To preserve your copper pans and keep them as shiny and sleek as when you bought them, you need to clean them properly. Copper pans require special cleaning, as they are very reactive, delicate, and sensitive. However, cleaning copper pans isn’t difficult as long as you know how to do it.
This article will cover
- Essential Things to Know About Copper Pans
- 3 Steps Involved in Cleaning Copper Pans
- How to Restore Your Oxidized Copper Pans
- What to Look Out For When Buying Copper Pans
Essential Things to Know About Copper Pans
Copper pans are elegant pieces of cookware you should have in your kitchen, but you need to know some essential things about them for optimal performance.
They are lined with other metals
All copper cookware is always lined with other metals because of the high reactivity of copper. As such, you have to know what your copper pans are lined with. The most common metals for lining copper pans are tin and stainless steel.
Tin is naturally non-stick but weak and melts effortlessly on high heat. Stainless steel is not as non-stick as tin but sturdy and has a high melting point. If you use tin-lined copper pans, you should stay away from cooking on high heat and using metal utensils. Also, you should clean them gently to prevent the tin lining from wearing off over time.
They are durable and beautiful
As long as you care for your copper pans properly, you will use them for decades. They are very durable and well-constructed. They are sturdy and, with proper care, can resist corrosion. Even when they wear out, you can revive them by getting them re-lined with metals. Also, they are beautiful. Clean them properly and show them off in your kitchen. They add more life to it.
They heat up quickly and evenly
Copper is an excellent heat conductor among metals. You don’t need to preheat your copper pans before you use them for cooking. It heats up as soon as you place it on your stovetop or gas top. As such, never heat an empty copper pan. Always have food in before you put it on fire. If you’re wondering about the safety of copper pans in the oven, you might find our article on ‘Are Copper Pans Oven-Safe’ helpful.”
Also, copper pans evenly distribute heat, so you don’t have to worry about portions of your food cooking unevenly. They control and maintain their temperatures consistently. However, copper pans don’t need too much heat.
In fact, if the pan is subjected to high heat, the interior lining could be damaged if it’s not robust enough. Ensure you set your stove or gas to low or medium heat when using copper cookware.
3 Steps Involved in Cleaning Copper Pans
Copper pans require more care than other cookware materials because of their delicate nature. However, when they are well cared for, they’ll serve you for decades.
1. Clean the interiors and lacquered exteriors with a soft sponge
Due to copper’s reactive nature, the interior of a copper pan is lined with tin. Tin is easy to clean and non-stick. You don’t need an abrasive scouring pad to clean it before it’s well-maintained. A soft sponge and mild soap are enough.
If the pan has some food residues stuck in it, soak it in warm, soapy water for a few minutes before washing it with a soft sponge. Ensure the copper pan is completely dry before you store it, as moisture tarnishes the copper pan. Clean the bottom as well. Also, check if your copper pan has a glossy finish.
The glossy finish is a protective layer that prevents discoloration and makes the exterior easy to clean. Ensure you don’t use abrasive scouring pads on the glossy finish. Always rinse and dry the pan thoroughly after cleaning.
2. Apply oil after cleaning
Metals such as silver, brass, copper, etc., are prone to tarnishing due to their exposure to air and water. To keep your copper pans from spoiling, apply a light coat of oil over them.
Ensure that the pan is thoroughly dry before you do so. TImproper cleaning or exposure to air without proper drying can lead to more tarnishing of copper pans. Applying oil to copper pans keeps them sealed from the air and slows down tarnishing.
3. Polish your copper pans
If you want your copper pans to maintain their beauty and the elegance they add to your kitchen, you should polish them regularly. Metals such as copper naturally lose their luster as they are used over time. Most times, tarnishing can’t be avoided; however, it can be minimized.
When polishing your copper pans, ensure you don’t scrub them too hard. You might remove the glossy finish this way. You can make the polishing materials yourself or buy a special copper cleaner. It is advised you polish your copper pans at least twice a year.
