Why Buying Beautiful Copper Cookware Is Actually Worth It
Copper cookware is just as useful as it is beautiful.
“I would not feel French if I did not have copper in my kitchen.” “And if you maintain it really well, you’ll have it all your life.” That’s the sign of a worthy investment. Chef Lefebvre
If you walk into Trois Mec, chef Ludo Lefebvre‘s celebrated French restaurant in L.A., you’ll see row after row of shining copper. The French-born chef, who also owns Petit Trois and Trois Familia is obsessed with it. “I asked for copper pots as a Christmas present when I was 10 years old,” he says. “It was what I grew up cooking on with my grandmother and mother and what chefs used in France.”
Plus, it adds drama and opulence to your kitchen. “At Trois Mec, I have liked 25 copper pots for everything,” he continues. “And people love to look at it. ‘Oh, it’s beautiful! Ooh, nice!’ They love it.”
While it’s not as hard as cast iron or as cheap as aluminum cookware, the pieces you’ll find from Brooklyn Copper Cookware or Mauviel, are embodiments of good science and craftsmanship.
So, what should you look for? The best copper pans are handcrafted—hammered out by a coppersmith, then lined with pure tin (by a tinsmith) before being fit with a cast iron handle (by an ironsmith).
This combination of high-quality metals means that copper cookware will not only heat quickly and evenly, but that it’ll maintain that heat. You don’t have to worry about anything sticking to the bottom of the pot, no matter how slowly or quickly you cook everything from a savory risotto to a thick fruit jam. (French chiefs swear by their own copper jam pan.)
Just remember two extremely important things:
(1) Don’t ever heat an empty copper pan, as they tend to melt at around 425˚F or 450˚F. You can heat up your copper at about half the heat level you would use for an average pot or pan because it just conducts energy very efficiently—thus its frequent use in electrical wiring. And (2) Regularly shine your copper with a lightly acidic solution (like vinegar or lemon juice) or with copper cleaner to prevent tarnishing. Alternatively, take a page from Grandmère Lefebvre and use a combination of flour, lemon juice, vinegar, and egg whites.
Note: If you happen to buy used copper cookware, it might need to be retinned. According to Mac Kohler of Brooklyn Copper, if any copper is peeking through the tin, or if it’s shiny and silvery, or if you see fine blisters where the edge of the pot meets the bottom—it’s time for a tune up.
The Copper Pan that Makes the Shiniest, Sexiest Jam You Can Imagine
You could make jam in almost any pot. But pastry chef Nicole Krasinski will tell you why you shouldn’t.
Five years ago, 20th Century Cafe owner Michelle Polzine gave Chef Nicole Krasinski an antique Hungarian copper jam pot for his birthday. As soon as he made his first batch in it, it was like, “Ohhh, this is why people use these.” The pot makes the shiniest, sexiest jam you can imagine.
One major difference is texture.
Run a rubber spatula across the bottom of a stainless-steel pot and there’s a little bit of a drag. With copper, it’s completely smooth, so you can really detect the differences in the jam itself. It’s kind of like making bread, when you’re really listening to the dough and looking at it. The copper allows you to get more in tune with your jam. Copper is also thinner than stainless steel, and it conducts heat differently. When you turn off the stove, the jam in a copper pot stops boiling immediately; whereas a stainless pot might take a few minutes to cool. So, your fruit can break down more than you want it to. When you’re able to control the cooking time and temperature, you maintain the integrity of the fruit. Even after six or eight months in a jar, it still has that really bright color and flavor.
Once Chef Nicole Krasinski realized how amazing the jam pot was, he bought his assistant and himself bigger Mauviel versions.
“Now we have three pots going throughout the summer season so that we have plum-apricot and raspberry jams to help us through the sad winter months. We put them on ice cream sandwiches at State Bird Provisions, and at The Progress we’re doing a greengage plum jam with a pistachio cake and chocolate sauce.” Chef Nicole Krasinski