Jump to content


Welcome to the eG Forums!

These forums are a service of the Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to advancement of the culinary arts. Anyone can read the forums, however if you would like to participate in active discussions please join the Society.

Photo

Unlined Copper Sugar Pot


  • Please log in to reply
18 replies to this topic

#1 cookman

cookman
  • participating member
  • 185 posts

Posted 11 August 2006 - 01:10 PM

I know that unlined copper pots are supposed to be great for caramelizing sugar. I also read that the FDA does not recommend cooking in unliner copper, because of the risk of copper leaching into the food. I'm assuming that acidic foods would create the greatest risk. Is it safe to add cream to caramel being made in an unlined copper pot, or could the lactic acid in the cream be a problem? I guess what I'm asking is if there are ingredients that might pose a heath risk if added to sugar cooking in a copper pot.

#2 andiesenji

andiesenji
  • society donor
  • 9,269 posts
  • Location:Southern California

Posted 11 August 2006 - 04:04 PM

I use an unlined copper sugar pan and I also use an unlined copper "jam pot" - a very large one.
We used one in my mom's bakery 50 years ago and I have seen many used in other commercial venues over the years.

As long as one does not cook high acid foods directly in the copper for long periods, there is no leaching.
I wouldn't use the pot to make tomato sauce but I have used it many times to make marmalade.
The percentage of sugar is so high as to make the leaching of the copper minimal, if any.

If the interior of the copper pot is discolored (oxidized or tarnished) you have to scrub it with vinegar and rinse well before using, otherwise the fruit may discolor.

Incidentally, the only reported cases of copper poisoning in morbidity reports (rarely fatal) in the past 20 years, have been from accidental ingestion of copper sulfate used to control algae in aquariums, ingestion of Clinitest tablets, and overdosing on vitamin and mineral supplements that contain copper.

The human body requires some copper and deficiency can produce some odd symptoms.

Here is some more information:
Copper in human diet
"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett
My blog:Books,Cooks,Gadgets&Gardening

#3 BigboyDan

BigboyDan
  • participating member
  • 578 posts
  • Location:Austin, Texas, USA

Posted 11 August 2006 - 04:40 PM

I know that unlined copper pots are supposed to be great for caramelizing sugar. I also read that the FDA does not recommend cooking in unliner copper, because of the risk of copper leaching into the food.

View Post


Exactly.

#4 johnder

johnder
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 1,340 posts
  • Location:Brooklyn, NY

Posted 11 August 2006 - 05:00 PM

I have an unlined copper pot I have been using for the last 12 years or so. Granted I use it maybe 2-3 times a month. I have no concerns about using it. I would think the concerns about copper leeching into your food is pretty minimal, and if you are only using the pot occasionaly should be of no concern.

Thats my opinion anyway.

john
John Deragon

foodblog 1 / 2
--
I feel sorry for people that don't drink. When they wake up in the morning, that's as good as they're going to feel all day -- Dean Martin

#5 Patrick S

Patrick S
  • participating member
  • 2,233 posts

Posted 11 August 2006 - 05:17 PM

I know that unlined copper pots are supposed to be great for caramelizing sugar. I also read that the FDA does not recommend cooking in unliner copper, because of the risk of copper leaching into the food. I'm assuming that acidic foods would create the greatest risk. Is it safe to add cream to caramel being made in an unlined copper pot, or could the lactic acid in the cream be a problem?

View Post


Yes, acidic ingredients would remove the most copper and therefore be most likely to reach a toxic concentration of copper. Though IIRC, most dairy products have a near-neutral pH.
"If you are irritated by every rub, how will you be polished?" - Rumi

#6 Jaymes

Jaymes
  • participating member
  • 7,292 posts
  • Location:Houston, Texas

Posted 11 August 2006 - 05:45 PM

Lots of folks cook in unlined copper pots. There's a big apple festival near where I live and every year, they cook apple butter in these large unlined copper vats. They've been doing it for years, and have passed out apple butter to tens of thousands of fair participants. The health department oversees the whole thing, so clearly somebody thinks there's no problem with it. And apples are fairly acidic, so there you go.

I have two large copper cazuelas that I bought in Mexico some years back. I use them for carnitas, since that's the traditional pot. I did some extensive research regarding cooking in copper before I started using them, and if you keep the copper polished, there's no problem.

However, as Andie said, cooking tomato sauce is not advised. According to the information I found, it's not because it might hurt you; it's because the interaction between the copper and the tomatoes will turn your sauce an unappetizing color.

