Why Not . . . Cook with Copper?

Dec 21, 2016

 

“Non-cooks think it’s silly to invest two hours’ work in two minutes’ enjoyment; but if cooking is evanescent, so is the ballet.” —Julia Child

Quality over quantity in all arenas of our lives rings true again when it comes to cooking delicious food consistently in our kitchens. If you are someone who loves to cook and continually wants to improve your experience as well as the experience of those who enjoy your food, consider adding or increasing the copper cookware in your kitchen.

Having cooked with inferior pots and pans in the past, a noticeable difference is immediately seen when a quality piece of copper cookware is substituted. However, quality copper cookware is expensive.

But before you become discouraged by the prices, let me share with you the seven benefits of welcoming copper into your kitchen. After which I will share a few details to look for when you go shopping, as well as how to care for your items once you make the purchase so that they can last your entire life, if not longer.

Benefits:

1. Food cooks evenly

My science experts out there will understand this immediately. Copper is a great conductor of heat; therefore, the thermal energy that is cultivated can be quickly and easily distributed to all areas of the pan ensuring that your fish or whatever you may book cooking will do so no matter where it rests in the pan.

2. Faster cooking time

Copper heats up quickly, allowing you to do what you need to do without the wait. According to Kitchen Sanity, it conducts heat “about four times as well — it boasts a thermal conductivity of 400 watts per meter kelvin difference versus iron’s 80.” I was amazed by this fact when I began cooking with  my first copper skillet from Mauviel. In no time, my egg was perfectly cooked, and it slipped right out of the pan when I served it without sticking.

3. Less likely food will stick to the pan

Again, due to being a great conductor of heat, hot spots are reduced eliminating the likelihood of temperature fluctuations on different spots of the pan.

4. Energy efficient

Due to its ability to distribute heat evenly, and its ability to heat up quickly, you are using less heat (because you’re not waiting for it to heat up), and the heat is used effectively ensuring you aren’t overcooking.

5. More success in the kitchen

When you begin cooking with copper, keeping in mind that the pan will heat up quickly, you will also notice more success. With more control over your cooking, fewer items will burn because of the elimination of hot spots and because your food cooks more evenly, you can trust that it is cooked as it should be throughout the entire item.

6. Versatility

Whether cooking on gas or electric, on top of the oven or placing the skillet in the oven to finish cooking, copper works beautifully.

7. A money-saving investment in the long term

Quality copper cookware, when properly cared for (we’ll talk about how to do this below), can last for generations. As you can see in the image below of the 19th century Waldorf Astoria copper pots sold at an antique shop in Paris, copper lasts and works wonderfully for quite some time. Yes, initially, quality copper from for example Mauviel is expensive, but so long as you know what you want, you will have a well-stocked and delicious food being curated in your kitchen for decades and not have to restock it every couple of years.

~rare 19th C. Waldorf Astoria Copper Pots~

How to shop for quality copper cookware:

1. Look at the thickness of the pan, bottoms and sides. You want copper on both, not just the bottom. Read this post on the availability of thicknesses from each brand and why Julia Child recommended 3.5mm, when in reality, even Mauviel (the leading brand in the industry), only has a thickness of 2.5 mm. If you choose thicker than 2.5mm, the cooking time will slow down.

2. Copper safe to cook with so long as it is lined with another, non-reactive metal (stainless steel, tin or nickel are the most common). Food52 points out however, that there are exceptions to using unlined copper mixing bowls that are entirely safe:

There are certain kinds of copper cookware, like egg white whipping bowls and jam pans, that actually harness copper’s reactive qualities to do their job more effectively—stabilizing the proteins in egg whites, and responding to to changes in temperature quickly, for extra precision while you’re cooking down your jams, respectively. For that reason, they won’t be lined with a non-reactive metal, but they are safe to cook with as directed.

Brands recommended by the experts:

  • Mauviel is at the top of most professional chef’s list and for good reason. Read this post to learn more about the French company that has been in business since 1830.
  • Amoretti Brothers – based in Italian, the four brothers founded a highly respected business, that customizes as well as offers the traditional items you are looking for
  • Ruffoni – an Italian copper ware company that is highly regarded for their craftsmanship. If you see one of these items on eBay or in an antique shop, scoop it up pronto.

Caring for your copper ware:

  • Daily use: wash and dry (completely so that any residual water doesn’t tarnish the copper more quickly) with soap and water.
  • To polish: use equal parts baking soda and lemon juice and rub any spots of tarnish with a soft cloth. Voila!
  • Another way to polish: Use white vinegar (not the most expensive). Soak a cloth in the white vinegar and rub the tarnished surface of your pot.
  • For even more tips and tricks, click here.

There are oodles of resources on copper, but knowing that it is indeed an investment worth looking into if you are someone who enjoys the time you spend in the kitchen will open a door to not only better food but to a beautifully styled kitchen no matter how large or small.

The first copper item I added to my kitchen was given to me as a gift, and I have enjoyed every minute I use it in the kitchen. The Mauviel M’héritage copper round frying pan (10’2″) has forever convinced me to continue building a cookware set of copper. You can shop all of the items I use, love and recommend in TSLL “Kitchen” Shop, as I regularly add to it when I add an item I love to my own kitchen.  As well, check your local antique shops and when you travel, if you happen to be heading to Paris, do not forget to stop into E. Dehillerin Cookware Shop (see below).

Happy cooking!

~E. Dehillerin Cookware Shop, Paris~



6 thoughts on “Why Not . . . Cook with Copper?

  1. Whilst I like our stainless steel pans I always use our copper pans for making sauces, I find they are the very best thing for a basic white sauce which can then be turne into all manner of things.

  2. As is usual on this (cooking with copper) and on many other topics, you are spot on! Although I must confess to enjoying cooking with my treasured Le Creuset, too. I was gifted a Mauviel sauteuse earlier this year and, oh my! It cooks wonderfully and is simply jewelry for both the kitchen and table.

    I would like to take this opportunity to wish you, your boys and the entire TSLL community a merry Christmas and prosperous, abundant 2017. I look forward to reading each post and comment. Thank you for the work you do, Shannon; it and you are most appreciated.

    All the best!

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