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Copper - a primer for a potential user

Hello,

I've been cooking seriously for 5 years now. I typically cook french cuisine, but like to keep it simple; steaks with pan sauces, roasts, braised meals, etc.

When I first got into cooking, I kept reading about Stainless Steel cookware and eventually bought an All-Clad fry pan and a small sauce pot. About a year ago my mother gave me her cast iron pan which I believe was passed down to her from her mother. Needless to say I was immediately taken with the piece and have learned how to season and maintain it. I love to sear meat in cast iron. It's just amazing.

What I've learned is that no amount of reading information will teach you when to use which material. For example, I've had some experiences burning sauces in cast iron as it retains its heat (recently solved this by making veal demi ice cubes). So I now tend to use Stainless if I'm making a delicate sauce. This being said, I find it still takes a while to control the heat to my liking.

So I'm looking to acquire a copper pan. I understand that it is a great heat conductor, However, when reading the forums it gets confusing. What is copper good for? Can I sear a steak and then make a pan sauce? Can I brown/sear at medium heat like I do in my SS? If I get tin lined interior, can I do the same?

I guess what I'm asking is what are the best uses for a copper core pan, and not whether it is better than anything else. Assume that I already have both SS lined and Tin lined copper.

Julien

P.S. I'm not adverse to maintenance as I use carbon steel knives - I love my Sabatiers more than anything else.

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  1. I have one tin-lined small copper frying pan which I bought years ago, and in my opinion it was a mistake. I consider tin to be an impractical cooking surface due to its softness and low melting point. I'm currently trying to resurrect my old pan, which has been in storage for many years, but I'm not sure what I will use it for.

    Copper/stainless may be another matter altogether. I have no experience with those.

    8 Replies
    1. re: GH1618

      You can do other things. You just cannot crank the heat up and try to sear a steak.

      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

        Yes, and I wouldn't want to. But as for other things, when I fry or scramble an egg or two, I like my small T-Fal Encore 2 frying pan. For crêpes, my small plain steel crêpe pan can't be beat. For sautéing a few mushrooms, or making a sauce, I love my All-clad saucier. The question is, when is a tin-lined skillet the best pan these days, with so many other options?

        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

          Chem, you seem to be knowledgeable about metallurgy. Why aren't copper pans lines with nickel instead of tin?

          1. re: GH1618

            Actually, I am more of a gas phrase scientist. I am not well verse of the nickel, but isn't nickel is carcinogenic? In addition, nickel melting point is higher than pure copper, so that could make it difficult to apply nickel on copper.

            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

              Good point. The optimal choice (apart from cost) then, is silver, with a melting point just slightly less than copper, and much higher than tin.

            2. re: GH1618

              Hi, GH1618:

              A few copper pans *are* lined with nickel, but the melting point is so close to copper's that all I've ever seen are *plated*. This equals thinner linings, albeit tougher. My guess is that they don't last a lot longer than tin, all things considered. That's why, I believe all the vintage nickle-plated cast iron you see is worn out.

              Above you alluded to the "mistake" of buying tinned copper. Just so we're clear here, did you ruin the pan or melt the tin, or are you just leery of doing so?

              Aloha,
              Kaleo

              1. re: kaleokahu

                I bought the pan in the 1980s (I think), when I was much less well-informed about such things, and overheated it. It has some scratches and rough spots. It's not ruined, in any case. If the tin were ruined, it could be restored. I'm not planning to do that.

                1. re: GH1618

                  Hi, GH1618:

                  Thanks for clarifying.

                  If your copper pan has been out of service for a long time, and your cooking has progressed with age, I urge you to break it out and try again. What do you have to lose? You might just find you like it more now.

                  If not, why not try using it as a "test bed" for a good sear? Just remember to add your fat just after you can't hold your hand just above the pre-heating surface, and then your meat when you get some smoking.

                  Aloha,
                  Kaleo

        2. Thanks for the discussion,

          But I still don't have an answer. Does anyone use copper pan and do they excel at anything other than looking good.

          J

          40 Replies
          1. re: HalifaxJ

            Hi, Halifax:

            Yes, I now use copper cookware almost exclusively, and yes, they do excel at nearly everything. The margin by which they excel over wares of other materials varies by particular use. There is no other material--save silver--that is as conductive or responsive.

            Aloha,
            Kaleo

            1. re: kaleokahu

              Is it then safe to assume that a copper pan, linned with stainless steel, can handle the same heat as a stainless steel pan? I don't mind searing in my ss, although prefer my cast iron. Only when I need an acidic sauce do I use my SS.

              J

              1. re: HalifaxJ

                "linned with stainless steel, can handle the same heat as a stainless steel pan?"

                More or less for general kitchen situations.

                "I don't mind searing in my ss, although prefer my cast iron"

                That is because you can heat up your cast iron much hotter than stainless steel/aluminum or stainless steel/copper cookware.

                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                  Ok thanks. So from this I gather that copper SS lined pots and pans generally require the same care as SS, but will have better heat response.

                  Yes, indeed. I love my CI for that reason alone. Searing in duck fat is as close to culinary perfection as one could ever get. Add some veal demi and I need a confession.

                  1. re: HalifaxJ

                    "I gather that copper SS lined pots and pans generally require the same care as SS,"

                    Probably the stainless steel/aluminum pots and pans still require less work than stainless/copper. Yes, better heat response.

                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                      Yes, more responsive to changes in heat, but is that always important? It seems to me that for a large stock pot (where the incremental cost of copper is greatest), used primarily to simmer liquids for a relatively long time, the advantage of copper is negligible. A heavy aluminum base in conjuction with the liquid in the pot will distribute the heat quite well. As for thermal mass, that is mainly in the water.

