By Melanie Fincher

Restore shine to your copper cookware without damaging its finish

Buying copper pots and pans can be quite an investment, but with proper care and cleaning they can last a lifetime. Copper is popular because of its beautiful, sleek finish, but more importantly because of its ability to conduct heat. It's far more thermally efficient than even stainless steel. Copper cookware tends to be lined with tin, which is also more nonstick than stainless steel. It's safe to say, when it comes to cookware, copper is king. Read on for our tips on how to clean your tin-lined copper cookware and keep it looking new.

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Tips for Making Your Copper Cookware Last

  • Copper cookware should never be heated empty. Because copper is so thermally efficient, without anything in your copper cookware to absorb heat, the tin lining may begin to melt. Always make sure food or cooking oils are in the pan before it gets hot.
  • Dry your copper pots and pans as soon as you finish to keep from getting pesky water spots on the copper exteriors.
  • Cleaning your copper pots and pans promptly after each use with warm water and dish soap is the best way to prevent buildup over time. While you should allow your pots and pans to cool a little, washing them while they're slightly warm will help the residue to come off more easily.

How to Clean Burnt Food off the Tin Lining in Copper Cookware

While food residue is easy to remove from tin with a soak in warm soapy water, sometimes burnt on food can take a toll on your copper pots and pans. Try this method to cleanup your copper cookware.

Here's What You'll Need:

  • Water
  • Pure, unscented ammonia
  • Plastic scouring pad
  1. Fill your pan with water and bring it to a boil.
  2. Add a generous amount of pure, unscented ammonia. Let this sit for 24 to 48 hours outside (ammonia is an irritant, so exposure to high levels of it can be dangerous).
  3. Once your pan has had a good soak, use a scouring pad to gently remove the residue.

How to Brighten the Tin Lining in Copper Cookware

It's natural for tin to get darker and smoother with time. This can even improve the pans performance. However, dark spots can be unsightly, especially when looks are part of the reason you spent money on copper cookware in the first place. Try this simple method for brightening the tin in your copper cookware.

Here's What You'll Need:

  • Water
  • Wooden spoon
  • Non-iodized table salt
  • Baking soda
  • Aluminum foil
  • Small ceramic bowl
  • Dish soap
  • Sponge
  • Dish towel
  1. Be sure the pan is clear of any food residue before beginning this process. Start by filling your pan with water and bringing it to a boil. Once it's reached a boil, remove it from the heat source.
  2. Using a wooden spoon, stir in a couple tablespoons each of non-iodized table salt and baking soda. Using a metal spoon will disrupt the reaction.
  3. Use your wooden spoon to push down a folded sheet of aluminum foil into the bottom of the pan. The foil should have several layers to it. You may want to use a small ceramic bowl to hold the foil down.
  4. Allow this mixture to sit for about half an hour, and then remove the aluminum foil. You'll notice that the foil is darker and the tin is brighter!
  5. Empty the pan and wash it once more with dish soap and warm water. Dry immediately with a clean dish towel.

How to Brighten the Copper Finish on Your Cookware

This method of brightening the copper body of your pots and pans will help to bring their shine back, while still leaving you with some of the "patina" that copper connoisseurs know and love. Patina refers to the greenish-turquoise corrosion that naturally occurs when oxygen interacts with the chemicals present (it's the same process that produces rust). This helps to improve copper's already extraordinary thermal efficiency.

Here's What You'll Need:

  • Flour
  • Ketchup
  • Fine salt (light-colored sea salt is best)
  • White vinegar
  • Dish soap
  • Water
  • Sponge
  • Dish towel

To polish the copper exterior of your cookware, start by mixing three parts flour, two parts ketchup and fine salt, and one part vinegar into a paste. Sea salt works best, as it doesn't contain additives that will scratch copper (beware of silicates). Smooth this paste over the copper parts of your pan, and allow it to sit for a few minutes. After allowing it to sit, rub the mixture into the pan and then wash it once again with warm water and dish soap. Dry immediately.

Related: How to Clean Your Stainless Steel Cookware to Make It Last Longer

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