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Copper Cookware: The Topic


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1 hour ago, afs said:

but because I had my calipers handy (to make sure I got as much copper as I paid for!) 👼

 

Have you been introduced to @JoNorvelleWalker recently?

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Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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when I bought the first Bourgeat copper, my DW posed the question . . . as it was coming out of the box . . .

"And who is going to polish that stuff?"

 

SS lined, it gets "polished" only rarely.  really bad conditions get the CarbonOff treatment.

 

we have natural gas, so my "precision" cooking thing involves turning the knob - and I'm very adept at knob turning....

I fry/saute mostly by ear - it's not difficult to tell when the pan is too hot/cold by the sizzle sounds.... 

braising is done by eyeballing the bubbles . . .

 

the ability of any metal to even spread heat across the bottom is the metal (bottom) thickness. 

heat moves perpendicular to the heat application source.

a thick bottom with a high heat transfer co-efficient moves the mostest heat the fastest across the bottom.

 

this methinks this the origin of the 'thin copper can't hack it' idea.  I've seen arguments that thickness past 3mm is 'wasted' in terms of 'performance'

thinner copper in the oven / low burner temps will perform quite well.

using gas, I have the thick BellaCopper diffuser plates - they are absolutely essential in many cases - using _both_ copper and 5 ply Zwilling Aurora.

even the smallest BTU gas burner can be 'too much.'

 

and one has to vigorously question the "thickness" as given by the brand.  I bought Bougeat because it supposedly was a full 3mm of copper.  could be - this was decades ago.  but, the fused SS inner and copper out plate is made only by Falk.  so while decades ago Bourgeat may have 'special ordered' 3mm copper plus SS inner, one is left to wonder if Bourgeat's 3mm claim was 'thickness of copper + stainless.' 

interesting questions, but I bought it, I own it, I'm very please with the Bourgeat performance - so facts notwithstanding . . . there is that.

 

the ability of a metal to "hold heat" is controlled by the mass of the pot/pan.  aluminum actually is better at "holding heat" on a normalized scale, but you're not likely to find an aluminum pot/pan as heavy - aka with same mass - as copper or cast iron or 'carbon steel,' for a similar size.

that reality is usually overlooked by the pundits.....

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You bring up some good points, @AlaMoi.

I learned a lot about materials and pan thicknesses by reading this post:


The post is a little out of date (as there are some newer construction methods which are a little different, and also because I think some of the pans out there are using less material to save on costs) but only a little--and the science is pretty spot on.  Honestly I hadn't even thought about some of the stuff in there (some of which you just adeptly also stated in your post).

BTW, I bow down to your natural gas proficiency :)   I'm a bit of an odd duck here, because I think of cooking as applied physics and chemistry.  Instead of writing down recipes, I make digital execution plans which rely on the stovetop doing a lot of work that a chef normally does, to get repeatable results.  I use a scale to weigh ingredients even when I'm whipping up pancakes for breakfast.  I've never learned to be a good human thermometer (which is like a third of normal training for a chef), relying instead on induction and pan/probe temperature control to do all of that for me.  So you, my friend, get lots of kudos and points in my book for also being able to gauge all of that with your senses.  Some would say those are the hallmarks of a true chef.  I'm more of a scientist-cook.

I don't know if copper reacts differently on a gas stove than on induction because I haven't ever used copper on a gas stove.  I do know that gas can deliver enormous amounts of heat.  And I do know that the induction-compatible copper pans I bought transfer 1600-1700 watts of power almost instantaneously to the ingredients in my pan (even moreso with a higher-wattage induction burner), whereas other pans I tried could not.  When I set my induction burner to keep the pan temperature at 100 C (212 F), I can "see" the coil pulsing on and off because the water boils faster and slower in rhythm with the induction coil at that temperature barrier.  It's kind of wild.  That right there was my "ah ha" moment with copper.


Based on the article posted above, thicker copper should in theory hold heat a little bit longer and it should provide an even more even heating surface. 

For me, I'm mostly looking for responsive heat and precision.  I want to be able to pour milk into a stew pan, press a button, and know that the milk will warm up to 82C to pasteurize and to denature the proteins, then drop back down to 42C before beeping at me so I can add the yogurt culture and cover the pot with a cheesecloth.  And then it'll happily count down 24 hours while maintaining 38C to incubate my yogurt and beep at me again after a day to put the finished yogurt in the fridge--even if I'm nowhere near the kitchen.  I know that people do that (or at least the first part) with other stoves, and they do it without copper pans.  But boy, I love the convenience and I love the taste of consistent results :)

Regarding holding heat, you also make good points there regarding thickness etc.  A thick aluminum pan can do great (even better than a thin copper pan) at providing even heat--and it can hold onto heat even better.  For times when I want to hold heat, sear, etc. I turn to my Kuhn Rikon Duromatic saute and soup/stockpots.  Those have high quality thick disc bases which I believe are aluminum and they do a pretty darn good job.  They won't, however, let me turn on the stove and start cooking in 20 seconds and they're more fidgety when it comes to creating digital cooking programs (since they are not very responsive), but they have no copper in them and they excel at what they do.  But unlike copper, I get very little joy out of using them (as useful as they are); maybe I'm just a sucker for pretty things, and for equipment that responds to me in real time.

afs

Edited by afs
"metal" -> "aluminum", grammar cleanup (log)
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So I gotta ask you, @afs - your science seems pretty well thought out, and getting better all the time, no doubt.

