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I bought a vintage 5.5'' round-edge copper pan. How can I tell if it has an adequate tin lining and what can I use it for?

I'm assuming it would be best for use in the oven, serving individual baked dishes? What should I avoid, in terms of things that would react poorly with the copper? And can I use it on the stovetop? Thank you!

asked by Adrienne over 1 year ago
7 answers 410 views
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Lindsay-Jean Hard

Lindsay-Jean is a Contributing Writer & Editor at Food52.

added over 1 year ago

We have a few articles on copper cookware that might be helpful: https://food52.com/blog..., https://food52.com/blog..., and https://food52.com/blog...

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added over 1 year ago

I would have a professional (like Beth Sweeney of Coppermill Kitchen mentioned some of the aforementioned links posted by Lindsay-Jean) do the assessment on whether or not the pan's lining is still adequate (one could e-mail several photos). If the tin layer is showing some copper spots underneath, it likely needs to be retinned.

A 5.5" pan is pretty small for practical cooking. Like you, I would think of it more like a presentation dish even though I'm sure it would perform fine on the stove or in the oven. It's just a size that is too small for all but the most minuscule tasks.

Assuming the lining is intact, there's really little that you can't cook in a copper pan since the lining (tin or now stainless steel) prevents any negative reactions from occurring. The food doesn't actually come in contact with the copper. The main benefit of copper is its superb heat conductivity.

Yes, old pans were designed for stovetop use, just like the modern ones.

However, note that the melting point of tin is about 450 degrees Fahrenheit, so you can't use tin-lined pans for high-heat applications. Switch to a pan made of a different material if you need to subject it to prolonged heat over 400 degrees.

Tin will wear away over time and the lining is easily damaged by sharp objects, metal utensils, etc. It's really up to you to think about how you will react when you do need to retin the item. Will you accept the retinning costs as part of the overall long-term cost of ownership? Will proper use of a tin-lined pan cramp your normal kitchen behavior?

I did a quick Google search for "retin copper pan" and found one site that quotes $5 per measured inch (where measured inch = height + height + diameter), plus $8 for return shipping.


I have no connection whatsoever to this business. Assuming your pan is 1.5" high, that would be (1.5+1.5+5.5)*$5 + $8 shipping, so about $50, not including your outbound shipping costs. I assume you could also send photos of your pan to them for assessment.

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added over 1 year ago

that was the best information i have read anywhere on tin lined copper cooking implements. i had one and did subject it to too high heat. no longer have it. i have one now that is lined with stainless steel and it is a joy to cook with. i can turn off the gas flame and it stays hot for an hour so along with being a good conductor of heat, i use less gas in cooking. thanks for that information. even if you were connected to the industry, it was excellent.

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added over 1 year ago

Like you, I also have a copper pot lined with stainless steel and it is joy to use. Without tin, I don't really have to worry about high heat as much.

It is possible that at extreme temperatures the copper and stainless steel layers would irreparably delaminate because they are expanding and contracting at different temperatures/speeds. Again, I opt for a pan made of different material (like cast iron) for high-heat applications.

It is worth noting that the typical copper pan (tin or stainless steel lined) is not magnetic and will not work on magnetic induction cooktops without a conductive disc (like my pot, almost twenty years old). There are hopefully newer copper pan designs that include a conductive disc of some type on the bottom of the pan, or possibly sandwiched within the copper itself.

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Cynthia is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

added over 1 year ago

If you can see the copper through the lining, the pot needs to be re-lined.

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added over 1 year ago

Could it be used for baking?

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added over 1 year ago

All these comments are tremendously helpful. Thanks, everyone!

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