Why is copper cookware so expensive

Buying a copper pan: Our assessment

Copper pans are traditionally known from French cuisine and are comparatively expensive. But are they really superior to the more popular stainless steel pans or iron pans?

the essentials in brief

  • Copper pans are the best pans for even heat distribution.
  • Copper pans react quickly to temperature changes: They only make sense on induction and gas stoves, where rapid temperature changes are also possible. For all other types of stoves, more solid pans that store heat well are better suited (e.g. cast iron pans).
  • Copper reacts with food, which is why copper pans are lined with stainless steel on the inside.
  • We recommend real copper pans over multi-layer pans in order to benefit from the better heat distribution.

Table of Contents

Copper pans that we recommend

We differentiate between real Copper pans and multilayer copper pans (an explanation can be found here):

Real copper pans

Copper pans from France are particularly popular. However, there are also manufacturers from Italy, Belgium and Germany who are among the best brands of copper pans. Here are the pans we recommend:

1st place:De Buyer Prima Matera * / De Buyer Inocuivre *: The specialty of the Prima Matera is that it is suitable for the induction cooker. With a wall thickness of 2 mm (1.8 mm copper, 0.2 mm stainless steel lining), it offers very good heat distribution and reaction to temperature changes. The difference to cookware from the Inocuivre series * is that it is not suitable for induction. If you are looking for the best copper pan for an induction cooker, you can turn to De Buyer Prima Matera *.

Place 2:Mauviel M’Heritage M250c (250C / Cuprinox) *: If you are looking for a real French copper pan, you can't avoid Mauviel *. The family business has existed since 1830 and is known worldwide for copper cookware. According to our information, the M250c * model from the traditional manufacturer is the thickest copper pan that is commercially available. The pan trumps with a thickness of 2.5 mm (2.3 mm copper and 0.2 mm stainless steel lining) and offers excellent heat distribution. It is only recommended for the gas stove, as it is not suitable for induction. The iron handle should be burned in so that it does not rust. Alternatively, the pan is also available with a bronze handle (M250b) *. The price performance ratio is very good; in our opinion the best copper pan for the gas stove.

Place 3:Kupfermanufaktur Weyersberg Stielpfanne *: The production is done by hand in Germany (Made in Germany), the wall thickness is 2 mm. The pan is therefore comparable to the De Buyer Prima Matera, however Not suitable for induction cookers. The manufacturer also offers pans lined with ceramic, but we recommend robust and durable stainless steel. In terms of price, the pan is comparable to the De Buyer Prima Matera *.

Other popular manufacturers are

Multilayer Copper Pans: These models are solid

1st place:All-Clad Copper Core *: A copper pan, but with convenience. What is meant by this: Externally, the pan is made of stainless steel both inside and outside and is suitable for induction and theoretically suitable for the dishwasher. The copper layer of the pan is only 0.91 mm thick1, but coated with aluminum, which increases the conductivity. According to a review2 the heat distribution is very good. The All-Clad brand is very popular among professional chefs. The only disadvantage of the pan is the price *.

Place 2:Schulte-Ufer Profi-Line i *: Actually a stainless steel pan, but we are happy to recommend it. A 1.7 mm thick copper disc is built into the bottom. Disadvantage: The copper layer does not work as with real Copper pans or the All-Clad Copper Core right up to the edges. However, we have been using the pan for years and we are very satisfied with the thermal conductivity. In terms of price, the pan is also well below the All-Clad * level.

Place 3:Rösle Chalet *: Star chef Tony Hohlfeld prefers to fry at home with this pan. Like the All-Clad Copper Core, this pan is made of stainless steel, aluminum and copper. However, the pan has an aluminum capsule base and can therefore not be called a real copper pan. It is suitable for all types of stoves and is significantly cheaper * than the All-Clad pan.

4th place:Spring Culinox *: The pan from the Swiss manufacturer Spring is a good example of a pan in which the copper is mainly used for visual reasons (we also include the Schulte-Ufer De Luxe i *). The layer is only applied on the outside and is only 0.5 mm thick. These pans have the care disadvantage of copper, but hardly offer any advantages in terms of heat distribution because the copper layer is so thin.

Advantages and disadvantages of copper pans

The table summarizes the advantages and disadvantages of copper pans:

no other pan has such a short reaction time to temperature changesPure copper reacts with food and is toxic in high doses, which is why copper pans are usually lined with stainless steel, tin or ceramic on the inside
best heat distribution: copper has the highest thermal conductivity after silver, so it also conducts better than aluminum (silver is softer and extremely expensive)Copper is not magnetic and therefore (without additional adjustment) not suitable for induction cookers
looks good (subjective)Copper is soft and can scratch; not as resistant as z. B. stainless steel
Copper oxidizes and needs to be polished regularly to maintain the color
relatively difficult

For whom copper pans are worthwhile

The most important argument in favor of a copper pan: the fast response time to temperature changes.