                      1. re: GH1618

                        GH1618,

                        I agree. For some cookware, it is useless and can be even counterproductive to use copper. For example, a copper wok is pretty useless. An even heating surface is not required in stir fry. The foods are meant to be moved constantly in an uniform manner. Moreover, it is advantageous to focus the heat at the bottom of a wok instead of spreading out all over. So yes, for some cookware, it is a good thing to use copper. For many others, not so much.

                        As for you stock pot argument, Politeness (another poster) here would even argue that an aluminum disc base stock is better than a full copper stock pot. This is because heat transfer in a stock pot is largely due to convection. Therefore, it is better to have a conductive bottom, but an insulating side.

                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                          Hmmn, I was considering buying the Falk "Wokster" in copper. http://www.copperpans.com/facowo1.html Are you saying it's totally useless. I don't want a traditional wok with ring -- just threw out my old one because it was taking up way too much room in my kitchen cabinet.

                          1. re: omotosando

                            omotosando,

                            No, I won't say it is totally useless in the literal sense because it can work as a cookware. Nevertheless, it is far from the optimal construction for a wok. Considering that you can pay $20-30 for a carbon steel wok which functions better than this $300+ copper wokster, it is difficult for me to justify this copper wok.

                            Forget the unnecessary thermal conductivity for a second, I can make two more arguments why this is worse than a normal carbon steel wok. Here are why.

                            First, I am sure you know that stir fry should be done at a fairly high temperature at short duration. A cladded cookware like this copper/stainless steel wok run the risk of overheating and damaging the cladding, so it is an unnecessary risk

                            Second, a main challenge for good stir fry is to constantly move the foods while the wok is very hot. A lot of foods, especially proteins, stick to the hot cookware surface. This is especially bad for a stainless steel surface cookware. I am willing to bet that meats will easily stick to this stainless steel surface wok and make it next to impossible to properly stir fry.

                            On the other hand, a good carbon steel wok will provide you a near stickless surface and can handle extreme high heat. Watch this following video for demonstration:

                            http://youtu.be/ehgnv3lNg5E

                            As for your concern for a wok ring, why not buy a flat bottom carbon steel wok?

                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                              Thanks. I think you have convinced me a copper wok is worthless (and expensive to boot - nothing worse than something that is both expensive and worthless).

                              1. re: omotosando

                                It's hard to beat a plain steel wok if you want authentic Chinese food. I've had mine for 35 years or so, and it works as well as new, if it doesn't look it. If you have a space problem, maybe you can get by with a smaller one.

                                1. re: omotosando

                                  Hi, omotosando:

                                  You should be careful in following this advice. Careful in the senses of: (1) Has the poster opining actually *used* a copper wok; and (2) Is their advice consistent ("it is useless and can be even counterproductive to use copper. For example, a copper wok is pretty useless." vs. "I won't say it is totally useless..."

                                  I also challenge anyone to give personal testimony that one of these pans has delaminated in normal use.

                                  The Falk wokster actually makes a fine saute pan, as well as a serviceable flat-bottom wok. As with many hybrid designs, you get versatility along with a less-than-ideal configuration.

                                  There is no arguing that the wokster is $$$, and that carbon steel works. It is one of the last copper pieces I'd buy, but it would be far from useless.

                                  Aloha,
                                  Kaleo

                                  1. re: kaleokahu

                                    Given how expensive the copper wokster is and how cheap carbon steel is, it just doesn't seem to make sense to buy a wokster, especially if the advice is correct that it is much more likely to stick than a properly seasoned carbon steel wok.

                                    I love the look of copper and am curious about it's cooking characteristics (just got the Falk "Try Me" saucier, but haven't used it yet), but here it seems like it would be better to go with the carbon steel and save my money for other copper pieces if I decide I want more copper.

                                    1. re: omotosando

                                      Hi, omotosando:

                                      Yes, the price disparity is large in relation to the marginal return. And I would prioritize my budget for copper so that a wok would come near the end of the batterie.

                                      But again, I encourage you to talk with someone who has actually used the wokster before judging its performance--I'm sure Michael Harp can refer you to someone who has used one.

                                      Aloha,
                                      Kaleo

                                      1. re: omotosando

                                        You might consider a cast-iron wok or stir fry pan. These are not as heavy as you think, and are available in small sized and with flat bottoms.

                                        http://www.overstock.com/Home-Garden/...

                                        I haven't used these, so can't personally vouch for them, but if I ever decide to ditch my "well-seasoned" (i.e. black crust on the bottom) steel wok, that's what I would try.

                                        1. re: GH1618

                                          Carbon steel or thin cast iron woks are the optimal tools for stir fry. It is more difficult to get a flat bottom thin cast iron wok. Thick ones sure, not the thin ones. A nonstick wok can work to some extend but it cannot handle the high heat. Stainless steel surface woks are difficult to use because meat and other foods easily stick to them.

                                          1. re: GH1618

                                            GH,

                                            I read more carefully of the link you have provided. It states that it has a "silicon-coated exterior". I don't know if it mean exterior as in exterior vs interior surface, or exterior as in both concave and convex surfaces of the wok. If the latter, then I am concern about our ability to apply seasoning on the surface.

                                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                              I don't know, either, but I'm guessing it means everywhere. Here's a link to a slightly better description of the material:

                                              http://cook-pro.com/new.htm

                                              The picture of the 13" "wok" looks wrong, though. Who knows? I might get one from overstock.com just to see what it is. I confess to being interested in oddities, and this one is inexpensive.

                                              BTW, the Joyce Chen website describes the coating as "silicone" instead of "silicon."

                                              1. re: GH1618

                                                GH,

                                                Your new link is interesting. It appears that none of these thin cast iron woks is described with silicon, instead they are pre-seasoned. You say Joyce Chen website described them as silicone? That is a big difference. What also worry me is that if you scroll down on the cook-pro website, then you can see a list of other utensils described with soft silicon handles. Those are definitely silicone, not silicon, which means I have no confident of the wok description between silicon vs silicone. Both can be realistically applied, though I prefer neither for a wok.

