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


Shel_B
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I'd be more concerned with oil breaking down into carcinogens at 450F+ temperatures, than with tin. Tin doesn't come into contact with food long enough to give you a harmful dose. Unless you like chewing on your cookware or something.

 

Popularity is a terrible way to measure quality. Most commercial kitchens are extremely price sensitive, and most newly opened restaurants don't last even 3 years, so there's huge pressure to use the cheapest stuff that will do the job even if it doesn't last... hence the cheap aluminum that eventually warps or loosens rivets.  High end restaurants sometimes have bigger budgets though.

 

"There are 123 million households in the USA, how many have Ferraris?" See how that argument fails? It doesn't disprove that Ferraris are high performance cars.

 

That said, I agree copper isn't for everyone.

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5 hours ago, CenturyLife said:

 

"There are 123 million households in the USA, how many have Ferraris?" See how that argument fails? It doesn't disprove that Ferraris are high performance cars.

 

That said, I agree copper isn't for everyone.

 

Assuming a Ferraris is the same price as a Honda:

 

Impossible to find a qualified service shop within reasonable distance.

One of the many  inevitability is having to replace the timing belt every three years, which can cost $7000 to $9000.

Not much cargo space.

Not comfortable for passengers.

No adjustable seat for driver.

Gas may be cheap now, but 660 HP engine?

Speed limits everywhere you go, 0-60 in 3.5 seconds ?

 

I will give the Ferrari away and get a Honda, the same as I gave away my copper cookware. That is not to say that no one should get a Ferrari, if you have pleasure owning one. It goes well with an  all copper kitchen.

 

dcarch

 

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On January 22, 2016 at 4:03 PM, boilsover said:

 

This is somewhat funny.  I would submit that very high-BTU ranges evolved parallel to the decline in use of copperwares.  Even a relatively weak gas hob can keep a copper bottom up and recover it faster.  Copper's just far more efficient, and so there's mostly no need for high-output hobs for dry cooking.

 

Again, you can easily go to 480F and above in tinned copper as long as there's fat in the pan by the time you near 437F.  And really?  For the fats I use in pans, there's no need to go any higher than that. 

 

 

It's not funny, it's true. The point about BTUs is that the more you have, the less important it is to preheat the pan far above cooking temperature. I have a fairly low output range ... probably under 12,000 BTU/hr. With this kind of output it's always critical to preheat to a high temperature if browning a significant quantity of food. If you don't, the food will drop the pan temperature and just stew. It's true with heavy cooper, with heavier cast iron, with spun steel, with a 7mm disk of aluminum.

 

And sure,  you can easily go to 480F and above in tinned copper. You will simply melt the lining into puddles. Every time. If you do not experience this, then you're mistaken about the temperature, or about the lining material.

 

You cannot have fat in the pan if you are preheating to these temperatures. You must preheat a dry pan, add the oil, and then immediately add the food before the oil burns. You probably do not want to add oil or food to melted tin. That's just messy. I wouldn't pay extra for the privilege.

Edited by paulraphael (log)
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11 hours ago, dcarch said:

Also, I am not sure Tin is totally food safe. There are problems with tin in contact with many types of food.

 

Gee, USDA, WHO, NIOSH, OSHA, all 50 states, and the world's dairy industries must have it wrong.  Tin "poisoning" is a lot rarer than nickel sensitivity.  Maybe you should reconsider stainless steel, too?  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23984718

 

Since you're into "pure scientific facts", care to substantiate a 351F melting point for tin?

 

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1 hour ago, paulraphael said:

You will simply melt the lining into puddles. Every time.

 

LOL, my roasting pans and thermocouples beg to differ.

 

Push empty tinned pans past 450F and you can expect trouble.  Put a reasonable amount of food or fat in the pan any time before that, not any real problem. 

 

Poor retinning jobs can sometimes result in smeared tin and bubbles that would not occur with workmanlike jobs.  With a really good tinning job on a properly pickled extra fort pan, the tin usually will bubble first at the top of the rim because the copper is moving the heat so well.  It's analogous to the way convection currents can be seen emanating from this grade's sides ahead of the bottoms.

 

I hope you realize that, for around 300 years, the world's finest chefs and kitchens have done just fine using tinned copper.  The advent of clad is nothing more than the (mostly successful) effort to approximate and emulate copper's performance.  Everything else is convenience- and cost-driven.

