Copper cookware is a classic associated with high-end French cuisine and fine dining experiences in some of the world’s best restaurants. You can capture some of this luxury in your own home with a copper skillet, cookware that’s designed to last a lifetime. However, unlike stainless steel or anodized aluminum, copper isn’t the kind of material you can just start cooking with and hope for the best.
This is a reactive metal that’s also softer and more prone to scratching than what you might be used to working with. If you want to start cooking with the best tools, take some time to learn more about copper skillet cookware, including our picks for the best new copper pans available to your today.
All About Copper Cookware
Traditional copper cookware is made from pure copper and may be lined with tin or have a cast iron handle but, for the most part, it’s made solely from the orangey-gold metal that looks so beautiful hanging from a pot rack. Solid copper pots and pans are delicate, requiring regular polishing and careful cleaning to avoid scratching, and they’re also considered “reactive,” which means that acidic foods cooked in copper take on a metallic flavor that can ruin your food. For example, if you were to make a batch of fresh spaghetti sauce using tomatoes from your garden, you wouldn’t want to cook it in an unlined copper pot. Otherwise, your sauce would taste like tomatoes with a heavy note of pennies. Not very tasty!
The good thing about new copper cookware is that most people don’t have much patience for reactive cookware anymore so most copper skillets, pots, and fry pans tend to be lined with other materials such as ceramic, stainless steel, or anodized aluminum. This is good, not only because copper can make your food bad, but also because copper is one of those metals that leach into the food it comes into contact with. A little bit of copper every now and then won’t hurt you, but you could end up with copper toxicity if you ate a lot of food cooked in a copper pot on a regular basis.
This may make copper sound like a useless cooking material, but it really isn’t. In fact, copper is an excellent choice for cooking because it is one of the most conductive metals we know of, which means it distributes heat quickly and evenly across the entire cookware surface. That’s why copper is such a common material used in electrical circuits and wires. So, in spite of its delicacy and its potential for reactivity, copper is a fantastic cooking material in very practical ways.
Selecting Your Copper Cookware
With all that in mind, you may feel ready to purchase some copper cookware, and it is a better choice than ever before thanks to the abundance of options at various price points. Heritage brands, including the two we cover below in the reviews, are still your best bet for heirloom-quality copper cookware. But not everyone has that kind of cash to spend on a frying pan.
If you choose to go with a budget brand, be on the lookout for dubious claims. Infomercial brands have recently decided to make copper their gimmick of the moment and there are a lot of affordably priced “copper” cookware pieces out there that don’t have much actual copper to speak of and use low-quality ingredients to produce low-quality results.
Copper isn’t a cheap material and it isn’t easy to work with. That’s why so many of the best options in this category are so expensive. Any brand purporting to offer a piece of brand-new copper cookware for less than $50 MSRP is probably not being completely forthcoming. To really get the most out of copper cookware, you’re going to have to spend a little to get a little.
Best Copper Skillet Reviews
Mauviel is one of those culinary brands that serious foodies dream of adding to their kitchen someday and the price tag reflects its exalted status. This brand has earned its prestige in the kitchen, though, especially when it comes to copper cookware. Made of 90% copper with a thin stainless steel lining and stainless steel hardware for the lid and pan handles, this saute pan really makes use of its materials to produce a durable, heirloom-quality skillet that’s beautiful and certain to perform with aplomb.
This oven-safe frying pan features a copper exterior, stainless steel interior, and cast iron handle in a classic shape that gives you everything you need and nothing you don’t. Matfer Bourgeat is a French brand that still makes all of its products in European factories staffed by skilled master craftsmen. With more than 200 years under its belt, this isn’t some upstart brand looking to make a buck. The utilitarian design on this copper frying pan belies its usefulness and quality, but it’s a great reminder that there’s no need to gild the lily when you’ve got something good enough to stand on its own.
Analon Nouvelle Copper 10 Covered French Skillet
No, this pan isn’t orange in color and it doesn’t feature much copper at all—except where it arguably counts the most, right at the base. While a lot of other budgets brands are getting tricky with their use of copper (or, more frequently, “copper”), integrating just a little bit of it in a flashy way or using the word “copper” to describe a color rather than an actual metal, Analon is keeping it real with this budget-friendly option, which provides the heat-distributing power of copper in a thick band around its base.
Other material, including hard-anodized aluminum and a nonstick coating that’s safe to 500 degrees, making this pan a versatile choice that looks sleek with its copper foot. This skillet comes with a glass lid, too, adding yet more utility to its already excellent design.