Copper cookware is a luxury item that every professional chef, myself included, favors over all others. Back in my fine dining days, I used copper pans to cook souffle, and I’ve never forgotten the way copper pans gleam and the precise way they cook. This is why this historic cookware material has been used in kitchens for thousands of years.
Apart from its obvious beauty, copper is a sought-after cookware material because it is one of the best and most even conductors of heat among cookware metals. It also cools down very quickly, so it is a very responsive metal and takes some skill to handle.
In this article, I will break down and review seven of the best authentic copper cookware pieces and provide you with a buying guide so you can make an educated buying decision.
Authentic Copper Cookware vs. Copper Colored Nonstick
Before you go off and spend a costly sum on copper cookware, you need to know the differences between the copper products on the market. Classic copper cookware is made from solid copper around 2.5-3mm thick and lined with another, less reactive metal to create a barrier between the copper and the food. Traditionally this lining was tin, and this is the kind of cookware you will likely find in vintage in thrift stores if you’re lucky!
Modern copper cookware combines the heating power of copper with other metals like aluminum and stainless steel, which are less reactive and more durable. Copper-clad cookware features a layer of copper on the outside of the pan, while copper-core cookware uses a layer of copper in the base or across the whole pan (fully clad).
There are also some much cheaper cookware lines on the market that, at first glance, may look like copper cookware – but don’t be fooled; it’s just wearing copper clothes! More often than not, these pans merely have a copper-colored coating on the outside (or inside) that tries to imitate the beauty of the real thing.
What is the Best Real Copper Cookware?
Authentic copper cookware is an investment that’s both a pleasure to cook with and stunningly beautiful to look at. If you want to treat yourself to a copper cookware set, I highly recommend the Viking 3-ply Hammered Copper Clad Cookware. It has every pot and pan you need with a gorgeous hammered finish and a durable quick-heating surface.
The Best Copper Cookware – 2023
Viking Culinary 3-ply Stainless Steel Hammered Copper Clad Cookware– The Best Authentic Copper Clad Cookware
|Material:||Aluminum core, 304 stainless steel interior, copper cladding, stainless steel handle, vented glass lid|
|Items included in the set:||8” and 10” frying pans, 3-qt saucepan with lid, 8-qt stock pot with lid, 5.25-qt saute pan with lid, 2.25-qt saucepan with lid.|
If you prefer a more rustic appearance in your copper cookware, I suggest checking out this Viking Culinary Hammered Copper Clad set. The hammered appearance makes me think of a French country kitchen, and if you keep it well polished, it will become a pivotal part of your kitchen decor as well as your cooking experience.
This set is the perfect example of cookware that makes the most of copper’s power by combining it with another, less reactive metal. In this case, the copper clads the outside of the cookware for precise heat control, while the stainless steel provides a nonreactive cooking surface. Customers say that these pans are just as efficient as they are beautiful.
- Durable 3-ply design
- Oven safe 500 F
- Appealing finish
- Not induction compatible
- Handwash only
Hestan CopperBond 10-piece Cookware Set– The Best Authentic Copper Cookware Set
|Material:||Copper core, 18/10 stainless steel interior, wrap-around stainless steel base, stainless steel handle|
|Items included in the set:||8.5” and 11” skillets, 1.5-qt and 3-qt saucepan with lids, 3.5-qt saute pan with lid, 6-qt stockpot with lid.|
If you want some pristine, luxury copper cookware, check out the Hestan CopperBond 10-piece Cookware set. I must admit that this set has me under its spell because of how beautiful it is! Just seeing all these pans stacked up together, gleaming in my kitchen, is all I would need to motivate me to keep up with their cleaning!
But these pans aren’t just beautiful; they’re super functional too. It’s one of the few copper sets that’s induction compatible. These pans have 5-layer construction with a 100% copper core and layers of stainless steel to make these pans heat quickly and evenly like traditional copper – but with superior performance that can last for decades.
