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Copper-base Pans Vs Stainless Steel


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#1 ravelda

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Posted 27 September 2006 - 09:30 AM

I know similar threads have floated around the site, but I wanted to get peoples opinion about copper base pans vs stainless steel, and whether it is worth the extr cost. I am looking to make a big one-off investment in some new pans that will last me a lifetime. I currently have some very good analon pans, but to be honest I do not risk using metal utensils as I have seen these pans ruined by these despite the claim that they are suitable to use with analon pans. I would love suggestions for heavy duty use both in pro kitchen and home kitchen. Any thoughts?
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#2 Jon Tseng

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Posted 27 September 2006 - 12:23 PM

My vote is a no

Wayback I had a chance to use a good copper/steel lined saute pan for a summer. I didn't find heat dsitribution performance that much better than the thick Al pan I was using. And the disadvantage was that it was very heavy.

The advantages were that it heated up/cooled down quicker than the Al pan (which was very thick) and that as it had a metal handle could put it directly in oven.

Overall didn't think advantages outweighted hassle of hefting it around. Versus a good cast iron pan all of the above would also apply, apart from cast iron doesn't have the problem of taking so long to heat up/cool down.

Now versus stainless steel maybe the better thermal properties will be noticeable. but so will the price.

J

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Edited by Jon Tseng, 27 September 2006 - 12:38 PM.

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#3 slkinsey

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Posted 27 September 2006 - 12:35 PM

As with many things in the kitchen, it depends on what you use the pan for. If it's a saucepot that you use for boiling water and steaming vegetables, you won't tell a bit of difference between heavy copper and thin stainless steel. If it's a saute pan that you use for high heat cooking, heavy aluminum or copper will absolutely outperform thin stainless steel. That said, you may not find that copper significantly outperforms aluminum for this kind of pan (I recommend thick aluminum disk bottom designs for most saute pans). If it's a pan you use to do things make temperature-sensitive sauces, melt chocolate and heat eggs for custards over direct heat, etc. you will very likely notice a difference between copper and anything else.

As John points out, there is the issue of weight. Copper weighs more than aluminum and thin stainless steel, although not as much as cast iron. If weight is an issue for you (it isn't for me) then it's something you should take under consideration.

There is no definitive "best" in cookware. Choosing a cookware design is all about figuring out what's best for you, your budget, your cooking style, your specific cooking needs (as well as the needs of your cooking task), your strengths and your weaknesses. I find that overkill is almost as common as having bad cookware.
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#4 Timh

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Posted 27 September 2006 - 04:51 PM

I reccommend stainless steel(Allclad, et al) over copper if for nothing else than the up keep. Keeping those bad boys copper shiny is a weekly labor, if not daily. If its not important, than I don't understand the arguement. Stainless does everything copper does, at less cost, and labor. You can find those cheap tin lined copper pans for decoration at flea markets.

#5 annachan

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Posted 27 September 2006 - 05:15 PM

I love my copper pot for making candy. I also love my other copper-lined pieces. However, I'm not sure I would pay regular prices for them; I'm not sure I can afford them. I have gotten most of my pieces on sale. I know you're thinking of getting a set. But if you're willing to wait and search, you'll be able to get some great deal out there. I've managed to pay 1/2 price or less for my pieces.

#6 Octaveman

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Posted 27 September 2006 - 10:51 PM

I'll tell you one thing. Okay, maybe more than one but depending on your budget, if you spend more than $500 on some Falk pieces at http://copperpans.com/ they give you a 15% discount. The three pans I bought, a fry pan, chef's pan (splayed sauce pan) and a sauciere with the discount were CHEAPER than All Clad stainless of the same or close to the same pieces. Who would want All Clad stainless over Falk copper? Not me thats for sure.

Now a few words on upkeep of copper. If you're anal retentive, then copper might not be the best thing for your mental health. If you don't mind your pans looking like they are loved and well used, then get copper. Upkeep on the Falk is not that bad because the finish is brushed and not shiney. This allows for easier polishing because you won't be marking up a shiny surface. I clean mine up every 2-3 weeks (or when friends come over) and use Barkeepers Friend and it takes maybe 15 minutes. No big deal.