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51 minutes ago, boilsover said:

 

Gee, USDA, WHO, NIOSH, OSHA, all 50 states, and the world's dairy industries must have it wrong.  Tin "poisoning" is a lot rarer than nickel sensitivity.  Maybe you should reconsider stainless steel, too?  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23984718

 

From WIKI: "_____Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea have been reported after ingesting canned food containing 200 mg/kg of tin.[2] This observation led, for example, the Food Standards Agency in the UK to propose upper limits of 200 mg/kg.[3] A study showed that 99.5% of the controlled food cans contain tin in an amount below that level.[4] However un-lacquered tin cans with food of a low pH for example fruits and pickledvegetables can contain elevated concentrations of tin.[2] ---"

 

Since you're into "pure scientific facts", care to substantiate a 351F melting point for tin?

From WIKI: "--- Tin is a malleableductile and highly crystalline silvery-whitemetal. When a bar of tin is bent, a crackling sound known as the tin cry can be heard due to the twinning of the crystals.[5]Tin melts at a low temperature of about 232 °C (450 °F), which is further reduced to 177.3 °C (351.1 °F) for 11 nm particles.[6] ---"

 

dcarch

 

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35 minutes ago, dcarch said:

 

 

Wow, I suppose if you gnawed the pan itself you might get 200 milligrams of tin before your teeth wore down to the gum line. 

 

Regarding the 351F "melting" temperature, Where are you getting 11nm tin powder?  Is anyone using it for lining cookware?  You can always fill a dredger with it to sprinkle on your food if you're trying to get your tummyache dose!

 

OK, back to the real world:  Don't eat canned tomatoes preserved in unlacquered tin cans that have been on the shelf for two years.  Or in stainless, BPA, Mylar, PTFE, aluminum or anything else.  Cooking in tinned copper is perfectly safe.

Edited by boilsover (log)
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1 hour ago, boilsover said:

Push empty tinned pans past 450F and you can expect trouble. 

 

That's what you do when you preheat a pan. It's the whole point. 

 

Push a pan with food in it to 450° you have a different kind of trouble: burned food. The point of the preheat is so the pan drops to the right temperature when the food hits it. 

There's a reason that even in old kitchens equipped with copper pans, cooks seared food on spun steel. 

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2 hours ago, boilsover said:

he advent of clad is nothing more than the (mostly successful) effort to approximate and emulate copper's performance.  

 

Now you're just making stuff up. Only suggestibility would lead someone to believe there's a perceptible differenc in conductivity of a lining that's 1/10 mm thick.

It doesn't matter to me what stories someone tells themselves to feel good about a purchase, but people come here for information. It's not fair to clutter the airwaves with superstitions.

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1 hour ago, paulraphael said:
1 hour ago, paulraphael said:

 

Now you're just making stuff up. Only suggestibility would lead someone to believe there's a perceptible differenc in conductivity of a lining that's 1/10 mm thick.

It doesn't matter to me what stories someone tells themselves to feel good about a purchase, but people come here for information. It's not fair to clutter the airwaves with superstitions.

That's what you do when you preheat a pan. It's the whole point. 

 

Push a pan with food in it to 450° you have a different kind of trouble: burned food. The point of the preheat is so the pan drops to the right temperature when the food hits it. 

There's a reason that even in old kitchens equipped with copper pans, cooks seared food on spun steel. 

 

Different courses for different horses.  I'm perfectly happy and safe (as have chefs been for hundreds of years) searing meats anywhere from 400F to a bit above 550F in tinned copper.  That includes preheating the pan, just not completely empty.  Attaining wok hei, or blackening without any fat at all, not so much. 

 

Even on a 12k BTU hob, a thick (3mm or greater) pan preheated to 400F and then goosed higher after being oiled is not going to drop all that much with a single steak.  And what heat it does drop will be recovered far faster than with any other construction (except solid silver).  Sam Kinsey used the metaphor of pipes into and out of a reservoir.  Copper is the biggest pipe of all, and 3mm of copper is a prodigious reservoir.  Chef Wise has it right when he says:  "We [at Craft] use all-copper cookware for the meat because it heats up fast and offers even heat distribution,” Wise explained. “You get a better sear on the meat and it cooks faster.” http://www.craftrestaurantsinc.com/craft-new-york/gallery/ 

 

I have experimented with pizza "stones" made of steel, aluminum and copper.  A 1/2" steel sheet works wondrously, because the toppings can fully cook in 3 minutes or less in a home oven before the crust is scorched.  A copper 1/2" sheet will burn the shit out of the crust before the toppings are even close to cooked.  Aluminum at 1/2" is not an immediate fail, but requires a close and full broil to balance out the toppings finishing at the same the crust leopard-spots. 

