...diminishing returns." Yes, your imagination is absolutely right about that. However, the same can generally be said about many things, even your Allclad compared with 1950s Revereware. The core issue is: what are the margins, and are they significant to you? For me, there is no question WHETHER copper is advantageous over clad by a margin in many shapes of cookware, it is more a question of what that margin is, and how it applies over different kinds of cooking.

              Re: Induction and technology leaving copper behind... I submit that you unintentionally have it backwards: In actuality, technologies in induction appliances and materials science are CATCHING UP to copper. Three instances: (1) It was announced just a day or two ago in another thread here that Panasonic is now starting sales of a new high-frequency induction range they claim IS compatible with copper (See, --specifics given were few). Also, (2) de Buyer is now selling a line of magnetic-bottomed 2mm copper pans they claim will work with even "old" induction appliances. It is called Prima Matera and is new this year. See, Finally, (3) there are induction converter discs that can be used with heirloom-quality tinned copper; the tradeoff in energy efficiencies has yet to be decided. See,

              "All good quality cookware...should last a lifetime..." Yes (if you omit "non-stick"), until you're sold on something better. What passes for "better" these days generally means multi-clad, and what the manufacturers want you to believe this means is something like: "more closely approximates cooking in copper". But why approximate? The real reasons have little to do with cooking, and more to do with other factors, such as price, aversion to hand washing, dislike of non-metal utensils, or induction fandom (and its constellation of claimed benefits, including smooth cooktop, cool cooktop, "green-ness", responsiveness, technophillia, etc.).

              1. re: kaleokahu

                The tin lining of copper needs renewing, which may require shipping the pots off to a specialist in NY or elsewhere.

                I bought a 3qt copper sauce pan for a reduced price at TJMaxx. It is pretty, and quite heavy (comparable to cast iron of the same thickness). But the better conductivity does not shine in most sauce pan applications. I don't regret buying it, but I'm in no rush to get another.

                1. re: paulj

                  paulj; "...renewing..." Yes, either after serious misuse or a decade or more of proper use, copperware may need retinning. While not inexpensive (unless you DIY), it is pretty simple, not unlike soldering a piece of copper pipe.

                  "...better conductivity does not shine in most sauce pan applications." I do not understand; would you please explain what you mean by that?

                  1. re: kaleokahu

                    Usually I use a sauce pan to cook items in varying amounts of water, whether its a little for some vegetables, a lot for potatoes, or making some sort of porridge. As long as I'm not negligent in stirring the contents, there's little difference whether I use this pot, or a nonstick aluminum of the same size, or stainless steel. Initial boiling time might be better, but 30 seconds one way or the other isn't significant.

                    Copper has a faster response time, but I'm constrained more by the slow response of the electric coils. I might notice the response time more if I used it on the butane hotplate, but I mostly use butane for clay pots, which are at the other end of the response spectrum.

                    For fast response and even heating my tool of choice is an induction-ready cast aluminum frying pan on the induction hotplate.

                    1. re: paulj

                      So you do not make sauces and reductions in saucepans?

                      1. re: kaleokahu

                        Sometimes, though I prefer a shallower pan with more rounded corners, since it is easier to cover all surfaces with a spatula. While even heat is nice, quick response is not critical. If I need to lift the pan off the burner to quickly reduce heat, a lighter pan is nicer than the heavy copper.. Also I usually make a cup or two of sauce, so don't need the full depth of a 2-3 qt sauce pan. The full depth is more useful when steaming vegetables.

                        1. re: paulj

                          OK, I get it. It's not the copper per se, it's the shape, utensils and weight. That's perfectly valid.

                        2. re: kaleokahu

                          Come to think of it, the last time I used the copper sauce pan was a reduction of sorts - candied almonds (Spanish almendras garapinadas). Roughly equal parts of water, sugar, and almonds, cooked on high until the water evaporates, and the sugar crystallizes on the almonds.

                          But I haven't done this sort of thing often enough to say whether copper was any advantage. My parents used to make the same thing, but with add cocoa and peanuts. They used a deep iron skillet (chicken fryer).

                          1. re: paulj

                            Wow, that sounds tasty. That application is actually one that does not require good tinning--the best confectioners' pots are commonly unlined copper.

