How To Spot Quality Craftsmanship on Copper Cookware
I have collected some facts that help you spot a good quality pot. There are some pros and cons regarding thick or thin copper and also what certain styles or appearances mean regarding the quality.
A rolled edge upper rim. Recommended for gas stoves.
This is indicating a thinner copper sheet of only up to 1.5mm. Only thin copper can be rolled on the top edge and an iron ring is implemented in this rolled edge to give thin copper sturdiness. You will not find a rolled edge with 2mm and more thickness as thick copper cannot be formed to a roll. The base of this vessel can warp a little and is best to use on gas stoves where the base has contact with the flame even if it's warped. Thin copper is not recommended on electric stoves since the pot/pan may "spin" during stirring does not provide a sturdy stand and may therefore not have fully contact with the burner.
Rivets are not copper
These can be iron or steel and display a different color than copper; these are less pricey than copper rivets. Quality made copper work may also display a rounded finish of the visible copper rivets which is an additional step after the rivets are attached.
An unfinished rim that displays shiny copper.
If the inside is tinned but the upper rim is not tinned on your cookware it is an indication that the manufacturer did not go all the way to ensure that food is not reacting with the copper. This may be problem with food containing acid such as tomatoes, wine, or vinegar. Superior manufacturer also tin the rim for you.
Tin plating appears thin
This is especially visible on machine hammered copper that the tin is rather thin and not uniform color. It also means that the tin lining will wear out sooner than on quality tinned products.
100% Tin Plated?
If the manufacturer does not mention the tin grade, it is most likely not 100% tin but rather 99.9% purity or even less. The rest can be a combination of other elements such as lead, iron, bismuth, zinc, aluminum, cadmium, nickel.
Cookware may look hand hammered but is in fact hammered by a machine. Sometimes bases are not hammered but the sides are.
The appearance of the dents is very regular, hand hammered products are hardly noticed as such as the overall surface is "wavy" versus single dents.
Some copper cookwares do not have an origin stamp on it and you would not know where this product was manufactured.
Rivets are inserted after the tin plating
Easy to spot when the rivets, usually these are metal rivets from steel or iron) are not tinned, meaning they are not covered properly with tin and the rivet does not appear to be sealing the inside of your pot. The head of the rivets on the inside are also mostly uniform looking which is not the case when each is hammered in.
Conclusion - what to get?
For sure I do recommend you getting tin lined copper pots or pans- these are renewable if worn out and you don't have to discard your cookware in case you ruined it which you will have if it is stainless steel lined - this is not renewable.
Certainly your budget plays a big role in this- you pay more for heavy, thick copper pots or pans as you would for light weighted, thinner ones because copper is just expensive.
If you have gas it wouldn't matter how thick the copper is, the heat conduction is equally fast with any thickness of copper, I just recommend getting some cookware that has a very good tin lining, that looks like it is going to last. If you buy a thin pot with a thin lining you will have to spent the money to have it retinned sooner than later!
Look for true craftsmanship! You may pay more but every piece is hand made and not industrial manufactured which usual lacks quality, but these pieces may be matching even when you buy complete different items. Each copper smith has it's own style that shows in every piece they manufacture for you! Most of the times the copper smith also offers custom made items just for you, if you have a great idea, bring it on!
And last but not least spread the word that tinned copper is not something anyone should be afraid of. While you cannot fry a steak but rather sear, braise, bake, saute, boil or simmer, tinned copper is ideal as it retains the heat to perfectly. Your food stays warm even long after you had stopped cooking. Go tell your friends about your tin lined copper cookware and the passion about cooking might come back to America!