 

Of course clad is lesser cookware; that's not superstition.  For instance, All-Clad's lining and outer cladding layers are each 0.41mm thick--this is typical.  The latest infatuation, adding interior steel layers, only adds more.  So you can easily have >1.2mm of heat-blunting SS in a clad pan.  Then, to make the whole thing light enough for consumers, the conductive layers are shaved down to the point of being inconsequential.  For example there is <1mm of copper in All-Clad's Copper Core (and not much aluminum, either--A-C's original SS-Al--SS performs better).  It's not only less responsive, it holds less heat than the same overall thickness of copper.  Even the copper bimetal pans (Falk, Mauviel, Bougeat, deBuyer, etc.) have 0.2mm linings, which are about the thinnest that will remain bonded to the substrate.  I don't know of any maker that offers clad with 0.1mm (<.004") linings.

 

Look at the best clad skillet out there, the Demeyere Proline 5*.  It has 4.8mm of aluminum, swaddled in SS.  It comes close to holding as much heat as a 3mm copper pan of the same geometry, but it has dramatically poorer responsiveness.  It is a near match for evenness.   

 

Part of the issue is that there is no full clad out there with more than 2mm of copper inside.  deBuyer Prima Matera has only 1.8, as do some lines of "2mm" Mauviel.  Falk and Mauviel's best bimetal lines have only 2.3mm of copper.  To use Kinsey's term, the "pipes" aren't big enough to move much heat laterally--this is one reason why thin copper pans will puddle tin faster and at lower sustained temperatures in the center.  They're so thin, they hot-spot without being able to push the heat up to the rims.  Grab a contact thermocouple and compare, I have.  

 

At one point in the 1960s and -70s, there were a few truly thick bimetal pans made (e.., 3.2mm copper + 0.2mm SS).  They come up for resale a couple times a year on eBay.  They would be ideal for dry, high sears where an integral sauce is planned.  Frankly, if the cook is simply griddling meat dry, a bare copper pan would do fine, because there are no acids to which the pan could react.

 

I'm working right now with a group of thermal scientists to apply a new technology that may eclipse thick copperware as the performance standard in cookware.  Prototypes have been built which offer 5x the effective conductivity of copper.  But until this comes to market, there is nothing better-performing available than what was around in 1900 or 1700.  

        

Edited by boilsover (log)
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I ran the thermal calculations on equivalent stainless-clad, tin-coated, and uncoated copper cookware.

 

My Mauviel/Falk/Bougeat clad material measures 2.4mm copper, 0.1mm stainless steel. I assumed the same dimensions for the tin, but the math shows that even a difference of plus or minus 100% in the plating thickness is inconsequential.

 

The tin-lined laminate is one half of 1% more conductive than the stainless-clad.

An unlined 2.4mm copper pan is 1.6% more conductive.

 

If you think you notice these differences, I don't want your pans, I want what you're smoking.

Edited by paulraphael (log)

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14 minutes ago, paulraphael said:

Here's how to do the math, if you really want to think about the thermal relevance of the lining material.

 

The thermal conductivity of each metal, in W/(mK) [Watts per meter x degree Kelvin]:

 

Stainless Steel 16
Tin 67
Copper 401


If we look at similarly constructed pans, with 2.4mm of copper and 0.1mm lining material, we get a total conductivity per pan of:


copper/tin: 0.9691 W/K
copper/ss: 0.964 W/K

 

Which is to say, the tin-lined pan will conduct heat 1/2 of 1% faster than the stainless lined pan.

 

If you can notice that difference, then you need more mattresses  between yourself and the pea than this princesses does.

My vote is that you're imagining it.

 

Sigh...  Now do it again, comparing: (a)  3.2mm copper +  with 0.2mm of tin wiped on (standard hotel-grade copper); with (b) 2.3mm of copper with 0.2mm of SS (Falk).  Then see how much heat makes it to their respective rims.  Extra credit for including  (c) something like Demeyere Atlantis or Sitram Profisserie.  Or, if you're a glutton for punishment, compute the thermal diffusivity for both/all of those, and see how it compares to the best clad you can find.

 

It's not the conductivity difference between tin and SS that's salient.  It's that there is next to no SS-lined bimetal using >2.3mm of copper.