I love cooking with my pans and am glad I bought them. They feel and look so much better than All Clad which looks like any other SS pan...boring. Falk has class IMHO.

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#7 ravelda

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Posted 28 September 2006 - 03:17 AM

Thanks a lot for all these responses, and the advice. I am planning on looking around for a while and deffinately wont be paying standard prices, and then when I find the exact pans i want I will search for deals. I will be sure to look at that website as well Octaveman - thanks for that.
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#8 C. sapidus

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Posted 28 September 2006 - 04:44 AM

We recently bought the "Try Me" copper sauciere from Falk. I have only used it a couple of times, but love it already. Copper did a noticeably better job of making caramel and reducing two cups of apple cider down to two tablespoons of syrup. I don't plan to sweat the aesthetics, but love the control that copper provides.

Unfortunately, Falk drastically increased its prices as of 9/26/06. Falk Culinair pricing. This source appears to have better prices on Falk copperware.

#9 slkinsey

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Posted 28 September 2006 - 07:16 AM

One word on price: I don't quite understand the difficulty some people have with the idea of shelling out a couple hundred bucks for a superior pan that will last the rest of their lives. Now... I can understand not wanting to pay two hundred bucks when a better or equivalent pan can be had for half as much. But think of it this way: a two hundred dollar pan costs less than a television that will only last a few years.
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#10 LindaK

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Posted 28 September 2006 - 05:03 PM

As with many things in the kitchen, it depends on what you use the pan for.  If it's a saucepot that you use for boiling water and steaming vegetables, you won't tell a bit of difference between heavy copper and thin stainless steel.  If it's a saute pan that you use for high heat cooking, heavy aluminum or copper will absolutely outperform thin stainless steel.  That said, you may not find that copper significantly outperforms aluminum for this kind of pan (I recommend thick aluminum disk bottom designs for most saute pans).  If it's a pan you use to do things make temperature-sensitive sauces, melt chocolate and heat eggs for custards over direct heat, etc. you will very likely notice a difference between copper and anything else.

As John points out, there is the issue of weight.  Copper weighs more than aluminum and thin stainless steel, although not as much as cast iron.  If weight is an issue for you (it isn't for me) then it's something you should take under consideration.

There is no definitive "best" in cookware.  Choosing a cookware design is all about figuring out what's best for you, your budget, your cooking style, your specific cooking needs (as well as the needs of your cooking task), your strengths and your weaknesses.  I find that overkill is almost as common as having bad cookware.

I second this opinion. Know your own cooking needs. My cookware collection includes copper, All-Clad stainless, le Creuset, vintage cast iron, as well as some odd hand-me-downs or flea market finds, and I use them all.

But re: the copper. I find that I reach for it in two very different circumstances:

#1 when I want uber-responsiveness between the heat element and the pan. I find a remarkable difference between copper and anything else when this matters. My copper saucier is probably my favorite piece in this category.

#2 for the pure pleasure of cooking and serving with something so beautiful. A few years ago, while in Paris, I bought a very large copper gratin dish. Gorgeous, hammered copper with handles. I reach for it any time I want to bring something from the oven to the table and care about the presentation--everything from a traditonal potato gratin to a whole baked fish. No matter, it makes the finished dish look festive and (dare I say) sexy.


 


#11 andiesenji

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Posted 29 September 2006 - 11:11 AM

I have posted several times in the past about my preference for the Bourgeat professional copper pans and while I usually do not buy or recommend buying sets of cookware, the set offered by Chef Ron Askew consists of 4 extremely useful pan and the price includes the lids! A bit over a year ago this set was selling for $785. however the price of copper went up and so did the finished goods.
Bourgeat Alliance copper
Scroll down a bit more than half way on this page there are pics of the four pans without the lids. The lids on these pieces fit perfectly.