The even heat distribution of a copper pan can theoretically also be achieved with other pans by making them thicker (see section: Copper is really that good compared to aluminum).

A 2 mm thick layer of aluminum dissipates heat just as well as a 1 mm thick layer of copper. However, such an aluminum pan would lose against the copper pan if it did is about the reaction time to temperature changes. You will learn more about this in the next sections.

Buy a copper pan if ...

... you do not shy away from the maintenance effort and want to broaden your (pan) horizons. We recommend copper pans ambitious chefswho have already gained experience with different types of pans and want to cook with precision. The purchase is only recommended if you own a gas stove. Copper pans are also possible with an induction cooker, but you are more limited when it comes to choosing which pan to use.

The De Buyer Prima Matera * is z. B. a good copper pan, which is also suitable for induction cookers, as a ferromagnetic base is installed.

For many enthusiasts, optics also play a role: many people associate copper cookware with top French cuisine; Copper has always been considered beautiful and of high quality. Copper pans are also perfect as serving pans.

Thermal diffusivity of copper

Copper conducts and distributes heat very evenly, which is why it is popular in making pans. After silver, copper is the material with the highest thermal conductivity. We explain what thermal diffusivity and thermal conductivity mean in another article: Pan materials.

In addition, copper is affordable (approx. € 5 / kg), what silver is (approx. € 458 / kg3) does not exactly apply. But there is a third contender who is very good at leading: aluminum or aluminum alloys. The latter conduct a little less than pure aluminum, but are more robust and less susceptible to corrosion.4

This is why alloys and not pure aluminum are used in the manufacture of the pans. Here you can see the thermal diffusivity of the metals in comparison:

materialThermal diffusivity
silver173 * 10 ^ -6 m² / s
copper115 * 10 ^ -6 m² / s
pure aluminum90 * 10 ^ -6 m² / s
Aluminum alloys60 - 70 * 10 ^ -6 m² / s
Forged iron16 * 10 ^ -6 m² / s
cast iron15 * 10 ^ -6 m² / s
Carbon steel (depending on the carbon content)10-14 * 10 ^ -6 m² / s
Stainless steel 18/84 * 10 ^ -6 m² / s

So silver conducts better than copper, but it is so expensive that it cannot be used as a basic material for a pan.

short excursus: copper pan with a silver layer from Soy Türkiye

There are actually copper pans with a wafer-thin lining (0.015mm) made of silver.

However, silver is very soft: a metal spatula must never be used in such a pan, otherwise the silver layer could be removed (similar to Teflon pans). The adhesive effect of silver is comparable to that of stainless steel; Food sticks to it relatively strongly (if used incorrectly).

Copper, on the other hand, has better thermal conductivity than aluminum and is not as expensive as silver. The perfect material for pans? In theory: Yes. Continue reading.

What matters: material thickness of the copper

Copper conducts heat very well and stores it just as well as cast iron or steel. Aluminum, on the other hand, distributes heat well, but is not a good heat store. More on this in the section on heat storage capacity of copper.

The thermal conductivity is not only dependent on the material, but very much on the thickness of the material used. A very thin layer of copper does not distribute heat as well as a much thicker layer of aluminum5.

So if you compare the thermal diffusivity of

  • pure copper (Example: C10100, 99.99% purity, thermal diffusivity of 115 * 10 ^ -6 m² / s) and
  • Aluminum alloys (Example: alloy 3003/3004, thermal conductivity of approx. 60 - 70 * 10 ^ -6 m² / s6)

which are used in the manufacture of pans, one comes to a value of 52 – 60 %7.

That is really how good copper is compared to aluminum

For the sake of simplicity, let's go from 50 % off, which means:

A copper layer of 1 mm distributes heat just as well as a layer of aluminum 2 mm.

The true factor depends on other variables (exactly which alloy is used or whether a ferromagnetic base or other layers have been added), but this value provides a good guide.

So a copper pan only makes sense if the copper layer is correspondingly thick. Otherwise, a thicker, usually cheaper aluminum pan can be used to achieve the same result.

