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An Advanced Guide to Copperware

An Advanced Guide to Copperware

Everything You Need to Know About Copperware (And We Mean Everything!)

By Clear Givings Market

Highlights:

  • Copper is a top cookware choice for its heat conductivity.
  • Copper is 100% recyclable and lasts multiple lifetimes—a big win for sustainability!
  • As an aesthetic kitchenware item, it offers plenty of options to deck out the kitchen in this timeless style fully.
  •  

    “Happiness is a small house with a big kitchen.” - Alfred Hitchcock

    Who knows where to find comfort from the day’s ills better than the Master of Suspense? And he’s right; the kitchen is where the family's lifeblood runs. One’s mind can’t help but wander to their childhood when kitchen delights are mentioned. While our recollections differ, some kitchen pleasures remain ubiquitous: a favorite dish by Mom; Grandma sharing an old family recipe; a guardian or mentor allowing a sneaky spoon lick as they place a cake in the oven. 

    For those who find contentment outside the home, kitchens offer incredible comforts through fantastic aromas floating out of windows, the sharing of cultures via cuisine, and the promise of a warm meal to be enjoyed. Yet, the kitchen is more than where food is made. It’s a truly magical place where many of us cultivate our most cherished memories, connect with the ones we love, and run a happy household. Copper pots and pans lend to the kitchen’s feelings of nostalgia. For nearly 10,000 years, families and communities worldwide have used copper for cooking their favorite dishes. So while we sit at a table with tasty treats cooked with copperware, we feel connected to those who came before us, knowing that another family shared and celebrated thousands of years ago. We want to ensure the longevity of the kitchen’s comforts. We must live sustainably. We can secure that future by making earth-friendly choices. 

    Copper cookware allows us to enjoy chef-level delicacies while keeping future generations in mind. Its makeup permits quick temperature changes—ideal for delicate dishes—and its materials are durable and easily recycled. So not only does copper create top-notch cookware, but it’s also friendly to the planet. What’s not to love? We also know that copper cookware is an investment. When we purchase our copper sets, we need assurance that we make the right decisions. Copper in the kitchen will last for generations. While this is fantastic for us and the planet, deciding which copperware items can be overwhelming. Never fear; Clear Givings Market is here to help! So, without further ado, here’s our quintessential advanced guide to copper cookware and accessories.


    Table of contents

    -Frequently asked questions

    - What can’t be cooked with copper cookware?

    - Is copper cookware hard to clean?

    - Are copper pans non-stick?

    - Is copper better than stainless steel?

    -Is copper better than cast iron?

    -Why copper cookware?

    -What to look for in a copper pan

    -Tin versus stainless steel lining

    -How to maintain copper pans

    -When to get your copper cookware re-tinned

    -The essential copper cookware items

    -Place copperware at the center of your kitchen aesthetic 

    -Is copper a sustainable material?

    -Bonus: How to clean burnt-on food

    Frequently asked questions surrounding copper cookware

    First-time copperware buyers (or those buying copperware as a gift) have plenty of questions. That’s fantastic! The key to learning is knowing what to ask. As with everything, there are a few common misconceptions surrounding copper, and we’re here to provide clarity. 

    What can’t be cooked with copper cookware?

    Copper cookware that isn’t lined can react with certain types of food. While most pieces of copper cookware are lined with tin or stainless steel, some copper items, like jam pans, do not need to be lined. (Fun fact: jam uses enough sugar to prevent the acidity of the berries from interacting with the copper.[1]With unlined copper items, avoid acidic foods like citrus fruits, tomatoes, and wine. While the reactivity won’t cause health issues, it can transfer a metallic taste to the food.[2]

    As for tin-lined copperware, nearly anything can be cooked without the risk of any tin leaching into the food. However, tin will melt at around 475°F, so high heat must be dealt with carefully. That being said, according to chef Daniel Gritzer of Serious Eats, “As long as there is liquid in the pan of some sort, you’re not going to have a problem with the tin melting. The liquid’s gonna keep the pan at 212° [Fahrenheit] until all of the liquid’s gone.” So, to avoid any tin leaching into the food, simply make sure that fat, butter, or oils are added before the heat is turned on.[3] Regarding stainless steel-lined copperware, leaching won’t be a problem. However, stainless steel does have its pros and cons. Learn more about stainless steel versus tin lining below.