For my purposes, searing meats, quick sautés, sweating aromatics, I prefer to use copper. I have a lot of copper, some pieces well over 100 years old - tin lined - which I rarely use now because I have purchased several pieces that are stainless lined - but still use the unlined sugar and preserving pans.

I have a lot of cookware of other types, and like some materials for some purposes, other types for other things. It all depends on what fits your hands, your technique and your budget. I have big stockpots that are stainless - and also have a huge copper stockpot with tin lining that I no longer use because I can't lift it, even when empty. I have a Calphalon (original, not the non-stick) 16 quart stockpot that I find is just perfect for some things.
Copper is expensive, however it will actually appreciate in value over the years and if you have children, you can pass it along to them. (Or sell it if you are strapped for cash!)
Some of my cookware collection hanging from my pantry ceiling

Get the copper pots and pans with bronze or cast iron handles. Do not get brass handles... And you want the stuff that is at least 2.5 mm thick on the bottom (1/8 inch) the lighter weight stuff is essentially useless. Bourgeat copper pans

You do want to start out with the copper nice and clean when you use it because a build up of corrosion can cause hot spots or uneven heating.
However, there is a quick cure I learned many years ago when I took a class in French cooking from a chef who used only copper pans. He had one of the old short 1-pound coffee cans next to the stove that was filled with salt. If a pan was discolored, he would simply cut a lemon in half, dip it in the salt and quickly scrub the bottom of the pan with it and just wipe it clean with a towel and put it straight onto the burner.
I adopted this practice and used it for years because it is quick and easy.

Edited by andiesenji, 29 September 2006 - 11:14 AM.

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#12 budrichard

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Posted 29 September 2006 - 11:48 AM

As I have previously posted, after purchasing Falk copper, I got rid of everything else. I have a complete set now and a few Falk pieces that were only offered for a short time. Upkeep is minimal and thier simply is no comparison with anything else, period. I have had excellent dealings with Falk USA.
The only caveat I have is, if you are slight of build, than the larger copper pieces are probably too heavy for you. -Dick

#13 John DePaula

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Posted 29 September 2006 - 12:33 PM

I have posted several times in the past about my preference for the Bourgeat professional copper pans and while I usually do not buy or recommend buying sets of cookware, the set offered by Chef Ron Askew consists of 4 extremely useful pan and the price includes the lids!  A bit over a year ago this set was selling for $785. however the price of copper went up and so did the finished goods. 
Bourgeat Alliance copper
Scroll down a bit more than half way on this page there are pics of the four pans without the lids.  The lids on these pieces fit perfectly. 

For my purposes, searing meats, quick sautés, sweating aromatics, I prefer to use copper.  I have a lot of copper, some  pieces well over 100 years old - tin lined - which I rarely use now because I have purchased several pieces that are stainless lined - but still use the unlined sugar and preserving pans.

I have a lot of cookware of other types, and like some materials for some purposes, other types for other things.  It all depends on what fits your hands, your technique and your budget.  I have big stockpots that are stainless - and also have a huge copper stockpot with tin lining that I no longer use because I can't lift it, even when empty.  I have a Calphalon (original, not the non-stick) 16 quart stockpot that I find is just perfect for some things. 
Copper is expensive, however it will actually appreciate in value over the years and if you have children, you can pass it along to them. (Or sell it if you are strapped for cash!)
Some of my cookware collection hanging from my pantry ceiling

Get the copper pots and pans with bronze or cast iron handles.  Do not get brass handles...  And you want the stuff that is at least 2.5 mm thick on the bottom (1/8 inch) the lighter weight stuff is essentially useless.  Bourgeat copper pans

You do want to start out with the copper nice and clean when you use it because a build up of corrosion can cause hot spots or uneven heating. 
However, there is a quick cure I learned many years ago when I took a class in French cooking from a chef who used only copper pans.  He had one of the old short 1-pound coffee cans next to the stove that was filled with salt.  If a pan was discolored, he would simply cut a lemon in half, dip it in the salt and quickly scrub the bottom of the pan with it and just wipe it clean with a towel and put it straight onto the burner.
I adopted this practice and used it for years because it is quick and easy.

