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Sep 10, 2012 05:55 PM

Can I cook tomato sauce in my tin-lined copper pot?

See subject. There's a lot of stuff floating around the web. Now that I've spent $$ on copper ware, my wife claims I'm poisoning her.

Please help.

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  1. I am sure your copper pot is lined with something and not exposed copper, right? If the interior surface is stainless steel, then the food only get to touch the stainless steel. If the interior surface is tinned, then the food is touching the tin.

    If your cooking surface is pure copper, then you better retin it soon.

    1. Hey, Rob:

      Tell her she's ignoring all the other, little poisonings...

      Seriously, 20 minutes ago I pimped some deglazed wine/tomato gravy from a big tinned saute to go on/over the meatballs in another tinned gratin.

      2x seriously, would all three kitchens of state of the French Republic be serving poisoned food?


      4 Replies
      1. re: kaleokahu

        She says the tin is leaching into the sauce. I just made a fresh (ie from a whole bunch of bruised tomatoes my friend sold me for pennies) sauce and a huge bunch of basil, little garlic, etc.

        I had to take a Benadryl from sneezing so much, so I can't smell/taste a thing, and my beloved refused to have it. (I made for her a quick pan sauce for the chicken I had separately been sautéing.)

        My sauce is crying out in the wilderness.

        If you guys would --this is serious for my family safety and peace of mind--could I ask of you to take some time, and gather up some clear rebuttals to what she has been reading--if the rebuttals are necessary or not--and clearly and concisely lay out the facts?

        I know you're a gazillion times more comfortable with this chemistry.

        I will show her this thread. She is already asking "what did it say?"


        1. re: rbraham


          Oh, man, I feel for your domestic tranquility... Since you are her spouse and not I, let me be frank. If she requires citations to authorities for what follows, they are plentiful.

          She does not believe that the chefs for the President, Senat and Assemblee Nationale of France are not poisoning their bosses? How closed a mind are we dealing with here?

          Copper toxicity is extremely rare. Tin toxicity is almost unheard of--there are probably more issues with SS than tin. Most Americans are *deficient* in dietary copper. The length of time a tomato sauce is actually exposed to any copper at all? ZERO if your linings are good. TINY if you have some scratches. If copper is her issue, she should be more concerned about the water in your pipes than your pans.

          This is a little like proving there's no monster under the bed.

          Good Luck,

          PS What has she been reading?

          1. re: rbraham

            <tin is leaching into the sauce>

            Well, tin does leach into food to some extends. I don't think this is surprising. In fact, tin more than likely just fall and stripped into your foods as opposed to leaching. Why else do you think you need to retin your copper cookware? Tin, however, has a very low toxicity profile, which is why tin was used for packaging foods.

            Remember tin cans and tin canning?


            Tin, actually, has a low effective toxicity for several reasons. For one, tin itself is not extremely toxic. However, more importantly is that tin is not very reactive (though not inert). This is why you can store foods for a very long long time in tin cans. Tin element has a very low solubility and a low absorption, which means it is not readily absorbed by human digestive system. All of these make tin nontoxic when compared to copper.

            This is the bigger picture:
            1) Tin does not dissolve easily into the liquid 2) For the small percentage which does, it does not get absorbed by the body easily, and 3) for that tiny amount of tin which is both dissolved and absorbed.... well, it turns out that tin is not very toxic. All of these make tin safe in comparison.

            This is, of course, not to say that tin is absolutely nontoxic, but it is one of the safest metals.

            Although tin element and inorganic tin compounds are fairly nontoxic, the organotin elements can be quiet toxic. Nevertheless, you are not going to form organotin when you cook.

        2. she is tasting a metallic taste, some items are claimed by natural tasters to give items metalic tastes. non stainles knives are the most notable cause.

          but tomato acid is known to react with funky flavor on alot of metal objects.

          as a hunter i do know that tin, copper steel/iron bismuth ect are listed as non toxic, in old old times arsenic was present in small amounts in tin, but that accualy helps as like alchol arscenic can be tolirated if tolerances are raised. it's also one reason we no longer have real tin cans.

          other option is shes sick metalic tastes are common with some illnesses hence the your killing me thoughts

          8 Replies
          1. re: elkahani

            Well, here we are at a temporary impasse. :)

            For my part, I couldn't smell or taste a damn thing. Zero. My dog could fart and I wouldn't notice, and that's saying a lot.

            My wife did not taste the sauce.

            So, I will show her this thread so far, and the two of us will move to round two, which is, thankfully, of some reaction of tin with cooked tomatoes.

            Obviously, if tomatoes taste off to _some_ people, there must be _some_ chemical reaction taking place. I'm more than happy to move on, but I'm sure one of us will go out our way to sense, or make-up, a different taste. Fear is an extraordinary, instinctive part of psychophysics.

            So, for the interest of science, what is going on with the flavor change? There are/were people who were turned off by canned tomatoes?

            And, as she just called out from the sofa, how long can tomato sauce sit in the pot before it eats through through the pot, and stove, and down through the kitchen floor through seven floors to the street, like an Alien's blood? (The last part I added.)

            1. re: rbraham

              That E-how is good. Just read it.

              1. re: rbraham

                <if tomatoes taste off to _some_ people, there must be _some_ chemical reaction taking place>

                Keep in mind that just because you can taste something, it does not mean it is bad. For example, iron gives off a very noticeable and distinct taste, but iron is fairly safe for most people. Vice versa, just because you canNOT taste something, it does not mean it is safe neither.

                <how long can tomato sauce sit in the pot before it eats through through the pot>

                Not in a hundred year, not unless you poke the tin with your utensils.

                Tin and stainless steel are fairly safe when we are talking about cookware.

