Guide to Kitchen Utensils, Pots, Pans and Accessories: Copper

About the uses, care, cost, and controvery surrounding copper kitchen utensils, pots, pans, and accessories.

A Guide to Kitchen Utensils


Properties: An excellent heat conductor. Utensils used for cooking should be of a heavy gauge, with a tin or silver lining for safety. With use this lining will wear off and relining will be required. This should be done as soon as copper begins to show because a poisonous chemical reaction could result from contact between metal and food. Copper is often used on the bottoms of other types of metals to improve their evenness of heating.

Cost: Expensive to very expensive.

Use: Lined copper is good for utensils that are used for slow cooking, such as teakettles, saucepans (do not use for making white sauces), and baking pans (ask for those lined with nickel--it makes them sturdier). Unlined copper is used for the traditional half-globe bowl used for beating egg whites, and the preserving pan for preparing any food with a high sugar content.

Care: Before using copper as a kitchen utensil, remove the protective coating of lacquer by placing the utensil into a container of boiling water in which washing soda (different than baking soda, but also a product of Arm & Hammer) has been added. Use 1 Tbs. per quart of water. Once the lacquer has peeled off, remove the utensil, wash, rinse, and dry. Before and after use, rub unlined copper--and the outside surface of lined copper--with a cut lemon, or a vinegar and salt mixture, and allow to set for a few minutes. Wash in soapy water, rinse, and dry thoroughly. For burned-on food, soak overnight and then scour with a nylon scrub pad. Never use scouring powder or a steel-wool pad. From Out of the Molasses Jug by Cindy Davis and Elizabeth Mabe (Cloudburst Press, Box 79, Bracken, British Columbia, 1974): "When copper gets badly discolored, mix up a paste of equal parts salt, flour, and vinegar. Smear it on and rub till clean. Particularly bad spots can be removed by rubbing with hot sour milk; vinegar and salt; or lemon juice and salt. Wash and dry." If commercial cleaners are used, read the instructions carefully. Tarnished copper is more efficient because dark metal absorbs heat faster.

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