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Oct 16, 2012 01:22 PM

$1500-2000 to spend on a set of copper pots what would you buy?

Tin or SS? A set or pieces? Mauviel 2.5 or Bourgeat? French or American made?* I am replacing my Calphalon hard anodized sets completely and my husband has offered to spring for copper as long as I can keep it in the $1500-2000 range. I realize that I may need to purchase other pieces along the way but I want to get enough of a set now that I can pass on what I have to my son who is leaving for college next year (better to have the Calphalon hand me downs than nothing) and not have to mix and match. I cook for 4 most days but like to do a lot of entertaining. I am, what I like to think of as, an above average cook but not a professional chef by any means. I probably know very little actual "technique" and just cook in the pan/pot that seems right so please tell me why you recommend a certain item (such as a stew pot for chili, etc.). I have a dutch oven and three cast iron skillets of different sizes already and I can hold on to my roasting pan for hoildays and such as my son definitely won't be needing that anytime soon. Thank you ahead of time to those that respond. I have been lurking for a while and finally decided to post a bit and I see that there are several of you that are vey helpful and kind with suggestions!

*I ask this because I prefer to buy anything I can American made if the quality is there but I cannot really find much info on the Hammersmith copperware adn though I emailed the company with questions I haven't heard back yet. As for Falk, I just don't like the brushed copper. I understand that they are easier to keep looking nice but I prefer the shiny finish of the Mauviel or even the hammered pieces. I know, I sound like a monkey "shiny, shiny!" That's what I like and these pots will be pretty well on display as my kitchen has hit capacity for storage (pot rack or behind glass panel cabinet doors).

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    1. Hi, mandy:

      Oooh, spending somebody else's money... Doesn't get much better than that!

      For $1500-$2000 you can do really well. I think the Hammersmith pans are quite nice, and considering their retinning guarantee, quality, and USA manufacture, they are actually a bargain. I'm surprised Mac or Jeff haven't gotten back to you. Did you email them at ?

      For just a little more than $1500, you could get their 6Q casserole, the 11" saute, and 1.5 and 3.25Q saucepans. If you add the 9" gratin, it'd be $1735, and for the full $2000 you could add either the larger gratin or the smaller saute. I would suggest the pans in the order of priority listed. In fact, if you would be ordering so many pieces, it wouldn't hurt to ask them for some discount (or maybe free lids for saucepans and saute).

      That's for tinned (which I prefer). By the time you order tinned pans from Dehillerin or Mazzetti, the shipping would kill you. But buy USA if you can, I say. The alternative is to wait for a large set of vintage pieces to come up on eBay. They do come up, but not frequently.

      For SS-lined, your choices are basically Falk, Bourgeat and Mauviel. They are all very good. I don't like the Mauviel handles. The Falk are OK, and the Bourgeat are nice. But these bimetal pans can delaminate and salt-pit, and if that happens then you're sunk--no repair possible. Is it important to you to use metal utensils or to scour the interiors with abrasives? If so, go with the bimetal pans. The 8-pc. (really only 4 pans) Bourgeat set is available for $1320, but it doesn't have a saute and only one saucepan; but the rondeau is nice, and it has a saucier.

      If you like Falk but hate the finish, something to consider is either (a) asking Michael Harp if he'll special-order you a set that is not brushed; or (b) having the finish polished out after purchase. I think in either case you'd have to pay someone to mirror-finish.

      Have Fun,

      7 Replies
      1. re: kaleokahu

        Hi Kaleokahu, I was hoping you would reply ;) I emailed Hammersmith through their website and called but no one answered the phone? In fairness it may have been closing time when I called (after 5pm). I will try again in the morning. I am really feeling the pull of Hammersmith as I do my best to buy local and American if the quality is there. I would like to know what custom items they can do also. If I do not go with Hammersmith it will probably be Mauviel. I'm just not feeling the Falk. The list of pans you gave is very close to what I wanted so I'm glad to know I am on the right track! Retinning doesn't scare me, I accept that as part of it but my husband seems to think SS is the way to go (though he doesn't cook at all) because it sounds no/low maintenance. Thank you so much for your help!

        1. re: kaleokahu

          Ever since Kaleo told me about Brooklyn Copper, I've known that those were the copper pots I'd buy if I were to ever go pot shopping again (or if someone drops a few spare Gs on me).

          1. re: Jay F

            Jay F-

            I have been working with Mac at Brooklyn Copper to put together my "must have" set and hopefully will get them some time within the next few weeks! Mac has been great to work with and he has taken an extraordinary amount of time to go over details with me (even discussing some possible custom pieces). Please give them a call if you ever consider pot dealing again--see what I did there ;)

            1. re: mandymoo

              I am so glad to hear this, Mandy. I think Kaleo will be, too.