                  2. re: kaleokahu

                    kaleokahu: "(1) It was announced just a day or two ago in another thread here that Panasonic is now starting sales of a new high-frequency induction range they claim IS compatible with copper."

                    I predict an early death for the technology. More expensive induction units that will work with copper are the cooking equivalent of four wheel steering. in which Nissan, Honda, and Mazda dabbled a decade or two ago. All three makers offered serious production models with well-implemented four wheel steering. Four wheel steering was and is a GREAT idea, but the marginal benefit it offers simply failed to meet the cost/benefit test of actual purchasers.

                    "(2) de Buyer is now selling a line of magnetic-bottomed 2mm copper pans they claim will work with even "old" induction appliances."

                    Chantal got there first with its Copper Fusion line. If I were buying all-new cookware from scratch, I would invest heavily in Chantal Copper Fusion. But Chantal Copper Fusion has failed to gain any traction on the Chowhound Cookware forum.

                    1. re: Politeness

                      Mine was a response to one by dcole observing that copper will not work with induction. This is no longer true, and my point is valid.

                      Good for Chantal, garlands for you for pointing that out, and for them for actually doing something. Whoever won the race, technology is not outdating copper, but rather catching up.

                      1. re: Politeness

                        I haven't found much positive about Chantal Copper Fusion. Half the positive reviews I have read sound more like a sales pitch/advertisement for the stuff than a review. IMHO.

                        1. re: kramark

                          Kramark: Nor will you, unless you listen to Politeness. Which you should. S/he is the final authority. On everything.

                          1. re: kramark

                            Last week we bought a Chantal Copper Core 5 qt stock pot to cook pasta for two on our portable induction hob. It was $99 from Amazon.

                            I spent a fair amount of time "researching" stock pots. Working on induction was a deal-breaker. Beyond that, several things about the CCC appealed to me: made in Germany; non-stick interior; glass lid; nice handle shape & size; solid red exterior (as opposed to LC's shading which I hate); much lighter than my beloved cast iron Staub; much cheaper than the All-Clad copper core pentola I really wanted.

                            We've used it only once, to cook gnocchi. I'm not sure how to review a pot used to boil water, but we like it so far.

                            1. re: KansasKate

                              KK: Congratulations on your new purchase. If you will also be using this stocker for any one-pot dishes that involve browning, keep us informed of how nonstick the lining stays, will you?

                              Am I remembering right that you are remodeling your kitchen?

                              1. re: kaleokahu

                                Since we have a Staub cocotte and a crock pot, we probably won't be doing much one-pot cooking in the stock pot. But if we use it, I'll let you know.

                                For use on the portable induction hob and the convection toaster oven, we've bought small(ish) pieces of Staub, LC, Emile Henry, ScanPan CTX, Chantal copper core, WS gold bakeware. Yesterday I ordered All-Clad copper core and Silit. Next on the list is de Buyer copper for induction. Maybe one of these days I'll find the time to review them all.

                                Yes, you remember correctly, though we're restoring the whole house (an 1884 Victorian), not just the kitchen. And as if that weren't enough, we're updating the kitchen in my mother's house before putting it on the market. We're either crazy or... crazy. :-)

                                1. re: KansasKate

                                  KK: Wow, that's quite the diverse collection! If you have the time, I'd be interested in the sizes of each, and of course your reviews.

                                  Also, if you ever see published numbers for the thicknesses of the Chantal's steel-copper-steel layers, I'd like to know.

                        2. re: kaleokahu

                          "It was announced just a day or two ago in another thread here that Panasonic is now starting sales of a new high-frequency induction range they claim IS compatible with copper" ............kaleokahu

                          Just to clarify, Japanese development of induction technology that will excite copper and aluminum isn't "brand new." It's been known for a while now, and Panasonic's copper/aluminum exciting cook tops have been available on the Japanese market for more than a week or so now... And I'm not positive, but I don't think Panasonic is the only manufacturer working on it, maybe only the first to reach the market, but I'm not certain of that either.