 

So...how's your food/cooking these days? Are you happy with that; because after all, that's what it's all about.

 

Because as Mr. Kinsey (aka @slkinsey) used to say, and I'm paraphrasing...a good cook can cook on a crapmaster 3000 NYC 24" apartment stove with Lincoln Wearever pots and pans...or even less.

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Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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11 minutes ago, weinoo said:

So I gotta ask you, @afs - your science seems pretty well thought out, and getting better all the time, no doubt.

 

So...how's your food/cooking these days? Are you happy with that; because after all, that's what it's all about.

 

Because as Mr. Kinsey (aka @slkinsey) used to say, and I'm paraphrasing...a good cook can cook on a crapmaster 3000 NYC 24" apartment stove with Lincoln Wearever pots and pans...or even less.


That's both a good question @weinoo and a really hard one to answer.

Cooking is a complex emotional topic.  For some people, eating the foods they grew up with brings back powerful emotions.  For others, using handed-down family pans or cooking the way that mom did binds people and memories together.  For others like me, cooking is both a way to always have a consistent quality of tasty food and also a way to keep my mind active learning new things.

Before realizing that cooking is basically applied physics and chemistry, I was a pretty terrible cook.  I could make edible eggs and sometimes I could cook edible pancakes.  I bought a cheap sous vide machine to make steak and that was pretty game changing.  Then I got an oven and started warming up higher-quality frozen meals.  Maybe I didn't pay attention when my mom tried to teach me how to make food that was more sophisticated than PB&J.  Or maybe my brain just needs to understand things at a scientific level before things make sense at the normal everyday applied level.

As for food quality, the food I make turns out as good as homemade food made for me by people who know what they're doing and sometimes as good as pretty darn good restaurants.  But none of that is my skill as a chef.  All of it is applied science, combined with good equipment and repeatable instructions (some of which I have now managed to cobble together myself, but a lot of which I've adapted from recipes).  Most of the things I cook use set temperatures on the stove or processes which are based on grams, time, temperature and changes in state.  When I run into complicated variables like cooking different thicknesses of meat, I switch techniques and use sous vide so that I can either just input the thickness into a calculator to get the cooking time or I can stick a probe in the meat and do delta cooking.  The food turns out good.  I am happy.  But I'm still planning to learn how to cook a steak on a stovetop one day, as I want a faster way to do it if someone I care about is really hungry and what they really want is steak.  And also because learning new techniques is fun.

The real test for me will be if I can eventually get to the point where I understand food science well enough to create completely original recipes.  Right now I feel like I do a lot of adaptations of existing recipes to hit the macronutrient targets I'm looking for and for repeatability.  But what I really want to be able to do is look at a bunch of ingredients in the fridge and be able to create a dish out of them that's not fried rice.  There's a forum or two here which I hope will help me with that.

In the meantime, I've found copper pans.  And copper pans are helping me make good food because I can get very repeatable results on an induction stove, with high responsiveness.  They're also making me smile a lot because, well, they're copper.  Don't ask me why copper makes me happy.  I think it's the science.  But I'm okay with just adoring something for being what it is.

BTW, it's true that the hallmark of a chef is probably that they can cook on a crappy random stove with any available pan and make something delicious.  I hope to be able to be a good enough scientist-cook to be able to design recipes that make delicious meals, but I don't know that I'll ever be a real chef by the traditional metrics.  It's a non-goal for me, although it's something I seriously respect.

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11 hours ago, afs said:

BTW, it's true that the hallmark of a chef is probably that they can cook on a crappy random stove with any available pan and make something delicious. 

And then go on to open not one but two award-winning restaurants. That’s @gfron1. I tried to find a photograph of the range he used at The Curious Kumquat in Silver City, New Mexico. Knocked any ideas that great cooking was dependent on great equipment from my mind. He now owns Bulrush in St. Louis and I’m sure has better equipment. But his creativity is intact. 
That is not to downplay great equipment. I was just as guilty as anyone hoping for top of the line equipment, I just knew that no matter how much I spent on equipment I was not going to become a better cook because of it.

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Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

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One thing these fancy pans can do is rouse you out of cooking slump.  

 

In this vein, I ended up with the 3qt rondeau, but I am thinking I need to exchange it for the 4-qt.  The 3qt (24cm) seems a touch too small.  Just a touch.  I'm having a hard time settling. 

 

Which is probably because I don't need neither one of 'em.  A condition that makes every potentially legit distinguishing principles disappear.  

Edited by SLB (log)
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43 minutes ago, SLB said:

Which is probably because I don't need neither one of 'em.  A condition that makes every potentially legit distinguishing principles disappear.  

