Buy It Once... Copper Cookware
There's no doubt about it - copper cookware definitely falls into the 'investment' category. However, not only does the conductivity of copper allow for an extraordinary level of precision when cooking, these pots and pans can retain their performance and beauty for years and years, if properly cared for.
So why is Copper Cookware so expensive?
Firstly, without wanting to state the obvious, copper cookware is expensive relative to other pots and pans because copper itself costs so much! It's crucial to many industries, such as:
- The construction industry, where copper is used for joints, water pipes, and heating and cooling systems.
- The electronics industry, thanks to copper's electrical conductivity
- Transportation - where it is used to make radiators, brakes and ball bearings used in cars
Not only is demand therefore high, but as most easily-mined sources of copper have been mined, supply is limited.
In addition, bare copper is toxic, so copper kitchenware needs be lined in order to be safe to cook with. This is done with tin, or stainless steel. This is an artisan process, so naturally adds to the cost.
Finally, the fact that copper cookware is sold is smaller quantities than steel or aluminium equalivalents drives up the price further, as producers don't benefit from the economies of scale seen with those alternatives.
Given all of that, it's no suprise that copper cookware can be pricey!
What are the advantages of Copper Cookware?
- Given the price tag, what are the benefits of copper cookware?
1) Copper allows for high-precision cooking
Copper is an excellent thermal conductor. This means it gets hot quickly and evenly. This distribution of heat removes any chance of hot or cold spots when preparing delicate recipes. And its responsiveness - losing heat as quickly as it gains it - gives it a nimbleness unrivalled by other cookware. For example, if a copper pan containing a delicate sauce is removed from the heat, the temperature will drop rapidly, ensuring the sauce does not overcook or split.
It's when cooking anything delicate - be it sauces, seafood, fish, caramel or chocolate - that copper cookware really comes into its own.
2) Copper cookware looks beautiful
Beyond the pricetag and performance, there's a reason that copper kitchenware is sometimes compared to a sports car - it simply looks stunning! This shouldn't be underestimated - for many home chefs, cooking is about joy, and we're always in favour of anything that makes cooking more joyful!
3) Copper pots and pans can be used at lower temperatures
Thanks, once again, to the high heat conductivity, copper kitchenware can be used at lower temperatures.
How do you look after Copper Cookware?
If you've taken the plunge and invested in copper cookware, then it's essential to make sure the performance and appearance lasts for as long as possible. So, how do you care for copper cookware?
1) Avoid pre-heating copper pots and pans
As we've learned, coppers thermal conductivity means it heats up very fast. That means it can overheat quickly, which can damage the tin lining covering the pan. So, avoid preheating and 'dry heat' tasks such as toasting rice.
2) Don't use copper pans for searing at high heat
For the same reason as #1, if cooking the likes of steak or tuna at extremely high temperatures, it's best to use cost iron, aluminium or stainless steel pans.
3) Use wooden or silcon cooking utensils when cooking with copper pans
Once again, we've got to take care of that beautiful tin surface, so avoid steel utensils.
4) Take care when cleaning
If food is cooked onto the pan, don't use a scourer. Instead, simply fill with water and some washing up liquid, and simmer for 15 minutes. Then just wipe off and rinse whatever is left.
5) Polish your copper cookware often
Polishing a copper pan for 30 seconds once per week is a far better experience than having to tackle a six-month tarnish! A great trick for polishing is to prepare the simple polish recipe below in bulk and store it under the sink. After washing the pan, simply moisten a paper towel dip it in the polish, then wipe the pan all over for about half a minute. Then wash with warm water, and dry well (this part is important!)
Simple food-based polish: Simply dissolve 1 tablespoon of salt in about 150ml white vinegar, then add enough flour to make a thin paste.