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


Shel_B
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14 hours ago, weinoo said:

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

 

For an eminent emeritus such as yourself, why not?  I'll let you know when the roadshow will be coming to NYC.

Edited by boilsover (log)
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Nathan Myhrvold and company, in Modernist Cuisine, Vol. 2:

 

Contrary to what cooking-store marketers would have you believe, the least important component in sautéing is the pan itself. Only a few general features matter for making great sautéed food easily, and they are widely available in pans of modest cost.

 

Yes, it is undeniable that copper heats and cools faster than aluminum, which in turn is more responsive to heat than the iron-based metals. but does it really matter if one pan responds twice as fast as another to an adjusted burner?

 

We don’t think so. An expensive copper pan doesn’t save you if your burner is underpowered for the amount of food you’re trying to cook. And a cheap steel pan heats more than fast enough if your burner is up for the job. As proof, consider what happens when you use a wok to stir-fry, which arguably represents the ultimate form of sautéing. Woks are made from inexpensive, thin, uncoated iron or steel. Put one in a race for the quickest sear against a $400 pan if you like. Our bets are firmly on the humble wok.

 

There's much more on the topic in these books; I'm quoting the section on sauté pans as an example. For anyone not yet familiar, this 7-volume collection is the most thoroughly researched body of work on cooking and food science ever assembled. It doesn't flinch from recommending a $15,000 piece of equipment, if nothing else will do as well. 

Notes from the underbelly

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Fine.  If you prefer to spend $15,000 on a solid-top stove (and deal with the attendant adjustment issues), you will get very even heat.  I cook most of the time on a solid top myself.

 

Even with modern multi-zone $$$$ solid tops, you lose adjustment flexibility, though.  And none of Myrhvold's dictat addresses downward responsiveness advantages of copper over other constructions.

 

A comparison to a wok is extraordinarily inapt.  Professional wok burners are often 5-7x the BTU output of a high-output commercial gas hob  (I have one that puts out 180,000BTU; it sounds like a rocket taking off, and is very unsafe indoors unless you have a mondo fire suppression system ready).  And an important aspect of wok cooking is intentionally creating unevenness in saute.  There, you actually want a distinct hot spot, so choosing a poor-conductivity metal is an advantage.  Witness that some of the finest woks are cast iron.  Good luck making egg emulsion sauces in a thin steel or cast iron wok--on any hob.

 

Because even heat is a disadvantage in wok cooking, it is one of the few applications where copper is contraindicated.  Falk, Bourgeat and Mauviel all make them, of course, and they will sear just as well (and just as fast) as steel on a 180KBTU wok burner.  Just don't expect there to be any cooler spots to pull your food to.  In this choice, $20 for better performance vs. $400 for worse (wok) performance?  Buy the steel one.

 

Copper wok.jpg

Attribution:  http://www.culinarycookware.com/mauviel-copper-wok.html

Edited by boilsover
Attribution as requested. Thanks, Smithy! (log)
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That copper wok has got to be someone's incredibly cynical joke on tourists.

 

But more on point, you'd be wise to read Myhrvold's full text on the topic before arguing with him. You've got no reason to take my word for anything, but if your knee-jerk reaction is to dismiss the findings of Myhrvold's team, you'll make a monkey of yourself.

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Notes from the underbelly

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I agree, these copper woks are a poor use of money.  But they will saute pretty well.  All the major clad makers are making a killing off highly similar geometries, simply by calling them "sauciers" and "Chef's pans" and the like.  I think that's pretty cynical, too.

 

Mine isn't a knee-jerk reaction.  Myrhvold gets a lot right, just not everything. Otherwise the dead would have risen by now...

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On ‎1‎/‎22‎/‎2016 at 1:19 PM, rotuts said:

 

" restaurant copper " pan, tinned or steel/nickel are historical items

 

I doubt any restaurant  in this century has equipped itself with 2.5 or 3.5 pans

 

if there was a 'made in " date on all the pans we see, that would tell the story nicely.  

 

copperchef7.jpg.436f754a2661d4c319672094

 

this picture is interesting.  most of the copper is on the shelf or hanging up  

 

BTW  most of the pans you see in this series of pics radiate a lot of heat from the sides into the kitchen

 

anyway    Im very lucky.   I have over 15 different pots and pans.  from dehilerins.  mid- 80's    the FF was 11 to the dollar.

 

a 200 $$ identical pan in NYC at the time was one $ 20 traveler's check away.   I had to go to the bank to get it changed into

 

real money.  FF.

 

I love them all, but its not for today.  OK, a few if  you can get the prices I got way back then

 

 

I was amused that the kitchen photograph accompanying today's positive review of Benoit in the NY Times revealed that every pan I could see appeared to be copper, with what looked like iron handles.  And they were not hanging from the walls or ceiling.

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Sure, some restaurants use them. I don't think you'll find much correlation between the quality of the restaurant the use of copper. You'll see a strong correlation between open kitchens and the use of copper. When the pans become a design element, the criteria change.

