Everybody who cooks on a constant basis knows the importance of the various qualities of his/her cookware. On today’s market, copper cookware is the decisive winner when it comes to professional cooking, and this is mainly due to the many advantages of copper utensils. Is it the same when we’re talking about food safety, though? Is copper cookware safe? Why is it safe? You are now about to find out as we will dive deep into the world of copper and all its properties as a cooking material.
The Return Of Copper
In recent years, copper has made its comeback into our kitchens, offering that unique antique appeal, catching the kitchen light with its reddish surface. As with everything that becomes trendy, people rushed into buying all sorts of copper cookware, due to the countless articles of listing the overall benefits of copper. This sudden frenzy may have been a bit too hasty in our opinion.
Copper, as a natural element, exist in our bodies in quite the small quantities, and isn’t produced internally, therefore we need it as an external intake or supplement. It is present in quite the variety of foods, such as:
- Sunflower Seeds
- Animal Liver
- Dark chocolate
Still, having an extra source of it could only benefit us (if it’s in the right range). Large doses of copper can be unhealthy for your body. Acute copper poisoning is an easily treated condition, but if you are exposed to smaller amounts of copper (but still above the acceptable limit) for a longer period of time, you will have many of your systems badly affected.
To get it out of the way – yes, cooking highly acidic foods in copper cookware can lead to bad effects on your body, but this is why those copper-only utensils are sold only for decorative purposes. Real copper cookware (meant solely for cooking) always has a thin layer of another metal, such as tin or aluminum, or even stainless steel. That way it still utilizes the heat conductive qualities of copper, but at the same time has a contact surface with your food which is different from copper.
Copper Cookware Coatings And Their Properties
The bad thing is that there are copper pans coated with Teflon coating out there (and all sorts of other Teflon coated pans for that matter). This is extremely dangerous in the long run. Here is why – Teflon is also known as perfluorooctanoic acid (or PFOA for short). This is a proven and documented carcinogen, which regrettably is everywhere around us. Now, new Teflon pans are perfectly fine for you, but as they grow old, they start “leaking” into the food you cook in them.
Here are some of the issues that old Teflon coatings might cause if you use them at very high temperatures:
- Teflon Flu
- Elevated Cholesterol
- Abnormal Thyroid functioning
- Weaker Immune System
- Liver Damage
Now, back to copper pans. If you are determined that you want to cook from copper-only pans keep “leaching” in mind. Leaching happens when different foods absorb copper minerals from a solid-state utensil, such as a frying pan. Some foods which have higher acidity increase copper leaching (for example tomatoes). This is why the industry has come to the conclusion that the safest way to sell copper cookware is to coat them with all sorts of materials. As we mentioned, stainless steel coated copper pans are the safest and most long-lasting ones out there.
Aluminum coated copper cookware is quite good as well, but in the long run, scientists are concerned that aluminum might start seeping into the food you cook. Because of that process, there are copper pots and pans which have anodized aluminum coating which prevents the aluminum from leaching into the food. They are more expensive, of course, but it is definitely worth it if you are planning on using them for a long time.
All in all, as a general rule, you shouldn’t keep using old pans (which are 5+ years old) unless they are coated with stainless steel. This is the only material that is absolutely worry-free proven, and it’s the reason why copper cookware with stainless steel coating is the most expensive out there. If you think about it, in the long run, this might even be the cheapest choice, as you won’t have to change your cookware never, assuming you take good care of it. Speaking of caring, here are a few ways to clean your pans in order to prevent bad aging:
- Using Salt and Lime Juice
- Using Baking Soda
- Using Vinegar
- Simply Using Water
We’ve gone further into details for each of these methods on this article.
Now, this is perfectly fine according to most scientists, but all of them agree that you shouldn’t drink beverages which have a ph level below 6.0 from copper-made vessels. Those include anything which has vinegar, wine, or fruit juice in it.
If you want a quality copper cookware set that will pose no danger to you and your family and will last you ages, check out our top choices here.
Cooking in copper cookware is safe but there are quite a lot of factors you have to take into consideration. Like the fact that cookware which is made entirely of copper is mainly manufactured for decorative purposes. Furthermore, if you want to use such a set (or pure copper vessels for drinking) you have to take things like mineral leaching into account. All in all, the safest copper utensils are the ones which are coated with a material that is proven to cause no harm to our bodies both in the short and long run. Stainless steel is one of those materials. Aluminum is also relatively safe, but can cause issues if improperly used for years. You should definitely avoid using teflon-coated copper pots and pans for more than a few years, though, as we described the negative sides of using Teflon over time.