By Nikita Richardson. Photo by: Danny Kim.
If you walk into Trois Mec, chef Ludo Lefebvre's celebrated French restaurant in L.A., you’ll see row after row of shining copper. The French-born chef, who also owns Petit Trois and Trois Familia is obsessed with it. “I asked for copper pots as a Christmas present when I was 10 years old,” he says. “It was what I grew up cooking on with my grandmother and mother and what chefs used in France.”
Plus, it adds drama and opulence to your kitchen. “At Trois Mec, I have like 25 copper pots for everything,” he continues. “And people love to look at it. ‘Oh, it’s beautiful! Ooh, nice!’ They love it.”
So, what should you look for? The best copper pans are handcrafted—hammered out by a coppersmith, then lined with pure tin (by a tinsmith) before being fit with a cast iron handle (by an ironsmith). Legit.
This combination of high quality metals means that copper cookware will not only heat quickly and evenly, but that it’ll maintain that heat. You don’t have to worry about anything sticking to the bottom of the pot, no matter how slowly or quickly you cook everything from a savory risotto to a thick fruit jam. (Pastry chef Nicole Krasinski of The Progress and State Bird Provisions swears by her own copper jam pan.)
Just remember two extremely important things: (1) Don’t ever heat an empty copper pan, as they tend to melt at around 425˚F or 450˚F. You can heat up your copper at about half the heat level you would use for an average pot or pan because it just conducts energy very efficiently—thus its frequent use in electrical wiring. And (2) Regularly shine your copper with a lightly acidic solution (like vinegar or lemon juice) or with copper cleaner to prevent tarnishing. Alternatively, take a page from Grandmère Lefebvre and use a combination of flour, lemon juice, vinegar, and egg whites.
Note: If you happen to buy used copper cookware, it might need to be retinned. According to Mac Kohler of Brooklyn Copper, if any copper is peeking through the tin, or if it's shiny and silvery, or if you see fine blisters where the edge of the pot meets the bottom—it's time for a tune up.
And a final loving word from Chef Lefebvre:
“I would not feel French, if I did not have copper in my kitchen,” he says. "And if you maintain it really well, you’ll have it all your life.” That's the sign of a worthy investment.
This story originally appeared on Bon Appetit.
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