- Very attractive
- Induction compatible
- Oven safe up to 600 F
- Very expensive
- Quite heavy
Lagostina Martellata Hammered Copper Cookware Set– The Best Copper Clad Stainless Steel Cookware
|Material:||Hammered copper cladding, two layers 18/10 stainless steel around an aluminum core. Stainless steel lids, cast stainless steel handles|
|Items included in the set:||8” and 10” skillets, 2-qt and 3-qt saucepan with lid, 3-qt deep saute pan with lid|
This Lagostina Martellata Hammered Copper Cookware Set has the rapid, even heating of copper with all the convenience of stainless steel with its long-lasting 3-ply design. Again, the copper element is in the form of cladding that makes these pans highly sensitive to temperature fluctuations. Customers also report that this design holds up really well over time.
Appearance-wise, this is the perfect balance between the previous two products on our list. The traditional hammering is subtle, but it’s there – it’s not totally smooth, like the Heston set. I like this set a lot, mainly because it looks as expensive and luxurious as you could want copper cookware to be, but it comes at a lower price tag.
- Oven safe up to 600F
- Relatively affordable
- Can’t see through the lids
- Not induction compatible
Anolon Nouvelle Stainless Steel and Copper Cookware– The Best Cookware with a Copper Base
|Material:||Copper layer in the base sandwiched with aluminum and stainless steel. Stainless steel body with flush riveted stainless steel handle|
|Items included in the set:||8” and 10.5” frying pans, 1.25-qt and 2.5-qt saucepans with lids, 6.5-qt stockpot with lid, 3-qt saute pan with lid|
This Anolon Nouvelle Cookware Set is an affordable set, great if you want an element of copper in your cookware but don’t need full copper clad. It’s made predominantly from stainless steel, but there is a layer of copper set into the base. This, along with an additional layer of aluminum, makes this cookware heat very quickly and evenly across the surface. Since not much of the copper is exposed, these pans are very easy to clean; you can just throw them in the dishwasher.
Yet again, I find this set very visually appealing as well as being very efficient to cook with. I really appreciate that this set has a nice tall stock pot because I cook a lot of pasta and soups, and it’s a shape of pot that is often missed in these cookware sets. Each pot has an elegant silhouette with an easy-pour lid built-in that stops any spills.
- Induction compatible
- Dishwasher safe
- Cheaper than clad copper cookware
- Oven safe 500 F
- Can’t use aerosol nonstick sprays
DeBuyer PRIMA MATERA Copper and Stainless Steel Fry Pan– The Best Authentic Copper Fry Pan
|Material:||90% copper (cladding) and 10% stainless steel (interior) with stainless steel handle|
|Size of single pan:||8”|
DeBuyer PRIMA MATERA Copper Frying Pan is a French-made pan with a rich history behind it. DeBuyer has been making copper cookware since 1830, and it shows. This Prima Matera series, including the frying pan, was awarded the Grand Prix Table & Cadeau in 2010. You’re buying world-recognized craftsmanship when you buy this pan.
Although this frying pan is super luxurious and will last you a lifetime, it is a lot of money to spend on one pan. If you already have a fully stocked kitchen and want to treat yourself to a single copper pan, this pan is perfect for you.
But if you love it so much that you want to stock your whole kitchen with copper, you may want to consider buying one of the complete sets listed above for just a few hundred dollars more.
- Induction compatible
- Very durable
- Award-winning quality
- Very expensive
Mauviel M’150 S Polished Copper and Stainless Steel Fry Pan– The Best Authentic French Copper Cookware
|Material:||90% copper (cladding) and 10% 18/10 stainless steel (interior) with stainless steel stay-cool handle, stainless steel interface disk in the base to make induction compatible|
|Size of single pan:||10.2”|
France’s copper cookware is as world-renowned as its chefs. The French perfected the copper pan and first started to use it as professional-level cookware. If you’ve been coveting a genuine, made in France, copper fry pan, then this Mauviel Polished Copper and Stainless Steel Fry Pan is the pan for you!
This pan is a slightly bigger version of the Debuyer pan above but for a more affordable price. Unfortunately, this price drop does show in the quality. Most copper cookware is 2-3mm thick, but this pan is only 1.5mm thick, which means it is less durable. Personally, I’d rather spend a bit more money and get a thicker pan that will last longer.
