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Nov 6, 2010 11:08 AM

Copper pans & cast iron

What is the strong point of each?
What can one do that the other can't?

How about acid reaction in cast iron?

I love my cast iron, I find the AC SS is very light weight, and I'm wondering about cooking for large numbers of people. The good pans in each category are VERY EXPENSIVE, so I am turning here for
opinions, answers.


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  1. Copper cookware strong points are fast heat response and thermal eveniness.
    Bare cast iron cookware strong points are high thermal capacity (largely due to weigh), relatively nonstick, high temperature tolerance and inexpensive.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

      How about cooking with wine in a seasoned cast iron pan? Any bad taste?
      Thanks for the info!


      1. re: sweetfern

        I agree with knet. It is somewhat a personal thing. Some people tastes the metal when cooking reactive food in cast iron cookware, some don't and some don't care. You really have to try this yourself and see if it bothers you.

    2. I don't like to cook with anything very reactive in cast iron, though I know some people say it can be done without a bad taste. My cast iron is vintage Griswold and very well seasoned but I still taste the reaction so I don't do it.
      Copper is not induction capable, if that is a consideration now or in the future.

      2 Replies
      1. re: knet

        I don't use copper - I use the All Clad stainless with some cast iron- enameled for dutch ovens and bare for skillets a carbon steel skillet and crepe pan. Apparently, copper is induction capable with some of the newer induction ranges - so my guess would be that it will be induction capable with all new models very soon (I made the same comment a few weeks ago in this forum and was informed about this).
        I like every piece I have....I don't see a need to step up to copper as I get all the heat response that I need from my all clad. Another alternative is to look into the Tramontina tri ply that has been mentioned in these boards...A fraction of the cost of All clad and its quality, if I were doing it over again....

        1. re: dcole

          Yeah, but the whole copper induced thing is a bit of a gimmick (I was one of the very first person who brough this inducing copper information about 6 months ago). The two main selling point for induction cooking is that it is energy efficient from stove to cookware and it has a quick heat response. Both of those statements take a serious hit when we are talking about inducing copper.

          You can fly a plane and you can drive a car. Can you drive a plane? Sure you can, but....

      2. You mentioned that good examples of each are very expensive. That is definitely the case with great copper pans, but cast iron tends to be inexpensive unless you are searching for some kind of collector's item. Are you possibly referring to enamel coated cast iron, such as LeCreuset or Staub, which is expensive, or uncoated black cast iron, which all posters here assumed you were referring to?

        4 Replies
        1. re: RGC1982

          Good point, now I was a bit confused about that point about being very expensive too, but the original poster also mentioned "seasoned" and "acid reaction in cast iron", so it is a bit unclear.

          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

            sweetfern again

            For cast iron I was thinking Griswold which isn't cheap for the older items. LC and other enamel over iron always ultimately give out, so I have some but I am staying away from them. Well-seasoned cast iron is a dream. But say I do a dish with wine, a coq au vin for example, how would that taste if made in a cast iron pan? Now, the heavy copper with stainless steel, has anyone cooked with these? And how heavy should the copper be?
            I am a little confused about this. Now, say I am cooking for 10? I am talking about a large size and that is costly, either way, I think. I am ready for investment, but don't want to break the bank.



            1. re: sweetfern

              Cooking for 10? Don't just focus on cookware, make sure you have a stove which can support them. For example, I believe investing >$2000 for copperware while using a <$500 low power stove may not make sense.

              You will taste iron/metal when wine is cooked in a cast iron/carbon steel cookware. However, it does not bother me. I think it is very personal when it comes to the metal taste. The so called rule of thumb for copper cookware should be thicker than 2 mm thick.

              I don't want to distract you too much, but another style of cookware to think about is the carbon steel cookware, especially for frying pan.

              *Edit* I guess I am a bad person to tell you how that will taste because that metal taste usually does not bother me, so it is more suitable for people who find it objective to describe how it tastes.

              1. re: sweetfern

                sweetfern: "say I do a dish with wine, a coq au vin for example, how would that taste if made in a cast iron pan?"

                I would make coq au vin in an enameled cast iron dutch oven, and for me, that would be a Round French Oven made by Le Creuset, in either a 7.25 qt. size or 5.5 qt. You need to cover and braise coq au vin, and the time in the oven is an hour, an hour and a half.

                I've never cooked with wine, tomatoes, citrus, etc., in bare cast iron. There are certain things people tell you never to do when you cook, and this is one of the things I have accordingly not done.

                I've only owned one copper pot, a 3-qt. saucepan. I hated having to clean it, so when the tin lining went, I replaced it with All-Clad.

          2. I've got a lot of cast iron and tin-lined copper, all bought used except for my first Dutch oven and my Lodge grill pan. It's therefore mostly old, and either American (the iron) or European. I've been cooking with iron since my early teens, and pretty much have that down pat; the copper, on the other hand, is something I'm still figuring out. Here's what I've concluded so far:

            !. The iron is the no-sweat do-everything champ. It's bulletproof, including the seasoning, which is really never that hard to redo if you wash it off (and sometimes, yes, you DO have to use soap and water and a scrubber). We are either insensitive to any acid-reaction taste or just don't mind it; I've cooked lots of chili and tomato sauces in my pots and skillets, and have never gotten an off-flavor, nor any complaint from anyone else. The combo of an iron skillet and an iron flame-tamer on my gas range is my secret for sunnyside-up eggs, finished for the last five minutes under cover with the gas turned off. I also have several enamelled iron pieces, which have their own charms.

            2. Copper is THE choice for quick cooking, and for doing several things in one pan. The saucepans boil water faster than any others I have, parboil vegetables faster, then are the perfect vessels for sautéeing them in butter for the finish, French style. Best damn haricots verts on the planet. This morning I heated my copper skillet and put in a little butter and a splash of olive oil and did a quick sautée of some strips of last night's flatiron steak. Then I scraped those out and with some more oil I fried four eggs while the bread toasted, not sunnyside up but over easy, and what a lovely breakfast that was … and the pan was washed and dried before I went to the table, which you canNOT do with iron. The other great trick with that skillet? I've finally achieved crusty corned-beef hash! The stuff will NOT stick to the tin, but just keeps browning and crusting over until you're ready for it. And then the pan almost wipes clean.

            It's not cheap. My copper is mostly from yard or estate sales and cost me $5-$20 per piece, but damn near $100 each for retinning, which they've all needed. And retinning is not as widely-spread a skill as it used to be. I keep praying that my fat and elderly Tin Man will last a few more years...

            2 Replies
            1. re: Will Owen

              A further question on cast iron.
              Has anyone used a vintage Griswold with a heat ring?
              Any effect on heat generation in the pan?

              (I may have just given up the extra hour for falling back to regular time--raking leaves are in my immediate future)

              I LOVE hearing both strong and on-the-one-hand,on-the-other-hand opinions.


              1. re: sweetfern

                I have a vintage Griswold with a heat ring and a vintage-no-name-brand cast iron skillet with a heat ring, and a Wagner without a heat ring. I can't tell any difference in performance.