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Advantages and Drawbacks of Cooking With Copper Pots

by Justin Boyle
CulinaryEd Columnist
April 14, 2013

Why Cook With Copper?

You've probably seen it somewhere in the last few months, at least in pictures. That warm, desert sunset glow of a set of copper pots hanging from an overhead rack in a clean but well-used kitchen is enough to make anyone into a believer.

Why today's chefs are cooking with copper pots

Copper is more than just a pretty face, though. Cooking with copper pots can be like moving from a dorm room beanbag chair to a fine leather sofa. Let's take a look at the advantages of copper cookware in detail:

  • Uniform heating. A lot of steel and aluminum pans have "hot spots" that make for unpredictable heat at any particular spot on the pan. Copper is magnificently conductive, so it soaks up heat and distributes it evenly across the cooking surface.
  • Energy efficiency. Because of conductivity, copper requires a good deal less heat than you're used to, which can cut a chunk out of your utility bill.
  • Perfect handling. A pot that handles well on the stovetop can be a sheer joy to use. Copper cookware tends to be heavy enough to feel substantial in your hand but light enough to lift without too much effort.

Teflon pans, those chemical-coated non-stick lightweights that appear in almost every home kitchen, can potentially release toxic fumes when allowed to overheat on the stovetop. You can certainly keep using your old Teflon stuff if you're careful, but it's probably best to make the switch to non-non-stick pans sooner or later. Investing a little extra in copper might just help you find the motivation.

Copper caveats

Copper cookware, like most high-quality things, comes with a few warnings and drawbacks to consider. Copper pots and pans can be some of the more expensive cooktop tools out there, for one, so many home kitchens might be a bit priced out.

There's also the minor detail that copper tends to have unpredictable chemical reactions with foods it touches, so copper cookware is typically lined with tin, steel or another less reactive substance. Be sure to find out what your potential new pots are lined with -- tin-lined copper is cheaper but wears out much faster than copper lined with steel.

There are also some pretty specific copper cookware maintenance techniques, too, no matter what your pots are lined with. For example, even when they're just hanging on the rack, copper pots need frequent polishing to prevent corrosion. If you're not up for going the extra mile to care for your kitchen tools, then you may want to think twice before cooking with copper.

A happy medium

Luckily, though, manufacturers understand both the drawbacks and the advantages of copper cookware. It's possible to find skillets with a layer of copper sandwiched between less maintenance-intensive metals, or stainless steel pots with copper on the bottom only.

These sorts of compromises strike a fair balance between the culinary benefits of cooking in copper pots and the moderate hardships of cleaning and maintaining them. If you're curious to find out what all the copper cookware fuss is about, chances are that you'll be able to find a solution that meets your needs and your budget.

Sources

"The Advantages And Disadvantages Of Copper Cookware," ChefTalk, http://www.cheftalk.com/a/the-advantages-and-disadvantages-of-copper-cookware
"The Benefits of Cooking with Copper Cookware," Raymond Weiss, EzineArticles, http://ezinearticles.com/?The-Benefits-of-Cooking-With-Copper-Cookware&id=2492447
"Copper," University of Maryland Medical Center, 2011, http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/copper-000296.htm
"Copper Utensils-Care and Cleaning," Michigan State University, 2003, http://www.msue.msu.edu/objects/content_revision/download.cfm/revision_id.493650/workspace_id.-4/01500153.html/
"What Are the Benefits of Copper Cookware?" wiseGEEK, http://www.wisegeek.com/what-are-the-benefits-of-copper-cookware.htm



About the Author

Justin Boyle is a freelance writer and journalist living in Austin, Texas.

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