                          1. re: kaleokahu

                            Kaleokahu: Definitely right about margin in cookware...again, I cannot comment on copper's over triply. Certainly appreciate the info on copper and induction...that is great news and without a doubt changes my mind about (increasing) copper cookware's value.
                            I have no problem with washing by hand, as I don't put any of mine in the dishwasher. I do love the look of the brushed Falk copper, which seems like it needs less care and upkeep and since it sounds like by the time I move over to induction, it will be compatible in any range I were to consider - I very well may look into copper for my next addition, as long as price allows. Thanks!

                            1. re: dcole

                              dcole: If you like the look of Falk, you should LOVE the look of Hammersmith. See, Definitely not cheap, but American-made, and comes with a retinning guarantee. If you don't mind hand washing and using non-metallic utensils, I think tinned copper is the way to go.

                        3. If I had a budget for one copper pot, what style and size would best. That is, what would show off its advantages the best?

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: paulj

                            Hi, Paul:

                            I would say a tinned fait tout or Windsor shape (you will like that for stirring), 3 mm in thickness, cast iron handle, maybe 6-8 inches in upper rim diameter. With or without a tongue-handled lid. If you want a lead to a REALLY good used deal (not me, mods), send me an email ASAP at Sorry to sound mysterious or mercenary, but that shape--even used--usually commands exorbitant prices. This one is a steal.

                          2. Monica -

                            "Do they brown food better?"

                            Not really. Browning is the result of a whole bunch of different things (temperature, moisture content of food, use of any fat/oil, color and smoothness of the surface of the pan, etc.), and copper doesn't have a distinct advantage.

                            "i know it is suppose to conduct heat better but so what."

                            Evenness can be important for many applications, but of little value for others. If you're boiling water, for example, even heating doesn't matter. If you're boiling milk, on the other hand, uneven heating can easily result in burned or sticky sections if you don't stir constantly.

                            Even heating is often most useful when you're cooking something fairly delicate or easy to burn, but you don't have time to tend to it continuously. If you're someone who doesn't tend to have a lot of pots going at once and likes to focus on delicate dishes rather than multitasking, copper will probably have little benefit, since you can often just continuously stir/shake whatever to keep things from burning.

                            That said, you will notice minor improvements even in everyday tasks. For example, say you're just softening some onions in some butter/oil for the start of a dish, but you're in a little bit of a hurry, so you turn up the heat slightly. In a pan with very poor conductivity, you'll have to be careful so the onions won't stick or burn due to hot spots in the pan. In a copper pan, as long as you don't turn the heat up way too high, it's a lot harder to get stuff to stick or burn.

                            I'd say that's the most useful advantage of copper to me -- sticking is in part caused by hot spots, so copper avoids some of that. Of course, you can also just use a non-stick aluminum pan and get most of the same advantages.

                            "Do serious cooks really use copper pots?"

                            Yes, although not exclusively. Copper is best for certain uses. For other things, other materials are just as good or even better.

                            "They are also so expensive!"

                            I'll echo some other comments and say -- it depends. You can often find really good deals on vintage copper on eBay, yard sales, etc. You have to know a little bit to buy this way, but you could get a nice copper collection for pretty cheap this way.

                            Also, you need to consider how long you expect your cookware to last. Many people tend to go through a set of pans every 5-10 years and then buy a new set. If you keep your copper for 40+ years and pass it down to kids, it doesn't seem as expensive.

                            Another thing is it depends on what you're comparing it to. Cheap aluminum will give you very good performance that is nearer but not quite as good as copper, but for maybe 1/10 or 1/20 the price. In that case, I'd say cheap aluminum is definitely a better deal for almost all normal cooking purposes. On the other hand, if you're spending the money for expensive sandwiched All Clad or something, I'd say copper is a better deal. Particularly when you start looking at sandwiched copper products -- most of which are just gimmicks because they don't contain a thick enough layer of copper to be useful. All Clad's only useful copper line is the Copper Core, but those prices are pretty comparable to solid copper cookware prices, so I have no idea why you wouldn' t go with copper in that comparison.

                            Finally, copper really is more energy efficient for many stovetop uses. You actually require less heat to do the same amount of cooking. The difference is relatively small, and for most people, the cost of fuel for cooking is pretty tiny within their household budget. But, I did a rough calculation a few years back, and over a few decades of use, copper cookware won't quite pay for itself in energy savings, but it does become significantly more "affordable" if you factor that in.