Confirmed in the practical test

In a test, the popular De Buyer Prima Matera * copper pan with a copper layer of 1.8 mm was compared with the premium stainless steel Demeyere Proline * pan with an aluminum layer of 3.7 mm (both on a gas stove and on electric / induction)8.

The result:Both pans have almost the same heat distribution.

How thick is fat enough? A copper pan should have at least this wall thickness

The greater the wall thickness of the copper layer, the faster and more evenly the heat is distributed. It also makes the pan more robust and does not warp so quickly.

It is difficult to make a general statement because the minimum wall thickness also depends on the pan size and the hob. With a 28 cm pan, the temperature has to be distributed further outwards than with a smaller pan, i.e. a thicker copper layer makes even more sense here.

We believe that the wall thickness of a good copper panat least 2 mm should be 2.5 mm is better.

Copper pans usually have a lining made of stainless steel with a thickness of 0.2 mm, which must be deducted from the wall thickness specified by the manufacturer. Example: The De Buyer Prima Matera has a wall thickness of 2 mm, i.e. 1.8 mm copper and 0.2 mm stainless steel inside.

Our recommendation is based on the total thickness of the pan as stated by the manufacturer.

If you accept the disadvantages (more complex maintenance, no induction, high price) of a copper pan, then the copper layer should be as thick as possible in order to gain more performance compared to a stainless steel pan with an aluminum core.

Heat capacity and heat distribution in copper pans

"Copper pans react quickly to temperature changes", you have probably heard this statement before.

It's true: No pan heats up and cools down as quickly as a copper pan.

How so?

It is interesting that copper has a specific heat capacity per unit similar to that of steel or cast iron9. This means that a copper pan would store heat just as well as e.g. B. a cast iron pan if both were made of the same amount of material.

However, copper pans are made much thinner than cast iron pans.

Overall, a common copper pan effectively has a lower specific heat capacity than a cast iron pan and therefore stores less heat, which in turn means that it reacts more quickly to changes in temperature.

In practice this means: The great advantage of a copper pan is that it heats up and cools down quickly. If you just wanted to achieve good heat distribution, you could also buy a thicker aluminum pan.

"Real" copper pans and multilayer copper pans

At real Copper pans are the basic material copper and they are only lined with a thin layer of other material on the inside (why? You will find out in the next section: Why are copper pans coated or lined?). These pans include, for. B. the De Buyer Prima Matera *, which, according to the manufacturer, uses 90% copper and only 10% stainless steel.

Stainless steel pans with copper bottom: Schulte-Ufer Profi-Line i

The much cheaper alternative are pans such as B. the Profi-Line i from Schulte-Ufer, which we like to recommend as a stainless steel pan. There is a 1.7 mm thick circular copper plate installed in the floor, which is used for thermal conductivity and heat distribution. However, here the copper is only attached to the bottom of the pan and does not extend into the pan rims. Not comparable to one real Copper pan.

Copper and aluminum combined: All-Clad Copper Core

Quite close to that real The copper pan is the All-Clad Copper Core *. The multilayer copper pan consists of 5 layers: stainless steel inside and outside, inside a copper core, which is surrounded by aluminum inside and outside. The copper layer extends up to the edge of the pan, but is only 0.91 mm thick10 and therefore significantly thinner than with real Copper pans. The pan offers convenience for this: it works on induction stoves and can be put in the dishwasher, even if this is not recommended.

Which copper pan you choose depends on various factors and is ultimately a question of taste.

Why are copper pans coated or lined?

Copper can react with some foods, especially acids.11 For this reason, copper cookware is actually always covered with a thin layer of another, non-reactive material.

There are four materials that are commonly used: silver, tin, ceramic, or stainless steel.

  • silver is not widely used, but should be mentioned for the sake of completeness. Silver is soft and you have to be careful with it, which is why we do not recommend such pans.
  • tin has a very low melting point of only 232 ° C and wears off over time, i.e. the layer has to be reapplied (costly) every year. We do not recommend such pans because of the restrictions and the follow-up costs.
  • Ceramics we do not recommend it for other pans either. Ceramic coatings lose their non-stick effect after too short a time.
  • stainless steel is easy to care for, robust and durable. The only lining for copper pans that we recommend.

Stove types: copper pan on induction?

Copper pans develop their full potential on gas stoves. There the temperature can be adjusted very quickly and the pan reacts accordingly. This makes it possible to cook to the point.

Copper is not magnetic and therefore generally not suitable for induction. The French manufacturer De Buyer has managed to apply a thin, ferromagnetic layer to the bottom of the Prima Matera * cookware. This makes the copper pans, pots and saucers of this product line suitable for induction cookers. The copper series without induction properties is called Inocuivre *.

