My quest for the perfect copper pan
I am relative newbie here, but a very longtime lurker. I SO appreciate all the education this cookware forum has afforded me! Kaleo and others here are like Copper Gods to me!
Like others, I am deeply addicted to copper fever (CF) and am strategizing as we speak on how to get my body to France. I'm told that France is the perfect cure for a severe case of CF. Any tips on this would be appreciated! :-)
As my quest has widened and I started to seek out a few pans, I realized that my perfect copper pan isn't one that is being sold in retail today. It may exist on ebay, but I've watched for quite a while and haven't seen but a handful.
1) Thickness: Perfection for me would be a thickness equal to 3mm for standard saute & sauciers, thicker if possible in fry pans, larger saute and large pots.
2) Handles: I really need to have cast iron handles or wrought steel. Stainless Steel would work also, but those handles are very rare. I think the Georg Jensen design is the only copper pans I have seen with SS handles. Brass/Bronze does not make any sense to me, both being alloys with very high % of copper, meaning the handle will conduct heat just about as fast as the pan!
3) Interior metal: The metal coating inside was a conundrum for me initially. The purist in me wanted the good things that tin provides (proven over hundreds of years, ability to season the surface, can be reclaimed/retinned, never a throw away pan, natural hand wrought "anti factory" aesthetics etc.) along with a couple of the attributes of SS (high heat use and durability) I am not fond of the stickiness of SS, which can be lessened with some techniques, but never eliminated, nor do I like the machined, 20th century modern look. One can argue that the low thermal conductivity of SS is not an issue due to the thickness and low mass, but I figure why handicap the copper. The bottom line for me is buying a copper pan with SS interior feels like nails on a chalkboard to me and the Copper Gods would not be happy!
Nickel is interesting, but doesn't make sense in that the thermal conductivity is better than SS (52 vs 26) but still a far cry from copper at 223. Plus nickel plating isn't very common and there are some possible sensitivity and toxicity issues (which are not proven nor deemed to be an issue with cookware, but still why risk it given the thermal issue.)
So my quest has led me to the crème de la crème of interior coatings, and that is silver! (It would be diamond, but I sense that diamond cookware is still a ways off!)
Silver has a thermal conductivity slightly better than copper (235) and is very durable relative to tin. (nickel would be more durable than silver) Silver does have history and precedence in use in cookware, it is just not very common in this day and age. I think this has something due with the current commodity retail economy we live in where the look, the price (and thus profit) seem to prevail over performance and quality.
Kaleo has posted that there is only one provider in Italy that is still manufacturing cookware with silver coating - www.rameria.com.
I have not seen their work, but have inquired into their prices and capabilities. The pricing seems fair and their craftsmanship seems superb, they do several pieces in 3mm, but they will only do brass handles! Also I am not 100% sure I want the hammered look. I know it strengthens the pans but I think I prefer smooth to hammered.
This means that I will need to find my ideal pan (thickness, style, handle but with tin coating) then send it out to be stripped and silver coated.
Does this direction make sense? Yes I know it will be pricey, but after all this is to be the perfect copper pan! :-) My sense is that with good care, silver will last a lifetime and allow me to not worry about heat and have the advantages of a plated surface over a bimetal (SS).
The only Silversmith I have heard of is Zapffe in Seattle. Kaleo mentioned them, but can anyone vouch for their silver work on copper pans?
I recently bought a nice 3mm set of saucepans on ebay. I might pick one of them a a test for the silver plating. I did though buy this cool saucier/windsor/fait tout/splayed pan (which is it...anyway???) that I think would be perfect for silver. It is 3.3mm thick and weighs 2.4kg (5.3 lbs) Photos below.
I thank you if you have made it this far! :-)
Thoughts, ideas, criticism? I appreciate all comments!
re: tim irvine
There are worse things that could be done to a copper pan...
DB5 & Veyron? Yes I agree at a calm 325°, but what about at 500° or 600° or more? Tin will cry its eyes out and run into a sad little puddle in the corner while Silver wont even break a sweat! :-)
I don't wish this fate on every copper pan I have, just the one destined to be The Perfect Copper Pan! :-)
The price is a little nuts..which almost makes me want to do it even more!
Just because the Veyron will go 267.856 mph doesn't mean you will ever go that fast...
For one thing, I would like to do my VERY hot sears from my sous vide on a silvered copper fry or saute. Probably not my windsor for that. It is just a great candidate since it has great thickness at 3.3mm. Yes there is cast iron or mineral steel, but I want super fast heat. Cast iron takes almost as long as the sous vide does! Lol!