View Post

Thanks for the post, andie. Could you tell us if the handles on these get hot? I really like my Copper All-clad pots and the handle stays cool.
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#14 andiesenji

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Posted 29 September 2006 - 01:39 PM

The long bronze handles on the frying pans, sauce pans and sauté pans do not get hot unless they are on the burner for a long time or go into the oven.
The shorter loop handles on the braziers, casseroles and stockpot do get hot after they have been on the stove for prolonged periods, or go into the oven.
I am so used to using a small towel to handle everything, I guess I don't even think about it.
I buy the bundles of "terry cloth bar towels" at Smart & Final to use in the kitchen. They are small enough to not drape so far they would come in contact with the flame and doubled are perfect for grabbing hot things.

That is why I like the bronze handles - I have two pots with brass handles (gifts) and they get very hot and they are smaller, thinner and more difficult to hold.

I made fried potatoes in the sauté pan this morning and the handle never got hot enough for me to need anything to hold it.

Edited by andiesenji, 29 September 2006 - 01:41 PM.

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#15 John DePaula

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Posted 29 September 2006 - 02:44 PM

The long bronze handles on the frying pans, sauce pans and sauté pans do not get hot unless they are on the burner for a long time or go into the oven.
The shorter loop handles on the braziers, casseroles and stockpot do get hot after they have been on the stove for prolonged periods, or go into the oven. 
I am so used to using a small towel to handle everything, I guess I don't even think about it.
I buy the bundles of "terry cloth bar towels" at Smart & Final to use in the kitchen.  They are small enough to not drape so far they would come in contact with the flame and doubled are perfect for grabbing hot things.

That is why I like the bronze handles - I have two pots with brass handles (gifts) and they get very hot and they are smaller, thinner and more difficult to hold. 

I made fried potatoes in the sauté pan this morning and the handle never got hot enough for me to need anything to hold it.

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Thanks for the info, andie.
John DePaula
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#16 C. sapidus

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Posted 29 September 2006 - 05:36 PM

I have posted several times in the past about my preference for the Bourgeat professional copper pans . . .

Andie: I must have missed this - would you be so kind as to explain why you prefer Bourgeat to other copper manufacturers such as Falk Culinaire? Thanks!

#17 UnConundrum

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Posted 29 September 2006 - 05:44 PM

What Bob said :)

I'm another happy Falk customer, and underline the happy marriage with Bar Keepers Friend. After use, I clean the inside of the pan with BKF, with a little extra water. I slop that mixture over the outide of the pan, and it's usually enough to quickly clean it. No effort, no long process, nothing more than I would do to clean any pot or pan. IF the pan/pot is on the stove for protracted periods, it can take a little elbow grease to clean up, but that's rare.

#18 andiesenji

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Posted 29 September 2006 - 06:30 PM

I have posted several times in the past about my preference for the Bourgeat professional copper pans . . .

Andie: I must have missed this - would you be so kind as to explain why you prefer Bourgeat to other copper manufacturers such as Falk Culinaire? Thanks!

View Post


This is the earlier thread on copper cookware

In addition to the Bourgeat I have some Mauviel and I did buy one piece of the Falk. I simply do not care for the brushed finish. I supposed it is because that all of my life I have lived with the traditional shiny copper and I like the warmth of it, the deep glow makes me feel good.

I also felt that paying an extra 110.00 for a lid for the 11 inch low casserole (350.) bringing the total to 460. was a bit too much when I could get the Bourgeat brazier, (essentially the same size pan) INCLUDING the lid, for $295.00 from Chef Ron.

