Best Copper Frying Pans From Consumer Reports' Tests
Our winning pans include a well-known American brand, a Brooklyn upstart, and a French classic
Julia Child famously had 30 copper pots hanging on the wall of her Cambridge, Mass., kitchen, where three of her many cooking shows were filmed. “It did my heart good to see rows of gleaming knives and copper pots at the ready,” Child wrote in her autobiography, “My Life in France.”
Gleam is just part of the charm of copper cookware. The real attraction? Superior heat conductivity.
“Copper pans heat up quickly and evenly and respond to heat better than other cookware,” says Cindy Fisher, who oversees CR’s cookware tests. “Copper gives you more control of the temperature. When you remove the pan from the heat, it cools down quickly.”
Consumer Reports recently brought five copper frying pans into the cookware lab and put them through a battery of tests. To check heating evenness, we cooked thin crepes, and to test how well the pans sauté, we cooked potatoes until they were fork-tender. We also cooked foods that require controlled heat. “We made risotto, banana tarte tatin, and melted white chocolate in the pans, and they all did well,” Fisher says.
While copper pans are popular with professional chefs and some serious foodies, home cooks have been a little slower to add copper pans to their cooking collections. For one thing, they’re expensive. The copper frying pans in our tests range in price from $200 to $480, compared with $25 to $125 for a stainless steel skillet. And myths surrounding copper cookware may make you wary.
One such myth: Copper, as a material, is unsafe for cooking. That’s based on the fact that it’s a reactive metal. Cooking acidic foods (tomatoes, vinegar) in an unlined copper pan can leach copper into the food and, over time, result in a rare condition called copper toxicity. But the pans on the market today, including all those we tested, are lined with a nonreactive metal, such as tin or stainless steel, that make them perfectly safe to cook in.
The other knock against copper is that it’s hard to clean. While they aren’t as easy to clean as nonstick, in our tests we found that cleaning them is similar to cleaning other frying pans, such as stainless steel ones. Using a little soap and water gets the pan clean. To prevent the outside from getting tarnished, dry it thoroughly. If it does become discolored, as copper tends to do, “all you need is a good copper cleaner on the exterior,” Fisher says.
In our frying pan ratings, copper pans are grouped with stainless steel skillets, which are also uncoated—meaning neither type has a nonstick surface. Below are the three top-scoring copper frying pans from our tests, listed in alphabetical order, not in order of CR rank. For more on these and other pans in our tests, see our cookware and frying pan buying guide and ratings.
CR’s take: All-Clad is a familiar brand to most cooks. The 10-inch All-Clad c4 Copper C4110 is lined with stainless steel, and the manufacturer claims it’s oven-safe up to 600° F. It earns a Very Good rating in our cooking-evenness test and rates Good, which is average, at sautéing (same as the other copper pans we tested). We found that the handle was not as sturdy as the handles on the other two pans featured here, but it stays cool to the touch when you’re cooking. At 3 pounds, it’s the lightest of all the copper pans in our tests—and it’s one of the least expensive.
CR’s take: The Brooklyn Copper Sauté, $480, is made by a small 10-year-old company in—where else?—Brooklyn. Each piece is handmade, which accounts for the high price. It tops all the uncoated pans in our ratings. The 9.5-inch pan was the only one in our tests to earn an Excellent rating for cooking evenness; sautéing performance was on a par with the four other copper pans in our tests. The handle is sturdy and stays cool to the touch when the pan is in use.
At 6.7 pounds, it’s the heaviest copper pan we tested. Because the pan is lined with tin, which is a soft metal, it cannot take the high heat of other pans. The company cautions that heating it above 400° F can damage the tin lining. That means you have to be careful if you want to start a dish on the stovetop and move it to the oven. The pans are sold only on the company’s website.
CR’s take: Made in France since 1830, Mauviel is one of the better-known brands of copper cookware. The 10.2-inch Mauviel 6544.26 M250C earns a Very Good rating for cooking evenness and, like the other pans here, is average at sautéing. The handle is sturdy and stays cool to the touch during cooking. This 4.1-pound pan is lined with stainless steel, and it’s oven-safe to 450° F. As we mentioned, copper pans aren’t cheap, and the price of this one is in keeping with the competition.