                                                Someone really made some mistakes here.

                                          2. re: omotosando

                                            It is more than just about saving money. If you talk to anyone who has actually done stir frying, say a Chinese restaurant chef, then they will tell you that stainless steel is very difficult to work for stir frying. There is a reason why you don't see many stainless steel surface woks in a restaurants. Mostly you will see are carbon steel and cast iron. In addition, an even heating wok is unnecessary. A concentrated hot spot at the bottom is the preferred design for wok cooking. So at the end, a stainless steel surface copper wok is a counterproductive toward stir fry. Or put it another way. Your $20-30 carbon steel wok will perform better than your $300 stainless/copper wokster.

                                            You can try a stainless steel surface cookware at home. Try to do stir fry "Chow fun (rice flat noodle)" on a stainless steel cookware, and you will see the rice noodle soon stick to the stainless steel surface.

                                            http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&am...

                                            Or stir fry rice.

                                            This causes the foods to burn and have unevenly cooked foods -- some overcooked, some uncooked. From that I think you can make your own judgement.

                                2. re: GH1618

                                  Hi, GH1618:

                                  You sound like you've already made up your mind, but in case you haven't, consider this. (1) All other things being equal, copper stocker is going to regain its boil faster than your aluminum-bottomed one. (2) When the stock is done, it will cool faster in the copper pot, whether you ice-bath it or just set it outdoors. (3) On home hobs, there are upper limits to the size of stockers that can be brought to a boil within a reasonable time, and going with copper can effectively increase that size. It is for you to decide for yourself whether these advantages are worth the $ to you.

                                  Aloha,
                                  Kaleo

                                  1. re: kaleokahu

                                    I'll stipulate that an all-copper (except lining) pot will cool faster than a predominately aluminum pot, but whether that is a good thing, a bad thing, or an unimportant thing is purely a matter of opinion.  Most people don't buy copper pots, however, but some who do not may buy copper-core pots (such as the All-clad).  In these, the copper layer will distribute the heat throughout the pot more efficiently, but the heat transfer from the contents to the air when cooling is dominated by the two layers each of aluminum and stainless steel, which makes up most of the pot.

                                    Those who want their soup pot to cool off in a hurry might consider this Ruffoni 8 qt pot:

                                    http://www.ruffonicookware.com/produc...

                                    which has the added advantage of a high surface area to volume ratio, for a mere $500.

                                    1. re: GH1618

                                      I think it's also worth mentioning that copper exterior cookware can't work with induction cooktops, which may or will become a big problem if induction cooking takes off. It's the reason I'm not looking into copper cookware, 'sides the price.

                                      1. re: shezmu

                                        There are some copper cookware with a very thin steel base like the DeBuyer Inocuivre which can work with induction cooking

                                        http://www.debuyer.com/product.php?id...

                                        In addition, it is possible to perform induction cooking for non-ferromagnetic and low resistance metals like aluminum and copper. It is just not very efficient, and more or less losing a big selling point for energy efficiency.

                                        In other words, there are exceptions to what you wrote, but your big picture is correct.

                                        1. re: shezmu

                                          Hi, shezmu: "...copper exterior cookware can't work with induction cooktops..."

                                          Not exactly. It works just fine, indirectly, with either a separate (e.g., Mauviel) or integral (e.g., deBuyer Prima Matera) disk. Michael Harp of Falk likes to demonstrate his wares on induction by simply sitting them inside a large carbon steel crepe pan.

                                          It would also "work" *directly* if the bimetal manufacturer (Falk Culinaire) used a different SS alloy for the lining. This design, described by one here as stupid, while not ideal, would indeed work, and IMO perform better than a pan consisting of the SS lining material alone.

                                          Then there's the issue of "all metal" induction appliances, which are now appearing on the cookware horizon.

                                          So fear not.

                                          Aloha,
                                          Kaleo

                                        2. re: GH1618

                                          Hi, GH1618:

                                          Stipulation noted. Let the record also reflect that faster cooling of stock is a good thing.

                                          When you say: "...(such as the All-clad). In these, the copper layer will distribute the heat throughout the pot more efficiently..", what is the referent--more efficiently than what? The stainless layers in clad function as insulators (at least on non-induction hobs) in both heating and cooling, and frankly the thickness of the copper layer in full clad relative to A-C's cladding thickness (0.46mm x 2) is so thin that "efficiently" isn't a word I'd pick.

                                          I have that Ruffoni's bigger 14Q brother I picked up for $150. It's a nice pot, if a little thin.

                                          Aloha,
                                          Kaleo

                                          1. re: kaleokahu

                                            More efficiently than the stainless/aluminum All-clad without the copper core. The purpose of the copper core is to distribute the heat around the pot more quickly, not to transfer the heat to the outside.

                                            1. re: GH1618

                                              Hi, GH1618: "The purpose of the copper core is to distribute the heat around the pot more quickly, not to transfer the heat to the outside."

                                              What an odd thought. If that's the case, it's also not the purpose of the copper core to transfer the heat to the *inside*, since the SS layers are of equal thickness. Then again, I choose to believe that clad exists solely to suit convenience, and that the inclusion of a copper core within it just makes it less of a capitulation to lesser expectations than going with straight-gauge steel or cast iron.

                                              And responding to your other post, yes, really good copper can be had for very little money. Of my several dozen pieces, I have paid full retail for only one, and that was a travel memento.

                                              Aloha,
                                              Kaleo

                                              1. re: kaleokahu

                                                Kaleokahu, I don't understand your meaning here. Where you write "... clad exists solely ...", what does "clad" refer to, exactly? My comparison is between tri-ply and copper core of a single brand — otherwise identical pieces, and the question is: when should one pay extra for the copper core and why?.

