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Thread: Copper Cookware Help

  1. #1
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    Copper Cookware Help

    I was over at a large antique show this past weekend, and there was a vendor that had a bunch of copper cookware for sale. Mainly deep sauce pans and some very large rustic looking stock pots and kettles. There was a couple pieces that caught my eye, but I was unsure about purchasing because I am unfamiliar with copper wares. I passed the vendor and kept going, but got to thinking about how copper is seen as a premium product. I had read tidbits on here about copper and really just got curious as to what all the hype was about.

    After looking at all the booths and not finding anything that I had to have, I got to thinking about the copper pans again, so I went back to look closer. There was one sauté pan that caught my eye, and a couple deep sauce pans as well. The vendor was negotiating with me and dropped the prices on both the pans I was looking at. Finally she offered a package deal with an additional price cut, so I figured I would give it a shot. They were not cheap by any means, but I thought I was at least getting a fair price based on all the talk of how expensive copper pans are. I don't really know what vintage copper is worth, so I was just trying to use my judgment (sometimes good, sometimes not so much)

    So now I am the owner of two pieces of copper cookware and am in need of some advise and assistance. I really took a not-so-educated shot in the dark on these two pieces and am hoping some of you can either reassure me of a job well done, or provide some consolation about a rookie mistake. I'm looking for information on these two pieces, if they are good quality, possible age (nearest decade or anything to give me an idea) and an estimated value just so I know what I have here.

    Below are photos of the two pans I took home with me. Hopefully there are enough pics to give an idea of what I got. If not I'm always happy to take more if it will help.

    Here are some photos of the sauté pan. It is about 11" in diameter with a long brass handle, 4 rivets, relatively thin walled, tin lining, and a Germany stamp. Looks newer, and I have dated the stamp up to the 1990's I believe, but I don't know when they started this stamp. It might be newer, but I would love to know how much it might be worth.
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    Here is the sauce pan. No dimensions yet as I haven't gotten around to it. Looks much older than the other. Good wall thickness, cast iron handle, tin lined, almost looks handmade, but I wouldn't know. This one will need to be retinned, so I hope I didn't overpay because I'll be putting an additional $80 or more into it for retinning. Really would like an aprox age and value on this one.
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    Those are the photos. I have done some reading since buying these about cooking with copper and the maintenance of tin lined copper as well. I'm not worried about maintenance, but I do have a couple of basic questions about use.

    1. Can I use these on an electric coil stove? I do not have gas (but will some day), and need to know if the copper will work on coils, or if they will get damaged.
    2. Do I need to make any special arrangements for cooking with the tin lining? To date, I use non-stick and a couple cast iron pans and that's all. So I am in need of cooking tips for using tin lined copper.

    Thank you in advance for any comments or advice. Also links to good information on using copper pans is most appreciated. I will be binge reading on copper pans for the next week to make sure I can care for these two pieces for years to come.

  2. #2
    Senior Member EdipisReks's Avatar
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    That thin frypan looks like a table service piece, not cookware. Tinned copper will work fine on coils, but always make sure there is something in the pan when it's on heat.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Matus's Avatar
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    Well - first of all it seems that all of these are lined with tin. That is also the most common coating on older pans (and made until today together with stainless and more rarely silver). What may though be necessary is the re-tinning of these pans, but I do not have enough experience to help you whether this is really the case.

    Assuming that they do not need re-tinning I would say - just clean them properly (do not worry too much how they look on outside) and give them a try. There should be no problem using them on electric stove as long as the bottoms are reasonably flat.

    Make sure not to over-heat them as the tin could melt.

    I would also suggest to do some reading over at http://chowhound.chow.com/boards as there are a few members with lot of experience (I got a lot of help there when I was buying our first copper pan - stainless clad Falk).

  4. #4
    Senior Member Matus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by EdipisReks View Post
    That thin frypan looks like a table service piece, not cookware.
    I would second that guess - the meaning of 'service piece' here is that it looks rather thin (sub 2mm) and may have been originally intended to be used for serving/warming up only. At least that is my understanding here.

  5. #5
    +1 above. These were often used a table side for flambe etc. Tin looks ok. As a general rule, exposed copper more than a dime's worth re-tin. The second pan looks like it will need re-tinning.
    For use on an electric stove, a diffuser may help because tin has a very low melting point and heat control is important.

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    Ok, so "service ware" to the average home cook like me means what? Display?
    I would hope I could use this for something other than an expensive kitchen decoration.

    I figured the stamp would keep me safe, and the lining sure looks like it was put to some use. I'm sure low heat sauté would be ok for this, and it won't give me achy wrists in the process.

    The thicker one looks old, but that doesn't really mean much. It will definitely have to be retinned, but it should be pretty nice after that. It is definitely on the cookware side of wall thickness.

  7. #7
    Senior Member EdipisReks's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KitchenCommander View Post
    Ok, so "service ware" to the average home cook like me means what? Display?
    Unless you do a lot of flambés, pretty much.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Matus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by EdipisReks View Post
    Unless you do a lot of flambés, pretty much.
    It should not be that bad - some lighter cooking (sauces, etc.) should be OK - in particular on electric stove. Just the heat distribution will not be as even as one would wish from a copper pan.

    How thick/thin is the pan after all?

  9. #9
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    I collect copper cookware for use in my home. I have over 200 pans and pots, just about all tin lined, and all of them French.

    Typically there are three weights of copper pans: hotel weight, which is 2.5mm and over, typically with cast iron handles, presentation weight, which is about 1.5mm thick and generally has brass handles. The latter are used for items like gratins where pan thickness is not important. The pan used to flambé your crepe, or to present your sole, for example.

    The final thickness is 1.5mm and below, and cookware is made in Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, etc. This is not recommended for serious cooking.

    The items you have, unfortunately, fall into the last category. I suggest you polish the sauté to the nth dimension and hang it on the wall of your kitchen for decoration. My wife would make a vase of the other, or something like that. Sorry, but it is true.

    Re electric coils, years ago, that is what I had. There is absolutely no problem using heavy gauge copper/tin on electric coils. A trick is to turn on a big and small coil when you begin cooking, and move the pan back and forth depending on how much heat you need — that way you get the prime advantage of copper.

    Tin lined copper is easier to cook with and easier to clean, than stainless lined. I have several pieces that need to be retined, however. The big cost will be shipping heavy cookware.

    There is a small shop in Alexandria VA called La Cuisine, that can answer any question you may have...

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