Many professional chefs use copper pots and pans for their cooking. If copper pans are good enough for the pros, then they should be good enough for your kitchen... right? As with any type of cookware, copper pans have their pros and cons.
What do you think would look nicer on your shelf... a set of dull, stainless steel pans, or a set of bright, shiny copper pans? The answer is pretty obvious, the copper looks nicer, which is one of the advantages. They brighten up the kitchen, and make a better showpiece than other pans. But copper has other advantages than just good looks.
Copper is an excellenet conductor of heat. A good quality copper pan conducts the heat to the food quickly and evenly. This is copper's greatest advantage over other types of cookware. Many chefs use copper to cook foods that need to be cooked at precisely controlled temperatures. Despite these advantages, there are also some disadvantages to copper.
Copper is a reactive metal, meaning that it readily oxidizes when it comes in contact with acids. If unlined copper pans are used in cooking acidic foods, such as tomatoes, then severe illness can result. This is why many copper pots and pans are lined with a non-reactive surface, such as stainless steel. This prevents the copper from dissolving into the food, and causing illness. Copper pans, lined with stainless steel are considered some of the finest cookware available. Unlined copper is just fine for foods that are not acidic. Many chefs use copper bowls for whipping egg whites. You should never store foods in copper pans though, whether or not the food contains acids. Transfer the food to an appropriate storage container.
When choosing copper cookware, look for thick, heavy gauge pans. If you find some good heavy copper pans at a garage sale, or otherwise buy them used, look at the stainless steel coating. If the coating is scratched and copper is showing through, then you will need to get the pans re-lined before you can use them.
Copper like silver tarnishes. But it is easy to make a tarnished pan bright and shiny again. Simply make a paste of lemon juice and salt, and rub it onto the pot with a cloth, then rinse the mixture off, and the tarnish will disappear. Never use abrasive materials in cleaning copper. Copper is a soft metal, and easily scratched by abrasives. Abrasive cleaners will also scratch the stainless steel lining, which will make the pans unsafe to use unless re-lined.
If cared for correctly, then copper pans will serve you well over the years. They conduct the heat well, and they look good while doing it. Just take good care of the pans, and make sure that the lining remains intact.
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