- Oven safe 500 F
- French made quality
- Handwash only
- Some customers complained that there is no lid
All-Clad 6110 SS Copper Core Fry Pan– The Best Authentic Copper Core Cookware
|Material:||Copper core, two layers of aluminum, and two layers of stainless steel, stainless steel handle|
|Size of single pan:||10”|
As the name suggests, this 5-ply All-Clad Copper Core Fry Pan is fully clad in stainless steel to create an incredibly strong, fast-heating 5-ply design. Copper forms the core of this pan, sandwiched between layers of aluminum and stainless steel on both sides to create a durable and nonreactive cooking surface.
This pan functions similarly to French copper frying pans, but without the maintenance that copper-clad cookware involves. Since the copper is an inner layer of the pan, you don’t have to worry about polishing or other maintenance beyond putting the pan in the dishwasher. But I think this is a costly price to pay for such a low quantity of copper. You may be just as well served by a less expensive Tri-Ply Stainless Steel pan.
- Dishwasher safe
- Induction safe
- Flared drip-free edges
- Expensive for small amount of copper
- Not as beautiful as copper-clad cookware
How to Shop for Authentic Copper Cookware
If you’ve spent any time on the internet searching for copper cookware, then you will know how difficult it is to figure out the difference between copper-colored cookware and the real thing.
Then, once you’ve found a genuine copper pan, you need to know all about it before you spend a costly sum on one of them. So, let’s cover all you need to know about copper cookware and how to shop for it.
Why Choose Copper Cookware?
As you can see from the above list, copper cookware does not come cheap! So why choose copper over other metals? The main draw is that copper is the best conductor of heat among cookware materials. Aluminum, a cheaper alternative and a way better heat conductor than stainless steel, is still 61% less conductive than copper!
Gourmet chefs love copper cookware because it heats up quickly and is sensitive to every small adjustment in temperature. This heat is also very even, so there will be no burning spots across the pan’s surface. Because copper conducts heat so evenly, you can cook at a lower temperature than you could otherwise to achieve the same results. There’s a learning curve to copper, but it truly takes your cooking to a new level.
Now, let’s not ignore the elephant in the room; one of the major selling points of copper cookware is its appearance! I challenge you to look at this Hakart artisan hand-made copper pot without drooling at its beauty! Obviously, it’s very expensive; but some people invest in expensive cars or shoes, and, me? I’d rather invest in some seriously beautiful cookware.
French copper cookware is world-renowned, especially from the regions of Normandy and Villedieu-les-Poêles. In the 1700s, French cuisine started rising in reputation, and chefs needed innovative cookware to lend perfection to delicate souffles, sauces, and pastries. You can tell a traditional French copper pan by the teardrop-shaped handle and the maker’s mark set into the base.
Why copper pans are great (and sometimes poisonous):
Copper cookware varies widely in its copper content. A very thin layer of copper – 0.25mm or less – is considered copper foil, and its only purpose is decorative. Functional copper cookware usually has a copper layer that’s between 1.25 and 3.0mm thick. This layer may be on the outside of the pan (copper clad) or a copper core sandwiched between other layers of metal.
The one place you’ll never find significant copper is on the inside of a pan. Copper cookware is always lined with another non-reactive or less-reactive metal. Stainless steel is the most common metal used in modern cookware, but the very best pans combine copper, stainless steel, and aluminum to create a very versatile pan.
Old-fashioned heavy copper cookware is lined with tin, so if you buy it at a yard sale or thrift store, it may be tin-lined. Although tin is nonreactive and inherently nonstick, it cannot tolerate high heat. After prolonged use, you will eventually have to get your pan retinned to prevent copper from coming through and leaching into your food.
When left uncoated and unpolished, copper will discolor, develop patina across the surface and turn turquoise. Copper pots need to be maintained to retain their bright appearance. But if you leave it to naturally patina, the structure of the pot will not be affected; it’s purely an aesthetic choice.
Durability and Longevity
Copper is a pretty soft metal, and if left raw, it’s highly reactive and easily dented and damaged. Most modern cookware pairs it with stainless steel and aluminum to increase its durability and make the pan easier to cook with.
A huge factor in improving the longevity of your pans is storing them correctly. If you are storing these in a cupboard, I recommend placing a pot protector between each pot to prevent damaging the surface. But, in my opinion, the best way to store this cookware is by hanging it on a rack because the pans are kept safe and they become part of the kitchen decor.