                                                1. re: GH1618

                                                  Hi, GH1618:

                                                  By 'clad', I mean cookware that is SS inside and out, with one or more layers of the same or other metals in between, at least one of which is of a metal more conductive than the SS. This inner layer or layers are usually either aluminum or copper, and--rarely--a minuscule amount of silver.

                                                  As to which--between tri-ply Al and triply Cu--to buy, I suggest to you that the answer depends on the construction of each line, and perhaps each pan within the line. I am not familiar enough with A-C to know, but "otherwise identical" may be begging the question. Demeyer Atlantis and Apollo use Cu and Al layers respectively, but the gauges of those metals are different. Demeyer has, intelligently, scaled up the aluminum layer in Apollo to approximate the conductivity of the thinner copper in Atlantis. Demeyer fully clads (conductive layer goes up the sides) some pans within those lines, and only clads the bottoms in others. I have never compared these lines A-B, but if Demeyer was successful in their approximation, my sense it would be a wash between the two lines in terms of responsiveness and evenness.

                                                  Now then, we've been talking about the cream of clad. When the dreck has been accounted for, these conductive layers (especially in the 5-,7- and 9-layer bars) are very thin--it's usually only the even-numbered layers that are conductive, and when they're interleaved with even more SS, well, IMO they're not doing much of anything for anyone except in the sales and propaganda departments. There may be other brand exceptions, but how many 7-pound, 2mm copper core, fully clad saucepans have you found? How many 5-pound, 5mm aluminum, fully clad? I've been looking pretty hard, and so far I haven't found any.

                                                  So I'm of the opinion that, in the world as we know it, it's hard to justify paying more for copper tri-ply if the aluminum tr-ply was intelligently upscaled. You just have to sort line by line and pan by pan.

                                                  That help?

                                                  Aloha,
                                                  Kaleo

                                                  1. re: kaleokahu

                                                    That does help. You are saying that all SS-clad aluminum is solely for convenience. It's convenience and cost, actually. Aluminum is a good conductor of heat, and SS is durable and easy to keep clean. So an aluminum pan with SS lining is inexpensive and convenient. Nothing wrong with that, in my opinion. The tri-ply adds SS on the outside, which is merely for looks if you are into that. (I use MC2 myself.)

                                                    By "otherwise identical" I mean All-Clad SS tri-ply compared to All-Clad copper core for pieces of the same type and size, or similarly for other brands with a copper core option. But "identical" should not be taken so literally — I should have said "otherwise similar." I expect the aluminum layers would differ so the total aluminum content would be less in the copper core pan. I also expect that the copper core construction would result in better equalization of temperature, although whether it has much practical effect I don't know.

                                                    1. re: GH1618

                                                      Hi, GH1618:

                                                      "So an aluminum pan with SS lining is inexpensive and convenient."

                                                      Not really. It is convenient, and perhaps less expensive than a (particular/similar) copper core pan, but it is hardly inexpensive. A thicker straight-gauge aluminum pan will be far less expensive, and IMO a far better-cooking pan than will any clad aluminum pan.

                                                      Where it gets totally confusing--and IMO misleading--is where the manufacturer comes up with multiple layer strategies that include both aluminum and copper, and/or interleaves more steel into the mix. IMO, unless this is done for induction compatibility, it doesn't ever translate into any advantage to the user over just a single middle conductive layer, i.e., tri-ply. Again, I consider these "sandwich bars" to be a gimmicky way of puffing "New!", "Improved", or "Exclusive to Hucksterclad!"

                                                      Regarding "better equalization of temperature", I think it depends on how much thicker the aluminum layer is relative to the copper layer in the "otherwise similar" pan. Again, I think in the end this has to be an ad hoc, empirical analysis.

                                                      Aloha,
                                                      Kaleo

                                                      1. re: kaleokahu

                                                        Most restaurant cooks have been using heavy-guage plain aluminum pans for a long time, so of course they are effective and inexpensive. But here we are talking about what people want to use in their home. A lot of home cooks today want better pans than their mothers' stainless steel pans, but don't want commercial aluminum pans, even though these are readily available. So there is a market for SS-clad aluminum pans. It's a huge market, as evidenced by the many brands and lines of such cookware available. Many of these are modestly priced and better for cooking than a plain SS pan. It is confusing and there are many tradeoffs, but that's how things work in a free-market economy.

                                                        I detect your preference for copper showing through here. You ought to be glad that most line cooks are using plain aluminum and most consumers who are not buying junk are trying to sort out the (sometimes meaningless) differences between the various offerings of multi-ply cookware. If they were all buying copper, it would drive your price up.

                                                        1. re: GH1618

                                                          Hi, GH1618: "A lot of home cooks today want better pans than their mothers' stainless steel pans, but don't want commercial aluminum pans, even though these are readily available..."

                                                          I agree, although there is a premise missing from your syllogism: A huge majority of home cooks don't know anything about heavy, straight-gauge aluminum pans. It's simply not on their radar, and the cladsters want to keep it that way.

                                                          Yes, you're right about demand and the price of copper, and the benefit to me of general consumer tunnelvision.

                                                          Aloha,
                                                          Kaleo

                                                          1. re: GH1618

                                                            It seems to me that there is a natural-health movement away from aluminum cookware as well. This is because aluminum deposits accumulating in brain tissue has been written about in some literature as being linked to Alzheimer's disease.

                                                            Also, people who like to use induction burners (count me as one of those), have to use pans and pots with ferro-magnetic content, like cast iron, SS and rolled steel.

