Many professional chefs swear by copper cookware for unmatched performance
It looks good too. Walk into some of the elevated kitchens of the world and you may see shining copper pots, pans and bowls hanging and shimmering from the ceiling. Copper cookware and utensils have been in existence for centuries across many cultures, and are sought after for their heat conduction, durability and cooking prowess.
Copper cookware is expensive and is deemed the Rolls Royce of the kitchen. It is prone to discolouring if not polished, but its superior cooking is in it’s ability to spread out the heat to all parts of the pan evenly. Quality copper for cooking is such a good conductor, the thermal energy easily travels to all parts of the bottom of the pan with a near equal distribution of temperature.
Cookware made of copper has a good weight – heavy enough to sit securely on your burners without being too heavy to lift easily with one hand.
Stainless steel lined
The disadvantage of copper cookware is that the metal is highly reactive with foods. This is why most copper pans are lined with either tin or steel. Tin wears out easily, and needs to be replaced every few years which is why you should consider purchasing copper pots lined with stainless steel. Despite the fact that stainless steel lined pots are more expensive than tin lined, in the long run you will appreciate its longevity. Un-lined or unplated copper cookware is useful particularly for cooking with sugar, as the copper interior keeps the melted sugar from crystallising.
Like most professional equipment, copper cookware requires more care than other types of cookware as it is easily tarnished. If the copper isn’t maintained, heat conductivity can suffer. This can be easily prevented by regularly using a copper cleaner after use.
Copper pots and pans must be polished frequently, even when not in use, to prevent the pan from corroding. Copper cannot be washed in the dishwasher and must be hand-dried thoroughly after washing to prevent spotting.
Food sticking to a pan is one of the most frustrating things about cooking. It destroys that fish fillet, ruins your pancakes and chars your steak. Since sticking is often from the results of uneven hot spots on the pan, the ability of copper to eliminate temperature fluctuations greatly reduces the chance of food sticking. For a professional chef who has many items cooking at the same time even temperature control and effective cooking are vital.
Copper cookware is particularly valued in the kitchen when preparing foods whose flavour and texture is reliant on carefully controlled cooking, such as high-quality meat and seafood. The excellent conductivity of copper cookware allows you to better preserve the moisture inside these foods.
Thickness and brands
Buy copper cookware that is thick – at least 2mm thick or thicker. 2.5mm thick is ideal in terms of performance vs price. More often than not, the thinner copper cookware has bronze handles and thicker pieces will feature cast iron handles or stainless steel handles, although this may vary according to brand.
Good brands for copper cookware include Mauviel, Baumalu, Pierre Vergnes and De Buyer – all from France; Matfer Bourgeat from the US, and Falk of Belgium.
Copper is among the most expensive types of cookware. For example a Matfer Bourgeat 8-piece set from the US costs about US$2,500. However, it will reward you with its loyalty, performance, quality, good looks and durability. Start with a frying pan or saucepan and see the performance for yourself. You can then pass it down to your children and grandchildren.