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Copper vs. Copper Core


jturn00
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I am wondering what is the difference (in terms of performance) between some of the copper core all clad to a Mauvel style copper pans? I know that the copper core from all clad has copper sandwiched between the stainless steel and the all copper with stainless steel insides needs polishing but I am wondering about performance characteristics.

Thanks,

Jeff

I am trying to determine what I should add to the wedding registry.

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I have several all clad copper-core pans and a couple of bourgeat copper pans - the bourgeat pans are much more responsive but they also need to be polished. The bourgeat pans are also much heavier, so if you look like you desperately need a sandwich you should just get the all clad, otherwise it's more complicated. I throw the copper core pans in the dishwasher all the time, I've had them for about 7 years and they're holding up fine. I much prefer cooking with the all copper pans but they're a pain to keep clean. In the end it comes down to maintenance vs performance.

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The salient differences are three:

1. Either brand can have a better price, depending on the piece. For example, an All-Clad Copper Core 8 inch frypan will run you around 145 bucks versus around 175 for Falk Culinair or 162 for Mauviel. On the other hand, an All-Clad Copper Core 2 quart saucepan costs 235 bucks versus 199 for Falk Culinair at 2.3 quarts or 210 for Mauviel at 2.6 quarts (to make them totally equal, tack on another 10-15 bucks to buy lids for the copper pieces -- although the ability to buy the lids separately, or not at all, is a bonus in my estimation).

2. The All-Clad Copper Core pieces can be cleaned in the dishwasher (I think) -- although this would presumably tarnish the exposed copper detailing.

3. Stainless lined heavy copper has a lot more copper than All-Clad Copper Core. This will make them heavier, and will also make them perform better on certain cooking tasks.

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Dave: Has All-Clad Copper Core been around for 7 years? I thought it had only been in production for maybe 3 years.

I agree, by the way, that if you would like to have stainless lined heavy copper for its performance characteristics, it does make sense to have some lower-maintenance/less high-end pans around for making grilled cheese sandwiches and the like. Bourgeat, Falk Culinair and Mauviel are a bit like the Ferrari's of the kitchen. High performance but also high maintenance, and most people who own one also have a more prosaic car for picking up groceries.

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Thanks for the info. I didn't know about the dishwasher aspects of the copper core but I probably won't put them in the dishwasher. Thanks for the info. It is really helpful. (Cost isn't so much of a factor as I am just adding the pots and pans to the registry list).

Jeff

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Dave: Has All-Clad Copper Core been around for 7 years?  I thought it had only been in production for maybe 3 years.

I agree, by the way, that if you would like to have stainless lined heavy copper for its performance characteristics, it does make sense to have some lower-maintenance/less high-end pans around for making grilled cheese sandwiches and the like.  Bourgeat, Falk Culinair and Mauviel are a bit like the Ferrari's of the kitchen.  High performance but also high maintenance, and most people who own one also have a more prosaic car for picking up groceries.

I got my copper core set a while before I moved to CA - I've been out here for a six years. The pans were only available at williams-sonoma when I bought them I think that was early 2000. I like the car analogy - since I go grocery shopping in a British convertible, polishing a few copper pans is the least of my maintenance worries.

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I have a bunch of All clad copper core and I don't put them in the dishwasher either, but I love the performance of them. I had All Clad stainless steel before, and there is a noticeable improvement in the copper core, particularly for sauteing and frying.

I do like to keep my pots and pans clean, but I doubt I'd have the patience for polishing copper all the time!

Edited by Marlene (log)

Marlene

cookskorner

Practice. Do it over. Get it right.

Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

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Just to set the record straight ... copper pans don't "need" to be polished.

You might feel the need, but everyone doesn't. Mine look like old pennies (or like pans that get used!) ... personally I preffer this to the gleaming, show kitchen look. I'm also too lazy to even consider polishing them.

The closest I come is ocasionally removing the tarnish from the inside of my egg white mixing bowl.

