So, can copper pans go in the oven? It depends as you need to be wary of a few things or you'll potentially end up with permanently burnt pans and pots.
And that would be a shame as copper pans are the creme de la creme of the cookware world. You bought them because they look fantastic and probably conjure up an image of Parisian chefs lovingly seasoning a sauce in a warm and cozy cottage kitchen.
And they don't come cheap so you'll definitely want to protect your investment. So when you’re learning how to look after your pots, you’ll probably question whether or not you can bung them in the oven.
First let's quick look at how copper pans are made and how they function, before tackling the question head on...
Properties of Copper
Copper has many properties that make it a whizz in the kitchen.
Firstly, it is an excellent heat conductor. In fact, only silver is better than copper in the heat department. The scarcity and softness of silver make it unsuitable for cookware, which is why copper has the top spot.
Copper has a thermal conductivity that is 60% more efficient than aluminum and up to 3000% better than stainless steel. Essentially, this means that copper pans are able to get hot very quickly.
They heat up and cool down quickly which means a chef can control the temperature of the pan more accurately than with steel or aluminum.
Another great thing about copper is that it is antimicrobial. Many harmful bacteria and microbes are deactivated and neutralized when exposed to copper for a few hours.
This is why copper and it’s derivatives like brass and bronze have often been used for door handles and such.
This antimicrobial nature is ideal for the kitchen when cleanliness and sterilization is a matter of life and death.
One of the less than ideal properties of copper is its reactivity. Acidic substances like tomatoes, vinegar, and citrus fruits can leech some of the copper out of the pan and into your food.
In small quantities, copper is good for the body. It helps promote vital functions such as the formation of red blood cells.
However, excessive amounts of copper can be toxic. It can cause minor ailments such as headaches or, in extreme cases it can cause organ failure.
Making Copper Pans
Copper was the first metal worked by human hands. It’s thought that the earliest examples of copper cookware date back as far as the neolithic period, around 9000 BCE!
It happened this way because copper has a relatively low melting point which makes it easier to extract from ore than iron. It replaced stone cookware reasonably early on and has remained in the kitchen ever since.
Initially, copper pans were hammered by hand. There are still a few artisan manufacturers who do it the old fashioned way. However, the majority of copper pans are pressed by machine arms out of flat disks of copper.
One of the most important steps of the copper pot creation process is the lining stage. As we’ve mentioned, copper is a reactive metal that can cause copper poisoning if not adequately lined.
Initially, tin was used to line copper pots. It is an unreactive metal that adheres fairly well to copper. However, it is not the most durable metal. In the 1800s, copper pots needed to be sent off for re-tinning when the lining wore out.
Nowadays, copper pots tend to be lined with ultra-thin stainless steel. The steel is inert meaning it won’t leech into your food. It’s also cheap to produce and work. The steel is kept thin to prevent it from interfering with the thermal conductivity of the copper.
While true copper pans tend to be very expensive, there are some cheaper alternatives.
Some pans are made with a copper bottom that allows the pan to use the thermal conductivity of copper but the majority of the pan is made from a cheaper metal.
Other pans are called tri-layer pans because they have an exterior layer of copper that is fused with an inner aluminum layer and a final stainless steel layer. The bonding takes place under extreme pressure.
These pans offer a reasonable compromise for those who can’t or don’t want to splash out on copper cookware.
Are They Oven Safe?
The answer to this question is, yes. Copper pans are oven safe but you need to be wary of a few things.
First and foremost you need to make sure that the whole construction is copper. If your pans have rubberized or plastic handles, do not put them in the oven! The handles will melt and you’ll have a mess on your hands.
The same goes for any lids. Make sure they are 100% metal. Glass lids should not go in the oven. Nor should lids with rubber or plastic handles.
The next thing to consider is the manufacturer’s guidelines. Your pans will have a maximum oven-safe temperature listed on the box or manual.
For true copper pans, this will usually be around 400-500°F. This should accommodate most home ovens. Do make sure you check the maximum temperature before you use your pans in the oven.
If you exceed the manufacturer’s recommended temperatures then your warranty will more than likely be voided.
If your pans are copper-bottomed or tri-layered, do make sure to check the guidelines for the maximum temperature. It might not be as high as true copper pans.
Things to Consider If Wondering "Can Copper Pans Go In The Oven?"
Remember that when you take your pan out of the oven it is going to be mega hot. Always use an oven mitt or pot handler when moving your hot pans around.
If you’re going to put the pan on the work surface, make sure you are using a trivet and place the handle away from the edge. That way, you won’t accidentally burn yourself as you move past the pan.
Finally, when it comes to cleaning up, don’t douse the pan in cold water as soon as it comes out of the oven. Copper is great at handling the temperature of the oven and stove, but quick changes can trigger thermal shock.
A pan that is shock cooled is likely to bend and warp out of shape. This is not what you want for your expensive cookware!
Before you wack your copper pans in the oven, make sure to check the manufacturer’s guidelines. You need to know the maximum temperature they can withstand. If you go above that temperature you will ruin the pans.
Below the maximum temperature and you are absolutely fine to use your pans in the oven!