The Best Copper Cookware in 2022

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Copper was one of the very first metals humans learned to work, along with gold and silver, but unlike those precious metals, we've tended to use copper largely for practical purposes. Even today our homes and electronics are wired with it, and—if you're an avid cook—it remains the material of choice for the most sought-after, swoon-worthy cookware.

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Of all the common materials used in cookware, nothing transmits heat as perfectly as copper. That means copper cookware is more responsive to changes of heat, giving avid cooks the finest possible temperature control. Combine that superb performance with copper's undeniable beauty, and you have a combination to warm any cook's heart. The only downside is that copper cookware is relatively pricey, but these sets justify the investment with long-lasting looks and performance.

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What to Consider When Purchasing Copper Cookware

There's more to purchasing copper cookware than just comparing a few reviews and plunking down your credit card. Like most other things kitchen-related, these pots and pans can vary widely in quality, feel and features. A few points to keep in mind include:

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Quality of Construction:​ A key detail here is the thickness of the copper used by the manufacturer. The optimal thickness is about 2.5 millimeters. Any thicker and the pans begin to lose their responsiveness to heat; any thinner and they become flimsy and prone to warping. A good pan should have some heft in your hand, sit flat on your range, and have solidly riveted handles (often made of brass or cast-iron in higher-end or more traditional sets).

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Lining Material:​ For all its virtues, copper has one great shortcoming as a material for cookware: It's highly reactive with acidic foods. That means it discolors easily, and more importantly, can allow toxic quantities of copper to accumulate in your food. For that reason, copper is always lined with another metal. Traditionally that was tin, which is equally responsive to heat, non-reactive and surprisingly nonstick.

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In recent years, you're more likely to see sets with stainless steel on the cooking surface. Some also use tri-ply construction with an aluminum core to transmit heat, as commonly seen in stainless-steel cookware. Why aluminum, when copper is already so effective at transmitting heat? To be blunt, it's because copper is expensive and aluminum is not.

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Pieces in the Set:​ There are two ways you can approach your purchase of copper cookware. One is to buy the "everything you need" set, with as many pieces as you can afford. The other is to buy a set consisting of the pieces that benefit most from copper's responsiveness—think frying pans and small saucepans for making actual, temperature-sensitive sauces—and treating them as a complement to your main set. Those complementary sets tend to be smaller.

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Your Cooking Style:​ Are you an advanced cook with a grasp of high-end techniques and a stovetop to match? Are you prepared to maintain your cookware regularly, to keep it in tip-top shape? If so, you'll appreciate the responsiveness of traditional tin-lined copper cookware, which is best-suited to take full advantage of your skills and your gas range. Otherwise, you might be better off with a stainless-steel interior, which is more durable and requires little or no maintenance but comes at a slight cost in responsiveness. If you're cooking on a conventional (non-induction) electric range, that difference in responsiveness will be masked by your stove anyway.

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Tip

Copper cookware is higher-maintenance than stainless steel and similar materials, and most manufacturers recommend hand-washing in order to protect the surface. If you want your pans to remain glossy, you'll also need to polish them regularly (though they're also beautiful when allowed to develop a natural patina). To maintain your pans' appearance, wipe away any spills before they can burn on. Avoid high-temperature cookery, which can permanently discolor the copper.

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The Best Overall Copper Cookware Set

Hestan CopperBond 10-piece Set

$2,777.00 at Amazon

With all due respect to the great brands of Europe—Mauviel, Demere, Falk and the rest—Hestan's CopperBond cookware is currently the cream of the copper crop. These pots and pans are built around a pure-copper core (rather than the aluminum used in lower-cost sets), clad in stainless steel and copper. The stainless makes these pots low-maintenance and highly durable, but the added responsiveness of the pure-copper core means you give up nothing on the performance front. They're also future-proof—unlike most copper cookware, CopperBond is fully induction-compatible. When you transition from gas to induction, they'll be ready to move with you.