              Custom copper...<sigh>

              1. re: mandymoo

                Hi, Mandy:

                Please post photos of everything when you get your pans from Mac and Jeff, so that everyone can drool.

                These guys deserve all the publicity we can give them. In this case, Buying American is an easy and fantastic choice.


                1. re: kaleokahu

                  I plan to do just that! I'm getting really excited and the pans aren't even technically on the way yet :)

                  1. re: kaleokahu

                    I'm thinking 4 qt. saucepan, maybe a 3 qt. saute pan.

            2. I have mauviel, mostly stainless steel and a couple of tin. You will be polishing a lot if you like things shiny all the time. Falk are apparently more forgiving in this respect.

              If you buy tin, you will eventually have to re-tin them.... due to to wear or mistakes leaving it on the cooker. Stainless steel may pit, but I have never seen it with my pans. If you search for "Delamination of copper and ss" on the internet, you will only find people saying it can happen, but no actual cases of it happening, which makes it more theory than anything.

              Tin is less sticky and you can get thicker pans which is a bonus, although I can't tell the difference with my cooking and I do delicate French sauces with either.

              I think you will be happy with any of the top grade copper out there. Just make sure you don't buy less than 2.5mm thick, or anything with a brass handle.

              17 Replies
              1. re: Fumet

                Thank you for the response! Mauviel is definitely a contender. My husband is OCD (yes, he really is) so I have no worries that the copper will be polished and as shiny as it can realistically be!

                1. re: mandymoo

                  way to look on the bright side ;)

                2. re: Fumet

                  Hi, Fumet: " will only find people saying it can happen, but no actual cases of it happening, which makes it more theory than anything."

                  Well, from recently: Yes, it's got an extra layer of SS on the outside, but the principle is the same--the coefficients of expansion are different enough that a serious overheating will do this. Here's a case of serious pitting through the lining: alk specifically disclaims salt-piting from its waranty--why if it never happens?

                  I'll ask Mac for a photo of a delaminated Falk--I'm not sure Mr. Harp would give me one....

                  If you don't think this happens, put one of your Mauviel bimetals on a high hob empty and go walk the dog. If it survives 15 minutes, I'll be shocked.


                  1. re: kaleokahu

                    This is one of my fears! If I melt the tin it can be fixed, the SS has to be thrown away. I am the poster child for Murphy's Law....

                    1. re: mandymoo

                      Hi, again, Mandy: "I am the poster child for Murphy's Law...."

                      Oh, I'm sure it's not as bad as that.

                      A couple of things to bear in mind. First, realistically, it would take *serious* abuse to tank a bimetal pan. But there is no fixing one if it happens. Second, my experience has been that it's harder than most people think to truly toast a tin lining; tin is far more durable and forgiving than typically gets opined here (mostly by people who don't use it).

                      I think the tin v. SS thing comes down to: Do you want the durability edge and the convenience/look of bimetal, or are you a traditionalist? In the 2- 2.5mm grade, the performance stepdown for SS is slight. Are you a clean freak, or does the idea of a grey mottled look bother you?

                      You appear to have an adequate budget, and that bespeaks of buying a set or all-at-once. But there are single, vintage pans out there of higher quality than anything presently being made. If you buy piecemeal, and don't mind a learning curve and scrounging a bit,, your $2,000 could go very far, indeed.


                    2. re: kaleokahu


                      I have left one of my pans for about 15 mins on high and it was fine. Too hot to touch, all the way through the handle, but fine. The cooker is not Mega powerful, but it was on high. I guess it may eventually delaminate, but I know it is more durable than you suggest. I have never had trouble with my tin either.... maybe I am lucky.

                      If I ever need to replace a pan, I can use the money I saved from not retinning. For the tin pans, I can just get them retinned. I don't think the deciding factor is cost in the long run. As you said already .. its more about tradition vs durability, clean freak or not, etc. The op will likely be happy with any high end copper option.

                      As for specific pans, first get the ones where copper can shine. Saute, saucier, windsor, saucepan - in as many sizes as you need. Don't bother with stock frying pans or large oven bound pots - other materials are better in my opinion, and will also look good hanging.

