How To Maintain Copper Cookware

How to properly maintain copper cookware

Copper cookware is often used by home cooks and professional chefs, as it is strong, attractive, and conducts heat well. 

However, with copper being as expensive as it is, it’s important to treat your copper cookware properly to avoid it deteriorating over time. 

As is the case with all types of cookware, copper pots and pans need proper maintenance to perform at their best. 

One thing to remember is, other than some specialty equipment pieces, copper cookware always has a lining made from a different type of metal. 

Copper is a reactive metal and can be dangerous in large amounts. An inert lining prevents food and copper from touching each other, keeping the food safe for consumption. 

Each copper pan will need to be treated differently, based on the type of metal that’s used for its lining.

In the past, this metal lining was often tin, but more recently, copper cookware manufacturers give their products a stainless steel lining. 

The copper outer layer also needs to be treated carefully, requiring different maintenance practices compared to stainless steel or tin. 

Fortunately, if copper cookware is maintained properly, its lifespan can last for decades. You’ll find some essential tips on how to maintain copper cookware in this post,

Cooking With Copper Cookware

Using proper cooking practices is one of the best ways to maintain your copper cookware. 

Copper is very energy efficient. It heats up evenly and rapidly, cooling down in the same way. Copper cookware should only be used on gas.

To find out our favorite copper cookware, check out our buyers guide here.

Electric cookers won’t shift temperature as quickly, while induction cookers aren’t compatible with copper. 

As you use copper pans over gas flames, use a slightly lower heat temperature than you’re accustomed to.

Copper is an incredible conductor of heat, so it can cook efficiently even with lower heat. 

If your copper pans have a tin lining, be very cautious with higher heat temperatures. Tin has some advantages, as it has natural non-stick properties.

However, it has a very low melting point of just 450°F. If your pan is exposed to this temperature, or above, the tin can melt, damaging your copper pan in the process. 

You can avoid these incidents by preheating your copper tin-lined pans with a type of fat, like oil or butter.

If the fat begins to smoke, you’ll know your pan’s temperature is rising close to its limits. 

Stainless steel-lined copper pans aren’t as non-stick as tin, but they are better at handling higher temperatures.

If a stainless steel pan accidentally becomes very hot, it will most likely be fine. 

Utensil-wise, you should always avoid using metal utensils in tin-lined pans, as it is a delicate material. 

Stainless steel-lined pans are more resilient. Metal tools won’t damage their lining much, though you may notice some minor scratches. 

How To Stop Copper Cookware Oxidising

Copper cookware needs a particular amount of care, or it may develop black marks.

These spots are due to oxidation. Oxidation is a natural chemical reaction that leads to a black, or dark brown coating when you heat the copper pans.

This coating is called copper oxide.

It’s important to clean your cookware when you notice the copper oxide layer. If you don’t, the substance can turn into copper carbonate in contact with air, changing to a green hue. 

Oxidation won’t damage your pans, but many cooks like their copper pans to look clean and shiny. 

It’s very hard to prevent copper cookware from contacting water and oxygen, but one tip is to coat your copper with linseed oil after cleaning.

The oil will form a barrier that will prevent oxidation for a while, keeping your pans clean and shiny. 

If you do notice oxidized black spots on your copper pans, you can clean these easily with some gentle cleaning practices. We’ll cover these in the next section. 

Cleaning With Copper Cookware

The way you clean copper cookware will depend on its lining. As tin is a non-stick material, food has less chance of sticking to it. If it does, it won’t be very hard to remove. 

You can fill a tin-lined pan with water and a touch of dish soap, then leave it to stew for a few minutes.

This will easily remove any stuck-on pieces of food, allowing you to wipe these pieces off without much effort.

Do not use any abrasive, robust scrubbers, like sponge scrubber pads or steel wool. Tin is delicate and may experience lining damage with these rougher cleaning tools. 

A point to note is that tin becomes darker the more it’s treated with heat. Any darker patches you notice don’t need to be cleaned off. 

Stainless steel-lined copper pans can be cleaned like other stainless steel cookware. Hot water, dish soap, and a spongy, non-scratch, scrubbing tool should be enough to remove any stuck food pieces.