 

I'm doing some thermal videography next month of my pan prototypes.  I was planning to use some tinned copper anyway for comparison.  But now I'll also do some clad, so everyone can see...

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33 minutes ago, dcarch said:

Given enough wattage, an induction cookware can be heated up extremely fast, faster than copper can by conductivity.

 

A gas stove heater gives very even heat distribution with any aluminum cookware.

 

dcarch

 

Given enough BTUs, anything heats really fast. An 1800W induction hob is the equivalent to a 35K BTU gas one.   Evenness is a different matter; unless you've perfected a solid-top or pixellated induction top that I don't know about, the chief thermal advantage of induction is tight thermal contact between the heat-generating plate and the conductive layers (if any) above it.  That's a function of the cookware, not induction itself.  You could do the same thing with thermal grease between a non-compatible pan and a ferritic converter plate.

 

With most clad cookware on most induction hobs, you still get some donut-hole delta-Ts--far more than with straightgauge copper on conventional hobs.

 

Aluminum functions very well on gas.  Not as well as copper, but close to it at a small fraction of the price.  As fearful as you are of tin poisoning you, I would think you'd think aluminum is Kryptonite.

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2 hours ago, dcarch said:

Given enough wattage, an induction cookware can be heated up extremely fast, faster than copper can by conductivity.

 

A gas stove heater gives very even heat distribution with any aluminum cookware.

 

dcarch

 

Yeah, evenness is rarely an issue in the real world unless you're trying to make esthetically perfect crepes. Most good pans, with the exception of cast iron and its variations, heat pretty evenly. My heavy aluminum aluminum cookware is the most even, followed by heavy copper, followed by thin clad aluminum. But these are differences observed during tests, not cooking. The cast iron / spun steel / enameled iron are the only ones that require any kind of consideration.

 

Copper is about a mix of responsiveness and heat retention ... two qualities that are at odds, but that allow for surprisingly good compromise if you have the conductivity, high mass, and low specific heat of copper. The reason this benefit doesn't make more real world difference is that there aren't many cooking situations that require both responsiveness and retained heat. Retained heat is for searing. Responsiveness is for fine temperature control. The stock answer is sauteeing a lot of meat and making a pan sauce ... but you don't need fine temperature control to make a pan sauce. You'll have every bit as easy a time with a heavy aluminum pan, or a disk-bottom pan, or whatever. This stuff just isn't rocket science.

 

I love my copper saucepans, but to be perfectly honest, I find my friends' all-clad saucepans to be equally responsive. They won't heat as evenly, but you'd need to conduct tests to prove it. There's no task in saucemaking that benefits from greater evenness than what these offer.

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2 hours ago, boilsover said:

Sigh...  Now do it again, comparing: (a)  3.2mm copper +  with 0.2mm of tin wiped on (standard hotel-grade copper); with (b) 2.3mm of copper with 0.2mm of SS (Falk).

 

Rate of conduction will be lower with thicker metal.

 

Thicker metal will heat more evenly, which is a non-issue. See post on evenness.

 

I'm going to stop responding here, boilsover, because I'm just seeing a miasma of cognitive biasses*. We all want to feel good about our purchases, but there's no need to take this anxiety public. 

Your pans are awesome and they make you happy. 

They just don't happen to objectively better in the ways you're claiming. No amount of pushing information around can change that.

 

*See 1, 2, 3

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7 minutes ago, paulraphael said:

Copper is about a mix of responsiveness and heat retention ... two qualities that are at odds, but that allow for surprisingly good compromise if you have the conductivity, high mass, and low specific heat of copper. The reason this benefit doesn't make more real world difference is that there aren't many cooking situations that require both responsiveness and retained heat.

 

Well, you balance the two (responsiveness and retained heat) by selecting the right thickness of copper for the application.

The only construction--so far--that comes close to striking a balance acceptable to me is aluminum.  It's still off, because it needs to be nearly twice as thick, warps more easily, and has lining problems no fewer than copper's.  Frankly, IMO aluminum is no substitute for copper for sauteeing fish or other fragile meats, and especially for white and emulsified egg sauces.  Chef James Peterson says every kitchen should have copper for these things, as well as to decrease the chances of burning pan drippings or scalding sauces.

 

Truly thick aluminum is not particularly plentiful, either.  I do like these, though:   http://www.foodservicedirect.com/product.cfm/p/226106/Eagleware-The-Point-Two-Five-Line-Aluminum-Sauce-Pan.htm

 

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2 hours ago, boilsover said:

 

Given enough BTUs, anything heats really fast. An 1800W induction hob is the equivalent to a 35K BTU gas one.  

