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17 Pros and Cons of Copper Cookware: Is It Worth the High Price?

Copper cookware heats fast, responds quickly to temperature changes, and adds a touch of elegance to your kitchen.

But it’s not all positive. There are several drawbacks to consider before investing in a pot, pan, or set.

In this guide, I break down the pros and cons of copper cookware. You’ll learn about its cooking performance, maintenance, compatibility, cost, and more.

By the end, you’ll be able to confidently decide if copper cookware is worth it to you.

Use the links below to navigate this guide:

What Is Copper Cookware?

Copper cookware is made with a genuine copper exterior and a stainless steel or tin interior.

Copper saucier

These interior materials are necessary because copper is highly reactive, meaning acidic foods like tomatoes and vinegar will cause tiny particles of the metal to leach into the food.

The handles are typically made of steel or iron. Those materials don’t conduct heat well, so the handles stay cool on the stove.

Copper cookware was traditionally hammered into shape by hand, but today, most pans are made by machine using either one of two techniques: formed over a press or spun on a lathe (or both).

Dozens of companies make copper cookware, but the top-rated brands are Mauviel, Made In, Ruffoni, Hestan, and Matfer Bourgeat.

Pros of Copper Cookware

Copper cookware has many advantages, from how it conducts heat to how it looks in your kitchen.

If you’re thinking about investing in a set or adding a pan or two to your current cookware rotation, these are the benefits to expect.

Pro: Elegant Design

One of the main reasons many cooks, professional and amateur alike, turn to copper cookware is its beautiful and elegant design.

Made In Copper Saucier with Lid
Copper Saucier with Lid
Ruffoni Copper Cookware

The warm copper color and shine feel timeless. The striking contrast between the copper exterior and the silvery stainless steel or tin interior gives it a unique look you don’t get with other cookware.

Mauviel Copper Cookware
Mauviel Copper Cookware

Pro: Heats Fast

Copper has high thermal conductivity, which makes it an excellent heat conductor. It can heat up much faster than materials like stainless steel and aluminum.

But how much faster? To find out, I conducted a simple test.

I filled 6-quart copper and 6-quart stainless steel pots with 32 ounces of cold water and placed each on the stove on the same-sized burners. I turned the heat on both burners to high at the same time.

copper versus stainless steel cookware_heat conduction test

After 3 minutes and 17 seconds, the water in the copper pot began to bubble. It came to a full boil after 4 minutes and 5 seconds.

The water in the stainless steel pot started to bubble after 3 minutes and 35 seconds, and the water came to a full boil after 4 minutes and 45 seconds.

Although 40 seconds may not seem like a huge difference, it will save you significant time if you cook often.

Pro: Responsive

In the context of cookware, responsiveness is the ability to adapt to changes in heat quickly. Due to its excellent heat conductivity, copper cookware is incredibly responsive.

When you turn up the heat on the cooktop, you’ll notice the difference in the pan’s cooking temperature almost immediately (the same for when you turn down the heat).

Responsiveness in a pan is most helpful when cooking proteins like fish that require a precise temperature or making sauces that need to be reduced without scalding.

Because of this responsiveness, copper cookware is also a great option if you work with sugar (for example, making caramels or simple syrups) since this responsiveness can help heat the sugar quickly but cool it down fast so you can avoid burning it.

Pro: Even Heating

One of the biggest draws to copper cookware is its ability to heat food quickly and evenly. With copper, heat is evenly distributed across the pan’s base. Unlike materials such as cast iron, you won’t find any hot or cold spots in a copper pan.

Even heating is especially beneficial when preparing rice, scallops, shrimp, sauces with dairy, or any other meals that are prone to scorching.

Pro: Heat Tolerant

Copper cookware doesn’t contain non-stick coatings or materials that can melt, so it’s safe to put in the oven.

While the heat tolerance depends on the piece and manufacturer, the average oven-safe temperature for copper cookware is about 500 degrees Fahrenheit.

Copper cookware can withstand heat like stainless steel, and most pans have similar oven-safe temperatures. This chart shows the heat thresholds of several top-selling copper pans:

Made In Copper Pan800°F
Mauviel M’Heritage Copper Frying Pan500°F
Ruffoni Symphonia Cupra Copper Frying Pan450°F
Matfer Bourgeat Copper Cookware Set550°F
Viking Copper Cookware Set500°F

Pro: Broiler Safe

Since it has no non-stick coating, you can safely use copper cookware under a broiler.

