Copper pans have character, and not just in looks. They conduct heat rapidly and evenly, responding to changes in temperature without hesitation. Chefs love them for making delicate emulsions (like egg-based Hollandaise sauce) and syrups—two foods that can be ruined with just a few extra seconds of heat. But there’s nothing copper can’t cook beautifully, thanks to the gentle but effective way it spreads heat all over the pan. To illustrate: If you’re cooking scallops, the ones on the outer rim of the pan will brown just as quickly and uniformly as the ones directly above the fire.
Due to its handmade nature, many copper pans will have minor imperfections such as minor abrasions, small black marks or scuffs. These are considered normal and do not affect the performance of the pans.
Since copper is a reactive metal, one that could tarnish upon contact with acidic ingredients like citrus or wine, most copper pans will be lined with another metal such as stainless steel or tin. We prefer pans lined with stainless steel, as they last forever and do not need to be ‘re-tinned’ every few years, but tin is popular among copper purists for its traditional nature.
So how do you keep copper pans looking beautiful and cooking the way it should? Follow these tips.
1. Never Place in the Dishwasher (& Avoid Abrasive Scouring)
Copper is a soft metal that can be scratched easily, so you don’t want them to clank against other items. It’s also best to avoid abrasive scouring on the copper portion of your pan, though it is fine to use when cleaning a stainless steel interior. The harshness of dishwasher detergent will also cause copper to tarnish and dull.
2. Never Heat a Dry Copper Pan
You should avoid doing this with all your pans, as it puts too much stress on the lining. A thin layer of oil or water will avoid this, but steer clear of cooking sprays, which do not offer the right protection.
3. Remember: Copper Heats Quickly
If a recipe tells you to cook something on high heat, you should cook it at medium in a copper pan because it's much more efficient than other metals. Start cooking on a low heat before increasing the temperature; this helps you understand how responsive the pan is, so you can cook accordingly.
4. Polish, As Often As You’d Like
There’s something to be said for copper that looks a bit worn. It’s full of rustic French countryside charm. But a good polish never hurts, especially since copper tarnishes easily. Our favourite way to do this is with Mauviel’s Copperbrill Cleaner
—just rub a bit of it all along the copper in a gentle, circular motion with a soft cloth and voilà.
If you don’t have Copperbrill cleaner, you can make a substitute with a solution of 2:1 lemon juice or plain vinegar and baking soda and apply it to the copper in the same way. Though not as effective, it works in a pinch.