 

And obviously you won't find copper at restaurants that use induction, but this technology is still a rarity in restaurants due to costs. Although it's likely more restaurants will start using the El Buli / Alinea model of not having a range at all, and just using little induction hobs that can be stowed when you're not using them.

 

Right now among the Michelin 3-star restaurants in NYC, only one of them with a closed kitchen seems to have any copper cookware (11 Madison Park). Le Bernardin, Per Se, and Masa use shiny stainless whatevers. Jean Georges and Chef's Table have open kitchens and copper pans.

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3 hours ago, paulraphael said:

Sure, some restaurants use them. I don't think you'll find much correlation between the quality of the restaurant the use of copper.

 

Oh, what happened to your short-term memory?

 

Eleven Madison Park?

El Celler de Can Roca?

Osteria Francescana?.

Central in Lima?

Din*ner?

D.O.M.?

The 30 other top places I cited?

 

No, of course there's no correlation.  They merely display it because it's pretty and passe.

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Point being, boilsover, for every restaurant in a given category that uses copper cookware, you'll find many more that don't. So, correct, there's no correlation. 

 

You're grabbing all the restaurants that use them, and saying "see? They're used by good restaurants!" I'm systematically looking at restaurants that meet a particular criterion and seeing what they use. I'm also considering work by the best saucier in NYC who's food I've sampled. This was in 2011 when I staged at Le Bernardin. I don't know what kind of evasees he had, but they looked like all clad. Everything else there was spun steel or disk-bottom aluminum. I know for sure chef Ripert would buy the guy a couple of copper pans if he asked!

 

So out of the 6 3-star restaurants, I see one with a closed kitchen that uses copper. Out of the 10 2-star restaurants open or closed, only Daniel. I saw one picture of the Momofuku Ko kitchen (open) where a single copper pan hung among the others. Maybe it was someone's lucky pan.

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1 hour ago, paulraphael said:

Point being, boilsover, for every restaurant in a given category that uses copper cookware, you'll find many more that don't. So, correct, there's no correlation. 

 

You're grabbing all the restaurants that use them, and saying "see? They're used by good restaurants!" I'm systematically looking at restaurants that meet a particular criterion and seeing what they use. I'm also considering work by the best saucier in NYC who's food I've sampled. This was in 2011 when I staged at Le Bernardin. I don't know what kind of evasees he had, but they looked like all clad. Everything else there was spun steel or disk-bottom aluminum. I know for sure chef Ripert would buy the guy a couple of copper pans if he asked!

 

So out of the 6 3-star restaurants, I see one with a closed kitchen that uses copper. Out of the 10 2-star restaurants open or closed, only Daniel. I saw one picture of the Momofuku Ko kitchen (open) where a single copper pan hung among the others. Maybe it was someone's lucky pan.

 

Now you're being silly.  "The point"  is not that there are many fine restaurants and chefs using other constructions.  Rather, the point is that, after literally being shown 4 or 5 of the top 10 restaurants on the planet using copper, you and others still deprecate it as being wanting, of-the-past, mere decor, etc., ad nauseam.  This is a little like insisting that the McLaren F1 isn't much of a car. 

 

Thermally, copperware is clearly the best in the wider sense, as it has been for a few thousand years; the few exceptions only prove the rule.  The thermal flow physicists I'm presently working with to try to come up with something better (stay tuned) agree with this.  You and others may not prefer it, that's your mistake to make.  It costs more, needs to be looked after, can't be machine washed.  Frankly, IMO those are the only reasons, along with unfamiliarity, it isn't used more by 9/10 top chefs and home cooks.

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55 minutes ago, boilsover said:

  It costs more, needs to be looked after, can't be machine washed.  Frankly, IMO those are the only reasons, along with unfamiliarity, it isn't used more by 9/10 top chefs and home cooks.

 

Those are considerable reasons.  Buying 2 stainless steel pots for the price of 1 copper is more pragmatic and the cooking results away from the microscope are negligible.  Quite simply, the fat cats use copper because they can afford to buy it and can pay people to maintain them (like a $5-million McLaren, when a Subaru will do). However,  l'Astrance (and Fäviken) use non-stick for their fish, for what they will argue are very practical reasons.

Edited by Baron d'Apcher (log)
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"--- Thermally, copperware is clearly the best in the wider sense, as it has been for a few thousand years;  ---"

 

Not really. The reason why copper was used for a few thousand years is because aluminum and stainless steel had not been discovered until very recently, not because copper had better qualities for cooking.

 

dcarch

 

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  • 3 months later...

I have been wanting a skillet large enough to sear a pork chop.  Granted, Berkshire pork chops, like Berkshire swine, are rather large.  I was planning to start a whole interesting discussion about the best pan for the purpose, that would go on for page upon pages.

 

But I ordered Falk.