                            13 Replies
                            1. re: athanasius

                              Very well written. Now I do have the answer for the following:

                              " All Clad's only useful copper line is the Copper Core, but those prices are pretty comparable to solid copper cookware prices, so I have no idea why you wouldn' t go with copper in that comparison."

                              Answer: Dishwasher. :P

                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                I put my copper in the dishwasher all the time. As I said in another post (another thread?),
                                tarnished or polished, copper cooks the same in both conditions, so since I no longer have a huge ceiling rack to hang ALL of my pots and pans from, I don't bother polishing it any more. And if someone does have a huge ceiling rack to hang cookware from, if you go for the antique "country french" look, there's nothing wrong with tarnished copper...! The ONLY time it MUST be polished is for those copper bowls for beating egg whites to maximum fluff. But hey, I've never seen a copper mixing bowl for a Kitchen Aid...! '-)

                                1. re: Caroline1

                                  I must have missed your other post, but yes, I suppose tarnished copper pots cook the same. When you put copper cookwares in the dishwasher, do they mess up other stuffs like other glassware and dishes?

                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                    I haven't noticed them having an impact on anything else that goes in the dishwasher with them, but let me say I do not put any sort of silver through the dishwasher. I've been putting my copper through it for at least five years now with no discernible ill effects. However, SOMETIMES the copper comes out POLISHED! I haven't figured out why or what the interaction is that ONLY effects the copper and not what is polishing the copper, but when I do I'm going to patent it and make a fortune! '-)

                                    1. re: Caroline1

                                      "However, SOMETIMES the copper comes out POLISHED!"

                                      Maybe something acidic.... Maybe the same thing will also polish aluminum too. Now, you may able to patent a dishwasher detergent which allow the users to put bare copper and bare aluminum cookware in the dishwashers. There are so many more aluminum cookware, it would be the aluminum cookware bring you the fortune.

                                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                        Well, I have thought aluminum cookware is stupid and unworthy since about... oh, around 1962? It stains. Unless it's anodized or teflon coated you cannot boil anything with onions in it without wearing a gas mask or scuba mask while doing so. It warps badly and the purer and more conductive it is, the more it will warp, no matter how thick it is. It won't stick if you have a magnetic pan rack. You can't use the average aluminum pot as a dinner bell by banging on it with the back of a large spoon because unless specially formulated, aluminum won't ring. Sooooo, in summation who wants a pan that won't ring and stinks up the house really bad if you boil onions? NOT ME, CHARLIE BROWN....!!!! I ended up with copper because I couldn't afford sterling pots and pans. But if I could, boy, would THEY cook great....!!!

                                        As for acid polishing my copper in the dishwasher, maybe I just need to add a cup of tomato juice when I run it? '-)

                                    1. re: Caroline1

                             makes copper mixing bowls for Kitchen Aid.

                                      1. re: cooksaround

                                        wow, my mother in law gave me her old copper mixing bowl for Kitchen Aid, didn't realize they were that expensive.

                                  2. re: athanasius

                                    wow, thanks for the great reply.
                                    Perhaps when i have a bigger kitchen later, I will invest a few copper pieces(only for decorative purpose but for now, I will stick with my Le Crueset, All-Clads and Lodge cast iron skillet...though these darn things are so heavy...but I know I can't never live without the dutch oven and the lodge cast iron skillet...

                                    1. re: Monica

                                      No problem - glad my reply was helpful.

                                      One other thing, since you mentioned it: solid copper is quite heavy. You mentioned that you find the dutch oven and cast iron skillet to be heavy -- real copper pots are about as heavy as the equivalent size of cast iron pans. That's another consideration for some people with copper. (Decorative copper pieces, of course, tend to be quite thin, so they aren't heavy... but they're also not useful for cooking.)

                                      1. re: Monica

                                        Monica: I encourage you to only "invest" in copper pieces that are heavy and thick enough to USE, even if you only display them. The thicker and heavier the better, but to hold their value (other than scrap copper), the wall thickness should be at least 2mm, better to have 3mm or more.

                                        1. re: kaleokahu

                                          Thanks..looks like i need to get a 2nd job. lol