The sight of brightly burnished copper is so pleasing to see when I walk into my kitchen. It has taken me many years to put my collection together but it is so worth it. Copper has superb conductivity making it the ideal cookware for both professional chefs and home cooks alike. A set of copper pans will last a lifetime, providing they are looked after properly and cleaned regularly.
I have collected copperware for many years. The first item I purchased was the copper TarteTatin dish which I bought in 1999. Back then this cost £15, today they are asking anything from £75 to £179. This was followed by the copper mixing bowl which cost £25. Now they are asking for £52 upwards.
I have always been a believer in the need to have good cookware. For many years, prior to my copper collection, I had the cast iron Le Creuset range of pans and casseroles. But, although they also last a lifetime, they were very heavy and the enamelled lining eventually became discoloured.
The bulk of my collection was bought when visiting Paris and other cities in France. Every year John would ask me what I wanted for a Christmas present, and every year he had the job of carrying the present back to London. The reason for buying in France – so much cheaper than the UK, particularly before the euro was introduced.
Most of my pans are made by Mauviel, the brand that the Independent newspaper classifies as the ‘Rolls Royce of Cookware”, and rightly so. The company was founded in 1830 by Ernest Mauviel in Villedieu-les-Poeles, France’s ‘city of copper’, in the Basse-Normandie region. Seven generations later the family business is still supplying chefs, culinary professionals and home cooks with copperware of the highest quality and workmanship ( http://www.mauviel.com/ ). The downside to this is that a 6 piece set of Mauviel copper pans now costs £1499. I would like a small fish kettle to complete my collection but the cheapest I can find is £381, way above my budget. Mauviel, how about taking pity on an elderly lady?
Some of my pieces were bought at Galeries Lafayette during the January sales and others at the famous, wonderful cookware shop, E. Dehillerin in Les Halles.
This shop is one that chefs and cooks dream about. Everything imaginable can be found there. Each item that the shop stocks can be found in one of the never-ending rows of ceiling to floor displays. You are given a pencil and piece of paper to take the reference number of the item you want to buy. You then take it to the counter where a very friendly assistant disappears into the labyrinth beyond and then comes back with your goods. No need for technology in this shop, everything is hand wrapped and the receipt hand written.
What are the advantages of using copper cookware? Copper pots and pans are used by many professional chefs because they conduct heat well and also save a great deal of energy. Copper heats evenly without any hot spots and therefore allows food to be cooked evenly and tastily. The downside is copper does need to be cleaned regularly. Personally, I find it quite relaxing to spend a morning every 6 weeks or so removing the tarnish, the beautiful after results are so worth it.
I have bought some second-hand copperitems in the UK, such as the preserving pan which I bought at a car boot sale and the copper wine cooler I found in Snoopers Paradise in Brighton. But if buying second-hand cookware that you intend to use, not just to have for decoration purposes, always feel the weight of the copper and ensure that the tin lining is intact and not damaged. There are many inferior brands on the market, particularly those made in India and China, that are very reasonably priced but not worth their weight in gold.
Sainsbury’s are currently offering a range of copper cookware that is lined with stainless steel and at very reasonable discounted prices. However food tends to stick to stainless steel during the cooking process where tin lined pans don’t.