But remember that copper heats up quickly compared to other metals, so you don’t need to keep it under the broiler as long as you would with other pans.

Pro: Long Lasting

You’re making a long-term investment when you purchase a piece of copper cookware. If you maintain it properly, your copper cookware should last a lifetime.

That said, the tin interior won’t last as long as the copper exterior. When the tin wears down, usually every 10 to 20 years, you’ll need to get the pan retinned.

If you can see exposed areas of copper up to the size of a quarter, it’s time to have the pan retinned. The exposed copper could affect the taste and color of your food.

Cons of Copper Cookware

Copper is a popular material if you want cookware that heats quickly and evenly, but it also has drawbacks.

If you’re considering adding copper to your kitchen, here are a few downsides to keep in mind.

Con: Expensive

For most home cooks, the price tag is the biggest drawback of copper cookware. Copper cookware is a major investment— for a complete copper set, expect to pay upwards of $1000. Prices vary by brand and retailer, but a single fry pan can cost over $200.

Even though copper cookware is considered a good long-term investment, the initial cost of a set can be prohibitive for many home cooks.

The table below shows the current prices for several top-rated copper cookware brands. Click the prices to learn more about each piece on Amazon.

Prices pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on:

Con: Requires Skill

Copper is not the most beginner-friendly material. Because copper heats up extremely fast, you may burn a few dishes as you get used to cooking with it.

You’ll need to pay closer attention to ensure the temperature is right. Certain ingredients like garlic and bacon can overcook or burn in seconds if the heat is too high.

This extra attention and work may not be ideal if you’re just starting out in the kitchen. 

Con: Limited Heat Retention

While copper is an excellent heat conductor, it doesn’t retain heat well. Once it’s off the heat, it begins cooling quickly.

That can make working with copper cookware quite tricky, especially for beginning cooks. You have to find the right balance of heat, so the pan stays hot without overheating and burning your food.

Con: Reactive

Copper, along with cast iron, aluminum, and carbon steel, is a reactive metal. Exposure to acidic foods like tomatoes or lemons can cause tiny bits of copper to leach into your food, leaving behind a metallic taste.

That’s why ensuring your copper pan has an intact stainless steel or tin lining on the interior is essential. Reactivity won’t be an issue if the tin or stainless steel covers the entire cooking surface without exposing the copper.

Con: Food Sticks

Food is prone to sticking to copper pans with a stainless steel cooking surface.

Stainless steel appears smooth, but it actually has tiny pores that expand, contract, and grip food when the pan is heated.

You can minimize the chances of food sticking by preheating the pan, adding a small amount of oil, and allowing the food to develop a crust before moving it.

I go into more detail about preventing food from sticking to stainless steel in this guide.

Tin has a much smoother structure, so food is less likely to stick to tin-lined copper pans.

Con: High Maintenance

While copper cookware is beautiful, it can be prone to damage and tarnishing. Copper is softer than other metals, like stainless steel, so it’s easy to scratch or dent it while cooking.

Tarnished copper cookware
Tarnished copper cookware

Copper is prone to corrosion and oxidation. If you’ve ever seen greenish-brown splotches on copper statues or cookware, that’s what I’m talking about.

The best example is the Statue of Liberty. Most people don’t know it’s actually made of copper because it’s turned green from years of oxidation. To prevent your cookware from oxidizing, you need to polish it regularly.

One way to polish your copper pots is to combine water, salt, and vinegar and use it as a gentle scrub on the exterior. That helps remove stains and discoloration without damaging the copper.

Con: Not Induction Compatible

Induction stoves work by creating a magnetic field that transfers heat to the cookware. Since copper is not a magnetic material, it won’t work on an induction stove. If you’re set on getting copper cookware, you’ll need to use a gas or electric stove.

There are a few exceptions. For example, the Mauviel1830 M’ 6S, de buyer Prima Matera, and All-Clad Copper Core collections have steel on the bottom, making the pans compatible with all cooktops.

Con: Heavy

Due to copper’s density and weight, it is heavier and more difficult to maneuver than stainless steel or aluminum cookware of the same thickness.

