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May 11, 2011 07:08 AM

Rust under/around cast iron handles on Copper pan

So, my cheapy copper pan has been a bit abused (happy to be learning on it before tearing into Bourgeat purchase). There seems to be rust under the handle on the lid and also on the handle on the body of the pot. I can only presume that this is not good and it seems to be making the copper fairly unhappy as well. I have no idea how to get under there though. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

I'll add that I'm concurrently researching kitchen towels since mine really just move water around. I should really find something that actually absorbs to prevent this in the future.

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  1. Well, the good news is the copper is more noble than the cast iron, so the galvainc action will attack the handle and not the pot. With that said, looks like you need an air blast to get all the water out from between the pot and handle. I would guess that when the handle gets a bit or patina from oxidation, it will not progress very quickly, this is commonly the case with cast iron. Wish I could be of more help.

    1. Hi, olympia:

      Please don't worry too much. I'd wash and dry it (really dry it this time), heat it gently, and then hit the CI with a coat of vegetable oil or carnauba wax. You should not need another coat for a few years, but if you want to worry, every time you're about to toss a paper towel with oil on it, wipe the handles first.

      Also, see


      7 Replies
      1. re: kaleokahu

        Even if it's under/behind the handle (not the exposed part)?

        1. re: olympia

          Hi, Olympia:

          Yes. If you're still worried, drizzle a little oil in whatever gaps you see after drying.

          Two things to *try* to ease your worries. First, the CI handles get a patina over time, just as unpolished copper does. Right now I'm looking at a very old 5L Bourgeat 3mm tinned saucepan and a huge >100-year-old American 8G stocker, both of which have "rusted" (i.e., patinated) CI handles. The look just gradually changes from charcoal black to very, very dark brown. This is often an indicator of a good quality pan; in kitchens of old where the chef's towels were often oily anyway, the handles of these pans were given thousands of unwitting oil massages!

          Second, a bit of surface "rust" of this kind is not necessarily bad. It is--in a way--a protective layer against deeper corrosion, especially if you seal it with the occasional wipe. Think about it: If you compulsively remove all rust and scale every time any forms, then more just forms (and more easily), and you end up doing far more damage than the original sealed-in rust could have.

          One proviso: Corrosion *might* be a concern long-term (measured in decades) if SS rivets are used. SS still corrodes in the right conditions. I have seen no data (SS is still so new, relatively speaking, used in copperware) on this, but fastening CI handles with SS rivets is like putting a SS nut on a carbon steel bolt--joining dissimilar steels can create galling and set up strange electrical reactions. Who knows what really happens over time when you rivet on a CI handle with a tiny SS rivet through a SS/copper bimetal? In the old, "primitive" days, the large rivets were also made of soft copper or nickel-silver, the riveting pressure swelled the rivet in the hole minimizing voids, and then molten tin sealed any spaces that were left. All bets are off with hard SS, but I bet your new Bourgeat pans would not fail within any living lifetime.

          There. Cook some--or a lot--more in your new pans. When you catch yourself worrying about rust, have a skosh more wine.


          1. re: kaleokahu

            You're awesome. I'd have you over for a slosh of wine if I could!

            If/when I find out how to post pics I'll take some of the old and new.

            Di you have a personal fav polish?

            1. re: olympia

              Hi, Olympia:

              You're welcome.

              Polish? I don't polish that often, maybe every 3 months, and then it's usually a basic vinegar/lemon and salt scrub. 0000 steel wool is actually pretty good if you polish in one direction. But salt and steel wool aren't that good for a mirror finish. I've never tried the Mauviel polish ($$$), but there is a paste brand named Flitz that I have used and like (A lot of Airstream owners love Flitz for their trailers' skins). When Christmas rolls around I usually mirror-polish my copper on a bench buffer and use jeweller's pink or high chrome white polishing rouges. So it gets one good polish a year and 2 or three touch-ups if it bothers me--which happens less and less over time.

              Sure, I'd like to see pics.


            2. re: kaleokahu

              SS is more noble (cathodic) than either CI or copper, and is between the two when there is a worst case scenario, so the SS rivets should still be the last to corode of the three.

              1. re: mikie

                Hi, Mikie:

                Does it matter whether it is the little SS rivet or the little through-hole that corrodes to failure first?

                I thought it was the *differential* in nobility that caused the galvanic response. The series for metals in stagnant seawater shows a huge differential between SS on the one hand and Cu, Cast Iron and nickel-silver on the other. Wouldn't the latter 3's adjacency to one another in the series bode well for corrosion in the SS-less construction and not so much for SS+CI?


                1. re: kaleokahu

                  Hi, Kaleo:

                  No, it really doesn't matter what fails, it's the weakest link theory in action.

                  The greater the differential in dobility the greater the galvanic action, this of course assumes there is an electrolyte to facilitate the galvanic action. Since one cooks with water and sometimes adds salt, or acidic liquids, there is potential for some galvinic action. However, since one also washes their pots and pans and dries them before they are stowed away, one should not really experience galvinic action to any great extent as the presence of an electrolyte is necessary for galvanic corrosion to take place. So the key is to wash and dry ones pots and pans.