When someone is in the market for cookware in the form of pots and pans, they initially focus on size, shapes, weight, type — skillet, saucepan, sauciére, sauté — and the quantity of these various types of pots and pans.
But all this respective cookware is manufactured using different materials, such as stainless steel, copper, cast iron or aluminum, and each of these cooking materials have pros and cons depending on what type of cooking is planned.
Because of its modest price, stainless steel cookware is the most popular with home cooks. And as the Editors of Easy Home Cooking Magazine point out, stainless steel has many advantages: stainless steel is nonreactive, doesn’t corrode, cleans easily, and is usually scratch and dent proof.
But stainless steel does not conduct heat very well – not nearly as well as iron, aluminum and copper, and of these three copper is far more expensive.
ARE THE BENEFITS OF USING COPPER COOKWARE WORTH THE PRICE?
Copper conducts heat very evenly and efficiently. In fact, if you cook with gas you may notice a significant reduction in your gas bill when cooking with copper pans.
But copper is reactive with acidic and alkaline foods. If you cook tomatoes, for example, your spaghetti sauce may have a metallic flavor, especially if you simmer food for long periods.
And as food writer and author Emma Christensen, the recipe editor for The Kitchn.com notes, light colored foods, like eggs, can develop gray streaks.
Foods will also pick up chemical elements from reactive cookware, explains Christensen, causing us to ingest metals like copper and iron. “Our bodies may process iron relatively easily, but our bodies have a harder time eliminating copper.”
Christensen suggests the small amount we ingest from using copper cookware isn’t enough to harm us, but she recommends not using copper for every day use.
A copper sauce pan can be great for deep frying and making sauce but some claim sauteing may present problems if the pan becomes too hot because the zinc melts.
On the other hand, copper is the perfect pan for quick sauteing and pan-searing meats, and braising and browning meat evenly and thoroughly.
Thus, copper cookware is an extravagance, and since our bodies have a harder time eliminating copper, it should be used on a limited basis for specific tasks, such as quickly pan-searing and braising and browning meats.
Emma Christensen adds: “To get the best of both worlds, manufactures try to find ways to combine elements. Adding a layer of copper to the bottom of a stainless steel pan or coating iron with enamel helps to heat the pan evenly while still protecting food from direct contact with the reactive metal.”
But these kinds of cookware are not cheap.
If you can only afford a few copper pieces, try a heavy sauté pan and fry pan, both are known for their even heat distribution. Just be sure not to overheat the pans, and don’t use metal utensils.
Remember to use non-reactive (stainless steel) cookware whenever your dish contains acidic or alkaline ingredients.
This Australian company offers some interesting handcrafted copper cookware sets, copper fry pans, copper crepe pans, copper saucepans, copper sauté pans and a copper casserole dish.