When it comes to cooking, the cookware in use can make a huge difference regardless of whether you’re a beginner cook or a veteran. Over hundreds of years, we have tried out many options to achieve the best possible taste and experience.
These days, there are many options available for you. And among those, the debate over copper vs stainless steel cookware is among the most prevalent ones. The former has been in use for centuries and still manages to be a superb choice.
On the other hand, stainless steel has gained a lot of popularity as well, and rightfully so. Today, we’ll try to talk about their properties and which one of them performs better.
Table of Contents
As you might know, copper is a favorite in the culinary arena, and it has been that way for ages. One of the best things about it is its unbeatable capability when it comes to heat-conducting abilities.
In that aspect, copper is undoubtedly the champion. And along with its staggering heat conduction abilities, we get another bonus – consistent heat spreading. If you haven’t used copper cookware before, words aren’t enough to express this bit.
Not only is it consistently heated throughout, but it also does so in a flash. Moreover, it cools down just as quickly, meaning that it doesn’t retain heat for too long. While this can be a bummer in some cases, it’s a bonus in many.
If you are cooking delicate proteins, this ability is going to be your friend. No matter what you cook, evenly-heated cookware is always helpful. And another bit that many people appreciate is how they look.
No matter your taste, you cannot ignore that warm and classy look of copper cookware. But it certainly has its flaws, and the biggest one is that it reacts with acidic food, which results in leaching.
As you know, leaching can affect the taste of your food, and it can also have adverse effects on your health if the amount is too much. That’s why most copper products you can find will have a stainless steel or tin lining over them.
Not only that, the price and maintenance of these products might be off-putting for some users. Cookware like this will cost you quite a bit of money, and you will need to clean them to retain the shine regularly.
- Insanely fast heating
- Even heat distribution throughout
- Antimicrobial properties repel bacteria
- Higher thermal efficiency
- Long lifetime
- Higher maintenance requirements
- Costlier than most other options
Stainless Steel Cookware
Stainless steel is currently one of the most popular cookware options in the modern era, and it’s not hard to see why. These products are much more affordable, safe for your health, and easy to maintain.
But before we delve into that, let’s talk about the most significant setback these products have. And that issue here is contrary to copper cookware – the lack of impressive heat conduction and even spreading.
Compared to copper’s thermal efficiency, stainless steel looks unusable (that’s not actually the case, don’t worry). And to alleviate that issue, manufacturers found a pragmatic solution – cladding. You might have seen products that say tri-ply, five-ply, and so on.
Essentially, this means that the product has another layer(s) of metal between the outer stainless steel. The most popular metals for that purpose are aluminum and, you might have guessed it by now – copper.
This metal sandwich allows the product to have much better heat conduction and eliminate hot spots. Though stainless steel does not require you to do much in terms of maintenance, you can wash it however you want.
Stainless steel cookware is usually washable with dishwashers, so there’s one fewer bit for you to worry about. These products are also very sturdy and durable, and they will last you a lifetime.
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Moreover, a stainless steel pan will not react or leach into your food even if you are cooking something acidic. However, there is one thing that might irritate you. As this metal is porous, food might often stick to it, and cleaning that up can get annoying.
- Impressive durability with no warping
- Mostly washable with dishwashers
- Stainless steel doesn’t lose its shine
- No reaction to acidic food
- Low-maintenance in general
- Thermal efficiency isn’t remarkable by itself
- Issues with food sticking
How About Pure Stainless Steel or Copper?
You might be wondering why both kinds of cookware have layers of each other in them. After all, it was supposed to be a comparison between copper vs stainless steel pans or cookware in general.
But the reason behind that is simple. Neither of the materials is perfect, and manufacturers need to resort to another metal to minimize the inherent flaws.
Usage of Other Metals
Here’s an example – copper will react to acidic foods no matter what. But this can heavily affect the food’s taste and even might be harmful if it leaches too much. Therefore, copper products use thin layers of stainless steel or tin on the exterior.
This design allows the cookware to provide you with a consistent performance without losing its advantages. On the other hand, stainless steel is far from being efficient in terms of thermal efficiency.
That is why we see the same thing in this case – a layer of copper or aluminum to help alleviate that issue (which it does). As you can see, we must use these methods to get the best out of these products.
Hence, when we say stainless steel or copper products, we don’t refer to pure stainless steel or copper products (you probably can’t even find them these days). Hopefully, this cleared up the confusion.