                                                            Finally, I just like using heavy iron and steel pans because they transfer heat more slowly than fast conductors like aluminum and copper. I mean, you have to heat them up for longer to get them up to heat, but they tend to also hold their heat more, so there is a bit of an averaging function. I'm not constantly fiddling with hot spots and fluctuations in temp.

                                                            What I like best is a solid stainless steel with a thick core of aluminum or copper inside -- the fast heat conducting core provides for fast, even heat transfer in the plane of the cooking surface and the heavy steel cladding averages out temperature fluctuations as you put food in and move it around.

                                                            I've been using pretty heavy SS cookware with aluminum core bottoms, and I really like those, but recently I bought a Demeyere Atlantis, which is copper core with substantial SS layers and I'm looking forward to playing with it.

                                                            I would probably buy a set of steel lined heavy gauge copper if I had a couple thousand dollars burning a hole in my pocket and felt like spending it on cookware instead of ruby earrings. But I'm not a professional chef who needs to move a lot of food quickly, and I don't need pans and pots that heat up in a flash.

                                                        2. re: GH1618

                                                          GH1618,

                                                          Some of the statements you read here are incorrect. For example, it is impossible to scaled up the aluminum layer in Apollo to approximate the conductivity of the thinner copper in Atlantis. It is physically impossible. So it is impossible to somehow to get the two lines the same in terms of responsiveness and evenness.

                                                          Here is why. When you increase the thickness of an aluminum cookware, it will give a more even heating surface. The distance/thickness help. This is true for any material really. On the other hand, when you increase the thickness, the heat response will decrease. There simply has more distance for the heat to travel and also thermal capacity. The thicker the cookware, the slower the response.

                                                          Manufacturers usually put a thicker aluminum base or disc if they want to produce a more even heating surface, not to increase heat response. To increase heat response, you would have to go the other way. The thinner the cookware, the faster the heat response.

                                                      2. re: GH1618

                                                        Hi, again, GH1618:

                                                        I want to clarify that we were talking about what you were calling "better equalization of heat", which I took--and still take--to mean evenness and effective conduction of heat up the walls of the pan. In this regard, it's quite easy to scale the thickness of aluminum up to rough equivalency with copper.

                                                        Aside from someone twisting what we were talking about into something we weren't (responsiveness), IMO neither of the Demeyer lines can be realistically described as "responsive" in comparison with straight-gauge aluminum or copper. Both Atlantis and Apollo employ quite thick SS cladding, inside and out, thicker even than A-C's 0.46mmx2. Since SS has a thermal conductivity of 8 Btu/(hr-ft-F)--compare with cast iron at 46, aluminum at 136, and copper at 231--cladding in thick SS is both going to widen the turns *and* narrow any differences in responsiveness between the two lines. It's akin to putting thin layers of insulation above and below the conductive metal.

                                                        Maybe you already knew this, but obviously some didn't.

                                                        Aloha,

                                                        Kaleo

                                                        1. re: kaleokahu

                                                          I didn't, but anyway I am partial to All-Clad MC2, which is bare aluminum on the outside. I don't see any value in SS cladding on the outside.

                                                          1. re: GH1618

                                                            GH1618

                                                            “I didn't, but anyway”

                                                            Me too. I was confused to say the least.

                                                            I think it is questionable to take a “copper is the best for any cookware” stance, but that is an opinion. Nevertheless, it is important to stay on the facts when possible.

                                                            Demeyere have several lines of cookware, and the Atlantis and Apollo are two popular ones.

                                                            For the stock pot design, the Atlantis has copper core bottom and Apollo has aluminum core bottom. These claddings do not go up the side, and increasing the aluminum thickness cannot make the Apollo more responsive and more even heating. This comparison is real and therefore meaningful.

                                                            Atlantis does have cladding extends up to the side for certain cookware, like the frying pan for example. However, these are aluminum core, not copper core. The idea of increasing Apollo aluminum thickness on the wall to match Atlantis copper thickness on the wall simply does not exist. The information is false.

                                                            As for your SS cladding on the outside, that is for convenience. For some people, it is very important. For others , it is not. The convenience factor is weighted more for some than others. Numerous people have expressed that they won't entertain the idea to wash their cookware by hands. We all do that to some degree on different things.

                                                            While I don't mind the idea of hand washing my cookware, some do. On the other hand, some people like baking bread at home every day, I cannot. Once a month for me. So I think it is important to stay slightly flexible for others views.

                                                  2. re: kaleokahu

                                                    $150 for a 14 qt copper pot is a great bargain. That brings it into the range of practicality for ordinary amateur cooks.

                                3. Just curious, would cooking on an electric coil stove top cancel out most of the advantages of copper cookware?

                                  16 Replies
                                  1. re: Seitan

                                    Hi, Seitan:

                                    Well, if you refuse to re/move the pan, it can negate much of the downward responsiveness advantage. The upward response isn't the best, but calrod coils still heat up pretty fast.

                                    On the positive side, electric coils are IMO the most superior home hobs for evenness, generally speaking. Only French placques and solid surface cooktops do better.

                                    Aloha,
                                    Kaleo

                                    1. re: kaleokahu

                                      Yeah I can imagine having to constantly take the copper pan off the burner, then wait for the coils to cool down, then place the pan back on, wait for it to heat up to the new lower setting, etc every time you turn the heat down. I do this already sometimes with less responsive pans like S/S or cast iron, but while waiting for the coil to cool down these pans retain heat and so they somewhat buffer against the temperature fluctuations.

                                      Are coils that good for eveness? They cycle on and off all the time, especially on lower heat settings.

                                      Kaleo, would you happen to know what the S/S lining thickness is for the Mauviel 1.5 mm copper pans? Would it be 10% of 1.5 mm (assuming Mauviel's claim of 90% copper, 10% stainless)??