    Is copper cookware hard to clean and maintain?

    Copper cookware care is pretty straightforward. Depending on the sought-after aesthetic, some may even enjoy the aged look after the copper has been used for a while. But, the new, polished copperware look can easily be maintained, too. To clean copperware, Beth Sweeney, an expert in copperware restoration, says, “Copper will clean up very easily. After I cook them, I just clean them with soap and a sponge. Fill the pan with water and dish soap and let it sit for about 15 minutes.” She suggests avoiding abrasive products and sponges and drying them immediately to prevent hard water spots. As for long-term maintenance, we talk more about that below. 

    Are copper pans non-stick?

    While copper itself isn’t naturally non-stick, tin is. Therefore, people who opt for tin-lined copperware will find that the food won’t stick to the pan too much. On the other hand, stainless steel is not naturally non-stick, so if the copper cookware is thusly lined, enough oil, butter, or fat must be used to prevent sticking.

    Is copper better than stainless steel pans?

    The major draw of cooking with copper is its heat conductivity. It heats and cools remarkably quickly, making it a dream for delicate dishes. Conversely, stainless steel is a poor conductor of heat, so it will take a long time to reach temperature, and once it does, it’s difficult to cool down. Most stainless steel pots will be bonded with copper or aluminum to bypass this issue. However, it still can’t stand up to copper regarding its reactivity. While stainless steel is durable, it won’t last generations like copperware. Furthermore, it’s not naturally non-stick like tin-lined copper pans, making them frustrating to cook with. This is one reason why copper has been the high-quality cookware of choice by chefs and families for thousands of years.

    Is copper better than cast iron? 

    Cast iron is another popular material for chefs’ cookware. It begs the question: which one is better?

    The truth is that they are so wildly different that they can’t be compared. A fully equipped kitchen has both! Opposite to copper, cast iron does not conduct heat well, so it takes a long time to reach temperature. However, once heated, it will hold that temperature for a long time. This makes it ideal for dishes where copperware falls short, like searing meat, deep frying, or anything that requires high heat.

    Five Fast Facts about Copper Cookware

    1. It’s very reactive to temperature change.

    2. Because it’s so reactive, less heat is required than is needed for other cookware material. Caution is recommended; if the heat is too low, it can easily be increased with an instant response from the incredible copper pan.

    3. Most copperware needs to be lined with either tin or stainless steel. While tin is the traditional lining choice, stainless steel has become more common. Learn more below.

    4. With care, copperware lasts forever and can be revived.

    5. It's something to show off! We recommend displaying copperware as part of the overall kitchen aesthetic. 

    Why copper cookware? It’s simple: heat conductivity

    Although cooking is an art, it’s steeped in science. The best chefs deeply understand chemistry and physics to perfect their dishes. So, to appreciate why copper makes such fantastic cookware, we’ll offer you a short science lesson. Copper is the first metal humans worked with. It’s super malleable, making it easy to form, even with rudimentary tools. It can conduct electricity and heat. This is why it’s a common metal for wiring.[6]

    Compared to other common cookware materials, like aluminum, stainless steel, and carbon steel, it’s the best heat conductor.[7] That’s what has solidified it as the universally accepted superior cookware: its ability to quickly react to temperature changes creates a nimble cooking experience.

    What to look for in a copper pan

    When investing so much into our cookware, we want to know that it’s superior. Or, if we’re buying it as a gift, we might struggle to know which pan sets, roasting pots, or saucepan will be worthy of our loved one’s kitchen. So here’s what to look for.

    Pan thickness: The ideal thickness of the pan bottom is 2mm - 3mm thick. 

    Lining: Although stainless steel is becoming a common choice, the traditional tin lining also has advantages. We’ve included a quick guide below.

    Aesthetics: Choose between hammered copper and polished copperware. This is a chance for individuality to shine; it entirely depends on personal preference. While hammered copper cookware offers a rustic style that evokes images of bygone eras, polished copperware presents an air of sleek sophistication, melding modern elegance with classic themes.

    Tin versus stainless steel lining

    Most copperware items must be lined with a non-reactive metal. This is because copper can react to certain foods, especially acidic ones, leaching into the meal. So although a bit of copper won’t cause health issues, it can cause a metallic taste! 

