Cooking with copper pots and pans can be wonderful! Yet if you shop for quality copper kitchenware, the price may surprise you. I’m a definite devotee of Julia Child’s book Mastering The Art Of French Cooking who had an extensive collection of copper. While our initials are the same, I’m not a master cook! Today I’m sharing what I’ve come to learn about copper in this post.
I’ve had a variety of meals prepared in copper cookware, especially overseas. As a metal, copper goes back in history around 11,000 years! Copper made cookware has been documented as far back as 3,000 years ago. It’s one of the best conductors of heat. Pots and pans made of copper warm up quickly and additionally they stay warm. It makes for an even distribution of heat and cooks food uniformly.
I shot these photos last year at the CHÂTEAU DE CHENONCEAU. With these pots being hundreds of years old they have stood the test of time.
Cooking With Copper Pots & Pans
Back in my own French farmhouse inspired kitchen I have amassed a small collection of copper over the years. I love the results of cooking an omelette or a pot of soup in copper but clearly the look is elegant. Kind of like having a high end race car hanging over your stove!
Interesting Facts About Copper Pots & Pans
- Copper is a reactive metal. What this means is that foods with an acidic nature such as tomatoes can leach copper into your food.
- Most copper cookware is lined with tin that prevents the reaction. Look for the lining when buying copper pots and pans.
- In a couple of instances copper vessels don’t need to be lined. Confiture or jam making pans don’t need to be lined, since there’s enough sugar in jam to prevent the fruit acids from reacting with the metal. Copper mixing bowls often aren’t lined as well, especially those intended for beating egg whites.
Tips For Cooking With Copper
- Do not preheat copper pots and pans since copper heats up very quickly. If you aren’t careful the lining can melt quickly, so make sure that you have something already in the pan before you turn on the burner (like butter or oil).
- Don’t use your copper pans when you are searing food to protect the lining.
- Yes you can use your copper cookware in the oven! This makes it great to cook first on the stovetop and then transfer to the oven, like for stews.
How To Clean Copper Pots & Pans
- If your food is stuck to the pot or pan, fill with water and a dash of dish soap and simmer for 10-15 minutes. This works pretty well, but you can scrub lightly with a non abrasive scrubby or a wood utensil if not.
- If necessary, try dissolving a tablespoon of salt into a 1/2 cup of vinegar…making a paste. Use a wet paper towel and wipe on for a minute, then wash off with soapy water. Make sure to dry the pan well so that it doesn’t spot.
- Tomato paste is another way to clean copper, but personally I’ve never had much luck with it. I like THIS CLEANER and it’s expensive but you want to protect your investment.
Where To Buy Copper Pots & Pans
- I got lucky on a recent trip to France and found an entire set of old copper at a country brocante (thrift store). While sometimes you can find copper cookware in American thrift shops, check for quality first. The pot (or pan) should be very heavy and feel substantial in your hands. Look for a maker’s mark such as Mauveil or other European makers. I’ll list a few resources below.
The set of copper pots and pans that I purchased in France needs to be retinned. I’ve read good things about East Coast Tinning and will be sending them there…unless I decide to sell the set.
As I do use my copper pans often, they have scratches and scuffs. I don’t let that bother me and haven’t tried to buff them out, since they are old. Since these pans have retained the lining that’s really what counts. I hope that you consider copper if you haven’t yet added any to your cooking arsenal. Let me know what you decide!
Keep in mind when you purchase copper and intend to use it for cooking, all is not equal! The new copper pots and pans are much thinner and will not cook as well or last as long. I would always go with quality in terms of cookware, unless it’s just for display.
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