There's a lot of information on the web that you can find. I'd suggest you do that, rather than listen to people here that might be uninformed.

Edited by Jaymes, 12 August 2006 - 08:21 AM.

Joan Rivers says she's starting a new charity - "Feels on Wheels" - a service delivering sexual contact to the elderly.


#7 C. sapidus

C. sapidus
  • participating member
  • 2,583 posts
  • Location:Maryland

Posted 11 August 2006 - 09:05 PM

Copper has a strong, unpleasant taste, which can be detected in drinking water at a concentration of 2.6 milligrams per liter (Zacarias et al., 2001). In comparison, the EPA action level for copper in drinking water is 1.3 milligrams per liter (EPA fact sheet: copper in drinking water). In other words, your caramel will probably start to taste bad long before it poisons you.

Unless you consume more caramel than drinking water, you should be fine.

#8 alanamoana

alanamoana
  • participating member
  • 2,738 posts
  • Location:California

Posted 11 August 2006 - 10:50 PM

There's a lot of information on the web that you can find.  I'd suggest you do that, rather than listen to people here that might be uninformed.

View Post


isn't that a bit strange...this is the web, isn't it? and there are some people here that are well informed...and there's other information on the web aside from eGullet that can lead you astray. hopefully people are smart enough to use their common sense to figure out what is right and wrong.

#9 cookman

cookman
  • participating member
  • 185 posts

Posted 11 August 2006 - 10:56 PM

There's a lot of information on the web that you can find.  I'd suggest you do that, rather than listen to people here that might be uninformed.

View Post


isn't that a bit strange...this is the web, isn't it? and there are some people here that are well informed...and there's other information on the web aside from eGullet that can lead you astray. hopefully people are smart enough to use their common sense to figure out what is right and wrong.

View Post


I want to thank everyone for their well-researched replies. The reason I posed the question on eGullet is because I could find nothing on the web other than the statment that the FDA cautions against cooking in unlined copper pots. I knew that there had to be a more precise answer than this, and, as usual, the eGulleteers have come through!

#10 Jaymes

Jaymes
  • participating member
  • 7,292 posts
  • Location:Houston, Texas

Posted 12 August 2006 - 08:02 AM

There's a lot of information on the web that you can find.  I'd suggest you do that, rather than listen to people here that might be uninformed.

isn't that a bit strange...this is the web, isn't it? and there are some people here that are well informed...and there's other information on the web aside from eGullet that can lead you astray. hopefully people are smart enough to use their common sense to figure out what is right and wrong.


Yep. People here can be, and usually are, very well-informed. But people here also can pass on uninformed rumor, opinion and speculation. If you read back through this thread, you'll see that there are some conflicting opinions. And that would be at least somewhat confusing to me, if I were the one that had asked the question. Reading this thread, I still might not be comfortable with any conclusion.

And since I personally did quite a bit of research on this issue when I brought home my copper pots from Mexico, I know that there are official, scientific, documented conclusions elsewhere on the web.

I think this is a great place to start, for most anything food and cooking related. It's particularly wonderful when there's general consensus here. But when opinions here conflict, I suggest that one search further.

And I still do.

Edit: Don't have time to find all the sites I discovered back several years ago. I did find one fairly lengthy dissertation, including results of a study, etc. The main thing I remember from that one was to be certain that your copper was well-polished before you use it, even to beat egg whites.

Can't seem to find that one, but here's something interesting: Cooking in copper can be good for you.

I'll look more later.

Edited by Jaymes, 12 August 2006 - 08:16 AM.

Joan Rivers says she's starting a new charity - "Feels on Wheels" - a service delivering sexual contact to the elderly.


#11 alanamoana

alanamoana
  • participating member
  • 2,738 posts
  • Location:California

Posted 12 August 2006 - 08:15 AM

There's a lot of information on the web that you can find.  I'd suggest you do that, rather than listen to people here that might be uninformed.

isn't that a bit strange...this is the web, isn't it? and there are some people here that are well informed...and there's other information on the web aside from eGullet that can lead you astray. hopefully people are smart enough to use their common sense to figure out what is right and wrong.


Yep. And people here can be, and usually are, very well-informed. But people here also can pass on uninformed rumor, opinion and speculation. If you read back through this thread, you'll see that there are some conflicting opinions. And that would be at least somewhat confusing to me, if I were the one that had asked the question. Reading this thread, I still might not be comfortable with any conclusion.

And since I personally did quite a bit of research on this issue when I brought home my copper pots from Mexico, I know that there are official, scientific, documented conclusions elsewhere on the web.