    Tin-lined copper has its roots in tradition. Tin bonds to copper quite quickly, making it simple to work with. Furthermore, tin is nearly as reactive to heat as copper, so it complements copper’s defining feature: its conductivity. It’s also naturally non-stick, so one can quickly fry an egg or make homemade caramel without being left with a big mess afterward. Although tin can scrape off over time, copperware can be re-tinned mainly if abrasive cleaning tools or metal utensils are used. Careful cared-for copperware will seldom require re-tinning.

    Conversely, stainless steel-lined copperware is a relatively modern concept. Stainless steel does not readily bond to copper, so this type of lining requires updated technology. However, now that the technology exists, it has made stainless steel lining more common than tin. Unlike tin, stainless steel does not efficiently conduct heat so stainless steel-lined copper cookware won’t be as reactive as tin-lined cookware. It also tends to stick, so plenty of oil, butter, or other ingredients will need to be used to avoid adherence. Finally, if a disaster strikes and the stainless steel lining becomes compromised, it likely spells the end of the copperware; stainless steel cannot be re-lined like tin can.[1]

    However, there’s a reason why stainless steel lining has become more popular than tin lining. Stainless steel is incredibly durable—more durable than tin—so there would have to be high levels of abuse for stainless steel lining to need replacing. It’s also less expensive than tin and resistant to corrosion.

    Clear Givings Market tip: Trying to decide which lining is best for your kitchen might be one of the most challenging decisions surrounding copper cookware. That decision doesn’t have to be made alone! We provide complimentary consultations so that you can fill your kitchen with copperware that can be cherished for generations. Email us at contact@cleargivingsmarket.com, and we will connect you with our copperware expert.

    How to maintain copper pans

    Copper cookware is surprisingly easy to maintain but requires regular maintenance to keep its luster. Some people prefer the patina of a well-loved copper pot. That’s fine, too! In that case, maintenance requirements may be less than a new copperware set, but there will be some upkeep to attend to.

    A well-developed patina (that rainbow-ish aura that aged copper boasts) can be a sought-after aesthetic. To create that look, simply avoid polishing the copper cookware. For a sleek and shiny look, a homemade polish can be made using one-quarter cup of salt, one-quarter cup of flour, and enough vinegar to make a paste. Then, rub the homemade polish onto the copperware and gently buff the copper with a microfiber cloth until it’s all shiny.[8] Storage is also essential. Although showcasing copperware is encouraged, ensure it’s done in an area that’s dry and away from direct sunlight. 

    Let’s dispel the rumor! Copperware is, indeed, safe.

    A common concern surrounding copperware is that it’s unsafe because it’s a reactive metal. The truth is that copperware is 100% safe as long as it’s lined with a non-reactive metal (which it almost always is). After a while, the lining may start to wear away—as is customary with daily use—and even then, the copperware will be safe, but your food might taste metallic. The good news is that copperware can be relined when this occurs, reinvigorating the precious cookware for continued enjoyment. 

    When to get your copper pans re-tinned

    Tin-lined copperware must eventually be re-tinned, even if treated with excellent care. This is primarily to do with the longevity of these items; since it lasts forever, wear-and-tear is bound to occur. Therefore, part of copperware ownership is understanding when your favorite copper pots and pans need to be re-tinned.

    Here are two ways to know that your copperware requires re-tinning:

    • If the combined scratches, revealing the copper underneath, is about the size of a quarter.
    • If the food starts taking on a metallic taste.[3]

    When it’s time for the copperware to get re-tinned, find a refurbisher or companies that specifically re-tin copper items. 

    The essential copper cookware items

    When first cultivating a copper cookware collection or deciding which copper cookware item to purchase as a gift for a loved one, begin with the basics. This won’t differ too much from the essentials in any kitchen. Start with five main pieces:

    1. A stock pot for soups, chilis, and broths
    2. A saucepan for delicate sauces and other liquids
    3. A saute pan for cooking mushrooms, onions, or spinach
    4. A frying pan for cooking eggs, fried rice, or potatoes
    5. A baking dish for cakes, casseroles, or roasts

    From here, your cookware collection can be expanded to include a copper dutch oven, wok, cocotte, and more. First, however, one has to start somewhere, and copper is spendy; if a complete copper cookware set isn’t entirely justifiable, the above four or five cookware pieces will fulfill most needs.