How to Restore Your Oxidized Copper Pans
Over time, copper pans turn brown or black when exposed to water and air. This is called oxidation. Even though this discoloration makes the copper pans ugly, it protects the copper from destruction by its exposed elements. However, there is hope for your oxidized copper pans. Here are some actions to take:
Clean your copper pans regularly
The best way to restore your oxidized copper pans is to clean and maintain them regularly. Ensure you protect your copper pans from the elements such as water and air anytime you wash them. Copper pans get oxidized whenever they get wet. For this reason, the key to keeping them in good use is to maintain them regularly.
Use home remedies to remove the corrosion
You can clean corrosion off your copper pans using household remedies such as salt, flour, and vinegar. Mix equal parts of flour, salt, and vinegar into a paste and rub it over the corroded parts on your copper pans.
Allow the paste to sit for a while before you clean it with warm, soapy water and rinse it thoroughly. If there are no changes on the surface of your copper pans, create a paste of salt and vinegar (or lemon), apply it on the surface and rub with a soft cloth. Do this until the coloration is no longer there. You can also rub ketchup, a paste of lemon and salt, or lemon and cream of tartar on the oxidized spot.
Use the heat to remove corrosion
If there are no desired changes after using the above methods, heat your copper pan in a mix of water, salt, and vinegar. Ensure the pot is large enough to contain the copper pan, and the mixture boils vigorously.
Also, leave the pan in the mix until most of the tarnish falls away. Allow the hot mixture to cool before removing the pan from it. After this, if the tarnish doesn’t entirely fall away, you can still rub the pan with salt until all the tarnish is removed.
More importantly, ensure you dry the copper pan thoroughly after treating it. Moisture increases the oxidation of copper pans.
What to Look Out For When Buying Copper Pans
No matter how much you clean a low-quality copper pan, it won’t last for long. To enjoy cleaning your copper pans, ensure you get the right ones. Below are the things to look out for when buying copper pans :
Copper pans can either have a smooth or hammered finish. However, copper pans with smooth finish are more common nowadays. Both finishes don’t affect the quality of the pans; they only have to do with your aesthetic preference. Some cookware brands offer their products in both finishes. Go for what you feel suits your needs and fits your kitchen best.
Copper pans can either be bare or lined with other metals. Bare copper pans are typically less expensive. Besides, using uncoated copper pans for cooking can be dangerous as copper is highly reactive to acidic foods.
Tin-lined copper pans are safe as the tin prevents copper from imparting its taste into your food, and it doesn’t greatly hinder its heat conductivity. However, tin layers are thin and wear out quickly.
Stainless-lined copper pans are the most popular types because they don’t tarnish and are extremely durable. However, they aren’t non-stick. Among these three options, you should go for copper pans with more robust tin lining.
When it comes to buying cookware, thicker products are usually better. Check the weight of the copper pans before you buy them. Avoid copper pans that are 1.5 mm thick or less. The best copper pans should have a thickness of 2 mm or more.
You can also distinguish the thin pans from the thick ones by their handles. For instance, thick copper pans usually have stainless steel or cast iron handles, while thin copper pans have bronze handles and rolled edges.
One of the most significant limitations most cookware has is its incompatibility with induction cooktops. For your cookware to be compatible with an induction cooktop, it needs to contain ferromagnetic materials.
Naturally, copper can’t react with magnets. However, some manufacturers have found a way around it such that copper pans now work well on induction cooktops. This is the type of copper pans you should buy.
It is essential you clean your copper pans as often as possible because lingering food particles can promote bacterial growth and destroy their non-stick cooking surfaces. However, ensure you clean them the right way. You should also season your pans regularly so that they can retain their excellent properties for a long time.
Michael Johnson is the founder of The Pan Handler, Inspired by his blacksmith grandfather’s legacy has a deep appreciation for hand-crafted pots and pans, he provides invaluable guides, reviews, and recipes to enhance your culinary journey.