Copper vs Stainless Steel Cookware
Now that we have discussed the vital properties and clarified the confusion – let’s get to the meat of the conversation – the comparison. We will show you a brief comparison so that you can easily understand the differences.
Even though we would like to escape this bit, the reality is that price will be one of the deciding aspects for many buyers. So, let’s talk about how much the two products differ in terms of pricing.
Generally, you will find that copper products will set you back quite a bit. That is primarily because this metal is costlier to buy. Therefore, you can expect to pay quite a bit more if you choose to get a product of this kind.
- Stainless Steel
Stainless steel cookware is generally more affordable in contrast. However, there are many variables at play when it comes to these products — for instance — the cladding, the quality of the steel, and much more.
Let’s elaborate on that. Suppose you want to opt for a pan with a copper core, thus you can expect to pay a more significant amount. In contrast, a product with an aluminum base will not cost as much, as that material is less costly.
Another bit is the quality of the steel. Generally, it would be best to opt for 18/10 stainless steel, which ensures impressive quality but costs a bit more.
Maintenance and Cleaning
When it comes to maintenance, these two options are on the different ends of the spectrum.
- Maintaining Copper Cookware
Maintenance with copper cookware is generally going to take much more effort. First of all, that beautiful ‘new penny’ shine will certainly not last you long if you fail to take care of it.
You will have to perform a bit of polishing to ensure that it retains its shine over the years. And not only that, but a copper pan will also require more effort in general everyday cleaning.
For instance, you cannot wash it in a dishwasher, which might be off-putting for some users. But what makes all of this worth it is that these products will last you a long time if you care for them. Moreover, they don’t corrode easily.
- Maintaining Stainless Cookware
In this aspect, stainless steel is undoubtedly a low-maintenance material. Many people know that these products are often called everlasting. While that might be a stretch, quality cookware of this category can last you decades.
You can wash most stainless steel pans or pots in your dishwasher for the most part. Not only that, they are much more resistant to scratches and dents of any kind. Therefore, a product like this is quite suitable for harsh environments.
However, stainless steel is somewhat quicker in corroding compared to copper products. But if you take moderately good care of it, you wouldn’t have to worry about that. The only caveat is that it might be prone to sticking your food.
Now for one of the most important bits – cooking experience. While the experience can significantly vary depending on your product’s manufacturing and quality, there are some rational general expectations that you can have.
Given its fantastic heat conduction abilities, it’s no surprise that cooking is a breeze with copper cookware. However, it might vary depending on the lining your pan or pot has.
You will generally find two options in those terms – tin and stainless steel. We would recommend the latter, as it tends to perform slightly better than the former. Apart from that, quick heat dissipation can allow you to do some unique things.
For instance, if you are getting a sauce ready or cooking some tender protein, having the ability to control the pan’s heat so quickly can be helpful. Although, that can be somewhat annoying in some cases, so it depends.
Furthermore, given that these products will have another metal over them, you slightly lose copper’s nonstick properties and end up with that metal’s one. Nevertheless, cooking is a breeze with one of these.
- Stainless Steel
The most convenient side about using stainless steel cookware is that you will not have to worry about its durability or damaging it. You can use metal utensils (abrasive ones at that) and still be free of worries.
And since it will generally have a core with another metal, the experience can slightly vary here. Copper cores will provide even better heat conduction and eliminate hot spots while maintaining the steel’s benefits.
Aluminum cores do pretty well, too. But in comparison to copper, they will fall behind ever so slightly. There is one caveat about stainless steel products, however, which is your food might stick.
That can be an issue both during cooking and cleaning. Therefore, your pan might require some seasoning beforehand, which means that cooking without oil won’t be a great idea. Other than that, the experience is pretty solid.
Which One Should You Get?
Now it’s time for the moment of truth (from our perspective, that is). Let’s sum up the points here – the first one is that you will probably end up with the sticking issues of stainless steel with your copper product, too, thanks to the lining.
On the other hand, a stainless steel product with quality cladding will eliminate the heating issues. That means you can achieve a better performance than before without having to spend a lot of money.
Along with this affordability and easy maintenance, it would provide you with a longer lifespan. That’s why we think you are better off buying a stainless steel product. Of course, that’s our opinion, and you’re free to choose whichever you prefer.
The debate regarding copper vs stainless steel cookware has been going on for quite a while now. We have seen rapid improvements on both sides, with it the increasing confusion in people’s minds.
That’s where this guide will undoubtedly come in handy. We’ve tried to answer most of your queries so that you can figure out the differences between them without an issue.