Buying high-quality cookware can be hard due to the many options that you are likely to find in the market.
The basic features that every cook considers include how quickly the utensils heat up and how effectively heat is transferred across the cooking surface. Price, durability and ease of cleaning are also important factors.
Copper and stainless steel materials are used in many high-end cookware sets because of their high heat conductivity and effective heat distribution. We pit the two materials against each other in the sections below to help you understand how they differ in construction and performance.
If you are having trouble picking between cookware made of copper and cookware made of stainless steel, reading this article is a great start to help you make the right decision.
Copper Cookware Features
Copper is famed for its heat conductivity properties and has been used to make cookware since ancient times. Pure copper heats up quickly and loses heat just as fast. This high conductivity makes copper utensils great for cooking because they heat up without creating any hotspots.
Besides being a good conductor, copper is also highly reactive. As a result, copper utensils are not made with pure copper; rather, manufacturers use lined copper.
In simpler terms, the copper material is covered with a non-reactive material to prevent food from coming into contact with the copper. Tin and stainless steel are among the common metals used to line copper cookware.
The lining, however, comes with temperature restrictions. When heated to very high temperatures, for instance, the lining might crack leaving the copper core exposed. This leads to contamination of food.
Copper cookware comes in bright colors that add nice aesthetics to your kitchen. High quality copper cookware, however, is very expensive.
Advantages of Copper Cookware
Disadvantages of Copper Cookware
Stainless Steel Features
Stainless steel cookware is made from a blend of steel and Chromium. The chromium content gives stainless steel a shiny appearance and makes the steel safe for cooking.
There are different grades of stainless steel used for making different products such as water pipes, surgical instruments, construction products, and cookware.
Food standard stainless steel usually has chromium and steel content in the ratio of 18 to 10.
Stainless steel is not as good in conducting and transferring heat as copper. As a result, manufactures make stainless steel cookware very thin to improve heat conduction and transfer.
Stainless steel is also used together with other materials to improve heating and heat transfer capabilities. The design is known as all clad stainless steel and features a layer of stainless steel on the interior, an aluminum or copper middle layer, and an exterior layer of magnetic stainless steel.
All grades of stainless steel are corrosion and rust resistant to some extent. Moreover, the cookware is non-reactive to food. This makes stainless steel cookware good for the kitchen because less care and maintenance is required.
Advantages of Stainless Steel Cookware
Disadvantages of Stainless Steel Cookware
Copper vs Stainless Steel: Health Concerns
Copper utensils might cause serious health issues when the food comes into contact with the copper core. In most cases, the lining that shields the food from contact is thin and might wear off with time.
Chefs who use copper cookware should always inspect the cooking surface and dispose the utensils once the lining begins to show signs of wear.
Stainless steel, on the other hand, is safe for cooking and has no major health issues. As such, cooks should always check out the grade of steel used to make utensils before buying.
Unlike copper utensils, food grade stainless steel is easy to care for and supports a wide variety of cooking methods.
Copper vs Stainless Steel: Cooking Methods
Copper cookware is delicate because of the protective lining on its cooking surface. To keep the lining intact, be sure to cook food only on low and moderate heat. Extreme heat could damage the lining leaving the copper core exposed.
Metal utensils that can easily scratch the cooking surface should also be avoided. Instead, consider using non-abrasive cooking spoons and spatulas to turn food.
Food grade stainless steel is not a very good conductor of heat on its own but when combined with other materials, it provides cooks with a great culinary experience.
You can heat the utensils up to extremely high temperatures and cook using a variety of cooking methods. From braising, frying, sautéing and boiling, stainless steel handles it all and it's a popular cookware material choice for both induction and gas stove tops.
Copper vs Stainless Steel: Cleaning and Durability
Copper cookware should only be cleaned by handwashing with soap and water. Never place the cookware in the dishwasher where the likely collisions with other utensils can damage the lining. The exterior is also prone to staining.
These stains, however, can be removed by polishing the cooper cookware after some time. To polish the exterior, use a mixture of salt and vinegar to rub the stained surface and leave it on for a while. Then rinse and dry the utensils and apply a layer of ketchup to finish polishing.
Stainless steel cookware is easy to clean. For instance, you can hand wash the utensils if they are not too dirty. Moreover, you can toss the stainless steel cookware in the dishwasher if you want rapid cleaning.
Both copper and stainless utensils are durable with proper care and maintenance. Copper utensils, however, are more delicate and require careful maintenance than stainless steel utensils do.
Copper vs Stainless Steel: Which is best?
Copper utensils have superior heat conduction and are durable. They, however, come at a very high cost implying that most cooks cannot afford to use copper cookware in their kitchens.
Another factor that limits use of copper cookware is the risk of food contamination when the lining on the cooking surface is damaged and food is exposed to the copper core.
Stainless steel cookware usually provides better value than copper but it's had to compete with the elegance of a copper set. Stainless steel pots are not as delicate as copper pots because they have no linings. They can handle high temperatures and a variety of cooking methods.
Cleaning stainless steel utensils can be done in the dishwasher as well as by handwashing. Furthermore, magnetic stainless steel used on the base and exterior of some utensils makes them viable for use on induction heaters. All these advantages make stainless steel utensils better for most chefs when compared to copper utensils.