                    3. re: Fumet

                      "If you search for "Delamination of copper and ss" on the internet, you will only find people saying it can happen, but no actual cases of it happening, which makes it more theory than anything"

                      Fear mongering run amuck. You have to love the sheer foolishness of suggesting you leave a pot on the burner empty for 15 minutes and walk away. If you did that with a tin lined pot the copper would warp and you'd have a messy goop of tin. Abuse any thing and you can kill it. SS lining is soooooo much easier to care for, safer and far more cost effective in the end.
                      Tin and SS lined copper both have their strengths. I would suggest mixing it up and not going with strictly one or the other so you can see for yourself which you prefer. Pick SS lining for pots you will use daily and tin for a rondeau or stock pot.

                      1. re: TraderJoe

                        Hi, TJ: "If you did that with a tin lined pot the copper would warp and you'd have a messy goop of tin."

                        Actually no, or at least not always. I have, three times now, boiled the same tinned copper saucepan dry for about that length of time (15 undisturbed minutes--the pan was glowing dull red and the smoke detector triggered), and the pan not only hasn't warped, but there was no melted tin. The lining got very dark, but there is still no exposed copper, and the tin is intact. The only visible effect that looks like melting happened at the *horizontal* surface of the rim--two tiny blisters. Maybe I was just lucky--all three times.

                        The salient point is that if you abuse a tin-lined pan to the point of lining failure, you save the pan and retin. Whereas if you salt-pit or otherwise abuse a bimetal pan to lining failure, it's a total loss.


                        1. re: kaleokahu

                          Keeps it real.
                          Straight from the manufacturer;

                          "To protect the tin lining from damage, do not heat the pot empty or at temperatures above 450°F"

                          1. re: TraderJoe

                            Hi, TJ:

                            Yes, of course that's what they say, but those warnings are oversimplified.

                            I'm not saying heating past 450F empty is something you *should* do. What I am saying is that I've done it, several times, without the "warping" and "puddle of tin" you state as a certain outcome.

                            It's also my experience that you can go well past 450F with food in a properly-sized tinned pan. E.g., a 500F roast is really no problem if the roast/aromatics occupy the bottom.

                            Note what the quoted warning does *not* say, i.e., that warping will occur. I have handled hundreds of veteran tinned pans and never seen one warped by a hob or subsequent quenching. This contrasts with aluminum and cast iron, where the % of warped pans is significant. I *have* seen very old (and typically very thin) pans that have sagged from decades of unsupported hearth cooking. And even with these, simply pressing them back usually sets them right.


                            1. re: kaleokahu

                              I think it's highly unlikely you would delaminate a SS lined copper pot as suggested. A tin lined pot will suffer damage far sooner than a SS lined one and there's no way around that. I've sent a ton of copper out over the years out for re-tinning. I've never even seen a single delaminated SS lined copper pot IRL.
                              That's just a little bit of marketing fluff from a particular pot maker to promote what they make - Tin lined copper.
                              The bottom line is that tin will need to be relined with normal use.
                              SS lined copper will never delaminate or require re-lining with normal use and you don't consume tin as it degrades or any of the impurities in tin.
                              In either event I would really hate to have just one or the other. IMO variety really is the spice of life with cook ware.

                              1. re: TraderJoe

                                <I think it's highly unlikely you would delaminate a SS lined copper pot as suggested. A tin lined pot will suffer damage far sooner than a SS lined one and there's no way around that>

                                I think this is very accurate. Tin is already a soft metal, and it has a low melting point of 232 oC. Somewhere between room temperature and 232 oC, the tin is already flowing around on a pan. Whereas stainless steel lined copper pot won't be delaminated at 232 oC.

                                However, the counterargument is that there is no way to fix a stainless steel lined copper cookware when it delaminates, whereas it is possible and quiet easier to fix a melted tin copper pot -- even though it will be expensive.

                                1. re: TraderJoe

                                  Hi, TJ:

                                  I've never delaminated a bimetal pan personally, but I don't think it's as unicorn-like as you suggest. Try Googling "delaminated Revereware" or "delaminated All-Clad". Falk covers "normal wear" delamination, so they must recognize it can happen, too. The coefficients of linear thermal expansion are just too different to expect immortality of a clad pan subjected to very high heat.

                                  IMO, the lion's share of the retinning market is fixing wear-throughs. Of the tons you've sent out, were there many melted linings?

                                  Between salt-pitting and years of stirring steel-on-steel, it is entirely plausible that the 2/10 of a mm SS lining will also wear through, at which point the bimetal pan is done.

                                  But hey, use what you like.


                                  1. re: kaleokahu

                                    Hey Kaleo,

                                    "Between salt-pitting and years of stirring steel-on-steel, it is entirely plausible that the 2/10 of a mm SS lining will also wear through, at which point the bimetal pan is done."

