Is copper cookware safe? Watch out for toxicity levels

by Joost Nusselder | Updated:  November 8, 2021

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Unlined copper cookware is not safe when you cook unless you are making a mixture of fruit with sugar. So, the bottom line is that you should not use unlined copper to cook your daily meals. Only use it for jams which contain fruit and sugar.

The thing is that copper and acidic foods react to each other and this reaction is toxic.

If you read all the random info online, you’ll get scared that cooking in copper pots and pans is extremely toxic. Copper toxicity syndrome is a real disease but if you use tin-lined copper pans, you are completely safe. 

Is copper cookware safe

Jam pots can be unlined because the sugar cancels out the toxins from the acidic fruit. Therefore, copper jam pots are safe for use.

If you consider the opinions of the experts, you notice that French chefs like Christine Ferber prefer the copper pans and don’t consider the copper as toxic in the case of jams and preserves.

If you want to read more, check out her book Mes Confitures.

If you look back at history, copper has been used to cook jams for centuries and people didn’t die from eating these delicious sweets. That’s because of the sugar – it helps eliminate the acidic reaction of fruit and copper.

The second important factor though is that you have to do the fruit prepping and mixing with sugar in a separate bowl and only then transfer it to the copper pot.

Is copper cooking safe?

Copper pans are a highly conductive material that heats up and cools quickly. When exposed to oxygen copper may break down over time and leach into acid food molecules. Copper can be toxic if ingested and don’t want trace quantities to be in your food.

Copper cookware is safe as long as the copper is coated and items can be retinned or replaced when the lining wears thin.

Be sure to use wooden tools rather than metallic ones.

Copper is also loved because it distributes heat evenly throughout your food during the heating process and cools fast after being removed from a stovetop.

It also minimizes the danger of scorching and reduces the scorching of copper cookware. Nonstick pots, grills or other kitchen accessories are not the safest to use but copper is not the only way to prevent the coating from scratching. It is safe to use copper.

Understanding reactivity and the need for lining

Copper was often covered by tin with amazing properties as well. The downside is that tin has a low melting point of about 450°F which can be easily reached if left over flame unattended and empty.

Lining copper with stainless steel is a much newer invention because there is a heck of a lot more difficulty converting these three metals.

In contrast, stainless steel offers a disadvantage in terms of adhesive ability in terms of food adhesive qualities.

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Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.