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Copper cookware for electric range?

Trying to decide whether to splurge on copper cookware to replace the pots I bought 3 years ago at kitchen supply stores in NYC. I cook for just one person and don't need a whole set - probably just a skillet, a saute pan and a sauce pan - so I'd like to spend more for quality. I don't make complicated recipes, mostly stirfrys or soups that I use my LC dutch oven and stockpot for.

As I was trolling Chowhound for old copper threads, it occurred to me to ask whether cooking with copper on my electric range would be a problem. Would it heat the copper too much (even though I don't intend to use high heat on the copper), would it scorch quicker or get scratched/scratch up the glass surface of my range?

On another note, my kitchen countertops are copper. I bought the house last year and never had the chance to ask the last owners why they chose copper when they redid the kitchen 10 years ago. Seems like a huge amount of money if it's just for aesthetics. I understand copper has antimicrobial qualities, so does that mean I can stop obsessively wiping my countertops with Lysol after I break down a chicken?

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  1. Hi, morninglemon:

    Copper works exceedingly well with every modality except induction. Resistive electric is not that responsive (at least in the downward direction), so to get the most out of copperware's responsiveness on the downside, you will probably need to shift/move pans off coils. You should have no problems, but be mindful not to preheat empty pans over high heat. Even if you have the SS-lined pans, if you high sear a lot, it would be best to hang on to one cast iron skillet.

    You will find that, in pretty much every stovetop preparation, you will use settings one or even two "numbers" lower than you're used to. Copper is relatively soft, so it will tend to scuff, and not scuff your glass as much as other materials.

    As far as copper's antimicrobial properties, yes, this is true enough. But I would not dispense with basic surface sanitation, either.

    Aloha,
    Kaleo

    2 Replies
    1. re: kaleokahu

      Thanks for the reply. When you say I need to shift/move pans off the coils, does that mean I'd have to be constantly moving the pan on the stove as I cook? I just imagine that with the heavy weight of the copper + weight of the food and constant moving, I'd be scuffing both the bottom of my pot and the range surface.
      One of the reasons why I need new pots is because my current ones are uneven on the bottom, which makes cooking on a standard electric glass-top range a nuisance because the heat is not even. to get medium heat, i have to go to medium-high. so i imagine with copper pots, i could get to medium heat just by having it on low or medium-low. Does that sound about right?

      * I dont plan to high-sear with a copper skillet, since I have a cast iron skillet. But that point makes me wonder whether I need a copper skillet if I have the cast-iron already. Is there any point in having the copper skillet?

      1. re: morninglemon

        Hi, morninglemon:

        You're welcome. "[D]oes that mean I'd have to be constantly moving the pan on the stove as I cook?"

        Not at all. Copper is the *least* likely to require JiffyPopping. It just means that if you want something to ramp down quickly, you'll have to remove the pan from the hob.

        Unless you are considering pans <2mm thick, copperware is quite resistant to deformation, and so will sit flat on your glass. The heavy weight actually helps with this, because the handles don't counterwight and unbalance the pans.

        "[I] imagine with copper pots, i could get to medium heat just by having it on low or medium-low. Does that sound about right?"

        Exactly right.

        "Is there any point in having the copper skillet?"

        Yes. The huge majority of tasks we ask of skillets is done well under the 437F limits that come with tin. Remember that the smoke point of many, many fats and oils is well below
        this. Until one plays with an IR thermometer, it's hard to appreciate how little actually requires crossing that temperature threshold. So a skillet (aka frypan or poelle) is worth having. I wouldn't prioritize it in the top two, but it's in the top 3 or 4...

        Aloha,
        Kaleo

    2. <it occurred to me to ask whether cooking with copper on my electric range would be a problem>

      It should not. It also won't heat the copper much higher than a gas stove.

      <I can stop obsessively wiping my countertops with Lysol after I break down a chicken?>

      You should keep the same sanitation procedure. As for sanitation, the most importance step is to clean your where your food is prepared (like the cutting board) and your utensils.

      1. Morninglemon.....Aloha. I just purchased a set of Falk cookware from Copperpans.com. I have an electric cooktop. It works great...no problems at all. I dont have a great feel yet for how much I have to turn down my settings, but it heats up wonderfully. If anything changes in the future, I will post here, but for now, the cookware is better than my stove.

        1. Unless you really like the look of copper, or are a very finicky cook, this will probably make more of a difference to your bank account than your cooking. :-)

          I'm speaking from experience. There's a bunch of tinned copper in my cupboards. It served me well for a decade or so, but when the tin started to wear off exposing food to bare copper, and I found out how much it would cost to get the pots and pans retinned, I bought new stuff made of more modern and durable materials, got equally good results in the kitchen, and haven't looked back.