Copper pans: care & cleaning

Did you know that the Statue of Liberty in New York City wasn't always green?12 The outside consists of a 2.38 mm thick layer of copper that has discolored over time.

Copper oxidizes, that is, it reacts with oxygen. At high temperatures, such as those common for frying, this happens even faster than at room temperature.13 The color fades and a green or brown patina forms, often with black spots.

Thanks to high-quality polishing pastes such. B. Mauviel Copperbrill * the patina is quickly removed and the copper pan shines again. However, cleaning has to be done repeatedly and is therefore tedious. Tip: If you save yourself the polishing paste and want to try a home remedy, you can use your copper pan (with slight discolouration) Rub with a little ketchup. This will restore the copper to its original color.

Copper is also relatively soft and can easily deform or scratch.

The dishwasher is taboo, except for pans with stainless steel on the outside and copper core on the inside. This includes B. the All-Clad Copper Core *.

Manufacture of copper pans

Copper pans are usually stamped out of a copper sheet in a deep-drawing process, so processing takes place in the cold state.

You can get a closer look at the manufacturing process in this video (it doesn't get exciting until minute 1:00), which shows the manufacture of De Buyer Prima Matera pans *:

[iframe id = “https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/KpX20L6QJ24 ″]

Why copper pans are so expensive

It was not entirely clear to us why copper pans are so expensive compared to other types of pans.

Copper is significantly more expensive - by 286% - than z. B. Aluminum (5-year average: 1.33 € / kg for aluminum vs. 5.14 € / kg for copper14), but not exorbitantly expensive like silver (458 € / kg).

We have at the Weyersberg copper factory and De Buyer asked.

It quickly became clear that the high price is mainly due to the fact that copper pans are not mass-produced. The pans the Weyersberg copper factory are produced by hand in Germany, which causes higher costs. De Buyer manufactures the pans in France.

We were also informed that the purchase price of the raw material from wholesalers was slightly higher than the trading price on the stock exchange.

Have you already had experience with copper pans or do you have any questions? Now share your thoughts with us and the other readers in the comments.

Frequently asked questions about copper pans

Which is the best copper pan?

In first place of our copper pan recommendations is the De Buyer Prima Matera, which is also suitable for induction.

Cleaning copper pans: how to do it right?

Since copper oxidizes and becomes discolored, it should be cleaned regularly with a special cleaning agent.

Which manufacturers are the best when it comes to copper pans?

The world's best manufacturers include De Buyer, Mauviel, Falk Culinair, Matfer Bourgeat, Ruffoni and the copper factory Weyersberg.

  1. See https://www.chowhound.com/post/copper-cookware-clad-copper-core-cookware-915257?page=2
  2. https://www.centurylife.org/in-depth-product-review-all-clad-copper-core-12-inch-skillet-frying-pan/
  3. both prices are the commodity prices on a five-year average. Source: https://www.boerse.de/rohstoffe/Aluminium/XC0009677839 - Note: Manufacturers usually pay higher prices than the trading price on the stock exchange, since they purchase the raw materials from wholesalers
  4. John E. Hatch. Aluminum: Properties and Physical Metallurgy, ASM International: 08/01/1984, p. 205. In general, pure metals conduct better than alloys. The alloy materials influence the conductivity in a similar way to stones in a river, but there are of course exceptions.
  5. Myhrvold, N. and Young, C. and Bilet, M. and Smith, R.M. and Cooking Lab (2011): Modernist Cuisine: Techniques and equipment - Volume 2, pp. 37ff
  6. Thermal Properties of Metals: https://www.centurylife.org/thermal-properties-of-metals/
  7. ibid: Thermal Properties of Metals: https://www.centurylife.org/thermal-properties-of-metals/
  8. https://www.centurylife.org/cookware-even-heating-rankings-induction-and-electric/
  9. See https://pfannenhelden.de/pfannen-material/#Waermekapazitaet
  10. See https://www.chowhound.com/post/copper-cookware-clad-copper-core-cookware-915257?page=2
  11. Christoph Drösser, Are copper pots dangerous? (2012): https://www.zeit.de/2012/18/Stimmts-Kupfertoepfe
  12. A sight that welcomed millions of people to New York in the 1880s… the shiny COPPER Statue of Liberty as it first appeared (2011): http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2037582/The-copper- Statue-Liberty-appeared-New-York-1880s.html
  13. See https://www.centurylife.org/copper-cuivre/
  14. https://www.boerse.de/rohstoffe/Aluminium/XC0009677839