Ageless Copper

Predictably, we have serious misgivings about cooking on plastics and stainless steel. But we respect stainless steel. For instance, in bike parts and sailing tackle, if it’s not aluminum alloy or carbon fiber, stainless is what you want pretty much everywhere.

For cooking, however, there are better, more efficient, more culinary, less industrialized choices.

 

In the history of cookery, copper and tin have been at the forefront of every major step forward, not only during the Copper Age but like when the great Auguste Escoffier discovered that tin linings for canned goods would prevent the French army from dropping in its boots from botulism and lead poisoning. He picked up that fact from a study of how his copper pots and pans were made. That little advance netted him the Legion d’ Honneur, a place in history as the father of modern French technique (and as arguably the world’s first celebrity chef), and may have something to do with the tradition of copper being known as the chef’s “metal of honor”.

The first metal age was the Copper Age, and some of the first metal tools were for cooking. The first metal alloys were of copper and tin, leading to the Bronze Age. Copper and tin have literally accompanied mankind on our cultural path, harmonizing each step of the way with human needs and with the environment. This is no less true today than it was 7500 years ago.

We’re suckers for a good story.

Separation anxiety? With copper and tin you can fuhgeddaboudit.

Tin, like copper, is many times more thermally efficient than stainless steel. That makes it a much better choice for lining copper pots and pans. Leaving an empty stainless-lined copper pot on heat will delaminate the lining (owing to vastly different expansion coefficients). It takes a long time, frankly a lot longer than it would take to damage a tin lining, but once your stainless lining delaminates, well, that pot, along with its copper, is ruined.

Likewise, the expansion coefficients of iron and the enamels that are often used to coat it are vastly different. Over time and repeated heating and cooling enamel will delaminate from iron, regardless of whether the pot was ever heated empty or not. Once that happens, that pot is a goner.

(Pro-tip: It’s never a good idea to heat any lined pot empty. Naked iron and carbon steel are about the only cooking surfaces that can be safely preheated empty without risking your investment.)

The one cookware lining that can be renewed to 100% good-as-new is tin over copper. Whether damaged or aged, copper cookware lined with tin can be restored time and again, making for a pot that will literally last centuries.

Your great grandchildren will thank you.