Many home cooks wonder about the safety of copper pans. Whether you cook for yourself or others, you've probably asked at some point if you can cook with copper pots and pans or if they might make you sick. Before investing in a cookware set, learn the potential health risks of copper pans and some cooking alternatives.
Health Risks of Copper Pans
Understanding how copper pans can affect your food and your body helps you prepare your meals in healthier, more careful ways.
The Effects of Copper on the Body
Copper may be bad for your health but not as dangerous as we think if we cook with it correctly.
The materials we use for cooking may sometimes leach into the food we make. While many of these materials are considered safe — such as ceramic — others, like copper, can be dangerous. It's best practice to identify the age, material and condition of your cookware before you use it to ensure it doesn't have any harmful toxins.
In a way, copper is an essential part of the body's health. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), copper is an important mineral the body requires daily. Copper can be found in foods like organ meats, whole grains, avocado or shellfish, and it helps the body produce energy, metabolize iron and synthesize connective tissue. The recommended dietary allowance of copper is about 900 micrograms per day for individuals older than 19. This amount is considered to help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease or Alzheimer's.
However, consuming too much copper, especially in high and single doses, can lead to toxicity or poisoning. Toxic copper ingestion may also lead to liver damage or stomach problems like nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
In general, you likely won't experience copper toxicity if you use suitable copper pans that are in good condition. Most cases occur from drinking water as a result of copper pipes. Because of this, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has limits on the allowed amount of copper in public water. Still, it's best to get your recommended copper from reliable food sources.
Cooking With Copper: Safety Concerns
Despite the health benefits of the material, many people wonder if cooking with copper is safe. Are copper pans toxic? The answer depends on the kind of copper pan you use.
Copper is an excellent heat conductor, heating your food evenly and warmly. For this reason, many cooks enjoy using copper pans, especially for slow-cooked, delicate meals. When cooking with copper pans, using ones with a lining or coating helps prevent copper residue or toxins from leaching into your food.
Be sure to watch for wear and tear or scratches on the coating, as any residue in your food could lead to toxicity. It is best to use softer utensils on your cookware, like heat-proof silicone instead of a metal spoon or spatula. You should also store the pots and pans properly to prevent scratches and harmful exposure. Avoid stacking pans if possible, or use soft pan protectors between cookware if you do have to stack them.
You'll also want to avoid using a copper pan with a nickel coating, as these old cookware pieces can leave behind harmful residue.
Remember that while trace amounts of copper won't necessarily be harmful, ingesting large quantities in a single dose can be dangerous. Practicing safety precautions can help prevent the possibility of copper pan toxicity.
Some safety precautions to take with copper pans include:
- Use lined cookware: Choose lined or coated cookware if you'll be cooking with copper pots or pans.
- Handwash pots and pans: Make sure you hand wash and hand dry the cookware. Dishwashers can discolor copper pans, and the detergents used in them tend to be more abrasive, which can scratch the material.
- Avoid acidic foods: Do your best to avoid storing or cooking acidic ingredients, like wine or vinegar, in copper cookware.
- Check for age and scratches: Always check the age of the cookware before using it. Make sure your pots or pans don't have any scratches before cooking with them.
Problems With Uncoated or Unlined Copper Cookware
Copper often reacts badly to acidic foods like tomatoes or citrus. Using an uncoated or unlined copper pan can release copper salts into food. Copper toxins could cause adverse effects on the body, such as vomiting, diarrhea or nausea. Ingesting large quantities of copper could also result in liver, kidney and stomach issues.
Coated or Lined Copper Cookware
Many copper cooking pieces are made with lining or coatings. Putting a coating on the inside of the pan prevents any reactions from foods and reduces the chance that copper toxins will enter your food. Coated and lined copper cookware is safer for cooking with and heats quickly compared to other materials.
Top Copper Cookware Alternatives
When exploring copper cookware alternatives, you'll still want pots and pans that can hold in heat and adequately cook your food. Here are the best alternatives to copper cookware.
Ceramic cookware sets are known to be safer and more environmentally friendly than other materials, making them one of the best alternatives to copper. Ceramic pots and pans won't scratch, flake or leave any residue, unlike copper cookware, which could leave behind toxins.
2. Stainless Steel
Stainless steel cooking materials are among the most durable and attractive cookware pieces out there. Many cooks enjoy that stainless steel doesn't react with acidic foods, scratch easily, discolor food or leave a metallic flavor. Stainless steel pots and pans can also be bonded with copper or aluminum to create a better heat conductor.
3. Cast Iron
While cast iron is a poor heat conductor, many people enjoy the material due to its slow cooking abilities. It is often used for fry pans, skillets, Dutch ovens or grill pans. Keep in mind that you'll need to season your cast iron pan and maintain it correctly.
Aluminum is a powerful heat conductor despite its light weight, and it's a relatively inexpensive material. It is often paired and strengthened with other metals to make it responsive to cooking. To minimize the risk of potential leaching, choose anodized aluminum.
Purchase Ceramic Cookware From Xtrema
At Xtrema, we've worked hard to redefine healthy cookware that helps individuals and families make the best food possible. Our handcrafted ceramic cookware sets are made by experts and are entirely natural, worry-free and non-toxic.
By choosing ceramic cookware from Xtrema, you can rest assured that you will be able to cook with consistent heat and get an overall safe experience. Our cookware won't leach chemicals or metals into your food, allowing you to eat without worry. Contact us today to speak to a representative or explore our products online!