                                    Nah. Just slap a coat of tin over that worn-through stainless, and you'd be good to go for another decade!


                                    1. re: jljohn

                                      Hi, Jeremy, HNY!

                                      Put. The. Tin. In. The. Hazmat. Bin. And. Run.

                                      Tinning steel? Well, then Waxman & Co. would sic the EPA on you--all that lead, dontchankow? And then you couldn't cook acidic foods, and it'd puddle, and be "damaged", and the hob can't go 1F past 437... [head explodes].

                                      Makes perfect sense, though. Was a time when tinned steel was de rigueur. We must've lost a lot of good folks to that evil tin.

                                      In this vein, did you hear that it was actually lead poisoning that finally got Julia Child? Two days shy of age 92, in the flower of youth. Lamentably, she missed the memo on not cooking tomatoes, deglazing with wine, poaching fruits, etc. in (shudder!) tin.


                                    2. re: kaleokahu

                                      "Falk covers "normal wear" delamination"

                                      As does Mauviel with a life time warranty so at least based on my experience and in the context of this thread I see delamination as a complete non issue.

                                      1. re: TraderJoe

                                        I think delamination in SS lined copper is a non issue. I have never heard of it happening. The few places I have seen it argued are based in tri ply or bi metal, which is a different issue.

                                        Copper is ductile, which means it is easily formed. The expansion differences between copper and SS should be compensated by the copper stretching and shrinking. That is what is does with its tin lining. JMO

                        2. So far, everything that I have read here addresses buying new pans or waiting for some kind of set to come up on ebay. Are you opposed to creating a pan list and hunting them down one-by-one on ebay or craigslist? If you are up for this approach (it should only take a month or two to gather the essentials, but it could take a year or more to find everything you want), then you could probably get about 7-10 thick (at least 2.5mm and upwards of 3mm where needed) tin-lined copper pans for your budget.

                          Here's a basic copper lineup (I also use cast iron or carbon steel for frying, so you won't see any copper frying pans here), as it pertains to used tin-lined copper:

                          Sautes (1-2 pans): I would get an 11" first and follow it up with a 9.5" or a 10". I often find myself using two at the same time. These appear regularly in 3+mm thickness.

                          Saucepans, Windsors, and Saucieres (2-3 pans with lids): I would get something on the order of a 1Qt, 2Qt, and 3Qt (or a 1.5 Qt and a 3Qt). They could all be traditional saucepans or they could all be of a splayed variety, but I like having smaller saucepans and at least one 2 or 3 quart windsor or sauciere for making sauces and reductions. These (both as plain saucepans and as windsors) are regularly available in thicknesses ranging from 2.5mm to over 3mm.

                          Casseroles or Dutch Ovens (1-2 pans with lids): At a minimum, I'd get a 5.5-6 Qt Casserole. Cooking for 4, and especially if you like to double recipes, I'd also look for something larger--maybe in the 8-10 quart range. Both sizes are tremendously useful for a variety of purposes. These pans will probably be the hardest to find if you want thick copper. 2mm or 2.5mm won't be too hard, but it will take some patience to find anything in excess of 3mm.

                          Stock Pot (1 pan with lid): This is probably the lowest priority, but keep an eye open for a stockpot. They regularly are available in 12Qt (9.5"x9.5") in 2mm-2.3mm for reasonable prices.

                          Roasting (1-2 pans): Lastly, consider a pan or two for in-oven use. Maybe a roaster or a gratin, or perhaps one of each.

                          When I first started with copper, I was very hesitant to buy this way, but after one or two 'retail' purchases, I decided to start looking at vintage stuff, because (a) I could get much thicker copper, and (b) because my dollar went much further. Also, other than Hammersmith, there really aren't any domestic options for copper. But, with buying used, I have purchased almost all my pans from domestic dealers and when I've needed to have any retinned, I've sent them to domestic re-tinners, so I figure I'm supporting U.S. businesses at two levels this way!

                          I hope this is helpful!


                          1 Reply
                          1. re: jljohn

                            I'd start with this (2.5mm Mauviel Cuprinox, new old stock):


                            That set would cost over $2,000 from, but here it is new for less than half price. Then I'd add a casserole, saute, windsor, etc as they become available. Very good deals do pop up, but you have to know what you're looking at. Buy the SS, inherit the tin. I've severely abused my bi-metal pans for years, and other than a few dings on the lids, they show no signs of delaminating, pitting, or anything else. I even put them in the dishwasher.

                          2. Thank you all for the responses. You have given me a lot to think about!