On the other hand, if I were interested in silvering as opposed to tinning, any of my good estate- and yard-sale finds would have been excellent candidates. They all needed retinning anyway, and were typically $5-$10 each. Now, my local tinning guy is a good bit more expensive than RMR (of whom I only recently learned), but the $150 he charged (on average) was I thought well worth it. Twice that for silver? H'mmm …
I've got one pan, Victorian English, that has a forged steel handle; all the rest (except for the gratin pans) have brass or bronze. Having done a lot of high-heat cooking with iron skillets I'm quite used to cooking with a mitt on, so I've got no problem with hot handles. And any handle gets hot if you're finishing in the oven!
I agree with Kaleo that you're on the right track. I agree with essentially all of your conclusions above, and search for the same genre of pans you buy on ebay.
Thankfully (for my bank account and marriage), my infection with Copper Fever is currently in remission, only lurking out for a big purchase for a couple of shapes my collection lacks.
As for silver lining, I am interested to purse this as well at some point. I'd like to hear your experience and see the finished product if you eventually have Zapffe line one of your pans. The Windsor pan above (I have heard all the names you mention and I think they are all correct as far as I know) would be a great candidate, since it's not part of the set you bought. Silver lining just one of a set of sauce pans might be a little off-putting to my sense of symmetry.
Thanks for the comments. I’m not sure only having one of the 5 saucepans plated in silver would affect me much, it would make my decision process easier….I would only use the silver one! :-)
Well my copper fever just got a wee bit more expensive. I just got off the phone with Zapffe. They seem very knowledgeable and capable in their trade. I was quoted $26 per inch for silver plating in a copper pan! My Windsor is 9” across x 3” high, so that is 12” x $26 = a cool $312.
This includes the removal of the tin, which is a process of fine grinding/polishing to prepare the surface to receive the silver electroplate. They then coat the outside of the pan with a non-conductive coating, similar to a paint. It then goes into the plating tank.
Their standard thickness is called quad plate or quad coat and is about 48 microns. She said that a pan would more than likely receive more, but didn’t mention any exact thickness like the 90 microns that has been mentioned here. She said you can reach a point where it is too thick and can have other issues, not sure what those are.
After the plating they peel off the outside coating and polish/buff both the inside and outside. The inside is a nice luster sheen, not a full bright shiny finish.
They said the process takes from 2-3 weeks total. She said they do some pans this way, but not very many, indicating that you REALLY have to want a pan in silver, given the cost. She mentioned the main motivation is the ability to use it at higher heat levels.
I did some rough calcs. My Windsor has ~933 sq cm of area that would be plated.
48 microns of silver thickness = .048mm. This means the amount of silver plating would be ~4.5 cubic cm = ~1.5 ounces. Silver is ~ $31 per ounce, so the silver is less than $50 total. As I suspected the cost to plate in silver is predominately labor.
So would the copper gods be smiling at a 22cm - 3.3mm thick silver plated Windsor that cost roughly $500 all in? It does give new meaning to the term “a pretty penny” :-)
I called Zapffe recently to get a rate for retinning (I live in Seattle). Unless I misunderstood the gal, she quoted something like 11.00 or 15.00 p/inch. I was stunned and said thanks and hung up. It later occurred to me that maybe she was talking about silver plating and not retinning? 15.00 an inch for tin is simply exorbitant so my pan will be going to Rocky Mountain Retinning, for sure. Zapffe have been around for coming up on 100 years though, and their website shows a very impressive array of good work.
I was quote $16/inch by Zapfe for silverplating a 90 micron layer. This is 4x thicker than Mazzetti's silversmith applies. I've not had this done yet, so I can't personally vouch for Zapffe, but they are a serious player with a long history--I would have every confidence in them.
Little-known fact: Zapffe sends its tinning business to Peter at RMR and just marks it up. Been in Peter's office with stacks of Zapffe boxes!
I think you're on the right track.
My only suggestion might be that, since you will be relining anyway, to cherrypick a thick, tinned saute with an already-shot lining. The money you save there would at least partially defray the cost of lining in silver.
Your pictured Windsor would also be a good candidate. Maybe after 23,000 batches of tomato sauce? ;) Beautiful pan.
Yes it is a very nice design. So is Windsor the correct name for that pan? I've seen so many conflicting names. We need a copper pan wiki! :-)
Do you have any firsthand dealings with Zapffe? I would like to hear more on their claim of 90 microns of silver plating. I am also concerned with how smooth it comes out. I may try them out on a smaller pan first.