However, I know a lot of people like the Falk and that is their choice. You should pick what you like, what works for you. I have friends who regularly go to the UK and often make a side trip to Paris to shop for copper at E. Dehillerin. Cuprinox heavy copper with the Mauviel name. However much of the Mauviel sold in the US is the lighter "table" pans that are thinner. The heavier is available, just not as easy to find.
Bourgeat/Mauviel
and a set.

and another vendor
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#19 Octaveman

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Posted 29 September 2006 - 07:27 PM

It's my guess that from a performance standpoint, copper pans of the same thickenss and SS lined are equal. As Andy said, the one you buy is your preference as to it's appearance. Some brands have lips on the pans and some don't. Also be sure to look at pics of similar pans of different brands as the handle placement and it's height are not always the same. The brushed finish, the lip and the handle placement are all why I went with Falk. But my issues may not be important to you so you should look at the main brands and compare until you're satisfied that the brand you pick is right for you.

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#20 JAZ

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Posted 29 September 2006 - 08:48 PM

I think it's a mistake to lump all "stainless" pans together -- sure, there are some thin, cheap stainless pans, but there are also some very good clad or disk botton pans (aluminum or copper core). If you want the responsiveness of a thick copper bottom but not the upkeep of copper, you can do worse than Demeyere Atlantis or Sirocco saute and sauce pans.

These are Sirocco -- the saute pan in front and a saucepan in back.

Posted Image

Of course you can't tell that they have a thick copper disk bottom, but they do. In fact, the sautepan is just as heavy as a copper one the same size. They can also be used on an induction stove, so if you think you'll ever go that route, Demeyere is a much wiser choice than copper.

Which is not to say that I don't like copper, because I do. I recently got a couple pieces for candy and sugar work, and they're the best pans I've ever used for that.

#21 andiesenji

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Posted 29 September 2006 - 08:57 PM

Those are nice pans, Janet. I think you have shown photos of them in another thread. I like the handles on the lids - don't they hook onto the pan handles?
"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
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#22 JAZ

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Posted 30 September 2006 - 10:49 AM

Those are nice pans, Janet.  I think you have shown photos of them in another thread.  I like the handles on the lids - don't they hook onto the pan handles?

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Good memory, Andie. They do rest in the slot in the handle while you're cooking. Another thing I really like about them is that the handles are welded rather than riveted, which makes the pans much easier to clean up. And more so than any other metal-handled cookware I have (Mauviel professional copper and All-Clad), the "stay-cool" handles actually stay cool. The lid handles also stay cool, totally unlike the others.

On the other hand, this stuff is not cheap, though. It's not quite as expensive as copper, but it's more than All-Clad.

#23 budrichard

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Posted 02 October 2006 - 02:17 PM

If your Sirocco pan has the InductoSeal bottom than it has 2 mm of copper. Professional copper cookware has 2.5mm of copper. A 1/2mm may not seem like a lot but it is a cost savings for the manufacturer and a 2.5mm pan is 25% thicker than 2mm and results in faster heating. The website is rather obtuse and I found it difficult to determine which pan had what bottom.
BTW, I never do anything other than wash the outside of our Falk.-Dick

#24 pigeonpie

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Posted 16 October 2006 - 01:30 AM

Copper vs stainless? Well, you can have both if you go for Le Pentole ; slightly higher prices but more detailed info here more Le Pentole, and if you are in London, you can go and look at them here Le Pentole at David Mellor. These are seriously tough, yet beautiful, stainless steel pots with a layer of copper in the base, rather than aluminium. If you have any Nigel Slater books, flick through the photos and you'll spot them.

Then again, you can get a lot more copper for your money if you go with stainless-lined copper, aka Falk, Mauviel, etc. But - and don't underestimate this - these babies are Heavy. Which is why I would never consider having every pan in my kitchen made of stainless-lined copper, even if money were no object. Why would I want to lift several kilos of copper each time I want to boil water for pasta or cook a stock? I don't.