          Clad cookware, some of it with copper cores, gives you the thermal conductivity of copper without the disadvantages. Or if you've been satisfied with the results you've been getting from the cookware you now have, which you say is only 3 years old, maybe just stay with it and save your money, or spend it on equipment that enables you to do things you can't do now.

          23 Replies
          1. re: John Francis

            <I found out how much it would cost to get the pots and pans retinned>

            How much in your case? Reading from Rocky Mountain Retinning and East Coast Retinning, it seems about $60-$80 for a 12 inch saute pan (not including shipping). A stock pot would be closer to $80-$150. Do these number resemble your findings?

            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

              I'm talking about 30 years ago; don't remember the numbers and they'd be different now anyway. All I remember is the sticker shock. But the prices you quote should give morninglemon an idea of what he/she would be in for, not just once but repeatedly if the copperware is for everyday use as mine was.

              1. re: John Francis

                <not just once but repeatedly if the copperware is for everyday use as mine was.>

                Thanks, John. I assume different cookware will have different retinning need. That is to say, a heavily used cookware at a higher temperature will likely need retinning more frequently than a moderatly used cookware.

                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                  It looks like morninglemon intends the new copperware for everyday use, as she/he is talking about replacing her/his cookware.

                  I suppose if I'd babied the pots and pans the tinning would have stood up longer, but if that kind of treatment is what copperware needs, then it's another reason to think about it before buying it.

                  1. re: John Francis

                    John Francis, from your experience how long did it take before the lining of your pots get thin enough to require retinning?
                    I do intend to use them for daily use, but I am not a hardcore home chef - as I said, I cook for one and there are days when i don't even touch my pots because I'm baking or roasting or just eating salads. So even my daily use isn't all that much use.
                    I realize there's quite an expense to getting copper pots, but I'm not buying a full set - just the pots that I know will get use. I already have the maintenance supplies because of my darned copper countertops. And I'm pretty satisfied with my kitchen equipment after splurging last year on the stuff that I wanted for years (the KA mixer, the LC dutch oven, a great food processor). Now it's a matter of getting better quality for the stuff that I use frequently. But I'm not in it for the aesthetics of copper - I just want the best material suited for my needs. That's why I asked whether a copper skillet is practical for someone like me who already has a cast iron one (and also a smalll wok). I've been thinking about copper or All-Clad and I think they're both pricey, so the question is which is better for the price.

                    1. re: morninglemon

                      While I have had a few retinned over the years, I do have a large sauté pan in regular use or 37 years with no copper showing. Amazingly, when I bought it I got what seemed like an awfully good deal because a prior purchaser had used it,let it get too hot while empty, and slightly bubbled the tin. It has never been an issue. The few pans that have needed retiming were either poorly tinned from the outset or abused with metal implements. Rocky Mountain was a decent job and not horrendously hard to deal with. Atlantic was a nightmare to deal with but the work was impeccable.

                      1. re: morninglemon

                        It's so long ago that I can't give you a precise answer, but as I remember, the large saucepan first showed copper within 5 years, Looking straight down at the bottom, the finish merely looks dull, but at a slight angle to the light, I see many small areas of orange, up to 1/4" across. That was my most-used pan. The sauté pan is just beginning to show bits of orange; the small saucepan and the 5 qt casserole, not yet.

                        My answer to another obvious question: no, I never used a wire whisk in any of the pans, but at that time my cooking spoon and slotted spoon were stainless steel, and I'm sure this did the tinning no good. If you use only wooden or nylon spoons and silicone-coated whisks, as if the pans' surface were Teflon, no doubt the tinning would last longer. Also, I had no dishwasher at the time, and never used steel wool or the like for cleaning these pans.

                        And of course not all copper cookware and all makers of it are the same. Mine was made by or for Paul Meunier, who had shops in Brooklyn Heights (where I lived) and Cornwall, CT. For all I know, other makers may produce more durable copper cookware with a thicker layer of tin.

                        As for clad cookware, All-Clad is the high end maker and its prices are high end too. (I should mention that only some of All-Clad's stuff has a copper core, other lines have an aluminum core, but they're just as highly rated.) If price were a factor, there are alternatives from Calphalon, Cuisinart, and Gourmet Standard that cost about half as much, more or less, and are highly rated by America's Test Kitchen, though not as highly as All-Clad. And then there's maintenance, not an issue with stainless-clad cookware but potentially a big item with copper - not just the cost of retinning, but what do you cook with while it's away being retinned?

                2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                  The going rate that I am aware of for re-tin,Richmond to Philly.My guy is in Montgomery Co Md. $5.00 an inch ,measure down one side,across the bottom and up the other side,round or square.Oval,oblong IE 9x13 becomes 11" for tin
                  If you want it back all polished and shiny like new is $7.00 per inch.

