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How to Cook With Copper Cookware Like a Chef

With superior temperature control and conductivity, copper is the thoroughbred of cookware. Here’s how to use it.

By Rachel Robey
Dec 8, 2023
Shiny copper pots and pans are neatly arranged on a kitchen shelf next to a stack of white plates.
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Copper is one of the oldest metals known to man, and its usefulness in the kitchen is as enduring as its beauty. Copper’s warm metallic tones suit almost any kitchen, lending a rustic and romantic cottage-y charm to your small kitchen or suggesting slightly more luxurious and high-end tastes against modern backdrops. In either case, most home cooks choose to keep it on permanent display on or above their range.

But aside from its aesthetic appeal, copper cookware is extremely functional. Copper's ability to conduct heat and electricity has made it an incredibly valuable resource, and in the kitchen your copper collection will heat quickly and evenly. But as soon as you pull it from the heat, it will cool down just as fast.

If it sounds like copper is the thoroughbred of pots and pans, you’d be right—but with great power comes a higher price tag. Still, with its incredible conductivity, attractive look, and French culinary legacy, it’s well worth the investment.

Here's everything you need to know about cooking with this premium material.

How to Safely Cook with Copper Pans

Unlike our Stainless Clad, Enameled Cast Iron, and Non Stick Cookware collections, copper itself is a reactive metal, meaning highly acidic ingredients like citrus, tomatoes, wine, or vinegar will react with the cookware itself.

Typically, the greatest concern with reactive cookware is that your dish may end up with a slightly metallic taste, but copper comes with slightly greater health risks as it could cause a chemical reaction. This is not a risk if you opt for lined copper pans.

Opt for High-Quality Copper Pans

To counteract copper’s reactivity, we lined each piece in our Copper Collection with our nonreactive (but award-winning) Stainless Steel cooking surface. Our lined Copper Cookware will not react with the foods you prepare, no matter how acidic.

For the sake of your cooking and health, it’s best to use high-quality lined copper cookware to avoid any risk of ingredient or copper leaching into your dish.

Avoid Acidic Ingredients

Unlined copper pans have no protective non-reactive barrier in between the ingredients and the copper. These are not safe to use with every type of food because the copper will react with acidic ingredients, which in turn break down the metal and leach copper into the food.

Use the Right Utensils

To prevent the lining from becoming scratched or otherwise damaged, use soft 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—ours is safe up to 800F, but other brands differ.

Is Copper Cookware Compatible With Induction Cooktops?

Because copper cookware is a nonmagnetic material, it is unfortunately not compatible with induction cooking. Copper cookware and those with aluminum or non-magnetic stainless steel cores can’t interact with the electric field of an induction burner, as they are not ferromagnetic and cannot produce a concentrated magnetic current. 

What to Cook in Copper Pans

Copper is the perfect cookware choice for any dish that requires intense heating, rapid cooling, or meticulous temperature control. It’s the classic French pastry chef choice for fruit jams, caramel, and sugar work, but it’s also excellent for searing the perfect steak and general all-purpose sautéing.

How to Care for Copper Pans

To preserve the function and appearance of your copper cookware, it’s important that you care for it properly. Both lined and unlined copper should be washed gently by hand—never in the dishwasher. Use mild dish soap, warm water, and the soft side of a dish sponge to remove food debris as soon as your pots have cooled.

Because copper is a reactive metal, it will tarnish with time. For some home cooks, the antique patina is a desirable product of the material’s natural aging process. However, if you prefer the brilliant like-new shine of just purchased copper cookware, polishing them regularly with a store-bought polishing solution will remove the tarnish.

Ready to Shop?

For experienced home cooks, copper cookware is a worthwhile investment for the power, performance, and flavor possibilities it presents. With it, you’re able to simmer the most fruit-forward jams, temper the shiniest chocolate, and sear proteins and vegetables to perfection.

Now that you have all the knowledge to shop and cook with it safely, you’re ready to start building your very own collection. Our Copper Collection is crafted in France, modernized with a durable Stainless Steel interior, and makes for a stunning addition to any kitchen.