I think this is a great place to start, for most anything food and cooking related. It's particularly wonderful when there's general consensus here. But when opinions here conflict, I suggest that one search further.

And I still do.

View Post


i agree with you. just playing devil's advocate. i would just hope that people have enough sense to use more than one source...in life, not just culinary matters. then again, maybe it does have to be pointed out now and again :hmmm:

#12 Patrick S

Patrick S
  • participating member
  • 2,233 posts

Posted 12 August 2006 - 09:22 AM

Incidentally, the only reported cases of copper poisoning in morbidity reports (rarely fatal) in the past 20 years, have been from accidental ingestion of copper sulfate used to control algae in aquariums, ingestion of Clinitest tablets, and overdosing on vitamin and mineral supplements that contain copper.

View Post


Actually, a quick Google search shows at least some reports of copper poisoning resulting from consuming acidic foods/drinks from copper vessels. For example, here is a report of 15 kids becoming ill after drinking a lime drink that had been left in an old copper vessel overnight. The drink was tested and found to have 300 mg/L concentration of copper, a very high concentration at which a relatively small drink would be sufficient to cause symptoms of copper poisoning. Granted this is an extreme case (very acidic drink, held for a long period in the vessel), but my point is simply that, contrary to what you say above, there are in fact at least some reports of copper poisoning related directly to the (improper) use of copper vessels.
"If you are irritated by every rub, how will you be polished?" - Rumi

#13 Jaymes

Jaymes
  • participating member
  • 7,292 posts
  • Location:Houston, Texas

Posted 12 August 2006 - 09:30 AM

So, cookman, I'm guessing that we all agree that the answer to your question is a resounding, "Maybe."

Joan Rivers says she's starting a new charity - "Feels on Wheels" - a service delivering sexual contact to the elderly.


#14 judiu

judiu
  • participating member
  • 2,245 posts
  • Location:South Florida

Posted 12 August 2006 - 09:38 AM

I was a carnival worker for perhaps 10 years, and every place that sold candy apples cooked the syrup in unlined copper bowl shaped pots. I have seen food sellers closed down many times in many places, but never ever have I seen a sweets seller closed for using a copper pot!
"Commit random acts of senseless kindness"

#15 andiesenji

andiesenji
  • society donor
  • 9,269 posts
  • Location:Southern California

Posted 12 August 2006 - 10:24 AM

Incidentally, the only reported cases of copper poisoning in morbidity reports (rarely fatal) in the past 20 years, have been from accidental ingestion of copper sulfate used to control algae in aquariums, ingestion of Clinitest tablets, and overdosing on vitamin and mineral supplements that contain copper.

View Post


Actually, a quick Google search shows at least some reports of copper poisoning resulting from consuming acidic foods/drinks from copper vessels. For example, here is a report of 15 kids becoming ill after drinking a lime drink that had been left in an old copper vessel overnight. The drink was tested and found to have 300 mg/L concentration of copper, a very high concentration at which a relatively small drink would be sufficient to cause symptoms of copper poisoning. Granted this is an extreme case (very acidic drink, held for a long period in the vessel), but my point is simply that, contrary to what you say above, there are in fact at least some reports of copper poisoning related directly to the (improper) use of copper vessels.

View Post


I only have access to official morbidity reports in the U.S. which are sent to the office from the CDC and L.A. Co. Health dept. I am sure there are probably more incidents in the world - I should have been more precise and stated that my reference was for the U.S. only.
We have received numerous bulletins regarding candies containing lead, that are imported from Mexico that are sold by street vendors and in small stores. We also get regular bulletins about mercury in fish and fish products. The mentions of copper toxicity are extremely rare - as I recall the most recent occurred when too much copper sulfate was introduced to a resevoir to reduce the algae concentration, mainly because the algae was causing problems with the intake and filtering equipment.

I do recall one incident, close to 40 ago, where several patrons of a small Valley restaurant became ill after drinking coffee made in an ibrik that was so tarnished that copper salts had formed on the interior surface and washed into the coffee. The coffee had been prepared by an inexperienced employee who did not know each ibrik had to be scrubbed with vinegar and salt, then rinsed, prior to use. At that time I worked for an internist/toxicologist and he was called to the ER to see some of the patients who complained of an awful metallic taste, nausea and vomiting shortly after drinking the coffee. I don't think any of them had any lasting effects.

