Stainless Steel VS Copper Pots and Pans

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If I had to choose between copper pots and pans and those made of stainless steel, it would be a hard choice. Both are beautiful and look great decorating the stove top or hanging from a rack. Fortunately there are some pros and cons of each that would help me make a wise purchase choice.

Copper Pots and Pans Advantages

Heats Food Evenly

Copper cookware has super heat conductivity that its rivals can’t easily match. One is how well it distributes heat. This is an important feature to look for when choosing cookware. Its superior conductivity is due to its ability to spread heat from the point where it touches the burner to all parts of the pots and pans.

For metals that don’t do a good job of distributing heat, those areas closest to the heating source can get hot quicker. And the areas farther away take longer to reach the same temperature. This great distribution capability, takes the heat from the heating source and spreads it evenly throughout the cookware.

Reacts quickly to changes in temperature

Good heat distribution qualities help it to respond quickly to changes in heat temperature. When you remove these items from the stove or source of heat contact, it immediately cools down.

The same happens if you want to increase the temperature, turn the controls up and the it responds quickly. This makes it great for braising and for simmering sauces where you may want to start low and then speed things up or vice versa.

It’s Durable

This is the type of heirloom that you want to pass down to your kids and grandkids. These pots and pans can last a very long time if cared for properly. Their are special polishes available that will help keep it in good condition.

Disadvantages of Copper Cookware

It’s Expensive

With great quality comes great expense. Copper pots and pans can be expensive. However, when you factor in its ability to last for years, even generations, versus constantly having to replace inexpensive cooking tools like non-stick, it doesn’t seem quite so expensive.

Requires Extra Care

It is susceptible to tarnishing–loss of its bright exterior Mauvielcolor. If you want to retain its beautiful appearance, it should be polished periodically. However, polishing is not required. Serious cooks who are more into its ability than looks, don’t always polish their items. It should be hand washed and it’s important to dry the items immediately after washing.

It’s Reactive

Copper can react to acidic food and can cause these foods to have a metallic taste. It is also possible for light colored foods to end up with a grayish color when cooked in these pots and pans due to copper leaching onto and into the food.

Can Be Toxic With Direct Contact Of Food

It can be toxic if ingested repeatedly, but the vast majority of copper cooking ware on the market is lined with a metal such as stainless steel so that food does not come directly into contact with it.

Stainless Steel Cookware

Stainless steel pots and pans, on the other hand,are at the opposite spectrum of copper when it comes to heat conductivity. These pots and pans don’t fare well in this competition, but they do have their advantages.

Advantages of Stainless steel Cookware

Stainless steel is a healthy metal. It does not contain PFOA toxic chemicals associated with some cookware and does not have the toxic properties of copper. This means you don’t have to worry about these harmful chemicals flaking and getting into your foods.


It’s very durable and holds up well against dents, chips and rust. You can wash it in the dishwasher and it can handle going from the stovetop to the refrigerator without any concerns.

Non Reactive

It’s non reactive so when cooking foods like tomatoes you don’t have to worry about the food taking on a metallic taste.

Beautiful Finishes

Stainless steel is a beautiful metal. You can choose between brushed or polished (mirror) finishes. The brushed designs have what looks like fine brush strokes etched into the surface and has a more subdued appearance. The mirror polished designs are bright and shiny, even reflective. This is the typical design that most people associate with this metal.

Disadvantages of Stainless Steel Cookware

Poor Distributor of Heat When Used Alone

Great heat distribution is not its enduring  characteristic. The metal does not conduct heat well and for that reason it is seldom used alone in cookware.

Usually a metal such as aluminum or the alloy copper is addedAll Clad in some way to compensate for this lack of heat distribution. With this addition, it can now compete with copper clad pots and pans.

Sticking Issues

Food can stick to pans if you do not take a little time to learn how to use it. Without proper usage, sticking is not a problem and it is easy to clean.

Should You Buy Copper Or Stainless Steel Pots And Pans

Which is best? Both have pros and cons. Fortunately there is a good solution–a combination of both. Stainless steel has so many benefits, including health, that make it an ideal material to use; however, its serious lack of heating ability makes it an unwise choice if used alone.

This negative is overcome by using multi layer constructions of metal on the bottoms or on the bottoms and also the sides. The most popular form of this construction consists of a total of three layers known as tri-ply. Some brands specialize in more than three layers.

The bottom line is that layering allows it to be used as the primary metal–outer and inner, with a core of a “helper” metal like copper to increase its heating ability. With this form of layering, SS becomes a “super” metal.

Likewise with copper. It’s excellent heating properties are well regarded by professional chefs,however, if it comes into direct contact with food, there is concern for a toxic reactions which can be a turn off. Thus, copper cookware that has an interior lining of stainless steel is a” win-win” situation.

Best Cookware Brands

Mauviel is a French company well known for its cookware. Its pots and pans are very expensive but perform well. Here is an example of one of Mauviel’s popular frying pans.

All Clad is an American company that is popular with both professional and serious cooks. It has several collections with varying degrees of cladding (layering). The Copper Core Collection features five layers with copper being one of its core layers. More information about this Collection can be found at this link

If you would like to know more, check out this post.

How to Clean A Copper Pan


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