cspirou
206
Nov 14, 2017
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what are the advantages of copper cookware? What are the best dishes to show the advantages of copper cookware?
Nov 14, 2017
jkiemele
222
Nov 14, 2017
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Copper conducts heat well and, as a result, allows for quicker pan heat and better heat distribution. This benefits you by allowing better browning and searing. Copper is also used in baking for its benefits of reacting with eggs, allowing egg whites, for example, to whip up quicker by hand.
Nov 14, 2017
b9d9ffdad3ac59e7f6f
135
Nov 15, 2017
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Like jkiemele said, since copper conducts heat better than other cookware metals, you don't get as many "hot spots", and the heat is more even all the way up the sides. That way things cook evenly, and this is most easily seen on something wide and flat like a steak. But you can also tell with many smaller things, where some are more cooked than others, depending on where in the pan it sat, like say, halved Brussel sprouts.
Copper is expensive, though, and also reactive. There are copper pans that are lined with a non-reactive layer. If you want to save money while increasing durability and maintenance, you can get copper clad stainless steel cookware. The better stuff has three layers (steel-copper-steel) that go all the way up the sides to the top edge. There are less expensive pans where there is a copper disc layer only on the bottom. Depending on the type of pan and what it will be used for, this may be fine.
All my stainless steel has a copper layer. My most prized copper clad stainless steel cookware is a saucier. The even heat makes it easier for me to make a variety of sauces without any part of it overheating. Bechamel, for example, is no problem, and neither is a nacho cheese sauce.
How much better is copper? Going by numbers, copper has twice as much thermal conductivity than aluminum, and over 10 times as much as steel. Cast iron is on the bottom, too (but makes up for it with heat retention). The most thermally conductive metal? Silver, and copper is pretty close to it.
Nov 15, 2017
b9d9ffdad3ac59e7f6f
135
Nov 15, 2017
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Egg whites take longer to beat in copper bowls. To simplify, the benefit is in the copper contributing itself to the albumin protein by binding to its sulfur atoms, which helps maintain the structural integrity of whipped eggs whites. When this is baked or introduced to heat, it does not collapse as easily without it. So you can get fantastically high meringues and soufflés.
This was discovered by Harold McGee in 1984, the author of On Food and Cooking. However, the citation goes to Nature. It was later included in his book, which I highly recommend.
Source: https://www.nature.com/articles/308667a0
Nov 15, 2017
jkiemele
222
Nov 15, 2017
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Ah yes, you are right. My bad. I forgot it benefited more with structural integrity of the whipped whites than the speed of whipping. Thanks for clarifying.
Nov 15, 2017
SidPost
69
Nov 17, 2017
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Good quality copper cookware (real copper, not cosmetic copper plating for looks) is super responsive to heat. The control you have over the heat while cooking is awesome for a lot of things.
Nov 17, 2017
billc
356
Nov 19, 2017
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“Control” and “responsive” are not absolute terms in the real world. If by control one means temperature stability, for example, then thick aluminum or even steel beats typical copper cookware thickness hands down. You CAN use thick copper, of course, but you better be rich. Think Mauviel Cuprinox prices ... (YOW!) If by responsive one mean *fast* response to temperature changes, then a reasonably thin section of copper is terrific, but then, so are most thinner materials. Yes, copper is more thermally conductive, but as the metals get thinner this is a matter of dimishing returns. Conductivity and heat capacity (also considering mass) interplay in complex ways. Introduce layering and alloys and things get a LOT more complicated.
There is no “best” cookware type for all purposes just as there isn’t one type of control or responsiveness. Looking at commercial cooking ... which isn’t necessarily what you want to emulate at home ... shows some strong patterns, such as carbon steel pans for high-temp, fast and responsive cooking - but a commercial kitchen also uses high-BTU ranges, doesn’t have to consider heat retention as a result, and is prepared to clean up the resulting spatter and baked-on mess - for which they have flunkies (I’ve been one, and it isn’t fun). What is best at home depends on how and what you cook as well as what you cook it on.
Example: I use seasoned cast iron for searing. I do have to heat the skillet carefully and for longer than I would with another type of pan, but the heat retention once hot is terrific and makes up for my typically low household gas range output. Maintenance is dead simple, as searing actually helps maintain the seasoning. Could I use stainless? ABSOLUTELY! In fact, an All-Clad skillet would work nearly as well. But since I prefer to maintain my stainless cookware unseasoned, maintenance for this use is more of a chore. (You can season stainless just like you can cast iron or carbon steel, though no-one does for some reason.) Thick copper would be terrific, too, but I don’t want to maintain it ... inside AND out, no less. And any kind of thin pan, of whatever metal, wouldn’t stand up to the abuse for long. Every kind of cooking, every approach to technique, every circumstance, and even every dish (to stretch the point) carries its own considerations.
Nov 19, 2017
SidPost
69
Nov 19, 2017
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In the 2.5~3.0mm copper pans I have, the temperature up the sides of the pan is the same as what it is over the flame with slight variation. When I take it off the heat, it cools pretty rapidly. When I adjust the flame, the pan responds quickly.
Yes, good copper is expensive. Thin lightweight copper is an aesthetic marketing gimmick IMHO.
A really thick aluminum (5mm+ everywhere in the pan) pan will perform similarly at a much lower price point and will have a pan weight that is much more reasonable for most people.
A 10# copper skillet or 20# cast iron dutch oven loaded with food is impractical for most home cooks.
Nov 19, 2017
SidPost
69
Nov 19, 2017
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Yes, I have Mauviel Cuprinox but prefer my classic pans of 'yester-year'. Good luck finding vintage copper cookware that isn't priced like it is made of gold.
Demeyere Atlantis brand stainless comes close to Mauviel Cuprinox levels of performance with none of the drawbacks maintaining the copper sheen or concerns for relining a classic piece of copper that was overheated. It's cost will come close to Mauviel Cuprinox.
While you don't need a professional stove to use thin carbon steel pans, a strong household burner is needed to really appreciate them IMHO. As you note, classic cast iron is a good solution for cost and performance in modest home kitchens with weaker stoves. Modern multi-ply thick stainless steel is a good solution for most home kitchens where the pans are just a utilitarian means to an end.
Nov 19, 2017
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