                  1. re: lcool

                    <My guy is in Montgomery Co Md. $5.00 an inch >

                    Sound about right for the other sites too.

                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                      I just like his fair,straight forward,anyone can price his work method.Not the bring it in for a quote.
                      Same piece,3 people,3 different visits,3 prices,40% gap from high to low $,shops like that aren't hard enough to find.

                      1. re: lcool

                        <I just like his fair,straight forward,anyone can price his work >

                        Yeah, but the others two sites which I cited also listed their price upfront too.

                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                          And you still have to ship.My remarks were based on walk through the door for
                          service.With many brass restorers,re-platters and re-tin folks handy to Richmond,DC,Baltimore & Philly the quote thing is not rare.

                3. re: John Francis

                  Hi, JF: "Clad cookware, some of it with copper cores, gives you the thermal conductivity of copper without the disadvantages."

                  There is no fully clad, copper core cookware made with the conductivity of straight-gauge copperware. The very best of the clad, e.g., Demeyere Atlantis, has a copper layer only <2mm thick. Moreover, the copper bimetal sheetstock used by Falk, Mauviel, Bourgeat and others now puts a "modern and durable" lining between your utensils and the copper.

                  If you are so sorely disappointed with your tinned copper, why don't you sell it? There is quite a seller's market right now, and folks like the OP abound who would like to try it.

                  Aloha,
                  Kaleo

                  1. re: kaleokahu

                    Of course clad cookware has a "modern and durable" lining around the copper. That's what clad means and what it's for, right? My suggestion is that clad cookware with a copper core can match the even heat distribution of straight copper. It may take a little longer to heat up, which seems to me an acceptable or at least reasonable trade-off for its greater practicality, not to mention its cost-free maintenance.

                    Since you ask, I guess I'll leave it to my heirs to sell my copper pots etc. for whatever they can get when that time comes, along with everything else. I don't need the money that badly, and don't yet need the space.

                    1. re: John Francis

                      Hi, JF:

                      I think you misunderstood me. I meant that much--perhaps the lion's share--of the copperware made these days is SS-lined, and so is "modern and durable", effectively impervious to wearing through to the copper.

                      *However*, this stuff (e.g., Falk) is NOT fully clad, and typically has copper foil thickness in excess of 2mm. This copper thickness is something no full-clad has.

                      "[C]lad cookware with a copper core can match the even heat distribution of straight copper."

                      We disagree.

                      You should sell your copper and buy your self something you like.

                      Aloha,
                      Kaleo

                      1. re: kaleokahu

                        I've long since bought cookware I like. As for selling the copper, I've spoken to that in another message.

                  2. re: John Francis

                    EDITED TO SAY: NEVER MIND--I just saw your response to Kaleo from last night!

                    John,

                    Several times I've seen you mention the tin-lined copper in your cupboards (that is in need of retinning) that you have no intention of using. Any chance you are interested in selling any of it? I have a few items I am still looking for, so I'd be curious to know what you have!

                    Let me know, and we can email about it off site.

                    Thanks!

                    Jeremy

                    1. re: jljohn

                      Maybe so. If you can email me with what you'd want to have, something might come of it.

                      1. re: John Francis

                        Great. What's your email address? I couldn't seem to find a way to access it via your profile. Thanks!

                        1. re: jljohn

                          On second thought, jljohn, I don't think so. I haven't offered the copperware to anybody in my family yet, and I wouldn't know what's a fair price in its present condition. Thanks for the offer, though.

                          1. re: John Francis

                            You should offer to sell them to your wife.... Get it? :)

                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                              I'd consider it if I had one. :-) (No, I don't get it.)

                              1. re: John Francis

                                It is an obnoxious joke. As in, you can sell the copperware which you don't use to her, and you get money from her. It is just so ridiculous that it is funny.
                                Think: a wife should pay the husband for getting pregnant.

                                <I'd consider it if I had one. >

                                Well, you know it also works if you have two, right? :D (No, it won't work no matter what).

                  3. Always clean up well after chicken, although I don't know that Lysol is the thing to use.

                    11 Replies
                    1. re: GH1618

                      I was also wonder that as well. The standard solutions for decontamination are: diluted bleach, vinegar, hydrogen peroxide....etc. Diluted bleach is considered extremely effective, but can be cumbersome to use for household -- since it has to be prepared fresh each time.

                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                        @ morninglemon: Please don't use bleach on copper! Chlorine is the one thing that will mess up copper -- creates dark blotches that are all but impossible to remove. (It's the most prominent warning on the minimalist care tag that came with my Mauviel pan).

