We love the look of copper, but copper pots and pans are much more than just easy on the eyes. Don’t let copper cookware simply hang on the walls of your kitchen, never making it to the stove.
For expert tips on cooking with copper, we checked in with Jim Hamann, a restorer of old-fashioned copper wares. The Cornell grad is known for his tinning craft and even has his work in use in top kitchens around the country, like Eleven Madison Park. To market his passion, Jim founded East Coast Tinning where he is dedicated to restoring heirloom copper goods. Eventually, Jim began creating new items meant to last just as long as their vintage counterparts.
Head over to Jim’s website to see more vintage copper cookware and for help fixing up pots you already have.
Have Everything Ready
Copper is well known as a high performance metal for cooking. Get ready for slightly faster cooking times and a more consistent result due to the even heating and quick response of copper. Because the pan will heat quicker and cook faster, be sure to have your ingredients ready to go!
Cook with Med-Hi Heat
If you are new to copper, try using Med-Hi heat as a maximum for a few cooking sessions. Copper heats up very quickly. Starting with a Med-Hi heat will help you adjust to the quirks of your new cookware without worry.
Use Wooden or Silicone Utensils
The tin lining of copper cookware is a soft. To avoid scratching the beautiful tin cooking surface with steel utensils, opt for wooden or silicone instead.
Do Not Preheat Copper Pots
Since copper conducts heat so well, it heats up very quickly. The tin lining can and will melt in as little a minute. So – if you are going to turn on the flame, have SOMETHING in the pan, even if it is only your olive oil or butter. If the phone rings and you get distracted, the oils in the pan will burn and smoke first—before the tin lining melts—so it will act as a protectant.
Skip Searing in Copper Pans
The tin lining of copper pots melt at only about 450 degrees F. To sear meats at high heat, choose cast iron, aluminum, or stainless steel cookware instead of copper.
Copper in the oven? No problem!
Even at a high temperatures, using your copper in the oven is not a problem. The liquid in the food will keep the temperature of the pan at 212 F (the boiling point of water) until all the water is gone.
Skip the Scrubbing
For foods cooked onto the pan, try filling the pot with water and a bit of dish soap then simmer for 15 minutes. You’ll be amazed how easily it cleans up. For additional assistance, use a bamboo scraper. The bamboo is strong enough to help clean the pan, but isn’t hard enough to scratch the tin. Less elbow grease and less wear on the tin!
If you don’t polish for six months, you’ll be in for a workout. Polish after each use, and it will be fast and easy.
Here’s a chef’s secret recipe for a food-based copper polish. Make a batch of the following and keep it in a container under the sink. A quick polish after washing will only take about 30 seconds:
1 T salt in
1/2 cup white vinegar
Add enough flour to make a thin paste (think Elmer’s Glue consistency).
After washing the pan, dip a moist paper towel in the polish and wipe on the copper (for about 30 seconds). Wash off with soap and water, then dry well to prevent water spots.
Can’t stand polishing? Don’t stress!
Copper retains its heat transfer characteristics even when it is not looking its best. That soft penny copper tarnish is a great look too. There is nothing in the equations of heat transfer that depend on the appearance or “polish” of the copper.
Don’t Hang Copper Above the Stove
The steam and grease spatter will make a mess of your gorgeous pans and make polishing a REAL chore. Hang them away from the stove or over an island.
Tin Lining Changes — It’s Ok
The tin lining will get darker and change color depending on what you cook in the pan. Just let it go. Resist the urge to scour it shiny again, as you’ll be scouring away a bit of that tin lining at the same time.
This article originally appeared on Honest Cooking and was republished with permission.