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How to Clean Copper Cookware
 

Nothing looks nicer in a kitchen than a row of shining copper pans hanging on a rack. Most cooks know that copper cookware is the best – but if your copper is blotchy and faded, it can spoil the look and the efficiency of your pans.

Why Does Copper Discolor?

Exposure to heat, air and humidity can change the appearance of copper. As kitchens are often hot and humid, this can be a problem. The process is called oxidization and happens because the copper combines with the oxygen in air and then gives up some of its’ electrons. This can cause the color of the metal to change and can give rise to areas of darkening. Copper may turn a deeper orange, a pinkish shade or can even develop purple or blue streaks. If left unchecked, the oxidization can become extensive and will eventually result in the appearance of blue-green copper salts called ‘verdigris’ – prized by those who love ‘shabby chic’ but not always desirable on cookware!

Why Can Discoloration Affect My Cooking?

Copper is a superior material for cookware because it has such wonderful powers of conduction. Evenly conducted heat ensures great results and makes cooking a breeze. However, if copper is allowed to develop dark blotches, these areas absorb more heat than the shiny areas. This will cause hot spots which can lead to food sticking, burning and cooking unevenly.

So How Should I Clean Copper?

Some people love the natural patina that can appear over time and they don’t want their cookware to be brightly colored. If this applies to you, then just wash your cookware in hot, soapy water with a soft dishcloth or sponge. For heavy marks, try spreading ketchup on the cookware. Leave it for ten minutes and then wash off thoroughly. This works because ketchup is naturally acidic.

Don’t ever use an abrasive cloth or scourer on copper as it can compromise the surface. You may like to polish your cookware occasionally with a proprietary cleaner such as Radiance, Brasso or Never Dull.

Alternatively, you can use a homemade paste as used by the boy employed by the famous Chef, Escoffier. The boy’s only job was to clean copper pans all day long! He mixed together ¼ of a cup of white vinegar and 2 tablespoons of coarse salt. The paste was then applied to the copper using a sponge or dishcloth and then rinsed in plenty of hot water. This cleans the copper thoroughly but does not strip the patina. If you want a brighter shine, you may wish to use a proprietary copper cleaner regularly.

Can I Put It Into The Dishwasher?

Yes, you can…but…it is not recommended. Please be aware that copper really wouldn’t respond well to it! Some of the ingredients in dishwasher detergents (particularly chlorine) can eventually cause the copper to pitt.

Also, the copper will start to oxidize more quickly, which will mean that you would have to polish it more frequently to maintain the shine.

 What If My Copper Cookware Is Lined?

Copper can be leached into acidic foods and if food cooked in this way is eaten regularly, it can lead to health problems. For that reason, Copper cookware is usually lined with stainless steel, tin, nickel or silver. If your cookware is lined, just clean the external copper in the ways described. If your lining is tin or silver, treat it gently. If the pan is placed over a high flame when it is empty, the lining could melt.

Don’t ever stir food with an abrasive utensil – stick to wood or rubber. If food has stuck to the pan, fill it with hot soapy water and leave it to soak overnight. Then rub in circular motions with a soft cloth.

My Copper Cookware Came Coated With Tarnish-Proof Lacquer…

 …simply dissolve the lacquer with acetone or lacquer thinner, both of which are available at hardware stores. It is essential to remove the lacquer before heating. If this is not done, the finish will eventually be destroyed and this will lead to permanent spotting of the copper, which will affect the look and efficiency of your cookware.

If you follow these general rules, your cookware will stay beautiful and reward you with a lifetime of great cooking and enjoyment.

 

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