                        For chicken aftercare on copper counters, I'd use very hot water and a little soap, followed by more *very* hot water. Hydrogen peroxide would be my choice of anti-microbial chemical, if forced to pick one. Don't think many bacteria would survive a half-lemon-with-salt scrub, which would be the m.o. for restoring the rosy glow of the counters, if desired.

                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                          Chlorine and copper aren't great friends,risky to fabrics etc.Lysol,not a friendly to food and hard to get 100% off.

                          I have a 70" long,30" deep,10" splash,restaurant lip prep counter,copper,single continuous piece.It's purpose is meat,butcher and prep.Water,HOT is my first sanitation defense,with
                          an easy to remove degreaser.Hydrogen peroxide gets poured on and mopped up when ?,perhaps I missed something.

                          1. re: lcool

                            Lysol is just not a very good antibacterial agent for kitchen. Bleach is very effective, but quickly oxidize copper. Bleach works great as an antibacterial solution for stainless steel or many plastic surfaces.

                            1. re: lcool

                              lcool - do you use your copper counter to butcher WITHOUT a board underneath? bc if you use a board, then what's the diff between having copper and having any other surface under your board?

                              I mostly use Lysol on my countertops if I'm breaking down meat cuts and the water/blood spills onto the countertops. Otherwise I use an antibac countertop spray from method or caldrea. Is that not enough?

                              1. re: morninglemon

                                Yes,without a board.Simply not a practical option when much of the time what I am working with is +18 pounds.Saturday was half a large lamb for Sunday.I do have a large slab or two,used when practical and two or three little ones for under a joint or ? being detailed.I would rather have blood and raw fat on an easier to clean surface than the proverbial wood board.At 67 I just won't do this sort of thing on the stainless steel table in the garage unless the weather conditions are ideal.Too hot or chilly just aren't part of my plan anymore.
                                When we modified and renovated etc the kitchen nearly four years ago,stainless or copper for this counter was decided by $.With less than 11% difference fabricated and installed,my preference,copper got the nod.

                                As to cleaning,you're fine.Doing more than most people.Hot soap and water get 99.9%

                                1. re: lcool

                                  That makes me think that perhaps the former owners of my house were amateur butchers (I have no idea what their real professions were though).

                                  As an update to my original post, I recently won a small vintage Bazar Francais skillet off eBay. The bottom was heavily tarnished; I spent hours on a weekend afternoon scrubbing it w/ a copper cleaner (no luck) and then a mixture of vinegar + salt + flour, and THEN half a lemon + salt. Maybe a 1/3 of it came off. Anyone have better ideas? I have Wrights and BKF that I haven't used yet.

                                  I've already tried to cook with it though (I didn't think the tarnish on the bottom would affect its usability?) and so far it's been OK. I've only fried eggs in it. I noticed that the heat is indeed distributed quite equally (as opposed to my other wobbily-bottomed skillet) though I feel it takes a surprisingly long time/heat to get it hot. Not sure if this is a result of the tarnish (though I would say only 1/3rd of the bottom is tarnished), my high expectations or maybe copper and electric ranges don't mesh that well.

                                  1. re: morninglemon

                                    Tarnish doesn't bother me or effect cooking.All of the pieces I cook with look mustard stained.I don't like WRIGHTS,except their silver polish,BKF,ZUD and BonAmi are at best OK regarding copper.

                                    We do have some serving and or decorative copper.To keep pretty,not pristine I use a NEVR DULL (not a typo) original brass wadding.It comes in a blue can,is rag like,pre-treated (?) just tear off a piece and rub.It's the best,easiest for me.

                                    Be patient with your learning and practical use curve.You are off to a good start.The results will catch up with practice.

                                    1. re: morninglemon

                                      Hi, morninglemon:

                                      Right now, anyway, I'm favoring a two-step process: (1) Tarn-X solution; followed by (2) Flitz metal polish. The first is really quick but not a polish. The second is an excellent polish that make it last quite a long time.

                                      Aloha,
                                      Kaleo

                                      1. re: kaleokahu

                                        Kaleo,

                                        I not yet started to think about a polishing solution, because I'm not at all concerned about the tarnish. However, I love watching copper transition from bright and shiny, through many different shades (including yellow on one of my pans?), and finally to a dull brown, so at some point I will want to start that process over again with each piece.

                                        Have you tried the Copperbrill? What is it about the Tarn-X that you like? Do you really just wipe it on and rinse it off?

                                        Thanks!

                                        Jeremy

                                        1. re: jljohn

                                          Hi, Jeremy:

                                          Yes, polishing can be overrated. But 1-2x/year, it can be pretty festive.

                                          No, I've not tried Copperbrill--I haven't justified the cost. I like the Tarn-X because it covers a lot of acreage quickly, and saves me on Flitz.

                                          Aloha,
                                          Kaleo