Many years ago, my dad persuaded to put a copper pan in Christmas wish list.
At the very first moment I thought it was a very unattractive item, but for decorative purpose only… But in any case, Santa brought me a copper pan, that year.
Of course I knew (from old memories of my Physics classes at hight school) that copper is fantastic in terms of thermal conductivity, but I could not image how significantly this feature can affect my cooking performances: sauces simmer beautifully, and veggies sauté heavenly.
Copper pans and moulds can be defined as the Ferrari of cookware: attractive, top performing, extremely pricey and… can become extremely dangerous if not used properly.
But why do copper pans and moulds work so well?
Thermal conductivity means cooking the quickest, and even conduction of heat. Copper holds the heat best: heat is transferred from flame or coil throughout the pan base and up the sides, cooking foods uniformly on the top of the pot as well as at its bottom.
Watch out that Copper is slightly acidic and reacts with certain foods (i.e. tomato, vinegar, wine, bittersweet sauces etc), causing discoloration and mild toxicity, that’s why copper pans and tools are usually lined.
You’d better use copper pans for basic foods, such as milk and polenta.
Only a few copper utensils are traditionally without a lining — saucepans used for caramelizing sugar and bowls for beating egg white. The natural acidity in unlined copper causes egg whites to stabilize better. If you prepare meringues, a unlined copper bowl will make cream of tartar unnecessary. When preparing caramelized sugar, the perfect pan is unlined because the lining would not stand such a high temperature.