Shopping for the Best Copper Cookware
I will never forget the moment I got my first piece of copper cookware. Until then, I’d functioned relatively well with a mismatch of hand-me-down pots and pans I’d collected throughout early adulthood.
As an entirely self-taught foodie with a brewing passion for cooking, my first “grown up” pan was a gift from above. I remember thinking in the seconds after I opened it on Christmas morning that it was too pretty to actually cook with. But it was also too expensive not to use it for all the goodness it had to offer.
That’s the thing about copper cookware – you get what you pay for. In my case, my starter copper saute pan remains one of my most prized possessions. True to its copper upbringing, it cooks almost anything evenly because of how well the properties in the pan react to changes in temperature. Yet I had no idea at the time how that investment compared in the greater scheme of all things copper cookware. It is a drop in the bucket.
To start with, it’s not actually considered copper cookware. It has a heavy copper bottom, but is otherwise made up of stainless steel, as are most of my beloved cooking vessels. Not only that, but a pan is downright cheap in the realm of copper cookware.
Here’s what I’ve since learned that you need to know about copper cookware:
It All Comes Down to Science
The scientific properties in copper make it one of the most highly sensitive elements to heat conduction. The result is a vessel that prevents the development heat spots while cooking and eliminates the fluctuations in temperature found in its stainless steel or Teflon comrades.
To maximize the effect of even cooking, the best copper cookware is also the thickest in material. While it can be challenging to convince some cookware companies to release the exact weight and thickness of the copper, it is worthwhile to try to find products that are at least 2 mm or thicker.
Hammered is not All It’s Cracked up To Be
Many copper pans come in either smooth or hammered varieties. This used to matter a lot more in the day in age when the hammered appearance was the main indication that the cookware was handcrafted. More recently, it has become more of a matter of personal preference as far as the appearance goes, since hammered and smooth cookware are both produced by machines.
Drawing the Line
There are advantages and disadvantages to any of the three variations of materials used in copper cookware. Most copper cookware is available in bare, tinned and stainless steel lined varieties and each has something unique to consider.
- Bare. Bare copper products are generally considered the least versatile of the group, considering the material does not react well with acidic foods and vinegars commonly used in many recipes. The most common practical use for a bare copper pan would be whipping egg whites, since the properties in the pan ease the whipping process.
- Tin. Tin is naturally nonstick, and is similar in some ways to bare cast iron. It is in itself a good conductor of heat, and users of tin-lined copper cookware find they often need to remember to turn their burners down because of how quickly the pan heats up. These advantages are potentially outweighed for home chefs not able or willing to put in time and effort to keep the pan clean and maintained. Tin-lined copper cookware is high-maintenance, requiring plenty of attention to keep at its best performance and last as long as intended. The tin may even need to be replaced eventually, a feat only a few craftsmen in the United States are registered to take on.
- Stainless steel. Stainless is the middle of the road choice for many home cooks who are looking to invest in copper cookware. It ages well with minimal maintenance, sears meat well since it can handle higher temperatures and is easy to keep clean. It’s also relatively affordable, making it a smart choice for people on a budget.
The Diva of the Cookware World
While copper cookware is often a valued piece of cookery capable of being handed down through several generations of home cooks, it doesn’t come without a price. Most high-quality copper cookware sets are incredibly expensive and out of reach for the average home cook. In addition, the cookware itself requires special attention in terms of keeping it clean and well maintained. With these investments of time and money, copper cookware is a long-lasting treasure for anyone who enjoys the art of cooking.
Consider the Core Alternatives
In addition to pure copper cookware, technology has developed to create cookware with copper cores. Clad bonded copper core cookware are just as they sound – they have copper cores that are melded between two metallic layers. Tri-ply copper core cookware have a copper exterior, an aluminum core and a stainless steel interior, utilizing heat conductivity of each of the elements together.
Top 4 Best Copper Cookware for Shopping
We have taken all of these things into consideration to put together a list of the top five steals in the copper cookware realm:
- Anyone looking to enjoy some of the benefits of using copper cookware without breaking the bank should consider this impressive 12-piece set.
- The stainless steel construction features a multi-layer base with a copper bottom to produce more even heat distribution than its plain stainless steel comrade.
- The cookware is dishwasher safe and oven safe up to 500 degrees which is a plus for searing meats and finishing them in the oven.
- This set puts all the good metal things together to offer the best overall cooking experience.
- It features 5-ply bonded layers of stainless steel, aluminum and copper, and hand washing is recommended.
- Boasting superior conductivity and precise cooking control, the Calphalon set features a brushed copper exterior and durable flared rims to help ease pouring.
- The set includes a saute pan, two omlet pans and three saucepans, all of which are safe up to 450 degrees in the oven.
- It may cost more than the average monthly mortgage for a middle-class household, but when it comes to copper cookware, one brand always tops the list for quality.
- Mauviel is considered one of the most highly sought after brands in the copper cookware industry.
- Utilizing construction including 90 percent copper and 10 percent 18/10 stainless steel, the cookware is made in France and includes a lifetime warranty.
- The set includes a 1.9-quart saucepan with lid, 2.7-quart saucepan with lid, 3.2-quart saute pan with lid, 6.4-quart stock pot with lid and 10-inch skillet.
- Featuring 2.5mm-think copper, the set is the gold standard for copper cookware.
All of this brings me back to that fateful Christmas morning when I was giddy with delight to open my first piece of copper cookware. Sure, it wasn’t technically pure copper. Yeah, it was cheap in the realm of quality copper cookware.
But it was a start. And that is actually what my number one suggestion would be to anyone considering trying out the wonderful world of copper.
While the large sets are tempting as a means to save money in the long run, we would suggest trying out a pan or two you know you’ll use frequently to make sure you want to start what could be a long-term relationship with your cookery. Take that saute pan out for a date, so to speak, to make sure it is everything you hoped it would be.
One day I’ll upgrade to the real thing. Until then, I will do as any good chef would do: make do with what I have.