If I'm going to spend serious money on pots and pans, I want them to be suited to the task at hand, do multiple duty wherever possible, and be a pleasure to use (as well as lasting forever, etc). The copper I own consists of a couple of Falk copper 'Stewpan' curved saute pan - go to 'products' and scroll down to 'Stewpan' . These - what Falk call a 'Stew pan' or 'Stewpan' are exactly the same pan as the curved saute pan ('Spheric sautepan' on their website), but instead of one long handle, they have two small 'ear-type' handles. Advantages? Much easier to lift and carry and pour from, especially the larger, 28cm version; I can easily transfer them to the oven, and I don't have handles sticking out all over the place on the stove top - mine is a pretty small kitchen.

Verdict? I Love these pans - I use one or other just about any time I cook, because they are so flexible as to their use, and such a joy to use. They are worth every penny and a constant pleasure. Don't bother with copper lids though - just use stainless steel; cheaper and stronger and easier to clean.

Would I expand my, currently limited, copper empire? Only in the direction of, say, a small saucepan for making delicate sauces, and perhaps a large frying pan. But large saucepans, stockpots and the like? Not a chance - copper would just be too heavy, and the advantages of copper unlikely to be of much use for the kind of things such pans would be used for, at least in my kitchen.

So, I guess this is my way of saying don't be seduced into buying everything in copper - or whatever. Choose each pan for each job. There are plenty of times when I choose my Staub enamelled cast iron pots over copper or stainless, for long, slow cooking (and, as a tangent, I've found I much prefer Staub to Le Creuset - better browning with more moisture retention), whilst any old thin enamelled-steel pot, or s/s with or without copper/aluminium base does for pasta, as long as its big enough.

Buy each pan for each task, don't feel that you have to buy everything at once, or that everything has to match, and if you are buying pans in an unfamiliar material or shape try to get a feel for them - their heft, handle arrangement, balance, etc, by handling them in a shop first. Then buy off the web for better prices!

Oh, and let us know what you decide to go for in the end.

edited to fix a dodgy link

Edited by pigeonpie, 16 October 2006 - 01:35 AM.

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#25 rooftop1000

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Posted 17 May 2010 - 04:59 AM

If anyone out there that knows about copper pans could answer a question...
My grandmother has a wall of decorative copper molds and bowls and pans in her kitchen, the Pans are Daewoo brand. Does anyone know if those are strictly decorative? They are pretty light-weight and the only info I have found on them was someone else asking the same question.


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#26 David A. Goldfarb

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Posted 17 May 2010 - 06:49 AM

Light weight copper is "decorative" in the sense that it is mainly about presentation and doesn't have the cooking advantage of very even heat distribution associated with heavy copper, but that doesn't mean you can't cook in it. Most copperware in the world is light weight (1-1.6mm thickness), so you can certainly cook in it as long as it is lined with tin, stainless steel or less commonly silver or nickel, but you need to be more careful with it than with heavy (2.5-4mm) copper, since it won't distribute the heat as evenly. I grew up using lightweight copper cookware from Chile, for instance, and we cooked in it all the time, and some of those pieces I still use regularly for tasks like boiling water, heating soups, or making a gratin in the oven, that don't require such attention as frying or sautéeing.

#27 Edward J

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Posted 17 May 2010 - 09:48 PM

To the original poster, you have recieved some very good advice.

Basiclly, where copper makes a difference and can substantiate it's cost, is with sauting and sugar/preserves work.

If you go with a reputable brand and buy only one piece, I think it's money well spent. You can always buy more pieces in the future.

As others have said, the bigger pieces are HEAVY, so keep this in mind.

Cleaning should be done on a regular basis. It's not the copper oxidization that's hard to clean--this can be done with salt and lemon juice or salt and vingear, and very quickly too. --No, it's the buildup of carbon and grease/oil which can be very hard indeed to clean off with out some form of abrasion or harsh chemicals if it is allowed to gather for a while.

About tinned copper ware.....
I haven't looked at the periodic table of elements in a looong time, but I know that tin melts at somewhere around 350F. Tinned copperware should not be used for sauting, sugar work, or roasting as it can, and will melt off. Tin will also wear off, and should be re-tinned periodically