Maintenance Issues

My husband, Dewey, and I have a kitchen full of copper pots and pans. We also have cast iron, stainless steel and the ever-useful non-stick omelet pan. Thanks to Dewey's passionate searching of TJMaxx stores everywhere we travel, we have some of the best hand-crafted French copper cookware that he found at greatly discounted prices. That's great! But it isn't! I was somewhat annoyed because I knew that zinc-lined copper pots require special handling and lots of maintenance to keep the copper looking shiny, and I also knew that I'd be the one doing most of the maintenance. What did I do?

Research! I did the research. I went to the manufacturer sites, I googled what I needed and I'm happy to report that it's not anywhere near as bad as I thought it would be.

For copper I handwash with a sponge or sponge with a gentle scrubbing side. Every four to six uses, I shine the copper exterior. There are many options that work: copper cleaning powders, vinegar and salt, Barkeepers Friend and, BIG SURPRISE, ketchup! Yes, the acidity in the highly concentrated tomato pulp that is the main ingredient in ketchup works like magic! I keep a big bottle of inexpensive ketchup just for this task. My other go-to is Barkeeper's Friend. It's gentle and fast, and I can use it on so many other surfaces including my quartz counters.
These are stainless steel pots with a copper exterior. Inexpensive. Sturdy. Had them for 15 years.

What's with the zinc? In many of the copper pots and pans, especially those made in France in the traditional method, the pots are lined with zinc, which (we are told by historians) was the original non-stick cooking surface. It also stains. The stains are permanent, but that's the look of traditional high-end cookware, so just go with the flow. Soap and water and a gentle scrubby will work to clean the zinc interior of copper pots. Most copper pots today will be lined with stainless steel. Using barkeeper's Friend with that is most appropriate. It will clean any darkening and replenish the shine.
My favorite helper for keeping copper and stainless steel pots shiny and new.
Copper exterior (before and after) using Barkeeper's Friend.

Cleaning the stainless steel interior with Barkeeper's Friend.

Maintenance is such a dirty word! Who wants to put in the hard work? Almost no one, including me, but I do it. I realize that it's the cost of cooking in a nice kitchen. If you're not a maintenance kind of person, buy all stainless steel and one non-stick pan for omelets and scrambled eggs, and replace them every few years.
They're not perfectly polished, but my copper pots and pans are used, so
some of that use sticks around.

Cast Iron pans. They are the best kitchen companions when used properly, and require very little maintenance, but building up a hard finish on the cast iron takes a little time. There are numerous articles and videos all over the internet. This is one of our favorites from Tyrant Farms

By the way, stainless steel is porous also. If your want to get the interior of your stainless steel pans to a strong non-stick capacity, try this chef-approved method
I use this little stainless steel pot for just about everything.


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