For example, despite its thinner walls, All-Clad Copper Core is heavier than All-Clad D3 and D5 due to its copper core layer.

All-Clad D3 12-Inch Fry Pan (Stainless Steel)3 mm2.8 pounds
All-Clad D5 12-Inch Fry Pan (Stainless Steel)3 mm3.2 pounds
All-Clad Copper Core 12-Inch Fry Pan (Steel & Copper)2 mm3.7 pounds 

Con: Fewer Options

Due to the high manufacturing costs and the limited mass appeal of copper, very few brands make it.

However, if you’re willing to be a bit more flexible, you can explore stainless steel/copper hybrids that combine the durability of steel with the look and conductivity of copper.

For example, All-Clad Copper Core has a steel exterior and interior but a copper and aluminum core. With this cookware, you get copper’s heat conduction and responsiveness without all the maintenance.

Bottom of All-Clad Copper Core pan
All-Clad Copper Core pan

Another good option is Hestan CopperBond. Like the All-Clad collection, this cookware is designed to give you all the advantages of stainless steel and copper. It features a 100% copper core with a stainless steel bottom for induction stoves. 

One big difference between the two lines is aesthetics — Hestan CopperBond features a classic copper exterior, while the All-Clad pans look more like standard stainless steel with a small copper ring around the base.

Con: Knockoffs

Copper cookware has an excellent reputation in the culinary world. It’s used by world-famous chefs in some of the highest-rated restaurants.

Unfortunately, several brands try to take advantage of that reputation by branding their cookware as “copper” even though it contains very little (if any) of the material.

For example, Copper Chef makes you believe its cookware is made of copper, but it’s actually aluminum with a copper-colored non-stick on the interior and exterior.

Gotham Steel is another brand that coats its aluminum pans with a copper-colored non-stick material.

Gotham Steel Cookware Review

Red Copper claims to infuse copper into its non-stick coating, but the cookware’s base is aluminum.

These companies don’t lie and say their cookware is made of copper. But everything about their branding attempts to associate their products with copper, which consumers view as a premium material.

When shopping for copper cookware, read the fine print to ensure it’s made of real copper.

Bottom Line: Is Copper Cookware Worth It?

There’s a reason copper cookware is sought after in high-end restaurant kitchens all over the world — its conductivity and responsiveness make it essential for precision cooking. It also looks beautiful with a classic charm and warmth.

But there are several downsides — the most notable is the massive price tag. It’s also heavy, prone to oxidation, and won’t work on induction cooktops.

So should you buy copper cookware?

Before I offer my advice, let’s quickly recap the advantages:

  • Heats fast and evenly and responds quickly to temperature changes.
  • Broiler safe with a high oven-save heat tolerance
  • Lasts a lifetime if well maintained.
  • Elegant and eye-catching design.

The main downsides are:

  • Incredibly expensive.
  • Requires skill and attention and can be challenging for beginner cooks.
  • Limited heat retention.
  • Reactive material if food contacts the copper directly.
  • Food sticks to its tin or stainless steel interior.
  • Prone to discoloration and staining.
  • Not compatible with induction stoves.
  • Heavier than steel and aluminum.

Bottom line — copper cookware has long been popular in high-end French restaurants, but it’s not the best choice for every home cook. 

Copper cookware is an expensive luxury that’s nice to have, but it’s not necessary. For most home chefs, I recommend stainless steel cookware. It’s less prone to damage, low-maintenance, easier to use, and more affordable.

However, stainless steel doesn’t have the responsiveness of copper, so if you want the best of both worlds, consider All-Clad Copper Core cookware.

It features a copper core layer and a steel exterior and interior, giving it the heat conduction and responsiveness of copper and the durability of stainless steel.

Learn more by watching my All-Clad Copper Core unboxing and review.

If your heart is still set on copper cookware, consider checking out our list of the best copper cookware brands.

Andrew Palermo Founder of Prudent Reviews

Andrew Palermo - About the Author

Andrew is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Prudent Reviews. He began his career in marketing, managing campaigns for dozens of Fortune 500 brands. In 2018, Andrew founded Prudent Reviews and has since reviewed 600+ products. When he’s not testing the latest cookware, kitchen knives, and appliances, he’s spending time with his family, cooking, and doing house projects. Connect with Andrew via emailLinkedIn, or the Prudent Reviews YouTube channel.

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