If you have vintage copper cookware, you must take extra precautions. Avoid heating a tin-lined copper pan when empty, as this can cause the tin to bubble.
Cleaning and Ease of Use
Copper cookware is not best suited for beginners or casual home cooks because it is not as easy to work with as other metals. Copper is very reactive and gains and loses heat very quickly. This makes it perfect for cooking delicate proteins like seafood and making sauces and candies. It works best on low heat and is suited to almost all cooktops – but some brands are not induction cooktop compatible.
Since it is such a soft metal, you must be careful when cleaning this cookware.
Some copper-core cookware is dishwasher safe, but most copper-clad cookware needs to be hand-washed. You must use a soft sponge and gentle detergents to avoid damaging the coating.
If any food sticks in the pan, don’t scrub at it. Instead, fill the pan with some soapy water and bring it to a simmer on the stove until the food is easier to shift.
When raw copper cookware comes into contact with acidic foods, it leaches copper into the food, making your food taste metallic. But that’s not the only concern. Prolonged exposure to large amounts of copper in your food can cause health issues like vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, and long-term kidney, stomach, and liver problems.
Modern cookware manufacturers have remedied this issue with high-quality stainless steel pan interiors. But if you buy vintage copper cookware, you may need to remember this when maintaining your pan. If you see the tin thinning in spots where the copper has started to show through, stop using the pan until you have got it retinned.
Now, as you can see from this list, copper cookware doesn’t come cheap! Think of it as the designer handbag of the cookware world. If you find a “copper” pan for a very affordable price, then it’s highly likely it’s actually just a copper-colored aluminum pan. It may have a little copper dust mixed into its ceramic coating, but it’s just for show.
Copper cookware is expensive because the raw metal is far more expensive than aluminum or steel. It is also considered a specialty item rather than cookware that any home cook can easily use, raising the price even further.
Copper is an investment piece in your kitchen, but it will last for generations if you cook with it correctly and maintain it.
Disadvantages of Copper Cookware
Unfortunately, copper cookware does have its downsides, apart from the price. True copper will tarnish over time, so you need to maintain the surface if you want it to have that signature shine. I like to use this copper polish or a similar product on clean cookware. Once you’ve polished it to a shine, rewash the cookware before drying well.
I have discussed how copper cookware’s reactivity can cause issues with acidic foods like tomatoes or vinegar, but this issue has mainly been eliminated in modern cookware through additional coatings.
Where to Buy Copper Cookware
All the cookware sets and pans I recommended are available on Amazon! These days even major and historic copper cookware brands have an Amazon presence. Some of the most esteemed copper cookware brands include:
The thrift store is a great place to find copper cookware, especially in some areas. Most of the cookware you find there will likely be vintage solid copper lined with tin. These pans may look beaten up on the shelf, but with a bit of polish and possibly a re-tin, your cookware should be good as new!
Frequently Asked Questions
What is “Copper Nonstick” Cookware?
In your search for copper cookware, you’ll likely come across ‘copper nonstick’ cookware at a very affordable price point. Unfortunately, these are not real copper but are, instead, aluminum pans with a copper-colored ceramic nonstick finish. Occasionally the pigments added to the nonstick coating are made from real copper dust, but the quantity is not significant enough to make any difference other than an aesthetic one.
What are the best copper cookware brands?
I recommend all the brands I have mentioned in this list, but other brands I recommend checking out are Mafter Bourgeat, Hakart, DeBuyer, and Ruffoni. These brands may be harder to come by than the others because they aren’t always available on Amazon, but they all have their own websites to buy from.
Do professional chefs use copper pans?
Copper cookware is beloved by chefs because they can control its performance so precisely, but copper pans are only found in very high-end, often French, kitchens these days. This is due to the price and the maintenance required for copper cookware. It’s also because cookware can get manhandled in commercial kitchens, and copper does not hold up under rough treatment.
Copper is the Mercedes of cookware. Its show-stopping beauty will make a hammered copper pan the statement piece of any kitchen. Its performance is unparalleled in the hands of an artisan cook. But it’s not a light investment.
If you want the full French copper experience, the DeBuyer PRIMA MATERA Copper Frying Pan is a great modern take on this classic item. But if you’re looking for something more affordable that still harnesses the heating power of copper, try the Anolon Nouvelle Cookware Set.