Not completely true. BTU heating depends on specific thermal conductivity of a material. Thermal conductivity is a constant and cannot be changed, regardless of heat source.

 

---- the chief thermal advantage of induction is tight thermal contact between the heat-generating plate and the conductive layers (if any) above it.  That's a function of the cookware, not induction itself.  You could do the same thing with thermal grease between a non-compatible pan and a ferritic converter plate.

Not the way induction physics works. Induction works on alternating magnetic waves, which is very tolerant of distance between the cooktop and the vessel based on the geometries (not a point source). Induction principle is similar to a bad transformer design, it intentionally creates eddy current lost to generate heat  by electric conduction and therefore it heats up very quickly, bypassing the law of thermal conduction. Thermal grease is still thermal conduction.

 

dcarch

 

 

 

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40 minutes ago, paulraphael said:

 

Rate of conduction will be lower with thicker metal.

 

Thicker metal will heat more evenly, which is a non-issue. See post on evenness.

 

I'm going to stop responding here, boilsover, because I'm just seeing a miasma of cognitive biasses*. We all want to feel good about our purchases, but there's no need to take this anxiety public. 

Your pans are awesome and they make you happy. 

They just don't happen to objectively better in the ways you're claiming. No amount of pushing information around can change that.

 

*See 1, 2, 3

 

I see a velouté of confirmation bias and crowdspeak here, too, much of it scientifically uninformed.  Can't change the Periodic Table and the laws of thermodynamics.  Can't change the fact that many of the world's finest restaurants and chefs over many, many years suffer from the same cognitive biases you attribute to me.

Edited by boilsover (log)
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I can only speak from experience.  My Falk pan is very responsive.  I would buy another (or two).  I tried Demeyere and was not thrilled.  Demeyere stainless does not clean up all that well but at least it goes in the dishwasher and I can throw it in the refrigerator.  However it's no substitute for copper, and to add insult to injury Demeyere stainless is about as expensive as Falk copper.

 

My son has a big cast iron pan that lives on his stove.  I can't lift it so cast iron is not an option for me.

 

Also from experience I am not a fan of tin in any form.

 

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15 hours ago, boilsover said:

 

I see a velouté of confirmation bias.

 

 

How? I've owned every kind of pan in question. I've used them side-by-side. And I've done the math (which supports my experience).

 

I still use heavy copper, and I still think it's awesome. My point is that its real world benefits over other materials—when they exist—are wildly overstated. And that the benefits of tin over stainless are nonexistent.

If anyone wants to contact me offline about this, I'm happy to chat their ear off. Anyone in NYC ... come by with some food. We can do a comparison with some controls..

 

Edited by paulraphael (log)
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7 hours ago, JoNorvelleWalker said:

My son has a big cast iron pan that lives on his stove.  I can't lift it so cast iron is not an option for me.

 

Yeah, that can be an issue with a lot of these pans. My favorite cast iron skillet was a gift ... my godmother bought it at a flea market upstate, took it home, and realized she couldn't lift it.

 

One of my friends has an 8-quart 2.5mm copper saucepan. He weighs 250 lbs. No one else in the house goes near that thing. I think that's the main reason he like it.

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46 minutes ago, paulraphael said:

I still use heavy copper, and I still think it's awesome. My point is that its real world benefits over other materials—when they exist—are wildly overstated.

 

OK, now we're getting somewhere--you think heavy copper's real-world benefits over other materials and constructions are real, just that some people wildly overstate them.  That's fair enough; Stradivari are arguably overrated, too .  As is disagreeing that slightly better conductivity in tinned copper is worth the trouble of altering your cooking method to accommodate its limitations.

 

I will be bringing our pan prototypes to New York soon to have some food luminaries and scientists evaluate the performance.  Harold McGee and Kenji Lopez-Alt on the other coast have been impressed. If you're interested, perhaps we could get together when I come to NYC.

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10 hours ago, boilsover said:

I will be bringing our pan prototypes to New York soon to have some food luminaries and scientists evaluate the performance.  Harold McGee and Kenji Lopez-Alt on the other coast have been impressed. If you're interested, perhaps we could get together when I come to NYC.

Oooh, me too, me too ( I just ordered another Falk saucier. Seems like they were having a clearance sale).

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