The copper exterior can be handled in a few ways. Copper cookware naturally develops a patina as time goes on, but this is treasured by many copper enthusiasts.

If you prefer, you can choose to forgo polishing, allowing your copper tools to gain more of this effect.

However, a nice patina and burnt-on food are very different things. If you notice any spills or food drips on your copper pans, always wash or wipe them off to avoid scorching. 

If you notice any oxidized, black spots on your copper pans, you can remove these with copper polish. 

Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines, which will often involve applying copper polish with a soft cloth. Clean the pan with gentle dish soap and water to remove the polish before you use it again. 

If you don’t want to use chemicals on your cookware, you can make a paste with equal parts flour, salt, and vinegar.

The vinegar and salt are robust ingredients, but are natural and moderately gentle. 

Apply this paste to your copper cookware pieces, then lightly scour the spots to remove them. After you’re done, clean the cookware in hot, soapy water to clean then once more. 

If you’re making fudge, you might find this blog useful all about cleaning fudge pans!

Should You Season Copper Cookware?

Seasoning is a method that can prevent food from sticking to copper cookware. If you want stick-resistant pans, you should season your copper pans when they are new. 

A seasoned pan will have pores that contain carbonized oil. This forms a protective coating on the pan’s surface, which stops food from sticking.

It can also help prevent certain tools from oxidizing. 

If seasoning is performed correctly, the layer can prevent rust from forming, as well as protect your pan’s surface when exposed to high temperatures. 

However, not all copper pots and pans will need seasoning. Copper tin-lined pans, for instance, as non-stick, so they won’t need to be seasoned. 

Stainless steel-lined copper pans, however, will need seasoning. This is because steel is robust, uneven, and rough, so food is more likely to stick.

Seasoning these pans on the inside can prevent this from occurring. 

How To Season Copper Cookware

Seasoning is easier than it sounds! Follow these steps to season your copper cookware.

How to season copper cookware

Step One: Cleaning

Always clean your copper pan before you season it. It might be new, but the pan may have residual substances or chemicals on it.

A little dish soap, clean water, and a soft cloth should be all you need.

Step Two: Add The Oil

After the pan is dry, pour a tablespoon of oil onto it. Use an oil with a high smoke point, like grapeseed, canola, or vegetable oil. 

Use a clean paper towel or your fingers to spread the oil over the pan’s surface. 

Don’t use olive oil, as it heats rapidly and may damage your pan in the process. 

Step Three: Heating The Pan

Heat your pan over medium heat. Take it off the stove when it starts to produce smoke. This should take between three and five minutes, no more. 

If you notice oil puddles, move the pan around to spread the oil evenly. 

Step Four: Drying

Let the pan cool down at room temperature for 15 minutes. This will let the oil-coated pan dry out. All of the pan’s little pores on its surface will have closed, which will prevent food from sticking later on. 

Step Five: Wiping

Once 15 minutes are up, most of the oil will have dried off. If the pan is cool, you can clean any residue with a paper towel or soft cloth. 

Your pan is now ready to use! 

The seasoning on your copper cookware should be effective for three to six months. This will vary depending on how often you use the pan.

If you notice food sticking to the pan once more, it’s time to season again. 

Remember to avoid using scrubbers or abrasive cleaners on copper pots and pans. This may damage the copper’s surface, as well as the seasoning. 

The Bottom Line

Copper cookware looks beautiful and is welcome in many kitchens, but it needs proper maintenance to keep it in optimum condition. 

Cleaning with non-abrasive, gentle tools is important, as well as using correct cleaning practices to avoid damaging the utensils.

You can also season your stainless steel-lined copper pans to help prolong their surfaces. 

By following our advice above, you can keep using your copper cookware for years to come.

If you want to learn more about different pans then check out our knowledge posts here:


Hi, I'm Sarah and welcome to Call Me Fudge! From a younger age I've always pottered about in the kitchen and even selling my fudge in the high school grounds. Cooking and baking to me is like second nature and I want to share this passion with you.

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