Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Copper vs Stainless Steel Clad Cookware: Is it worth the $$$?


Shel_B
 Share

Recommended Posts

At one time I was of the idea that there is nothing better than a high quality copper saucepan, stockpot, or other piece of copper cookware.  Now I'm not so sure.

 

With fully clad cookware, such as All-Clad, and other high quality and good quality clad cookware, is there really much, if any, benefit to be derived from copper cookware?  It's much heavier, usually more expensive by a factor of two or more (YMMV), some needs to be retinned every now and then is limited in its thickness, and the stainless lined copper although I'm not sure if that makes much difference.

 

Clad stainless cookware is lighter, lasts a long time without any maintenance or repair, is, arguably, easier to maintain, works well on a variety of cooking surfaces, such as induction, and is quite a bit less expensive.

 

Is there really any reason to buy copper cookware these days, apart from a love of tradition and certain, perhaps only perceived, levels of craftsmanship, in other words, things not directly related to cooking?

 ... Shel


 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

...is there really much, if any, benefit to be derived from copper cookware?  

 

Pride!!!  :smile:

  • Like 1

~Martin :)

I just don't want to look back and think "I could have eaten that."

Unsupervised, rebellious, radical agrarian experimenter, minimalist penny-pincher, and adventurous cook. Crotchety, cantankerous, terse curmudgeon, non-conformist, and contrarian who questions everything!

The best thing about a vegetable garden is all the meat you can hunt and trap out of it!

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You might take it farther and ask if clad stuff is worth it when cast iron and aluminum is available.

 

Restaurant kitchens often use aluminum unless the chef has a deal eg from AllClad.

 

The stuff is cheap.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi, Shel:

 

  It is to me, but then I care neither for induction nor DW-ability.

 

  If we are talking *fully* clad wares (as opposed to disk-bottomed), you will be hard pressed to find such clad with thick enough conductive layers of aluminum or copper to rival 2.3mm copper bimetal, let alone >3mm extra fort tinned copper.  And even if you did, clothing it in additional layer(s) of SS is going to mute the pan's responsiveness.  Thick copper just has an ideal combination of responsiveness, heat retention and evenness that, IMO the only serious rival is the rare straight-gauge aluminum wares rendered in >5mm thickness.

 

  How important this mix of properties is to a given application or preparation varies widely.  But again, IMO, it's not a question of whether copper is better or worth it (it generally is), but rather is the margin of betterment great enough to justify the price differential.  For instance, I think a hotel-grade copper saute or Windsor is worth paying a premium for, whereas a copper stockpot or bain marie may not be.  If you are shopping for a poele/frypan, there are now some very good non-copper alternatives, e.g., the Demeyere 5* Proline.

 

 In reality, only you can judge the "worth it" question.  I suggest you may need to try a good quality copper piece before you can make a truly informed decision.

 

Have Fun!   

 

 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I like the "feel" of cooking with copper and I have used (and re-tinned) really old copper cookware, now have the stainless lined and there are some things that FOR ME PERSONALLY, turn out better than when I use other pans.  That is, certain sauces that are prone to scorch if there is a hot spot in the bottom of a pan or skillet, milk custards, ditto. 

When I want something to turn out as "perfect" as I know I can make it, I use the copper.  I have experienced the reactions in certain foods and know what to expect. 

 

I prefer cast iron for some processes - enamel cast iron for others.  And still other things require a non-stick skillet, but not many. 

 

And as my cookware is mostly hanging out where anyone can see it, any time, I am proud of the way it looks.  I'm selling a few pieces on ebay, but none of my "favorites."  Soon I will be selling a huge, old and very heavy, round-bottom preserving pan.  I hate to part with it but I can barely lift it when it is empty and I no longer have the free-standing propane burner with the ring in which it sat securely.  It's over 100 years old and cooked a lot of jams, jellies, preserves, candy & etc. 

  • Like 1

"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

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites


I have several pieces of 2.5mm, stainless lined copper cookware, and while I love it, I can say with few reservations that it's not worth it. It does perform better than cookware made from any other material. The differences, however, are only noticeable during certain types of cooking—those that depend on fast and precise temperature control. And even then, these differences are niceties, not necessities. You can make food that's every bit as good with cookware that colsts a fraction. 


 


I completely agree with Andy that cooking certain things in copper feels great. It's like commuting to work in a $200,000 car vs. a $50,000 car. It will feel a bit more awesome, but not 4 times as much, and you won't actually get there any faster.


 


I bought my cookware back when it was only silly expensive, not today's stupefyingly expensive. If I had to start over, I migh splurge and get another 1.5L slope-sided saucepan, which I just love for serious saucemaking. The others I could replace with more reasonably priced stuff and hardly notice a difference.


 


Another thought: if there's induction cooking in your future, the heavy copper will be immediately obsolete.


 


BTW, everything I'm saying concerns the heavy, 2.5 mm stainless-lined copper pieces, like those made by Falk, Mauviel, and Bourgeat. The 1.6mm versions of those pans are for show or for tableware, and offer no advantages. Pans with copper bottoms or copper layers sandwiched between stainless steel usually use too thin a layer of copper for the material to make much difference. This is marketing copper. Heavy, tin-lined copper is wonderful stuff, but in many cases more limited because the tin melts below normal searing temperatures.


