VINTAGE OBESSION #9: Copper Saucepans
Posted November 8th, 2013 by iacf
Interiors Journalist (and Vintage Shopping Addict), Ellie Tennant
I pause the new Waitrose TV advert, just so I can ogle Gordon Ramsey’s impressive collection of vintage copper saucepans hanging in the background.
I have bookmarked copper plumbing pipes and brass fittings with strange names such as ‘female floor flange’ on DIY websites so I can, one day, fit an industrial-style copper pipe hanging rail on my kitchen wall (like blogger Susanna Vento did), then display copper saucepans on it, preferably with copper ‘S’ hooks from Drift Living.
I type: ‘hanging copper saucepans’ into Google Images for visual thrills whenever I’m alone, then clear the ‘history’ in case The Husband mocks me.
Copper cookware is fantastic at conducting heat quickly and evenly, so could save you some money on fuel bills, but it does not come cheap in the first place. Shops like The French House sell un-branded sets of five pans for £375, while a single new 20cm diameter French Mauviel saucepan will set you back over £250.
Of course, the antique ones have much more character. Prices vary according to age and condition, but I’ve recently spotted a set of three Victorian saucepans for £450. It’s easy to spot the older pieces; Before the end of the 19th Century, copper saucepans were made from thick metal sheets hammered by hand, so look out for heavy pans with slightly uneven exteriors covered with hammer marks. More modern saucepans are made from thinner sheets of copper, rolled out in factories, so are lighter and have a much smoother finish. Older pans might be inscribed with numbers and letters, too, showing the diameter of the saucepan and the original owner’s initials so they didn’t go astray at the tin-smith’s when they were being re-lined.
Ah, yes. That’s the thing. Unlined copper saucepans aren’t safe to cook with, as acidic foods can cause the copper to leach, resulting in toxic poisoning. Modern copper pans are lined with stainless steel but older saucepans were lined with tin, which can wear away over time. If the inside of your antique pans is copper coloured or worn, you’ll need to have them re-lined by an expert (such as Sherwood Tinning) before you can use them.
Of course, you might, like me, just want them for ‘decorative purposes’. I picked up a set of seven copper saucepans for £20 at an antiques market recently. They’re not very old and they’re not lined, but they look beautiful after a quick polish, have solid cast-iron handles and are just the thing for the kitchen wall. The Husband didn’t notice them for a few weeks, then, one day, picked up the smallest 10cm diameter one disdainfully and said: ‘What’s this for? A single quail’s egg?!’ before guffawing and leaving the room. Sigh.