Few activities are more basic than cooking, and few metals used in the preparation of food are more basic than copper, which is just one of the reasons why copper cookware is the choice of amateur and professional chefs alike. Beyond this primal appeal, copper distributes heat more evenly than other metals or alloys, so much so that many stainless-steel pots and saute pans feature a layer of copper on their undersides. Sometimes, though, the contribution of copper to our diet is even more direct—according to the World Health Organization, we should all ingest 1.2 mg of copper daily. Fortunately, there’s plenty of copper in foods like lentils, shellfish, and chocolate, all of which are preferable to gnawing on the edge of your favorite copper mixing bowl.

Copper has been used continuously by Homo sapiens for some 10,000 years—a copper pendant from northern Iraq is the oldest example of the metal being formed into something beyond its natural state. Like gold, copper can be hammered cold into shapes, rolled flat, or melted and cast. Most pieces of copper hollowware—from pudding molds and tea kettles to pots and pans—employ a combination of these techniques. Typically, a rolled sheet of the metal is either pounded into its desired shape if it’s not too deep (a saute pan) or cut into a rectangle and formed into a cylinder for a tall item (a stock pot or tea kettle), whose base will be attached as a separate piece.

Seams between pieces of copper are often joined together via cramped or castellated joints (sometimes imprecisely called dovetail joints), which are pounded flat and then sealed by brazing. Lockseam joints are produced when a sheet of copper is folded back on itself at its meeting edges to create a pair of J-shapes, which can be hooked together, pounded flat, and soldered to make the seam watertight.

Of the manufacturers that have made copper cookware for the kitchen over the years, Revere stands out. Founded in 1801 by the American patriot and silversmith Paul Revere, Revere Copper and Brass Incorporated of Rome, New York, was making tin-lined copper hollowware back in the 1890s, and the company introduced its Revere Ware, which replaced the tin with stainless steel, in 1938. After World War II, Revere Ware took off, but in the 1950s it faced stiff competition from imported enamelware, especially Le Creuset, whose brightly colored pieces were a fun, cheerful alternative to the stodgy appearance of steel and copper.

One of the chief drawbacks of copper, besides its high price, is that raw copper exposed to air will form a green patina called verdigris. Though pleasant to look at (think of the green patina on the Statue of Liberty) it is poisonous to eat, which is why copper was tinned, and subsequently sealed behind stainless steel by Revere, in the first place. Still, some cookware is traditionally made of copper, and worth the elbow grease to remove the verdigris for the cooks who love them. Oblong fish steamers, for example, are often made of copper, as are double boilers and saucepans. In some cases, such as round-bottomed copper bowls designed for whisking egg whites, the copper is considered preferable to stainless steel or glass—egg whites whipped in copper are less likely to become overbeaten. In other cases, such as with cookie cutters, the classic look of copper permits these kitchen tools to be displayed on a wall or shelf when not in use.

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Feeding America

Feeding America

This archive of 76 influential American cookbooks from the late 1700s to early 1900s, assembled by the Michigan St… [read review or visit site]

Tupper Diva

Tupper Diva

Kristian McManus’ fresh, airtight collection of Tupperware catalogs and related ephemera from the 1950s and 6… [read review or visit site]

