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I want to invest in a copper skillet, the heating characteristics intrigue me.

When searching, I found a copper-lined stainless steel skillet, which has the bonus of being induction-compatible. I had no idea these existed. This wasn't one of my original criteria, but I do have an induction cooktop, so it would be a nice added bonus.

My question is: Does the stainless steel affect the heat characteristics of the copper surface at all? Could I still expect the even heating of a copper skillet on a gas range even with the steel base? Or am I wasting my money on something that sort of behaves half-way between copper and iron/steel?

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    Mind that anything LITERALLY exposing a copper surface to food is not safe for use with every food! – rackandboneman Dec 14 '16 at 15:11
  • @rackandboneman I actually did not know that, but it seems obvious in retrospect. For reference, if anybody is curious, the FDA says: "(A) Except as specified in B ... copper and copper alloys such as brass may not be used in contact with a food that has a pH below 6 ... (B) Copper and copper alloys may be used in contact with beer brewing ingredients that have a pH below 6 in the prefermentation and fermentation steps of a beer brewing operation such as a brewpub or microbrewery." Interesting! – Jason C Dec 14 '16 at 17:30
  • Acid can make verdigris of copper, which is a nasty poison. People had gotten hurt that way in the 19th century. – rackandboneman Dec 15 '16 at 9:40
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As a general rule, a solid copper pan and a "copper-lined" (either plated, or possibly a thicker layer bonded in some way) are likely to be quite different in terms of heat distribution, since stainless steel is a very poor conductor of heat and copper is a very good one.

So, when heated "unevenly" a copper pan of a given thickness will conduct heat to even out the heat the food sees, while a stainless steel pan will be much more prone to hot and cold spots. A blend or sandwich of the two will be somewhere in between, and exactly where in between is it will depend on how much of the sandwich is copper, .vs. how much is stainless steel. Copper is (at present, and for quite some time) far more expensive than stainless steel, so there's a strong economic incentive for it to be thin, at the manufacturing point.

A stainless pan that was lined with the same thickness (or nearly the same thickness) of copper as the copper pan alone was would be pretty similar to the copper pan, but I don't know if anyone makes something like that. The whole pan would be thicker, in that case.

  • Yeah... the one I found has a fairly thin copper plating on the interior. It's mostly steel. Too good to be true, I guess. That explains the low price, too. – Jason C Dec 12 '16 at 19:22

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