Copper Pots vs Stainless Steel: Which Tools are Best for Your Kitchen?

What are the differences between copper pots and stainless steel pots? Do those differences matter when cooking on heavy metals? And how do those differences affect the meal you are preparing for your family?

Today, we’ll see how the two materials differ and how you can choose between the two to bring out the best in your cooking.

Copper Pots vs Stainless Steel

Whether you are a veteran in the kitchen or just a newbie, knowing the right cooking materials is a useful basic knowledge. You can’t chop veggies using butter knife, can you? But alas, not all the kitchen tools are as obvious in usage as butter knives and whisks.

Some tools are more nuanced than others. Their material, for example, is a huge consideration. In terms of pots, there are a lot of materials available: stainless steel, copper, carbon steel, or anodized steel to name a few.

In this article, we will only examine the two most common. You’ve guessed it, we’re looking at copper pots and stainless steel (did the title spoil that one?).

Copper Cookware

Copper pots transcend function. It has a rich history. Copper was one of the first metals handled as cookware evolved. It stood the test of time. It was widely used in the Colonial America. And today, it is a preferred material for French cuisine.

Pro: Copper Conducts Heat Well

One of the biggest reasons why cooking with metals is appealing is that metal conducts heat well. Copper heats quickly and evenly. It is efficient. And it prevents spots from getting hotter than the rest of the pot. It prevents food from sticking.

Pro: Copper is Versatile

Copper cookware can be used on gas, electric, or halogen stovetops. And it is suitable for oven use. With a copper pot, you can do a lot.

Con: Heat Retention

Just as copper heats up quickly, it loses that heat equally fast. This limits its cooking potential. It is better suited to cooking with savory sauces or exquisite proteins such as fish.

Con: Acidic Foods React Negatively to Copper

Another great disadvantage when cooking with a copper pot is you can’t cook acidic foods. Acidic foods react to copper and the copper mixes into the food. This can lead to poisoning.

This problem is solved by coating the copper pot with stainless steel, as some manufacturers do. But this solution cancels out copper’s nonstick properties. If this is how you’re copper pot’s made, you have to prep it with oil, cooking spray, or fat before cooking to prevent food from sticking.

Choosing Copper Cookware

To make the most out of copper cookware, take into consideration manufacturing style and thickness. 

As was already mentioned above, copper heats up quickly. If it isn’t thick enough, it will warp beyond repair. The optimal thickness for both heat retention and durability is 1.5 to 2.5 millimeters thick. But even if your copper pot falls within this range, be careful when putting it on a cooking surface. Too hot a surface will damage your pot.

Manufacturing-wise, don’t choose a copper pot (or any copper cookware) with a rolled edge. If the edges can be rolled, it is indicative of a thin made. It may not hold up to as much heat as thicker designs. A rolled-edged copper pot has more use as a kitchen decor than as cookware.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is the go-to material for a lot of cooks – whether home or professional. It is far more versatile than copper.

Pro: Stainless Steel Conducts and Retains Heat Well

As a metal, stainless steel conducts heat well. But its advantage over copper is that it also retains the heat. It has better temperature control and is also suitable for use on any heating surface. Stainless steel’s heat conductivity and retention are mostly due to its construction. More on this later.

Pro: Stainless Steel is Nonreactive

Unlike copper pots, stainless steel does not react negatively to acidic foods. You can cook pretty much anything in a stainless steel pot without worry.

Pro: Stainless Steel More Versatile than Copper

Due to its heat retention and nonreactive capabilities, stainless steel is way more versatile than copper. You can use it for basically any food and any recipe.

Con: Stainless Steel is Sticky

Stainless steel metal is slightly porous. When heated, the pores contract. This is there is a possibility of food sticking to the pot or pan. The food gets pinched by the contracting pores on the surface of the metal.

There are many ways to combat this, though. One common method is coating the pan with fat, oil, or cooking spray to make sure the pan is thoroughly heated before putting food on its surface. This does not prevent all kinds of food from sticking, though.

Larger pieces of food change the temperature of the pan. So if sticks, let it cook for a little longer. This may release the food naturally from the pan. To better help the food unstick, use a thin, flexible spatula.

Of course, there are stainless steel pots and pans seasoned or coated to avoid food sticking. Teflon and ceramic are famous stainless steel coatings for cookware.

Stainless steel, in itself, does not spread heat evenly well. This is why stainless steel cookware is made are manufactured in three-ply, five-ply, or sometimes even seven-ply designs. The pot is generally made of stainless steel covering both sides of an aluminum or copper core. The core helps the pot better conduct heat.

Which is Better: Copper Pots vs Stainless Steel?

If you are all about function, stainless steel pots easily trump copper pots. It can do more in the kitchen, more durable, and is more affordable.

However, if you want a little something extra in the way your kitchen looks, a chic copper pot is a great option, too.

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