Most watched eBay auctions    

Good Shape Original Antique 1800s Victorian Copper Jelly Mould No 398 Good OrderLarge Victorian Copper English Kitchen Antique Preserves PanCopper Saucepan Gaillard 8.8" Tinned Vintage Hammered 4.75qt Vintage 3mm Saute Vintage Revere Ware Copper Clad Stainless Steel 1 1/2 Quart Sauce Pan Mint 70sCopper Saucepan Gaillard 6.5" Tinned Vintage Hammered 1.9qt Vintage 3mm SauteNew Red Copper 10 Pc Cookware Set Pan Set Seen On Tv Free ShippingVintage 1950s Copper Toaster -- Working CollectableAntique Benham & Froud Copper Jelly Mold No. 477, Gothic DesignOld Antique Copper Pot & Pan Set With Wooden HandlesVintage Deve Model 446 Coffee Grinder Made In Holland Copper TopNew Red Copper 10 Pc Cookware Set Pan Set Seen On Tv Free ShippingWaldow Brooklyn Heavy Copper Saute Skillet With LidCopper Windsor Pan Saucier Fait Tout Evasee. Vintage. 8" Dia. Thick 3mm HeavyHtf Arts And Crafts Falick Novick Hammered Copper BowlAlessi Italy Inox Tea Kettle Richard Sapper Melodic Whistle & Copper Bottom20 Gallon Copper Distiller Still Boiler - Pot & Top - AntiqueVintage Tapiol Copper Cataplana Portuguese Cooking PotCopper Mauviel Saucepan 11" Stainless Steel French Pot 2.5mm 9.8lbs Chef PanVictorian English Copper Tea Kettle Teapot W/acorn Finial Vintage Simplex Patent Whistling Copper Kettle Guaranteed Solid Copper England Copper Jam Pan Mauviel Dehillerin Jelly Hammered 14.9" Vintage Pot Bronze HandleRevere Proline 6713 3qt/3l 98 C Stainless Steel Copper Core Sauce Pan W/lid Vintage 1984 Revere Ware 5 C Stovetop Coffee Percolator Stainless Steel & CopperVintage Revere Ware Copper Clad Coffee Pot Percolator Stove Top Pre-1968Vtg 1801 Revere Ware 12 Qt Copper Clad Stainless Steel Stockpot - Rome, Ny UsaNew Red Copper 10 Pc Cookware Set Pan Set Seen On Tv Free Shipping2 Ireland Copper Small Irish Pouring Pots Scuttle Buckets W Brass Lions Free S/hVtg ~ Revere Ware 10 Qt Copper Clad Stock Pot & Cover - Clinton Il. '95 Vg CondVintage Simplex Tea Kettle: Lid, Wood Handle, Copper CoilsVintage Pre-1968 Revere Ware Double Boiler 3 Qt Copper Btm Pot & Lid Vintage 6 Piece Revere Ware Mini Child Toy Copper Clad 1801 Ss Pots Pans Set Set (4) Vintage Nesting Copper Measuring Cups 1 Cup To 1/4 Cup, Brass HandlesRevere Ware 4 Qt Pan W/lid Rome Ny Usa Stock Pot, Soup Kettle Vintage CopperVtg Lot 4 Copper/tin Cake/jelly/jello Pan Mold Fruit/grapes/apples/pears & More!Vintage 20 Cup Aluminum Coffee Pot Copper Handles Camping Percolator Vintage 1940s Arts & Crafts Movement Copper Metal Tray Drumgold 107 Great DesignCopper Brass Pan France Oval Roasting Paella Au Gratin, Very Large ProfessionalGood Shape Original Antique 1800s Victorian Copper Jelly Mould No 410 Good OrderVtg ~ Revere Ware 12 1/2" Copper Clad Skillet Fry Pan 1801 - Pre 1968 - Vg CondVintage 4 Piece Revere Ware Sauce Pans W/lids Stainless Steel Copper Bottom Vintage Copper Aluminum Cake Jello Molds - Lot Of 10 Fish Hearts Fruit Bundt Arts & Crafts Era Copper BowlMade In France Copper PotOld Primitive Vintage Lot Of 8 Miniature Copper Cookie Cutters In Glass JarLot Of 5 Copper Vintage Pots Antique Mid Century Skultuna Copper Teapot #1611 No. 2 Sweden 1-1/2 L VgcAntique Large Copper Pot / Cauldron / Kettle W Iron Handles Heavy Hand HammeredCopper Sauce Pans Lot Of 3 Hoan Nj Made In ChileVintage Revere Ware 8 Qt Copper Clad Soup / Stock Pot And Lid Dutch Oven#878 New Nwot Peoria Pantryware Triple Decker Food Carrier Copper & Black OldVintage Coppercraft Guild Serving, Fruit Bowl, Never Used Mib3 Qt Copper Clad Revere Ware Sauce Pan Pot With Lid & Double Boiler Made In UsaFour Vintage Mid Century Modern Nesting Copper Measuring Cups, Nice Little Vases50's Revere Ware 12" Frying Pan Lid Copper Clad Usa Made Stainless Steel SkilletOld Hand Hammered Copper Pot Vessel With Makers Mark On BottomAntique Dovetailed Copper Sauce Pan, Kitchenware, CookingVintage Copper Opa Helsinki Finland Handmade Teapot/kettle Peltiteos, (a)Revere Ware 3 Qt Pre 1968 Riverside, Ca Sauce Pan W/lid Ssteel Copper Clad Hammered Copper Tea Kettle 1l2 West Bend Aluminium Co. Copper Cups