                                      1. re: Seitan

                                        Hi, Seitan:

                                        It's not quite as complicated as you have described. There aren't that many things that call for really fast downward response. You're just basically waiting to give the coil a little headstart on cooling.

                                        Yes, coils are good for evenness, especially if you have older coils, which tend to be heavier and/or have more turns. I'm not sure what you mean about coils cycling--radiant 'tops do that, but both of my electric ranges' coils are constantly on, even at the lowest setting.

                                        I do not know for sure, but I believe Mauviel's linings are 0.2mm on all their bimetal pans.

                                        My advice would be to save your money until you can get/find a pan with 2.5mm of copper, 2mm at the bare minimum. 1.5mm pans are commonly referred to as "table service" pans, which is a polite way of saying they're not very good for cooking. I consider it to be borderline dishonest for Mauviel to even offer them for cooking.

                                        Aloha,
                                        Kaleo

                                        1. re: kaleokahu

                                          Yes, when one considers all the various things one cooks, there aren't that many things that require instant downward response. But that says to me that the control offered by using a combo of copper and gas or induction for those very kinds of recipes and techniques wouldn't be a major enough reason to get copper. The increased control with response time, to me seems more convenience than necessity.

                                          If you have electric coils I'm surprised you haven't noticed how the elements surge and recede in power. It's not that the elements actually turn on and off per se, what I meant was that the elements seem to go through this cycling of supplying more voltage/current or something to the coils.( like with a refridgerator) It's even audible. With thin pans on low heat, this cycling can affect cooking, since it momentarily increases the output of the coil causing a slight surge in heat. It's one of the reasons I switched to enameled cast iron for cooking brown rice, for instance. I like to simmer brown rice at a very precise 'sweet spot' somewhere between very low and medium low. With some coils on some electric stoves the cycling could be more pronounced and it was creating some problems with my S/S pans. My heavy LC pans act as a buffer to this cycling.

                                          I was handling some Mauviel 2mm pans (bronze handles) at my local Williams Sonoma the other day. I just found them uncomfortably heavy. Which is why I thought I might be able to tolerate the 1.5mm. I wouldn't mind trying out a 10" saute pan,, but if copper is going to be that heavy and unwieldy, I think I'll pass.

                                          1. re: Seitan

                                            Hi, Seitan:

                                            I'm at a loss for how and why a resistive coil hob would cycle, surge or fluctuate. These coils are very much like a filament in a lightbulb, except that they come with their own dimmer (the rheostat). Unless the wiring TO the coil is bad or your power supply fluctuates, this shouldn't be happening. The fact that you say this is *audible* makes me think you first need a new stove and *then* new cookware.

                                            Yes, copper is heavy. Only you can decide what your weight limitations are. But if you're already heaving ECI around, you may be surprised how un-difficult it is to do the same things with copper. A 10-inch saute in thick copper will go 7-9 pounds, and about a pound of that you don't feel because it's in the handle. Unless you go with straight-gauge aluminum, quality generally equates with weight anyway.

                                            Enjoy,
                                            Kaleo

                                            1. re: kaleokahu

                                              The cycling on an electric element is something that occurs on every stove I've ever used. New stoves, old stoves, it doesn't matter. It has nothing to do with bad wiring, it's the way electric coils work. I thought everyone knew this. I guess not.

                                              I suggest watching and listening to your stove top elements more carefully.

                                              Here's a video by GE that explains it for glass top ceramic stoves, but the principle is the same for exposed elements.

                                              http://www.geappliances.com/videos-me...

                                              This is from a home maintenance site:

                                              "The stove's burner heating element is a coil of metal sheathed in an insulator. Electrical current travels through the element. Resistance to the passing of electrical current causes the element to heat up. A precise temperature cannot be set for a burner, instead it is turned on and off repeatedly by the control to achieve an average temperature. When it is set to a low temperature, the element is cycled on and off more frequently. For high temperatures, the heating element is energized longer with fewer on and off cycles. Some burners have two elements, with the second only being used only for high heat settings"

                                              http://www.acmehowto.com/howto/applia...

                                              I appreciate your take on the levels of quality of copper. What do you feel is the main advantage of a 2mm vs a 1.5mm thickness? Is it durability? Heat rentention? Why do you feel 1.5mm is too thin?

                                              1. re: Seitan

                                                Hi, Seitan:

                                                I find this authority unpersuasive. See, e.g., http://www.repairclinic.com/Range-Sto... The coil functions as a simple resistor, and the rheostat simply (and infinitely) allows *variable but fixed* current to that resistor. It has been this way since the first US patent was taken out in 1895. My IR gun shows that any one setting produces a constant temperature on my coil stove; if I had a 220V Kill-A-Watt, I'm confident it would show no variations in power consumption (as long as the oven stayed off).

                                                I *do* have a radiant smoothtop at my beach house that winks on and off, but this is an entirely different animal, whereby the *same* amount of current flows to the element regardless of setting. In that type appliance, you are probably alternately overshooting and undershooting--warbling, if you will--some constant setting.

                                                As for the copper thickness issue, yes, durability is an advantage--more accurately dimensional stability. Thin pans are durable, they just tend to change shape. This can be ameliorated somewhat by the way the pan is formed (pouring lip or wrapped around a wire rim).

                                                The biggest advantage of 2mm over 1.5 is evenness of heat. A very thin pan will tend to hotspot because there is not enough copper between the hob and the food to pass much heat laterally and equalize it over the cooking plane. The transfer from any hotspots will be very strong and very fast, and scorching is likely to occur. *However*, if you have a dead-even hob like a French Placque or a zoned solid-surface commercial top (essentially making the cooking plane even from the start), then 1.5mm could work well for things that only require heating the bottom of the pan.