 

I understand the conundrum.  I bought a 4.7 quart copper wok (28cm) to make some Korean recipes and ended up realizing it was ALMOST the perfect size for making a gallon of yogurt.  The 4 quarts of milk fit fine, but the temperature probe's holder didn't fit "above" the milk line.  And I wanted a bigger-diameter bottom for more induction contact and a smaller-diameter top to reduce evaporation.

I ended up picking up a 6.1 quart (24cm) pot-au-fue that fits the bill.  It's kind of like a saucier with taller walls (or a dutch oven with a curved saucier-style bottom).  Then I realized that if I just had a smaller (20cm) pot-au-fue, I'd have the perfect-sized vessel for making half a pound of pasta for myself (and with an optimal top diameter, to reduce evaporation).  Ironically I'm not planning to make any actual pot-au-fue with the pans.  🤷‍♂️

And now you've alerted me to the presence of a 4 quart rondeau...  All y'all are a bunch of enablers. 😆 😊  I'm going to have to rethink the budget, post-holidays.
 

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38 minutes ago, afs said:

And now you've alerted me to the presence of a 4 quart rondeau...  All y'all are a bunch of enablers. 😆 😊 

 

Figured it out in less than a week. :)

 

Not that it isn't obvious...

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“Who loves a garden, loves a greenhouse too.” - William Cowper, The Task, Book Three

 

"Not knowing the scope of your own ignorance is part of the human condition...The first rule of the Dunning-Kruger club is you don’t know you’re a member of the Dunning-Kruger club.” - psychologist David Dunning

 

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1 hour ago, SLB said:

I was afraid you'd say that . . . .

 

I'm using the 24cm Rondeau to cook a (very) small (1 kg) brisket right now; I seriously think it's plenty big enough for 96% of the cooking I do, which is basically for 2 people.

 

And it fits into the steam girl!!

 

If it were the bigger one and the bigger one only, I'd probably use it less.

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Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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I get that, @weinoo, totally.  And, it's helpful.  The pan which the new rondeau purports to replace was a 3qt Copco enameled cast iron pan which I inherited and loved, but which was ancient and  had gotten to where it was chipping enamel into my food.  It was hard for me to get rid of, because of how much I loved the cousin who gave it to me.  And, oh my goodness, her food. 

 

[This is irrelevant, and not merely complex-emotional; in fact, it's totally crazy.  Do you know how it beat-down a person gets to feeling when picking enamel chips out of a dish that has been cooking all day???  Sigh.]    

 

Anyway, size.  I don't know why I'm anxious that what was done in that old pan cannot be done in this new and more awesome rondeau, since I wasn't at all trying to alter the use-case.  

 

Honestly?  I'm probably just thinking, hundreds of bucks, you better go ahead and gross up.  Investment pieces, I get the jitters.  

 

Thank you.

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19 minutes ago, SLB said:

The pan which the new rondeau purports to replace was a 3qt Copco enameled cast iron pan which I inherited and loved, but which was ancient and  had gotten to where it was chipping enamel into my food.  It was hard for me to get rid of, because of how much I loved the cousin who gave it to me.  And, oh my goodness, her food. 

 

Turn it into a planter or something.

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Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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Oh, it's gone.  I was just saying, it was a little crazy.  The past few months, I've been patiently waiting on the Falk sales.  

 

I just got turned around on the quarts.  

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image.thumb.jpeg.365ef00469b8e25558887ada59216b7b.jpeg

 

That really small brisket, in the 3.1 quart (24 cm) Falk Rondeau. Will rest and then I'll defat, run the sauce through the blender or a food mill, and reheat slices in that. S/B good.

 

After I browned the brisket on medium heat, I sweated out some onion, shallot, celery, carrot, and garlic, then added a cup of red wine, scraped up the bottom, let the wine boil off, added some chicken stock and a can of Muir Glen chopped tomatoes, a bit of water, some secret mushroom powder, herbs, and braised it covered for an hour and a half; Uncovered for another half hour.

 

Anyone remember the Seinfeld episode about shrinkage? This has shrunk, probably 15% or so. Normal.

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Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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On 12/1/2022 at 6:44 AM, Anna N said:

And then go on to open not one but two award-winning restaurants. That’s @gfron1. I tried to find a photograph of the range he used at The Curious Kumquat in Silver City, New Mexico. Knocked any ideas that great cooking was dependent on great equipment from my mind. He now owns Bulrush in St. Louis and I’m sure has better equipment. But his creativity is intact. 
That is not to downplay great equipment. I was just as guilty as anyone hoping for top of the line equipment, I just knew that no matter how much I spent on equipment I was not going to become a better cook because of it.

Ha! That was a $300 Kenmore glass top 4 burner stove from Sears (does Sears even exist anymore?) The funny thing is I've downgraded in my current restaurant with six $50 induction burners from Amazon and a few sets of Ikea pans. And to give me even more to chuckle about, one of my biggest competitors recently closed its doors (not laughing at that part), and they had been open less than a year with a purchased $100,000 Heston range system. That chef was also the captain of US Culinary Olympic team...it's not the equipment that makes good food.

 

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@gfron1, I am proud to say you were always my hero. After the Curious Kumquat I knew without question that cooking was about so much more than fancy gear or PhD level science. Thanks for being such an inspiration.

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Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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