Edited by paulraphael (log)

Notes from the underbelly

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I cook with my copper pans nearly every day - I only polish them once or twice a month. I don't care if they look new, but I don't like having the gear I use look like I found it in the yard. You don't need to wash your car either...

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For the record, Copper Core is not copper cookware. True professional weight copper has 2.5mm of copper with either tin or SS lining. All Clad is a SS/Copper/aluminum sandwich and I'm not talking about thier other Copper-Chef product. When I asked for the thickneses, I was told that was proprietary information!

In any event, we use Falk and NEVER polish. The larger pieces are very heavy so i purchased a medium frying Copper Core for my daughter. I used equal volumes of water in the All Clad and the matching Falk and guess which one heated water faster? All Clad has great marketing but does not sell copper cookware.-Dick

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What's so good about copper that makes them good for sauteeing or frying? I thought cast iron would be a better job for that.

Cast iron and copper are almost exact opposites. Copper is much more conductive, and has a much lower specific heat, so the pan heats (and cools) much faster than a similarly heavy iron pan. This makes the pan much more responsive and easier to control. If you've ever tried to make a reduced cream sauce or emusified egg yolk sauce in an enameled cast iron pan, you'll know what being out of control feels like!

Copper will also heat much more evenly from edge to edge because of its conductiveness. This makes it great in a large sauté pan where you want even browning. The responsiveness helps you control the temperature ... especially nice if you're going to make a pan sauce.

The strength of cast iron is specifically its lack of response. For some kinds of cooking, you don't need responsiveness, but you need a pan that will hold a steady temperature no matter what you do to it. If you want to brown or blacken a big piece of meat, cast iron is perfect. You preheat it (whcih takes forever) but then when you drop that meat in the pan, it holds enough stored energy to brown the meat without the pan temperature dropping too much.

Copper = sports car

Cast Iron = freight train

both have their uses.

Notes from the underbelly

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I purchased my All Clad Copper Core just over two years ago and have been very pleased with them. While not 100% copper they are much easier to maintain, and I can give up a minor bit of minor heating and cooling speed. They are still very fast and I am impressed with their quality. I did get a very good deal at just $435 for a set that normally goes for about $700. A retailer was selling their display models.

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Cast iron and copper are almost exact opposites. Copper is much more conductive, and has a much lower specific heat, so the pan heats (and cools) much faster than a similarly heavy iron pan.

It is true that iron has a higher specific heat than copper (specific heat being the amount of heat Joules it takes to raise one gram of a substance by one degree). I wouldn't say it's a big difference, however. Iron clocks in at 0.449 J/g/K versus 0.385 for copper. But copper is more dense than iron: 8.96 g/cm^3 versus 7.87 for iron. When you combine these to get specific heat per cubic centimeter, they are very similar in their thermal capacity: 3.53 J/cm^3/K for iron versus 3.44 for copper. This means that, if iron and copper pans have a similar thickness -- and most iron pans are unfortunately no more thick than heavy copper pans -- the heat capacity is just about the same.

Having a relatively high thermal capacity is actually an advantage of copper. What makes it especially advantageous is that it is also extremely responsive. Think: freight train that can turn on a dime.

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Often, yea. But it definitely has its drawbacks from a maintenance standpoint. In terms of performance, a nice extra-thick iron pan (either enamel clad or seasoned, depending on the application) would have an edge when it comes to cooking applications in which one would like to have constant, unchanging heat.

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I haven't worked through all the math (including comparing thicknesses of my pans), but experience suggests there really is a big difference in thermal mass.

The iron pans (enamelled or not) take well over twice as much time to heat up. They also stay hot much longer. One of the disadvantages of copper pans is that they're lousy for keeping food warm! If I bring a sauce to the table in the copper pan it will cool noticeably faster than it will even in an aluminum pan. Some of this might be attributable to conductivity (the pan acting as a more efficient heat sink) but that doesn't explain all of it. In fact, I'm not sure how something can have both high thermal mass and high responsiveness.

Cast iron and copper are almost exact opposites. Copper is much more conductive, and has a much lower specific heat, so the pan heats (and cools) much faster than a similarly heavy iron pan.