Edited by andiesenji, 12 August 2006 - 10:33 AM.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett
My blog:Books,Cooks,Gadgets&Gardening

#16 chefpeon

chefpeon
  • participating member
  • 1,796 posts
  • Location:Tinytown, WA, USA

Posted 12 August 2006 - 10:39 AM

Life is hazardous to your health.
Something's going to get ya sometime.
I'm fairly sure odds are you are more likely to be struck by lightning
than to die from copper toxicity.

Edited by chefpeon, 12 August 2006 - 10:40 AM.


#17 jayt90

jayt90
  • participating member
  • 1,487 posts
  • Location:SW Ont

Posted 12 August 2006 - 11:35 AM

Lots of folks cook in unlined copper pots.  There's a big apple festival near where I live and every year, they cook apple butter in these large unlined copper vats.  They've been doing it for years, and have passed out apple butter to tens of thousands of fair participants.  The health department oversees the whole thing, so clearly somebody thinks there's no problem with it.  And apples are fairly acidic, so there you go.

I have two large copper cazuelas that I bought in Mexico some years back.  I use them for carnitas, since that's the traditional pot.  I did some extensive research regarding cooking in copper before I started using them, and if you keep the copper polished, there's no problem.

However, as Andie said, cooking tomato sauce is not advised.  According to the information I found, it's not because it might hurt you; it's because the interaction between the copper and the tomatoes will turn your sauce an unappetizing color.

There's a lot of information on the web that you can find.  I'd suggest you do that, rather than listen to people here that might be uninformed.

View Post


The unappetizing colour to watch for on a thinning layer of tin is blue/green, like some copper church steeples.

Jaymes, is Mexico a good source for sturdy, hand made tin lined copper pans?
I have seen a few from Chile, and they were better than low priced Portuguese pans.



#18 alanamoana

alanamoana
  • participating member
  • 2,738 posts
  • Location:California

Posted 12 August 2006 - 11:38 AM

I know that unlined copper pots are supposed to be great for caramelizing sugar. I also read that the FDA does not recommend cooking in unliner copper, because of the risk of copper leaching into the food. I'm assuming that acidic foods would create the greatest risk. Is it safe to add cream to caramel being made in an unlined copper pot, or could the lactic acid in the cream be a problem? I guess what I'm asking is if there are ingredients that might pose a heath risk if added to sugar cooking in a copper pot.

View Post


to base an answer directly on your question:

it should be safe...but...

the reason copper is supposed to be great for caramelizing sugar is the even heat conducting of the copper itself. there might be some reaction with the sugar (???) that can help inhibit crystallization as well. if you're making a caramel sauce, crystallization isn't so much of a concern because you've cooked the caramel to a certain point and then you're adding other ingredients anyway. so to be perfectly safe, if you're making caramel sauce, don't worry about using your copper pot.

copper candy pots are pretty darn expensive as well. some of the smaller ones are close to $100 if not more. they really don't have sufficient volume to make larger batches of caramel candies or sauces anyway because of the bubbling up when adding other ingredients. if you're making reasonable sized batches, you'd need a much larger pot...which can cost a lot more than $100.

i would think if you're concerned at all, just get a really good quality heavy duty large volumed pot or pan (think: all clad), which would also be expensive, but would be good for multiple purposes instead of only one specific use.

edited to add: if you're dead set on getting copper, you can always get something that's got copper sandwiched in the middle so that you get the benefits of the even heating without the risk of it leaching into your product. besides, in most restaurants and other professional environments, it is rare to see copper pots being used regularly.

Edited by alanamoana, 12 August 2006 - 11:40 AM.


#19 Jaymes

Jaymes
  • participating member
  • 7,292 posts
  • Location:Houston, Texas

Posted 12 August 2006 - 11:41 AM

The unappetizing colour to watch for on a thinning layer of tin is blue/green, like some copper church steeples.

Jaymes, is Mexico a good source for sturdy, hand made tin lined copper pans?
I have seen a few from Chile, and they were better than low priced Portuguese pans.


I don't really know. The last time I was down there, I went to Santa Clara del Cobre (which means, St. Claire of the Copper), a delightful small town that is the source of a lot of wonderful copper. I wasn't looking for tin-lined, though, so I'm not sure.

The big copper cazuelas I bought were pretty basic. We actually stood there and watched them hammered out from disks of flaming, red-hot copper.

At least at that one place, anyway, they weren't set up for anything more sophisticated or involved than that.

Edited by Jaymes, 12 August 2006 - 12:33 PM.

Joan Rivers says she's starting a new charity - "Feels on Wheels" - a service delivering sexual contact to the elderly.