                                                I have never played with placing a thick copper trivet like those from Bella Copper under a 1.5mm pan, but the effect would be to poorly approximate a thicker pan. I say 'poorly' because: (a) there will not be perfect contact between the two sheets of copper; and (b) the trivet would not help much to push heat up the pan's walls.

                                                Centuries of culinary empiricism and now many years of science underly the conclusion that there is an optimum thickness, which virtually all agree lies around 3mm. There is a sweetspot there where evenness, responsiveness and heat capacity work together.

                                                Aloha,
                                                Kaleo

                                                1. re: kaleokahu

                                                  Nothing in the link you provided disconfirms the existence of the electric cycling. It's a simple everyday fact anyone can observe and hear. The temperature of the coil burner is not always perfectly constant. It's truly astonishing that this is even up for discussion.

                                                  From another site:

                                                  "The burners on essentially all electric stoves are binary in that they are either fully on, or fully off. It would be more expensive and less energy efficient to use electronics that continuously vary the current flow through an electric element, and this would make no significant difference in temperature behavior at the cooking surface. Instead, electric stoves use a bimetallic switch which is a relatively simple way to have an on-off pattern with variable on/off times. To create constant heat, all electric stoves use materials that are bad conductors of heat between the electric element and the cookware surface to buffer the huge temperature swings at the element and produce very steady heat at the cooking surface.

                                                  The difference you are seeing between electric coil heating elements and glass-ceramic cooktops is that in the electric coils there is an inner heating element, then a thick ceramic layer, followed by an outer layer of metal. The element itself is heated in a binary manner, but all you can observe is the heat after the buffering of the ceramic layer has made up for the large fluctuations at the element (i.e. the outer metal glowing fairly constantly once it's heated). In a glass-ceramic cooktop, since the buffer layer (the glass-ceramic surface) is translucent, you are seeing the actual element glow (often this is an infrared lamp instead of a resistive wire) so you are viewing the non-buffered heating pattern. If you had a clear coil, you'd see the same heating on/off patterns in a coil stove as you do in glass-ceramic."

                                                  http://cooking.stackexchange.com/ques...

                                                  Thanks for the explanation re: copper and the merits of thicker pans. That seems to make sense, I just wasn't sure where or how the exact number 1.5 mm was determined to be too thin for regular cooking and 2mm considered the minimum. If I ever decide to get one, I may go with Falk. I was just asking about Mauviel because they offfered a thinner (i.e. lighter) style.
                                                  I'm not sure about what advantage copper pans would provide on an electric stove besides quicker initial heating times.

                                                  1. re: Seitan

                                                    Hi, Seitan: "It would be more expensive and less energy efficient to use electronics that continuously vary the current flow"

                                                    My resistive electric stoves have no electronics. The citation you make is about as authoritative as citing to a random post on *this* board. I can trip all my breakers except the one for the stove and watch my meter--it turns at a constant rate when one coil is on.

                                                    The answer to your question about copper on an electric stove is evenness. If your coils have much age on them or a lot of use (unless they were good, heavy American-made coils from the 1930s-1960s), they are prone to cracks, breaks and shorts, which results in dead spots and hot spots. The copper makes up for much of this. It (copper) also results in heat being delivered to the food from the pan's walls, rather than just from the floor; in this way it approximates cooking on gas. Finally, even though resistive coils themselves are slow to cool, copper pans atop it will cool faster than the same pans made of different materials, thereby mitigating the already-slow downward response (if you're lazy and refuse to lift the pan).

                                                    Aloha,
                                                    Kaleo

                                                    1. re: kaleokahu

                                                      Your anecdotal evidence is even less authoritative. If you can't see and hear the electric element go through it's cycling, then there's really not much more to say. Everyone I know and talk to who use electric stoves is aware of the cycling and adjusts their handling of pans accordingly.

                                                      I may yet try a copper pan. What types of pans would it make the most noticeable difference with?

                                                      1. re: Seitan

                                                        Hi, Seitan:

                                                        Could you possibly be referring to triac-controlled circuits? If an electric hob is controlled by one, it *does* cycle, but at a rate dictated by the sine of the alternating current. Sixty-cycle AC would result in the hob turning off and back on again 120 times a SECOND. This is also the way most modern dimmer switches work. Do you see and hear your dimmed lights cycling?

                                                        If you need pans that solve Zeno's paradox, you're on your own.

                                                        Aloha,
                                                        Kaleo

                                                        1. re: kaleokahu

                                                          I'm referring to about 90% of all electric stoves made in the past 40 years which have exposed coil elements.

                                                          Which paradox of Zeno are you referring to? There were several. No matter, it seems you know as much about ancient Greek philosophy as you do about electric stoves.

                                                          I guess everyone who I've talked to who use electric stoves, as well as all the people who mention element cycling on various cooking and noncooking websites, and the home appliance repair sites, including the one by GE I linked to, are all just imagining things.

                                                          Have a nice life. I'm done with you.

                                                          1. re: Seitan

                                                            Hi, Seitan:

                                                            Other than a triac-controlled circuit operating at 120 cycles per second, which I submit no one can see or hear, I'm pretty sure my calrod stovetop elements stay on, and at a stable temperature. You left without saying if this is what you meant.

                                                            That's interesting what you say about Zeno. What I learned earning my degrees in philosphy from Stanford and Oxford was that only *two* of Zeno's paradoxes survive. Perhaps you know better, and can share the rest with us. How ironic if you have found Simplicius' book of all 40, lost now for more than 1,000 years! In any event, I was referring to the "Arrow" paradox of motion as expressed by that no-talent bum Aristotle (Physics, 239b.30).

                                                            Aloha,
                                                            Kaleo

                                                2. re: Seitan

                                                  "The cycling on an electric element is something that occurs on every stove I've ever used. New stoves, old stoves, it doesn't matter."

                                                  Well, I'm a little hesitant to jump into the middle of this, but...