 


I've been in the kitchens of quite a few Michelin 3-star restaurants, and saw copper cookware in only a few. One of them had probably bought it half a century ago when there weren't any other high performance options. The others had open (or publicly visible) kitchens ... so you can surmise there was some showmanship going on.


Edited by paulraphael (log)
  • Like 2

Notes from the underbelly

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm sure that we've discussed this previously but one factor to keep in mind is the difference between a commercial range and a home cooker. Commercial ranges bathe the bottom of the pan in flame so there is little need for the conductive efficiencies conferred by using copper. At home, however, where the flame contact is more likely to be localised to a small section of the pan the conduction of copper can, and does, make a huge difference in evenness and speed of cooking. I use copper and love it but if I'm using pans other than copper and not on commercial stove, I move to my wok burner ring that has a wider spread of heat.

  • Like 2

Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"The Internet is full of false information." Plato
My eG Foodblog

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Shel, you might be interested in this eGullet article by Sam Kinsley: Understanding Stovetop Cookware.  Although now more than ten years old, I still consider it the best discussion I've seen of the relative advantages of various materials.  Among other things, SK discusses the importance of thickness (mentioned by several posters in this thread) in considering the value of those materials.  FWIW, based on this article and other reading, I don't think copper is generally worth the price.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think it depends a lot on what you want to get out of the piece and what the piece is. I don't see that a copper stockpot has all that much to offer over a heavy stainless stockpot with a thick aluminum pad. I have a probably unhealthfully large number of pans in every conceivable materials deployment and design scheme. Stainless-lined heavy copper is rarely needed for the things I like to cook. For example, if I want to just fry up a bunch of stuff at high heat I'm likely to reach for heavy carbon steel. But. For certain things there is simply no substitute, and a lot of them aren't all that fancy. I definitely have some copper pieces I might not buy if I had to do it again. A low casserole certainly I wouldn't. If I could get heavy carbon steel in the same shape as my copper frypan, I'd probably prefer that. But I would never give up my 11" curved sauteuse evasée, or my 2.75 quart curved saucepan or my 1.5 quart straight sauteuse evasée in heavy copper. I have various brands and iterations of fully clad designs in similar sizes, but I just wouldn't trust any of them to do something like an eight-fold reduction of a braising liquid down to a glaze without scorching. Even for something as quotidian as quickly toasting some steel cut oats and then slowly heating it covered on the stove until done, I am likely to reach for the copper because I can leave it unattended as long as I want without worrying that it will burn. I even once forgot about it for a few hours and while the bottom was dry and a bit browned, it was not burned and completely edible. Experience has taught me that this isn't possible with my clad stuff.

Is it worth the money and the maintenance? It depends. It depends on what prices you're comparing it to. Certainly it's worth the money compared to All-Clad at retail. But these judgements are always subjective. Is a current model iPhone worth the money compared to a flip-phone or a phone running Android 2.2? For some it is, for some it isn't. This is where understanding your needs becomes important. If all you want to do is make and receive calls, there is probably no reason to spend the money on the iPhone. As for the maintenance, seasoned steel and iron is a lot less work but I can't say I think copper is less hassle than the stainless stuff. Sure, I can throw my fully clad and disk-bottom pans in the dishwasher, but they never get as clean that way as scouring by hand and I eventually have to work on them by hand to keep them really clean. Meanwhile, while it's true that it takes some extra work to keep a brushed copper exterior bright if you care about that sort of thing, it takes an equal amount of care to keep a polished stainless exterior shiny and scratch free if you care about that sort of thing.

As always, it depends on what you want to do, how you want to do it, how much you're willing to spend, etc.

Edited by slkinsey (log)
  • Like 3

--

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Shel, you might be interested in this eGullet article by Sam Kinsley: Understanding Stovetop Cookware.  Although now more than ten years old, I still consider it the best discussion I've seen of the relative advantages of various materials.  Among other things, SK discusses the importance of thickness (mentioned by several posters in this thread) in considering the value of those materials.  FWIW, based on this article and other reading, I don't think copper is generally worth the price.

 

Finding that article was, as I recall, my first introduction to eGullet.  Very helpful post.  I eventually went with copper for my saucepan and have been quite satisfied.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm sure that we've discussed this previously but one factor to keep in mind is the difference between a commercial range and a home cooker. 

Great point. It's a good rule of thumb that the worse your range, the more important your cookware. The handful of high-end commercial ranges I've used made the cookware quality largely irrelevant. You don't need even heating when there are gas jets engulfing the whole pan bottom, and you don't need heat capacity when you have 30,0000 BTU/hr.

 

You could argue that with a heat source like this, a light pan made from any reasonable cookware material would be ideal, because it will be responsive. At Le Bernardin in NYC, they crank out 3-star fish dishes all day long on thin, warped spun steel, and $20 restaurant store non-stick coated aluminum. I don't believe higher end pans would make any difference in that setting.