                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                  For shits and giggles I looked up and, unsurprisingly, understood nothing, except for one word I understood, lithium salts, a chemical I had avidly been using for 20 years. Benefits!

                  FWIW, to go off-topic, I've read that iron-supplemented breakfast cereal is just that, with ground up FE, and a magnet will attract the cereal. I suppose a super powerful one could distend your stomach a little. (I subscribe to a board with a lot of physicists, and I just realized to post that as a query there...)

                  1. re: rbraham

                    < lithium salts, a chemical I had avidly been using for 20 years>

                    I doubt you are/were using the same lithium salt....


                2. re: rbraham

                  Hi, Rob:

                  As Desi Arnaz used to say, Aiyiyiyiyiyiyiyi!

                  Look, if DW imagines vividly enough, if she's scared herself enough, she is going to taste something off. I mean, call something Kryptonite Souffle, and you're going to experience it negatively. The fact that she didn't even *taste* your tomato sauce is not an encouraging sign, BTW.

                  This may be about something completely unrelated to tin and tomatoes, you know that, right? It *may* be that she thinks you're spending too much time/money on high-end copperware. Here's an idea: Have her taste the *tin* itself. Have her touch the tip of that spousal tongue to the lining of one of your pans. It doesn't taste of anything. If she says it does, you have to figure out what the real problem is, but it's not tomatoes and tin.


                  1. re: kaleokahu

                    <It *may* be that she thinks you're spending too much time/money on high-end copperware.>

                    1000% right. I was going to mention that in my wrap-up report. I just emailed this URL to her at work.


                    ps: DW = Designated Wife?

                    1. re: rbraham


                      DW = Dear Wife.

                      She should be comforted to know that, after awhile, you'll have all the copper you need (maybe a little more), and then it tapers off. Leaving you with a batterie you will never need to replace--unless you go over to the dark side... And you can always get your $ back out of by reselling and not get hurt.


              2. Just in case, look closely at the tinning to make sure no copper is showing. You may have to hold it at an angle to the light to see the telltale orange patches, if there are any. If you don't see them, and your wife really does get sick from her food, the problem lies elsewhere.

                1 Reply
                1. re: John Francis

                  <If you don't see them, and your wife really does get sick from her food, the problem lies elsewhere.>


                2. I am in the process of switching to Copper cookware... mostly french (vintage) E Dehillerin... old and new. There are a few basic size pans/ sauce pots I want to get. But my question is this.. I am not very familiar with Copper (I know not to put it in the dishwasher! lol)... but can I regularly cook pasta sauce in the tin lined copper? I figure cans of tomatoes are made of tin right?? but I don't want to corrode the inside of the pan. I hear people rave on copper... assuming they make pasta sauce... but not sure if I should go for the traditional tin lined pan or go for the stainless lining on the copper for a large saute pan for everyday use. Thanks

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: Ledsmom

                    I use tin lined copper to cook most things that don't require super high temperatures, including tomato sauces, things deglazed with wine, vinegar, brandy etc. if cost were no object I can only think of a few pans where another material would be better.

                    1. re: tim irvine

                      Thanks Tim... I am not a professional cook. But want to purchase a great E.Dehillerin pot when I go to Paris next month. Was thinking something about 13" As i do make a lot of pasta and make my own homemade sauces. (with wine) maybe I am making too much of this... just want to be able to cook and not fret over possibly damaging the pan in a year. I don't know much about how long the tin lasts on these... I don't fry food (but would use cast iron if i did)... however to occasionally brown a roast etc is the tin still ok??..

                    2. re: Ledsmom

                      IMO, the only reasons to prefer SS over tin are high heat stability and ability to scour/use metal utensils. The only times I wish I had one bimetal piece is for very high oven roasting. But that's what silver is for...

                      1. re: kaleokahu

                        Thank you... I just want to be sure if I make the investment in my first copper pot from E. Dehillerin next month... that I get a surface that I wont have to fret about. I am not a pro cook by any means... But I do make a lot of sauces, use wine in my cooking... and occasionally brown a roast before putting in the oven to cook for a few hours... So if I used a pot and had a roast in it in the oven at 375 for about 3 hours cooking in a sauce... would that be OK? Looking at the Copper lined with tin 2 handle saute pan or the "Cuprinox" (ss lined)... the Cuprinox is thicker?... perhaps i am making too much of this... I just want to make sure if I invest I get the right thing that wont have me re-tinning in a year! lol ...Or am I supposed to just use my Staub dutch oven for all roasts w/ sauce cooking? (Can you tell i am not a pro...LOL)

                        1. re: Ledsmom

                          Hi, Ledsmom:

                          Unless you'd be simmering highly acidic sauces for hours every day, you would not be needing to retin in a year. Many people cook everything in tin lined pans, and provided you don't scour or scrape with metal tools, get 10-15 years of everyday use.

                          What you will also get is discoloration, mottling and darkening. If a shiny lining is important to you, get the SS. With tin, you'll eventually get a uniform dark brown/grey, but it may take years for the splotches to merge, and it will never look new.

                          My advice to you is to get the best pan you can afford, and the lining material isn't at the top of deciding factors. Thickness is. You may well find that your choice for your large stewpan/rondeau is between 3.2mm tinned and 2.5mm bimetal. Both would be great pans, but the thicker is better.

                          Fretting... Some people worry incessantly about tin, even after educating themselves on proper use and care. Others' worries extend to guests and family members' unintentional abuse. If you fall into these camps, go with SS.

                          Anyway, have fun. You really can't make a wrong decision here.


                          1. re: kaleokahu

                            Fabulous... I will go with the tin then. Thank you so much for your help! :)