It is no secret that copper is currently experiencing a huge upsurge in popularity. This is mainly thanks to its beautiful colour featuring heavily in the ranges of countless homeware retailers. There is, however, far more to this lustrous metal than just its appearance.
For example, it has a greater level of thermal conductivity than any other metal (except silver); roughly 60% higher than aluminium and 3000% higher than stainless steel. This means copper is capable of heating up very quickly when compared to other metals. It heats quickly and evenly, but it loses that heat just as fast. This responsiveness gives it a nimbleness and agility that can be very useful for delicate proteins like fish and seafood, as well as sauces, caramel, and chocolate—remove a copper saucepan holding a delicate sauce from the heat and its temperature will drop rapidly, reducing the chances the sauce overcooks or breaks from exposure to the retained heat in the metal.
A seemingly perfect material for cooking, it is therefore no surprise that it has been used in kitchens for millennia. But exactly when did we learn to utilise copper and its valuable assets?
Copper is having quite the moment right now. Its stunning color is popping up all over the place, from trendy home decor stores to chic kitchen showrooms. But there's a lot more to this stylish shiny metal than meets the eye.
And in these days of healthy body, healthy mind, in increasingly known fact about copper is that it's a bit of a germaphobe! Harmful bacteria and microbes can't stand to hang out on a copper surface for more than a few hours. That's why you often see copper or a copper alloy used for things we touch a lot, like door handles, push plates, faucets and money. Bronze is approximately 10% tin, 90% copper and Brass is approximately 33% zinc, 67% copper.
With the thermal transmission and anti bacterial properties of copper it has been used around the kitchen for years.
It was during the Copper Age, a pivotal period in human history, when copper metal took center stage, replacing stone for making tools and cookware.
Egyptians were also regular users of copper. They used it for creating containers for water and oil. Egyptians also started using copper in medically. Before we knew about the existence of germs, the Egyptians had worked out copper's antimicrobial powers. They used it to clean wounds and purify drinking water, as documented in the Smith Papyrus, an ancient medical text written between 2600 BC and 2200 BC
But here's the catch - even though copper is beneficial to the human body, taking too much of it can cause health problems. To avoid this, people began lining their cookware with tin. This clever technique was used for hundreds of years to prevent copper from getting into food whilst it was being cooked and causing overconsumption of copper.
The use of copper pans over the last centuries, to modern day.
But the tin linings didn't last forever. During the 18th and 19th century, people used to send their pans off for re-tinning when the linings wore out. Nowadays, such practices, and the craftspeople who used to do them, are rare. But some manufacturers, are still producing tin-lined copper cookware and offering re-lining services.
However, stainless steel has taken over from tin as the go-to lining for cookware. While it is cheaper to line copper with steel it does have its drawbacks. Both tin and copper are very easy to clean, which not the case with stainless steel. Also, as stated earlier, the thermal conductivity of steel is so much lower than that of tin or copper.
Another way in which the virtues of copper have been combined with those of stainless steel is in cookware with a copper base. A base plate made from a layer copper and aluminium is fused to a stainless steel body with a technique call impact bonding which is done under extremely high pressure.
Copper cookware, while highly regarded for its excellent heat conductivity, can react with certain types of food, particularly acidic ones like tomatoes and vinegar. The subsequent leaching of copper into the food could, over an extended period, pose health risks. Therefore, most copper cookware comes with a lining, the type of which is a crucial factor to consider when making a purchase.
Historically, tin has been the go-to lining material for copper. Tin, like copper, is a pure element with a host of beneficial characteristics. The foremost of these is its inertness, meaning that tin won't react with acidic foods or anything else you might decide to cook.
Adding to its desirability, tin inherently possesses non-stick properties, eliminating the need for seasoning that cast-iron pans require. Whether you're frying an egg, preparing pancakes, or lightly searing fish, foods generally won't adhere to tin-lined copper cookware.
However, tin does have drawbacks. It has a relatively low melting point of around 450°F (230°C), which a pan can easily reach if left empty on a flame. Consequently, tin-lined copper pans should never be preheated while empty nor used for high-heat searing.
Furthermore, tin is somewhat soft and can wear away over time or become damaged through the use of metal utensils or abrasive cleaning. With mindful handling, a tin lining can last quite some time, but ultimately, even the most cherished tin-lined copper pans may need re-tinning. Although not a frequent occurrence, it's an additional expense to bear in mind when purchasing tin-lined copper cookware.
You will, on occasion, see copper lined with nickel, a practice that was briefly popular in the '90s, but has since fallen out of favor. More extravagantly, some copper pans are lined with silver. Silver, it turns out, is an even better conductor of heat than copper (not that conduction matters much with these ultra-thin linings), and it's supposedly very nonstick.
In a few select cases, copper vessels aren't lined with anything at all. Jam pots, for instance, are made of bare copper since there's enough sugar in jam to prevent the fruit acids from reacting with the metal. There's also a plain copper mixing bowl intended solely for beating egg whites: the copper prevents sulphur atoms in the whites from bonding too tightly, helping to maintain the integrity of the foamy peaks.
Aside from the lining material of a copper pan, the other most important characteristic that affects quality is the thickness of the copper. This can have a dramatic impact on the performance of the pan.
You're unlikely to find copper that's much thicker than 3mm, given its value and also density (copper is heavy, so adding more metal than is necessary just makes the pan that much more difficult to use), but you're quite likely to find copper that's less than 2.5mm thick. You're probably okay down to about 2mm, but any lower than that and you're getting into decorative pot territory: it may look nice in your kitchen but it won't perform well. This is where a lot of companies try to skimp, so make sure to confirm how thick the copper is before handing over your credit card.