                                                  My own experience matches that of Kaleo's. On every electric stove I'VE ever used, the radiant heat of the coils has been constant and there has never been audible energy cycling.

                                                  I now have a smooth-top resistive electric stove, & this unit is the first one I've ever used where I can hear the energy cycling. All previous electric stoves I've used have been the Cal-rod-style with exposed coils, & the newest one (the one we just replaced) was 20 yrs old. Perhaps all resistive electric stoves made in this century now use "binary" energy cycling, but it's never been something I've ever experienced (or heard happening) before.

                                                  Just my own, personal, observation... :-)

                                                  1. re: Eiron

                                                    So on your old coil stove, you never noticed the audible 'click' coming from the control panel?

                                                    Those clicks correlate to the heating up of the coils. One click brings an increase in heat, and then it recedes a bit, followed by the next click increasing the heat further, and so on in a stepped manner until the temperature setting is reached. Once reached the clicking continues but less frequently, depending on whether the controller senses the coil needs more (or less) heat.

                                                    If you listen to a pot slowly being brought to a boil on a coil element, you can hear the boiling pattern and the creaking of the pot both increase and subside slightly in waves as it slowly approaches a boil. It's not a perfectly steady, linear incline in heat. You need a relatively quiet kitchen.

                                                    I've never used a smooth-top, but from what I've read and what some people have told me the cycling is a lot more pronounced. I don't know if the control panel makes any audbile clicks though.

                                                  2. re: Seitan

                                                    Hi, Seitan:

                                                    I owe you an apology. I spent some time last night with an IR gun and a stethoscope, and indeed my calrod elements cycle on and off.

                                                    I tested my 8" coil at Med-Low position without any pan, and the temperature swing *at the coil surface* was about 35F with a periodicity of about 20 seconds. The stethoscope made the cycling audible.

                                                    35F sounds like a lot. However, the pans I chose to put on that hob last night (a Swiss Diamond aluminum skillet and a copper saute) showed no temperature cycling *at all*. Both pans matched the hob size well, and both climbed steadily to about 270F and stayed there. There was a rapid 1F fluctuation when the pans reached equilibrium, but that was clearly attributable to the IR gun, not the coil. There was <10F difference in temperature between dead-center and the edges.

                                                    I'll try to repeat this tonight with a thinner clad pan to see if I can get the pan itself to show temperature cycling driven by the coil. If there is a substantial fluctuation shown, it brings yet another factor into play in evaluating cookware.

                                                    Obviously, there are three links in the thermal chain here: calrod, pan, food (5 if you consider all three components of the calrod). All but the internal coil wire tend to modulate the cycles. My data show that even *my* empty pans sufficiently modulated the current cycling to yield perfectly constant, and nearly-perfect evenness of, heat. YRMV.

                                                    So, even though I see no (and normally can't hear any) effects of this cycling on my cooktop, it's there nonetheless. I apologize if my skepticism offended you. Not all knowledge is within my house.

                                                    Aloha,
                                                    Kaleo

                                      2. I am a little late to the party, so I will simply talk about my choices and experience....and I am happy with the outcome. When younger, I had the complete Farberware line of stainless steel cookware with aluminum bottoms (you know the kind) and used cast iron for a skillet. This approach worked well enough, until I purchased a glasstop electric stove, which I enjoy. I know, I know, alas, not gas.

                                        I learned early on that I could not use my beloved cast iron skillet on the glass top stove. This awareness actually led to a complete cookware redo, and it was time to do that anyway. I kept the Farberware, it comes in handy on occasion.

                                        After considerable research, I chose the two opposite ends of the spectrum: Le Creuset enameled cast iron and tin-lined copper. The LC heats slowly and holds heat (cools down slowly). I use it for long slow cooking and the fry pan for searing and I also have an inside grill pan in LC. So low and slow for LC, as well as searing, higher heat than copper/tin would tolerate, and as a replacement for the beloved cast iron. For all delicate and/or quick work, I have slowly learned to cook in the tin-lined copper: omelettes and eggs, sauces, a little braising (because I have a lovely rondele). The copper is exquisitely responsive to temperature changes and very fast. That means if the temp is a little high, I can just remove it from the heat and it cools down almost immediately. I generally use pretty low heat for both types of cookware....The LC is very slow and holds heat. The range of the two types of cookware provide me with the versatility in cooking that works very well for me.... and I wanted the challenge each type of cookware provided.

                                        My approach involves making sure that something foodwise is in each type of cookware before heating, usually a cooking oil of some sort...or liquid. I hope this helps the OP some, and others with the same question. These two lines of cookware have made me a better cook....more patient, more aware, more alert, more focused.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: mobius981

                                          Thanks, mobius. That sounds EXACTLY what I am in the process of doing. I have a set of LC that I use for slow & low heat items, and then I have recently purchased a DeBuyer mineral pan for things that my old cast iron pan (R.I.P.) used to do.

                                          But for fast and furious cooking, my ten year old Cusinart Mulitclad set seems a little stodgy and slow now (and I'm getting tired of cleaning the rainbow stains from the interior S/S). So I've been thinking about possiblly getting something a little more conducive for fast and/or delicate cooking. I know copper would be the ultimate, but I have an electric coil stove top and not sure whether it's worth the price if I can't take full advantage of all that instantaneous control which copper offers. And I don't forsee a time when I will ever use gas or induction (I will probably be a renter in apartments forever)..

                                          So, I've been thinking of either straight gauge aluminum or another clad that might be faster than my Multiclads (if that exists). I'm also thinking of maybe getting a couple of pieces of Demeyere to throw into the mix for when disk bottms would be better.

                                          1. re: Seitan

                                            Seitan, how about just one nice copper pan for omelettes and crepes? To experiment with?