 

On my crappy stove it makes a difference, although I still believe it's more a difference in my "experience" than in what I'm capable of cooking. I'd have to be drowning in money to pay such a premium for this kind of nicety. To put it in perspective, for the price difference between a single excellent pan made from pedestrian materials and a high end copper one, you could buy an immersion circulator or a pressure cooker ... something that will actually allow a paradigm shift in your cooking.

  • Like 1

Notes from the underbelly

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have various brands and iterations of fully clad designs in similar sizes, but I just wouldn't trust any of them to do something like an eight-fold reduction of a braising liquid down to a glaze without scorching. Even for something as quotidian as quickly toasting some steel cut oats and then slowly heating it covered on the stove until done, I am likely to reach for the copper because I can leave it unattended as long as I want without worrying that it will burn. I even once forgot about it for a few hours and while the bottom was dry and a bit browned, it was not burned and completely edible. Experience has taught me that this isn't possible with my clad stuff.

Sam, please elaborate on this. Are you saying it isn't possible to burn or scorch something in a copper pan, or are you saying that it's much more forgiving given your level of knowledge (for instance, approximate heat level needed for the task) and your stove? Are you using a gas stove? Sorry if I've missed this information uptopic.

Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

Follow us on social media! Facebook; instagram.com/egulletx; twitter.com/egullet

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)
"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I use a gas stove. Regular old NYC apartment Crapmaster 9000.

I'm not saying it is impossible to burn or scorch something in a heavy copper pan. But it is a lot easier to do it in other kinds of pans because of hot spots. The conductivity of copper and the thickness of the materials used means that my heavy copper pans are really good at spreading the heat around. As a result, the cooking surface doesn't really have any hot spots. To go to the opposite extreme, a thin stainless pan is going to be a lot hotter right where the flames are compared to the rest of the cooking surface. So, if you want to do a massive reduction of stock or keep a pan of oatmeal at a bare simmer for an hour, there are going to be parts of the thin stainless pan that are hot enough to burn the food. This won't be so in the heavy copper pan. Now, of course, you can mitigate this difference in performance by being super attentive and stirring constantly. But that's a huge hassle, and in cases where you are doing things like reducing a stock down to the consistency of thick syrup there is a very small margin for error. Personally, I want to be able to step away from a pot for a few seconds and not worry that I will end up ruining my reduction. At the same time, I don't want my reduction to take all day because I'm afraid to do it over maximum heat.

  • Like 1

--

Link to comment
Share on other sites

So, if you want to do a massive reduction of stock or keep a pan of oatmeal at a bare simmer for an hour, there are going to be parts of the thin stainless pan that are hot enough to burn the food. This won't be so in the heavy copper pan.

 

So what about a thick, clad SS pan, like the All-Clad D5 series, or the seven layered pans, like Demeyer?  I have two All-Clad D5 pans, they are thick and heavy compared to my All-Clad tri-ply pans.  They heat very evenly, retain heat well, can easily be left unattended for a time, and cook well using low heat.

 ... Shel


 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Shel, you might be interested in this eGullet article by Sam Kinsley: Understanding Stovetop Cookware.  Although now more than ten years old, I still consider it the best discussion I've seen of the relative advantages of various materials.  Among other things, SK discusses the importance of thickness (mentioned by several posters in this thread) in considering the value of those materials.  FWIW, based on this article and other reading, I don't think copper is generally worth the price.

 

Over the years I've read it twice.  As good as the article is, it could use an update/

 ... Shel


 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi, Shel:

 

  It is to me, but then I care neither for induction nor DW-ability.

 

If we are talking *fully* clad wares (as opposed to disk-bottomed), you will be hard pressed to find such clad with thick enough conductive layers of aluminum or copper to rival 2.3mm copper bimetal, let alone >3mm extra fort tinned copper. 

 

I was referencing fully clad cookware.  There are several brands and styles of clad stainless that's pretty thick and heavy.  It might be better to compare those with copper.

 ... Shel


 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 

Restaurant kitchens often use aluminum unless the chef has a deal eg from AllClad.

 

The stuff is cheap.

 

Restaurants are a different environment than a home kitchen, and, IMHO, the needs of a home kitchen may not always be the same as the needs of a restaurant.

 ... Shel


 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Restaurants are a different environment than a home kitchen, and, IMHO, the needs of a home kitchen may not always be the same as the needs of a restaurant.

This has been explained upthread.

 

I find the same thing to be true of cooks; a great cook can cook on pretty much anything, using available cookware.  A not such a great cook needs help from the stove, from the cookware, etc.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

How comparable is SS lined thick aluminum to SS lined copper? I don't mean the fully-clad (though according to the Sitram description the Profiserie has the aluminum sandwiched between an outside lining of SS and the inner SS lining). 

 

I'm comparing the Sitram Profiserie saute pan versus getting a SS lined copper pan. 

"Plants, like algebra, have a habit of looking alike and being different, or looking different and being alike; consequently mathematics and botany confuse me."

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...