When it comes to copper cookware, there's a sweet spot for thickness. You want your pots and pans to be somewhere between 2.5 and 3mm thick. Why is that? Well, if your copper is too thick, it doesn't respond to heat changes as quickly as you'd like. But on the flip side, if it's too thin, it won't heat evenly.
Now, you might be wondering - can copper be too thick? In short, not really. Copper's a precious (and heavy!) metal, so it's rare to find super thick pieces. What you'll want to watch out for is copper that's too thin - anything less than 2mm thick, and it is less for cooking and more for show. It might look pretty, but it won't do the job you need it to. Some companies cut corners here, so make sure you check the thickness before you buy.
What about those hammered copper pots and pans you've seen? Once upon a time, people hammered copper to strengthen it, but these days, those marks can be made by a machine just to make your cookware look cool. So, don't worry about hammer marks - they're more about style than substance.
Cleaning modern pans.
Just as with cooking in copper, how you clean it depends on the lining. Thanks to tin's largely nonstick qualities, very little food is likely to adhere to it, and if it does, it won't do so stubbornly. Filling a tin-lined pan with water, adding a little dish soap, and leaving it to simmer is often enough to free any stuck-on bits, which can then be wiped away easily. Avoid at all costs strong abrasive scrubbers like steel wool and many sponge scrubber pads. Keep in mind that tin naturally darkens with heat exposure, and that's not a problem that needs to be scrubbed away. Stainless steel liners can be scrubbed and scoured just like any stainless steel pot or pan
Let's chat about how to maintain the beauty of your copper pots and pans. Some folks adore the unique patina that copper acquires over the years. If you're one of them, then you're in luck - you won't need to be constantly polishing your cookware. However, there's a difference between a lovely patina and unsightly, burnt-on mess. If food spills over and starts to burn onto the exterior, try to clean it off before it has a chance to stick permanently.
Now, if you're someone who prefers their copper cookware to shine brightly like it's brand new, you'll need to do some occasional polishing. A product named Twinkle comes highly recommended. Alternatively, you can experiment with homemade concoctions using ingredients like lemon juice or vinegar for acidity, and salt as an abrasive. Many copper lovers also vouch for Barkeepers Friend as an effective polish - it works wonders on stainless steel too!
Let's chat about your cookware for a moment. When it comes to cleaning, the solution is simple - a soft wool or scrubber pad is all you need. Don't fret if you notice your tin getting a bit darker with heat, it's totally normal and doesn't require any extra scrubbing. As for your stainless steel, you can scrub and scour without worry, just as you would with any other stainless steel tool.
Moving onto the copper exterior - if you're a fan of the antique look that comes with the natural patina of aged copper, you've hit the jackpot! Many copper enthusiasts find the gradual aging of their copperware absolutely charming. In fact, a surprise polishing spree in their kitchen might land you being prepped for a meal in the same pot you've just polished!
Here's the juicy bit: you don't need to keep your copper cookware polished. It's completely fine to let it age and develop its own distinctive charm. But bear in mind, there's a big difference between a lovely patina and hardened food residue. So, if you spill something, do remember to wipe or wash it off before it gets baked on.
But, if you're the kind of person who loves their copperware to gleam like the sun, you'll need to get polishing regularly. Twinkle, a popular retail product, is a safe bet for doing the job well. If you're more into natural solutions, an acidic paste of lemon juice or vinegar with a pinch of salt will do. And let's not forget Bar Keeper's Friend which is a fantastic solution for polishing both copper and stainless steel. So, choose your method and let's get that cookware shining!
Health benefits of Ayurveda and copper water.
Did you know that Ayurveda, an ancient wellness system, recommends drinking water stored in a copper vessel? It's said to balance all the three doshas (vata, kapha and pitta) in your body, thanks to the positive charge the copper vessel gives to the water. From a science perspective, when water is stored in a copper vessel for more than eight hours, tiny amounts of copper dissolve in the water. This is called the "oligodynamic effect", and it can wipe out a whole bunch of nasty microbes, molds, and fungi because of its toxic effect on living cells.
This energized water is super beneficial for your health. Sure, it might taste a little different, but the cool thing is that it never goes stale and can be stored for ages. Plus, the health benefits of water stored in copper vessels (copper water) are pretty impressive.
Drinking water stored in a copper vessel exhibits a range of impressive health benefits. It can stimulate your brain function, contribute to healthy digestion, and provide a significant boost to your bone strength. Not only that, it regulates the functioning of the thyroid gland and offers relief for arthritis and joint pain. For those conscious about their skin health, copper water can prove to be beneficial. It also aids in regulating body fat and improving fertility. An interesting aspect of copper water is its anti-aging properties, along with its capacity to expedite the wound healing process. Additionally, it can enhance cardiovascular health and act as an anti-carcinogenic.
In the USA, the FDA suggests that our body needs about 12mg of copper a day. This means that you can drink about two to three glasses of copper water to reap its benefits.
Copper water may appear like a new fad but it is an ancient practice. Copper is an essential mineral vital to the human body. It contains antioxidants, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic properties. Copper also eliminates the toxins and creates a physical harmony. There is more to know about Copper, importance of Copper detailed in Ayurveda and the health benefits of Copper.
Copper is a critical ingredient that binds the nervous system and enables the flow of sensory energy. It is also responsible and promotes radiant skin, youthful appearance and strong hair. The anti-inflammatory properties improve the ability of the body to fight inflammation. In addition, it promotes energy efficiently resulting maximised use of proteins and low fat storage.
Our body cannot directly synthesise copper. Dietary source is the only way to get adequate copper. When it comes to choice of foods, the foods rich in copper are limited. The simple, easy and convenient way to include copper to the diet / food is water. Above all, it is an economical solution to a wide range of health problems.