Copper pans are so beautiful they nearly inspire poetry on the spot. Walk into a kitchen in which they are hanging, gleaming, from hooks, or occupying open shelving as though they’re the finest china, and you’ll know you’re in the space of one who likely takes cooking quite seriously. Copper suggests a dedication to the culinary craft and an appreciation of quality—both welcome attributes for cookware that can last for generations!
How to Use Copper Cookware
Copper will heat up and cool down fast—really fast; it’s the most responsive of all the cookware materials. That means you don’t need to pre-heat it and may even want to use a flame that’s about a third to a half of what you’d use with stainless-steel cookware. Over low-medium heat, sticking shouldn’t happen; if it does, reduce the heat under the pan. Copper goes from oven to table beautifully, but is best used in ovens no hotter than 430°F (220°C).
Copper cookware has an interior lining of either stainless steel or tin. Copper pans lined with stainless steel can handle higher temperatures, and are better for searing and broiling. You can use metal utensils in stainless-steel lined pans, which should be avoided in pans that are lined with tin (which require wooden, silicone and plastic utensils.) That said, the tin-lined copper cookware can be lighter and easier to maneuver. The lining in copper pans is best maintained by keeping cooking heat in check and by not placing empty pans on hot burners.
How to Store Copper Cookware
Giuli Ruffoni, president of the family-run company that has been producing copper cookware in Italy since 1931, tells us that she stores a small assortment of copper pots next to the window in her kitchen, right where she can see them when they catch the morning sun. Consider wooden open shelving, open shelves under a kitchen island, or on hooks, for a dramatic presentation.
How to Care for Copper Cookware
To best maintain the pan lining and avoid any potential discoloration of your copper, it’s best to allow your copper cookware to cool before washing. Never put it in the dishwasher or use stainless-steel wool or abrasive scouring pads, which can scratch its surface. Instead, hand-wash your pans using warm water and mild soap, then dry immediately with a soft cloth. (Be sure to dry completely, including near the handles, as drops of water can leave little droplet marks.)
To remove sticking or burned-on food, soak with warm water—and consider using a bit more oil and a lower flame next time. Expect your pans to develop a rich patina, making your home look like the French countryside, over time; this won’t negatively impact their performance. Giulia Ruffoni prefers lemons and fine salt, which “smells great, feels very natural, works very well,” and because she always has lemons close at hand. Giulia prefers the natural patina that copper builds over time, but there are plenty of metal polishes that will keep pans looking like new, if you prefer. At Williams Sonoma, we often rely on Mauviel’s Copperbrill.
The traditional tin lining keeps food from reacting with the copper but will become discolored as you use it. Some folks love the slightly burnished interior look, just as they do the patina of the copper’s exterior! But you may eventually want to replace the lining. (To do so, we recommend Rocky Mountain Tinning (303-295-0462) and East Coast Tinning.) To best maintain the lining over time, avoid cooking lots of acidic ingredients—red wine; citrus; tomatoes—in your copper pans. And don’t store leftovers in your copper pans, especially acidic ones. Cared for correctly, copper can last for multiple generations.