Copper better conductor than concrete

Published 3:36 pm Wednesday, March 3, 2010

I have a very clear memory of when I was about 7-years-old, and my family traveled to Savannah to visit with my Aunt Harriet, Uncle Al and my cousins.

It was summer. It was hot.

I’m pretty sure it was Randy’s idea we put that age-old saying, “It’s so hot you could fry an egg on the sidewalk!” to the test. Not so strangely, however, all that happens when your older cousins crack an egg on your kneecap is that it slithers down your leg and into your red Keds.

It did not take me this past half a century since to come to the conclusion that a much better conductor than concrete is copper. I am frequently asked, “What’s so special about copper?”

Copper is an excellent heat conductor. Heat is transferred rapidly and evenly, and when removed from the heat source, it cools down as quickly as it heats up.

Copper is a reactive metal. This means most foods should not come into direct contact with copper. This is the reason most copper pans are lined with another metal. It is scratch resistant, non-reactive, can handle high temperatures and is relatively easy to maintain.

Sometimes copper vessels are lined with tin. These must be handled more carefully than stainless steel because tin is soft and scratches easily. Tin-lined copper cookware will wear away over time; the lining may be replaced professionally or you can purchase a home kit and do it yourself. Tin melts at temperatures above 450 degrees Fahrenheit, so, never use tin-lined copper over a high heat.

Many people are turned off by the maintenance needed. Moisture in the air may cause it to discolor, or oxidize over time. You can clean copper by rubbing it with a mixture of equal parts salt and flour to which lemon juice or white vinegar is added — just enough to make a paste. You can also rub it with the cut side of a lemon that has been dipped in coarse salt. Copper cookware should be dried immediately to prevent streaking.

Unlined copper bowls and cooking vessels can safely be used with non-reactive foods such as egg whites and high-sugar mixtures such as jams and jellies. Stainless-lined copper cookware can be used for pretty much anything but is especially good for sauté pans, saucepans, gratins, baking dishes and so on.