At a Glance:

  • Lining Material:​ Stainless steel
  • Oven Safe:​ Up to 600° F
  • Clad Construction:​ Tri-ply with copper core
  • Induction Compatible:​ Yes
  • Warranty:​ Limited lifetime

The Best Heirloom-Quality Copper Cookware Set

Matfer Bourgeat 8-piece Set

$1,956.10 at Wayfair

Sometimes you're in a position to make a real splurge: Perhaps an actual Tiffany lamp rather than "Tiffany-style;" or the Rolex rather than the lookalike. If you're bringing that same attitude to your cookware purchase, you'll want to invest in one of the iconic French brands that's been around for a while. Matger Bourgeat is a perfect example. The company was founded during the Napoleonic era, and this set boasts the brand's classic look and signature cast-iron handles. These aren't tri-ply, like many other high-end sets. They're solid 2.5 mm copper, for exceptional thermal performance, but with a modern stainless-steel lining replacing the traditional tin. This is, in every way, genuinely heirloom-quality cookware.

At a Glance:

  • Lining Material:​ Stainless steel
  • Oven Safe:​ No
  • Clad Construction:​ No
  • Induction Compatible:​ No
  • Warranty:​ Limited lifetime

The Best Tin-Lined Copper Cookware Set

Ruffoni Historia Collection 5-Piece Set with Tools

$850.00 at Ruffoni

Until recent years, when it became possible to reliably bond copper with stainless steel, tin was the metal you'd find inside copper cookware. It's naturally nonstick, it transmits heat just about as well as copper, and it won't react with food; but it's also a soft metal and requires both regular maintenance and careful use. In short, it's cookware for the aficionado and the serious chef who want the very best in performance and are willing to accept a bit of upkeep to get it.

This handmade set from Ruffoni is a great example of the style. It gives you the pieces where that high-performance matters—a fry pan, a small saucepan and a braiser, complete with classic bronze handles and Ruffoni's signature acorn finials in bronze on the lids. They're packaged in a wooden gift box and come with tin-friendly cherrywood utensils and Ruffoni's own copper-cleaning product.

At a Glance:

  • Lining Material:​ Tin
  • Oven Safe:​ Up to 430° F
  • Clad Construction:​ No
  • Induction Compatible:​ No
  • Warranty:​ Limited lifetime

Tip

Avoid using metal utensils with tin-lined cookware as they can damage the finish. Tin melts at a temperature of just 430 degrees Fahrenheit, so don't heat these pans when they're empty or use them for high-temperature frying (use steel or cast-iron for that). Over the decades, you may need to have your most-used pots or pans re-tinned a time or two.

The Best Budget Copper Cookware Set

Cuisinart Copper Collection 8-Piece Set

$299.00 at Amazon

Cuisinart has a long history of manufacturing solid, workmanlike cookware, and this set is true to that heritage. It's all most cooks will need: You get 8- and 10-inch skillets, a big 4-quart sauté pan with lid, and both a 2 1/2-quart saucepan and a 6-quart stockpot with lids. Construction is tri-ply, with copper on the outside, stainless steel on the inside, and an aluminum core in the middle for excellent heat distribution. At a price point that's competitive with stainless steel or even hard-anodized aluminum, this set is an exceptional value.

At a Glance:

  • Lining Material:​ Stainless steel
  • Oven Safe:​ Up to 500° F
  • Clad Construction:​ Tri-ply with aluminum core
  • Induction Compatible:​ No
  • Warranty:​ Limited lifetime

The Best Induction-Ready Copper Cookware Set

RFN by Ruffoni 7-piece Set

$999.95 at Crate & Barrel

We're entering into the twilight years of gas as a cooking fuel, which is a consideration when you're investing in a "lifetime" set of cookware. Induction cooktops are the future of high-end cookery, and relatively few sets of copper cookware are induction-ready. This finely-crafted set from Italian manufacturer Ruffoni is one of those. The pieces are tri-ply, with an aluminum core sandwiched between the interior stainless steel and exterior copper, and feature thoughtful details like stay-cool stainless steel handles and a flared lip on every pot or pan for easy, drip-free pouring. This 7-piece set gives you the essentials at a pretty reasonable price, and the pieces even stack neatly for compact storage.

At a Glance:

  • Lining Material:​ Stainless steel
  • Oven Safe:​ Up to 600° F
  • Clad Construction:​ Tri-ply with aluminum core
  • Induction Compatible:​ Yes
  • Warranty:​ Limited lifetime

Tip

If your future turns out to hold an induction cooktop, and your cherished copper cookware isn't induction-compatible, all is not lost. You can buy a special disc for your induction cooker that's made of ferritic (induction-compatible) metal and heats up like a normal stovetop, and in turn, heats your copper pots and pans. It's not ideal—you'll lose some of the responsiveness that makes copper cookware (and induction) such a pleasure—but you'll still be able to use your existing cookware.

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