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How to Cook with Copper Cookware

George Steckel|Nov 30, 2020

It's no secret that copper cookware pieces are some of the most attractive you can find. Its burnished beauty has inspired cookware collections that home cooks can't stand to hide away in their cupboards. Instead, you'll find copper cookware hanging from the kitchen walls and strung from ceiling pot racks. Plus, with warm-colored metals making a comeback in home decor, copper cookware has a fashionable place in modern kitchens everywhere.

Aside from its attractive luster, copper cookware is also quite handy for cooking. Copper's ability to conduct heat efficiently means that copper pans heat up quickly and evenly and will cool down just as fast. They're perfect for any dish that requires intense heating and cooling quickly. Plus, you'd be surprised by how quickly water comes to a boil in a copper pan.

Despite its good looks and flashy-fast heating, copper is a reactive metal. For the flavor of your meals, your safety, and that of everyone you feed, copper should be used with care in the kitchen. If you know the secrets of cooking with copper, however, you'll find yourself moving those pretty pans off the walls and onto the stovetop in no time.

How to Use Copper Cookware Safely

To cook safely with copper cookware, you first need to understand the difference between the two types of copper pots and pans. Copper cookware comes both lined and unlined.

Unlined copper pans are not safe to use with every type of food because the copper will react with acidic foods like fruits. Preparing acidic foods in an unlined copper pan will break down the metal and leach copper into the food. Copper is toxic, and exposure to too much will lead to copper poisoning.

On the other hand, it's safe to prepare any type of food in a copper pan that's lined with stainless steel or tin. These metals create a barrier between your food and the copper. Lined pans will not react with the foods you prepare (no matter how acidic). To prevent the lining from becoming scratched or otherwise damaged, use gentle cooking utensils made from silicon or wood. If the lining of your copper pan wears out, either have it repaired (tin-lined pans) or replaced (stainless steel-lined pans). It's also a good idea to read the specifications for your lined copper pans to ensure you don't exceed their heat ratings.

Caring for Your Copper Pots

A big part of cooking safely with copper pots and pans is caring for them properly. Proper care is also key to keeping your copper cookware beautiful. Both lined and unlined copper cookware should be washed gently by hand. Use mild soap and warm water to remove food debris as soon as your pots have cooled.

Since copper is a reactive metal, it will tarnish with time. You can help your copper pots age gracefully (unlike the Statue of Liberty) by polishing them regularly with an acidic material that will remove the tarnish. Use a store-bought copper polish or make your own at home with lemon and baking soda, white vinegar and baking soda, salt and vinegar, or ketchup. Polish with a soft cloth, rinse, dry, and enjoy the sunset-colored sparkle.

The Best Ways to Cook with Copper Cookware

To get the most out of your copper cookware, use it to sear and saute or to make a whole host of sauces and jams. Simply be careful to choose recipes with safe ingredients if you're using an unlined pot or pan. When you know how to (safely) unlock the powers of copper cookware, they can help you become incredibly skilled in the kitchen. The material's unique heating and cooling abilities combined with its ionization will allow you to achieve an unexpected level of quality in your dishes.

So, take your copper collection off of its permanent display and get ready to simmer the silkiest jam (include enough sugar to neutralize the fruit's acidity), temper the shiniest chocolate, or sear a steak to perfection. You'll love working with the metal's hyper-conductivity and enjoy putting all those pretty copper pieces to use.

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