It is true that iron has a higher specific heat than copper (specific heat being the amount of heat Joules it takes to raise one gram of a substance by one degree). I wouldn't say it's a big difference, however. Iron clocks in at 0.449 J/g/K versus 0.385 for copper. But copper is more dense than iron: 8.96 g/cm^3 versus 7.87 for iron. When you combine these to get specific heat per cubic centimeter, they are very similar in their thermal capacity: 3.53 J/cm^3/K for iron versus 3.44 for copper. This means that, if iron and copper pans have a similar thickness -- and most iron pans are unfortunately no more thick than heavy copper pans -- the heat capacity is just about the same.

Having a relatively high thermal capacity is actually an advantage of copper. What makes it especially advantageous is that it is also extremely responsive. Think: freight train that can turn on a dime.

Notes from the underbelly

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Read eGCI Class on cookware and all will be explained. :smile:

In short: Yes, it is possible to be both responsive and to have a relatively high thermal capacity, so long as thermal conductivity is high enough. Yes, copper and iron have very similar thermal capacity by volume, and therefore copper and iron pans with similar thickness will have a similar thermal capacity. Yes, the reason iron pans take so much longer to heat up and cool down compared to copper pans of similar size and thickness is almost entirely explained by thermal conductivity. Yes, the main heat-related difference between iron and copper as they are deployed in cookware is conductivity. And, yes, this is a huge difference (4.01 W/cm/K for copper versus only 0.80 for iron). :smile:

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Read eGCI Class on cookware and all will be explained.  :smile:

In short:  Yes, it is possible to be both responsive and to have a relatively high thermal capacity, so long as thermal conductivity is high enough.

I've read that, and much more rigorous analyses as well. The physics still seems to point to thermal mass and responsiveness being reciprocal.

Notes from the underbelly

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The physics still seems to point to thermal mass and responsiveness being reciprocal.

That's a misunderstanding on your part, I'm afraid -- at least in the context of the materials use in cookware. Obviously, one can reach a point where thermal mass becomes so great that it overcomes the advantages of thermal conductivity and restricts responsiveness -- but these conditions aren't generally found in cookware.

Yes, it's true that responsiveness and thermal mass are always opposed when thermal conductivity is the same. For example, a 2.5 mm thick copper pan will be more responsive than a 5 mm copper pan, and this difference in responsiveness is largely explained by the difference in thermal mass. However, in comparing iron to copper, the thermal conductivity is not the same. Not only is the thermal conductivity not the same, it's radically different. Think of it this way: If you have two Toyota Corollas, and one weighs 2,500 pounds and the other weighs 3,200 pounds, the lighter Corolla will be quicker to speed up and slow down. If, on the other hand, you take a 3,200 pound Ferrari F430, I think we all understand that the Ferrari will be quicker to speed up and slow down than the same weight of Toyota. In this example, weight is like thermal mass and engine power is like thermal conductivity.

In terms of thermal capacity, it's simple math. Take a cast iron skillet and a copper pan of similar thermal capacity. Heck, take a copper pan with a larger thermal capacity -- use one that weighs a little more than the cast iron pan. Heat them up on the stove. See which one takes longer to heat up and which one takes longer to cool down. If you do this experiment (which I've done) you'll see that, despite having an equivalent-or-larger thermal capacity, the copper pan is still much more responsive. As a friend was just saying to me, it's possible to understand that you can empty out a barrel faster than a bottle of the hole in the barrel is big enough. This goes directly to the "heat faucet" examples in my eGCI class.

Anyway... I hope this makes more sense. If you've read "much more rigorous analyses" of cookware materials, please provide a link or a reference. I'd certainly be interested in reading them.

Edited by slkinsey (log)

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So if you were to take copper and iron pans of the same mass and size and say stir fry something in them, they both would perform equally well except that the copper pan will be ten times more responsive? No wonder why they are ten times more expensive too. This food science stuff is getting me excited.

