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Sep 25, 2011 10:54 PM

Help! Just ruined my retinned copper pan!

Yes, I managed to ruin in the tin lining to my vintage, new to me copper saute pan. I left it a bit too long on my stove top. My stove is an old 1950's gas stove with no markings on the dials and I got distracted. Unfortunately the tin bubbled in one area. I had no idea that my stove could get a pan over 450 degrees, but apparently it can. My real question is, was it a bad tinning job? Or was the tinning covering up some other flaw?

I bought the pan used, but it was retinned. Other pertinent information: it's a french copper saute pan, unsure of age, very heavy with an iron handle. It's stamped Made in France" with an image of a map of france. I know I have to retin it, but I'd prefer to send it to another retinning place (or DYI) if this is a faulty tinning job. BTW this is my very first copper pan lined with tin, so I knw they're delicate, but I didn't think they were this delicate. The pan over heated for only about 2-3 minutes.

I know there are some real experts on this board, and no I don't mind if you just tell me that I have been an idiot.


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  1. Moi aussi. I never realized how thin that tin lining was. My oval braiser has the same problem with its original tin lining--it could be that the master craftsman who made it wasn't as careful as he could have been, but it's far more likely my fault. There's one black spot the size of a pea, but I can see some tiny bubbles forming near one side.

    1. Only detriment to tin is the low 'bubbling point' Poop happens, get it redone. l have been lucky in not getting distracted from my pans in decades of use. Tin still tight and wonderful. l am sure you know do not use if even a small spot of tin is missing as copper quite bad for you. Had to retin a new flea market purchase, did in Paris where bought, expensive but glorious looking.

      1. Hi, cosmogrrl:

        No, of course you're not an idiot. These things happen. In fact, congratulations for learning this lesson sooner rather than later. You're in good company. I bet most folks who cook in tinned copper regularly have a few bubbles in the tin if they looked closely enough.

        Your pan's lining might have been compromised in some way anyway (e.g., retinning over tin, no flux in that spot, etc.) I have learned to recognize a good tinning job if you can see sworls of tin where the tinner wiped his rag. If there's a 3-dimensionality to it, the lining is usually quite thick.

        And don't despair, either. The general rule of thumb on exposed copper is that the *total* area needs to be the size of a US quarter dollar before you should have any serious concern. A little tiny bit showing through grain-of-sand size bubbles are not enough to worry over or justify >$100 in retinning. I would not store food in it, however (this applies whether the tinning is fresh or not).

        Think about it--copper confectionary, zambaglione, and preserve pans and mixing bowls are rarely tinned *at all*.

        I say use it with all the gusto and pleasure it and you deserve. Watch it for formation of green copper salts; if you see any, just gently scrub them away before use.


        3 Replies
        1. re: kaleokahu

          When you say "bubbles" do you mean those little lighter-colored spots that look like drops of rain?

          If so, or if not, what do those spots indicate?

          1. re: rbraham

            Sorry, Rob, I'm not understanding your meaning about spots. A photo, perhaps?

            By "bubbles", I mean actual raised blisters in the tin, which IME can run from grain-of-sand up to "little-fingernail" in size. They tend to form at wall-floor junctures and around food protein where there is insufficient cooking fat/oil.

            1. re: kaleokahu

              My beauty of a 10-incher just broke out with a case of permanent prickly heat rash, and i don't know when/why it happened. Everything is just as silky smooth in the cooking; it's just that when I rub my fingers over the inside of the pan in anticipation of that cool, cool touch and promise, I'm sad when I remember it's virginal freshness now that it has succumbed to adolescent pimplyness (to mix metaphors).