    We have sets available if you are ready to fully equip your kitchen with stunning copperware. Check out our hammered copperware sets here.

    Place copperware at the center of your kitchen aesthetic

    Besides its plethora of cooking benefits, there’s one undeniable fact about copper cookware: it’s absolutely gorgeous! Investing in copperware goes beyond choosing a superior cooking device; it creates a timeless kitchen aesthetic that begs for adoration.

    Copper cookware doesn’t belong in a drawer. Instead, show it off by hanging it on the wall or above your stovetop! This is where the decision between hammered copperware and polished copperware is essential. A modern kitchen may prefer the polished route. However, kitchens with more of a classic vibe beg for hammered copperware. Complete the classic kitchen look by choosing copper mixing bowls, jam pots, teapots, mugs, and more. Beyond their aesthetics, the heat conductivity of copper provides advantages for these types of items.

    Copper teapots will boil faster than other types of pots, allowing you to enjoy a comforting beverage in record time!

    Copper milk pots will cook more evenly, allowing the food to retain flavor.

    A copper cocotte keeps the heat at a steady temperature, allowing the food to cook in its juices, adding to the dish's flavor.

    Copper mixing bowls are ideal for beating egg whites as the copper binds to sulfur groups, creating delicious, foamy peaks.[9]

    Copper jam pots require shorter cooking times due to the conductivity of the copper.

    Copper canisters, kitchen tools, colanders, mugs, cake pans, mixer bowls, and ice buckets simply look fantastic, and they will add to the copperware aesthetic.

    Is copper a sustainable material?

    Copper is 100% recyclable and can be recycled infinite times. Tin and stainless steel can be recycled. This makes these metals fantastic sustainable materials.[5] On top of this, copper pots and pans will last generations. Furthermore, if the copperware is tin-lined, it can continuously be re-tinned and refurbished, allowing it to last even longer. In terms of sustainability, this is wonderful; waste prevention is by far the best option for sustainability.

    As for stainless steel-lined copperware, it cannot be re-lined, but it’s more durable than tin, so re-lining may not be necessary, at least not for a very long time. Once the stainless steel starts wearing away (perhaps not even in our lifetime), it can be recycled and made into a new copper pan for others to enjoy. In that spirit, many of our copperware items are made from recycled copper. We believe in circularity, and our products show that. Check out all of our copperware items.

    Bonus: How to clean burnt-on food from any pan, including copperware

    Burnt-on food is a nightmare for any chef, but with copperware, it can be particularly problematic, especially if it’s tin-lined. Cleaning copperware requires a gentle hand, while burnt-on food often needs abrasion to remove. Luckily, chef Daniel Gritzer offers an easy solution. “If you’ve got cooked-on material, I always fill the pan with water, a little Dawn dish soap, and just let it simmer, [and] loosen things up so that you can clean it up relatively easily.”[3] 

    While this is a fantastic tip for copperware, it can be used for any cookware item. No more breaking your back by scrubbing cooked-on debris. Simply use your stovetop to loosen it up, and quickly wipe it away! 

    Ready to get your next or first timeless piece of copperware?

    Clear Givings Market has the sustainably made copper cookware to adore for generations! Explore our selection here.

     

    Sources

    1. https://www.seriouseats.com/buying-copper-cookware
    2. https://www.epicurious.com/expert-advice/guide-to-copper-cookware-article#:~:text=But%20 copper%20ios%20also%20have,be%20lined%20for%20everyday%20 cooking
    3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQ8bS37gUJs
    4. https://food52.com/blog/20885-coppermill-kitchen-beth-sweeney-interview-how-to-care-tips#:~:text=Beth%20Sweeney%3A%20Copper%20will%20 clean,non%2Dabrasive%20production%20and%20sponges
    5. https://copperalliance.org/resource/copper-recycling/#:~:text=Copper%20is%20100%25%20 Recyclable,without%20any%20loss%20of%20performance
    6. https://sciencing.com/3-different-forms-brass-12123734.html
    7. https://www.kitchenkapers.com/pages/cookware-materials-and-why-they-matter
    8. https://www.marthastewart.com/270759/polishing-copper
    9. https://www.thekitchn.com/the-science-behind-whipping-egg-whites-in-copper-bowls-221943

     

    Aria Crane
    Aria Crane

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