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I may have to weigh the pans in question to really see if my experience reflects an apples/apples comparison.

The differences I see in speed of heating/cooling seem difficult to account for in terms of conductivity alone ... considering we're talking about relatively thin pieces of metal.

The vastly superior evenness of heating of the copper is purely a function of improved conductivity. But I'm still betting that the responsiveness issues are at least somewhat related to thermal mass. I could be wrong ... you got me curious.

As far as the price of copper cookware, this is something I'm puzzling over. The prices have almost doubled since I bought mine 6 or 7 years ago. I had no idea I was investing in precious metals at the time. The price increase does correspond to big rises in the price of copper, but copper isn't THAT expensive. No more than a few dollars worth in a copper pan (vs. a few cents worth of metal in an iron or aluminum pan). I thought maybe it was the price of the laminated copper/stainless material (all the companies seem to use the same stuff). But the simple, tin-lined pans have gone up at the same rate.

Any ideas?

Notes from the underbelly

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So... just for kicks, I measured a few of my pans and compared them. I have a Falk Culinair "low casserole" that looks like this. It has a diameter of 9.5 inches. I also have an heavy antique Griswold cast iron skillet with a diameter of 10.25 inches. Both weigh 4 pounds, 15.25 ounces (2,247 grams) on my kitchen scale. That would give the cast iron pan a thermal capacity of 1,009 and the copper pan a thermal capacity of 865. 144 may seem like a significant difference, but really isn't when you consider that a cast aluminum pan of the same weight would have a thermal capacity of 2,164 (that would be a significant difference).

Without using calipers, the cast iron pan and the copper pan appear to have approximately the same thickness. If anything, the cast iron pan is a little thinner. The larger-diameter cast iron pan has lower sides, which explains why they weigh the same.

Here's the thing: I use these two pans all the time, and I can tell you with 100% certainty that the copper pan heats up and cools down significantly more rapidly than the cast iron pan. Since the thermal capacity is very similar, this difference is explained entirely by the large difference in thermal conductivity. I also have a smaller diameter cast iron pan, which has a smaller thermal capacity than the copper pan. It, also, is slower to heat up and cool down compared to the copper pan.

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As far as the price of copper cookware, this is something I'm puzzling over. The prices have almost doubled since I bought mine 6 or 7 years ago. I had no idea I was investing in precious metals at the time. The price increase does correspond to big rises in the price of copper, but copper isn't THAT expensive. No more than a few dollars worth in a copper pan (vs. a few cents worth of metal in an iron or aluminum pan). I thought maybe it was the price of the laminated copper/stainless material (all the companies seem to use the same stuff). But the simple, tin-lined pans have gone up at the same rate.

Any ideas?

I assume it must have to do with the price of copper. Consider what, say, All-Clad is charging for interior clad aluminum pans (their MasterChef line) and the fact that copper is more than twice as expensive.

My experience is that prices for heavy copper cookware have gone up, but they haven't doubled in the last 10 years. In 1999 I was citing list prices of $580 and deep discount prices of $410 for Bourgeat's eleven-inch "flared saute pan." Then what happened (in my opinion) is that Falk Culinair entered the market and rationalized the prices of stainless lined heavy copper in the US. At the same time in 1999, I noted list prices of $399 for Falk's eleven-inch "sauciere" (same type of pan) and normal sale prices of $338. Eventually, I believe the US distributors of Bouregeat and Mauviel had to reduce their prices in order to compete with Falk Culinair. Today, Falk's eleven-inch sauciere lists at $375 without the cover, and $485 with the cover. I should point out that buying a fancy copper/stainless bimetal cover is a complete waste of money when you can get a perfectly good stainless cover for 20 bucks, but I believe the 1999 prices all included the cover so that would be the appropriate apples-to-apples comparison.

Understanding that, we're looking at something like a 22% increase in the price of an eleven-inch stainless lined heavy copper sauteuse evasee with a fancy bimetal cover over 8 years. That's not nothing, of course, but I wonder how that tracks the rise in the price of copper over the same period.

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