 

Tonight I used my Falk saucier for hollandaise and it gives me joy.  The same cannot be said for all my cooking vessels, although some very inexpensive ones do also.  Just as some quite expensive ones do not.

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I use my copper every day.  As for those shiny pots in commercial kitchens, they have people whose job it is to polish them daily.  Externs do this a lot of time.

It is good to be a BBQ Judge.  And now it is even gooder to be a Steak Cookoff Association Judge.  Life just got even better.  Woo Hoo!!!

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I enjoyed the review and I wish BCC the best.  But the 9.5 inch Saute would not have fit my pork chop, which sort of makes the thicker copper moot.  And recall I purchased the smallest chop in the meatmonger's display.

 

One small inaccuracy I found in the review:  "The tongue handle is secured by 3 large rivets...(contrast with Mauviel and Falk's two)."  When I read this I thought I must be senile.  I leapt from the computer and ran out to the kitchen.  My Falk has three rivets to secure the handle as I correctly remembered.  I enjoy rubbing my fingers over them.  (This with my little saucier, I have yet to receive the frypan.)

 

Sadly I share paulraphael's concern about dry heating tin.  I don't know how to get around it.

 

Then there is the question of cost.  Perhaps not all that relevant in a discussion such as this...however the BCC pan is $125 more.  Which would pay for a rack of pork.

 

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Well, you're just going to have to wait for BCC to offer a 28cm saute.

 

At the IHHS show in March, Mauviel's USA distributor told me they've changed to 2 rivets, in order to show the brand in between.

 

Tin vs. SS...  We've had that debate ad nauseam.  Searing can be done under 450F; if you want to dry sear above that, great, either don't worry about the tin or break out the CI.  It's not an issue with saute.

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I never said I wanted a saute pan or wanted to saute.  Actually I have a couple saute pans and use them seldom.  But they do OK for the purpose of sauteing.  One has an aluminum disc bottom, the other is clad with aluminum going up the sides.  The saute pans' straight sides make it much more difficult to turn a steak or chop.  For me at least.  Not to mention flip a hamburger.

 

All the Falk pictures I've looked at show three rivets.  We shall see what comes.

 

Speaking of dry heating, I notice Falk recommends to always pre-heat with a little oil.

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All the clad copper pans I've seen use three rivets. Not that two wouldn't be just fine, but that's an oddball claim nevertheless. 

 

I don't know exactly how Falk phrases their preheating recommendations. For any kind of high heat searing you'll burn the oil if you don't preheat the pan dry (then add the oil, and then add the meat quickly. You've got just a few seconds before the oil smokes and breaks down.) This is just standard searing technique that you'll see used in any restaurant. The very high heat is especially important if the meat is thin, or if you've cooked it sous-vide and don't want to create a gradient. 

 

I also don't know the maximum temperature that's safe for clad copper pans, but I've used them in a 550°F oven, and know that they can take the full output of a 17,000 btu/hr range indefinitely. In either case you'll probably see some blue oxidative discoloring on the stainless, but this wipes off easily with some barkeeper's friend. I've never seen this material warp or delaminate. 

 

FWIW, I got rid of my tin-lined copper because the tin melted on the fry pans even under what I consider moderate heat (on a not very powerful range) and I wore through the tin in the saucepan with my whisk. I had no interest in retinning this stuff that couldn't handle the techniques I'd bought them for.

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1 hour ago, paulraphael said:

All the clad copper pans I've seen use three rivets. Not that two wouldn't be just fine, but that's an oddball claim nevertheless. 

 

I don't know exactly how Falk phrases their preheating recommendations. For any kind of high heat searing you'll burn the oil if you don't preheat the pan dry (then add the oil, and then add the meat quickly. You've got just a few seconds before the oil smokes and breaks down.) This is just standard searing technique that you'll see used in any restaurant. The very high heat is especially important if the meat is thin, or if you've cooked it sous-vide and don't want to create a gradient. 

 

"We recommend seasoning pan interiors with a vegetable oil occasionally prior to frying and sautéing, and always use a small amount of oil when pre-heating."

 

From the European site.  I could not find this injunction anywhere on the Falk US site.

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You're being hyperbolic.  It's not a difficult technique to do correctly.  And if one waits until the oil is smoking to start cooking, they're doing it incorrectly.

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Personally, I do dry heat, then add oil, then watch for a kind of shimmer.  There is a point just before smoking, or the tiniest whisp, before going ahead.  If concerned, a blend of high-smoke point oil with olive oil or butter works, at least for me.  I also use clarified butter.

 

My entire line is Sitram Profisserie.  Has stood me fine for years and years.  I also use black steel, for pan-roasted meats and fish.

 

A bit confused by your polymer comment, Paul.  It's polymerization on things like cast iron and black steel that allows for seasoning and non-stick character.  Can you go into it a bit more, what you mean?

-Paul

 

Remplis ton verre vuide; Vuide ton verre plein. Je ne puis suffrir dans ta main...un verre ni vuide ni plein. ~ Rabelais

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