These beautiful, heat-responsive, pricey pans have a long history in fine cooking, but do they have a place in home kitchens today?
Published Mar. 16, 2022.
We fully recommend most of the pans we tested. Which you choose depends on how you want to use it. For excellent heat transfer and remarkably even cooking, without any special maintenance, choose a multilayer pan with the copper mostly hidden away at the core. In this style, we love the All Clad Copper Core 5-ply Bonded Cookware, Fry Pan, 12 inch. If you want to see plenty of copper on your skillet, don’t mind occasional polishing to maintain its luster, and can handle a heavier pan, go for the Mauviel M'Heritage M'200Ci Round Frying Pan, 11.9 In. Made of copper with a thin lining of stainless steel, it combines steel’s nonreactive, durable construction with copper’s responsiveness, so it cooked food evenly and adjusted quickly when we changed heat settings on the stove. Its generous cooking surface fit plenty of food without crowding, and its low, flaring sides helped evaporate steam, so food browned deeply. It’s also a beautiful piece of cookware.
Copper cookware has always been associated with fine cooking, from classic French restaurants to Julia Child, who famously displayed rows of the gleaming golden pans on her kitchen walls. Copper cookware has been used for thousands of years; copper pots have been excavated from Roman ruins, and copper plays a big part in American history. Today, with prices in the hundreds of dollars for a single skillet, what besides nostalgia and aesthetics does a copper skillet offer home cooks? We bought a variety of copper skillets and brought them into the test kitchen to find out. We also compared their performance with our favorite fully clad stainless-steel skillet. Here are some things to know about copper skillets.
Speed: Copper is the fastest cookware material for heat transfer, second only to silver. It’s more than 1.5 times as fast as aluminum and about 25 times faster than stainless steel. When placed on a burner, a copper skillet heats up very quickly, and when the flame is turned down, it cools fast, too. This responsiveness to the stove’s heat settings gives the cook excellent control and is what makes copper cookware a pleasure to use.
Beauty: Copper’s rich color speaks for itself.
Weight: Copper is dense, which makes it heavy. The copper skillets in our lineup averaged nearly twice the weight of our winning stainless-steel skillet. A closer comparison might be cast-iron pans.
Needs Polishing: Copper starts to look splotchy the minute you use it, and it will tarnish and darken over time (see “How can I polish tarnished copper pans?”).
Not Dishwasher-Safe: Harsh chemicals in dishwashing detergent will tarnish and wear away the copper.&n...
The mission of America’s Test Kitchen Reviews is to find the best equipment and ingredients for the home cook through rigorous, hands-on testing. We stand behind our winners so much that we even put our seal of approval on them.
Lisa is an executive editor for ATK Reviews, cohost of Gear Heads on YouTube, and gadget expert on TV's America's Test Kitchen.