What’s That Pan Made Of?

A view beyond the marketing clutter.

We’ve all seen them…..  

The cookware infomercials that mesmerize.

The pans that seem too good to be true.  Eggs just sliding off pans. Roasts turning out perfectly in half the time.   Burnt food washing right off.

Pans that promise to raise the novice home cook (aka you and me) to gourmet chef status (Gordon Ramsay anyone?).

And best (worst) of all, all these pans are endorsed by some celebrity chef or other.

What are these wonder pans made of?  What’s the material and more importantly, what’s the non-stick coating?

Let’s break through the  marketing clutter and find out!

 

The Product: Red Copper

The Claim: Revolutionary non-stick ceramic cookware made of ultra-tough Copper!

Red Copper Pan

 

Here’s what we found:

After scouring their website and FAQ’s for a while, I could find no answer to the actual material that makes up this pan.  They claim it’s made of ultra-tough copper. But with a pan retailing at $19.99, I highly doubt that.

 

Copper by itself is expensive and copper pans are considered the Rolls Royce of cookware.   So you can see why that price point is my first red flag.

 

After combing through literature and product listings online I found that the ceramic nonstick coating is bonded to an  aluminum pan. So the pans are basically aluminum pans with a ceramic coating. Not copper.  

 

They go on to say that the coating is a Copper-Infused Ceramic.  That means there’s copper in the coating?

 

Hmmm… I’m not sure I want copper touching my food since it reacts with food.  See my complete guide to Copper Cookware here.

 

I was confused so I called their Customer Service number.  I asked the rep to clarify what the pans are made of.

 

He confirmed that the pans are made of aluminum.

 

“So where’s the copper?”, I asked.

 

He read out a blurb from the product literature which says its a copper-infused ceramic non-stick coating.  

 

I voiced my concern about copper touching the food and how that isn’t safe.

 

He put me on hold to go and search for the answer and came back with this explanation:

 

“The layer of copper is in the middle, between the layer of ceramic and the aluminum pan.”

 

Further hmmmm…..

 

It must be a very thin layer of copper for the pan to be so light… and cheap.   And since no copper is supposedly touching the food, the top surface must be just copper colored ceramic non-stick coating.  

 

Is the Red Copper pan safer than a Teflon (ptfe coated) pan?

No more and no less.  It has a ceramic based non-stick coating vs ptfe based non-stick coating and at normal cooking temperatures, both pans are equally safe.  If I take their Customer Reps assurance at face value, then the copper is not coming in contact with the food and is somewhere between the ceramic and aluminum.

 

What Others Are Saying

Red Copper get an average rating by users : some good, some not too good.  General consensus is that these are affordably priced, average quality pans.  As with most ceramic coated pans, many users found that the non-stick quality did not last too long.  

 

The Cookware Advisor Verdict.

If you’re in the market for a ceramic coated pan, by all means, buy it.  As a ceramic coated pan, it’s as good (or not!) as any other ceramic coated pan. But as long as you are aware that this is an aluminum pan with a copper colored ceramic non-stick coating.  There is little to no copper here.

 

I would also advise that if you DO buy it, don’t use metal utensils or egg beaters in the pan as they show in the ads.  That’s definitely marketing gimmicks and no nonstick can withstand that kind of abuse.

 

But as The Cookware Advisor, I also want to caution you that ceramic coated cookware generally has a much lower non-stick lifespan than ptfe (teflon) coated. Teflon coated pans (in my humble opinion) are quite safe as long as they are used as they are meant i.e don’t use on high heat and never heat an empty pan.  If that appeals to you, consider a basic T-fal nonstick pan or a more high end (and more durable) Scanpan.  

 

If you still feel you want to avoid teflon (and I get it, it’s a personal choice), consider 100% ceramic cookware like Xtrema instead of ceramic coated cookware (yes there’s a difference).  This cookware is pure ceramic with no metal and no chemicals and there is therefore no chance of any metal leaching into your food.  

 

 

The Product: Copper Chef

The Claim: America’s #1 selling Copper cookware brand.  Copper on the inside and copper on the outside.  

Copper Chef

Here’s what we found:

One of the infomercials for Copper Chef claims that they’ve managed to infuse copper to the exterior of the pan, on top of their ‘proprietary’ core to take advantage of the excellent heat conduction of copper.  

 

But here’s the thing.  Copper Chef is not copper cookware. While there is no mention on their USA based website about the material of the pans, the FAQs on their Canadian site mention that it is aluminum with copper colored Cerami Tech™ Non-Stick Coating, and a stainless steel induction plate.

 

So basically an induction friendly copper colored aluminum pan with a ceramic coating.  Not a copper pan.  

 

What Others Are Saying

Reviews online are  mixed.  A lot of users report that it starts off great but quickly falls short of expectations. As with other ceramic coated non-stick pans, the non-stick coating doesn’t seem to last too long.

 

The Cookware Advisor Verdict

Personally, I’d pass on this cookware.   

 

This is a set of light aluminum pans trying very hard to make consumers believe that it is copper. Copper, if you don’t know, is super expensive and is quite heavy. This is misleading and I feel you can do much better with your money.   There’s no copper in this cookware.

 

If you really want copper cookware, your most affordable option is a set with a copper core or a triply cookware with copper as one of the plys i.e. layers. Here are some options:

 

If all you wanted was a ceramic coated non-stick pan, then Copper Chef is as good or bad as any other ceramic coated pan.  Go ahead and buy it. Just don’t think you’re buying copper cookware.

 

Or you could consider some other options like Green Pan or Ozeri Green Earth.  Just be aware that the non-stick properties of even the best ceramic coated cookware lasts 6 times less than a ptfe/teflon coated pan.   You might be better of with a good quality ptfe based non-stick pan:

Budget option: T-fal
High end option: Made in Cookware Nonstick pan

 

 

The Product: Gotham Steel

The Claim: The Newest Non-stick Cookware Made With Ceramic And Titanium.  Ti-Cerama non-stick technology. Everything slides right off.

Gotham Steel

 

Here’s what we found out:

Contrary to what the name suggests, these pans are not made of Stainless Steel but are aluminum with a stainless steel handle.   Gotham Steel is just the name of the company.

 

The nonstick coating is a ceramic non-stick that is reinforced with titanium (hence the trademarked name Ti-Cerama non-stick technology). Titanium has been used for years to strengthen non-stick coatings, making the cooking surface scratch resistant and more durable.

 

Is the non-stick coating on Gotham Steel pans safe?

The Gotham Steel Ti-Cerama coating is as safe as any other ceramic or teflon based coating at normal cooking temperatures.  Read my complete review of ceramic coated nonstick cookware

 

What Others Are Saying:

When the pans are new, the non-stick works great, which explains some of the glowing reviews.  But the overall consensus is that the non-stick stops working after a few uses and after that everything sticks.   This is generally true of most ceramic coated non-stick pans anyway. The longevity of the non-stick is a fraction of that of a good teflon pan.    

 

The Cookware Advisor Verdict

Buy with caution.  There are better products out there for your money.  

 

If all you wanted was a good non-stick pan, stick to a teflon type pan e.g. T-fal or Made in Cookware nonstick pans.  I honestly don’t think anything comes close to the non-stick ability of a good quality ptfe (teflon) coated pan.  And if handled with care, you can get quite a few years out of that pan.

 

If teflon is an issue for you, consider 100% ceramic cookware (no metal) like Xtrema.  Yes, it’s much more pricey than the $19.99 for the Gotham Steel pan but you get what you pay for and in this case you get a pan that I would call the safest pan in the market.  

 

Is there any other as seen on TV cookware  that has you baffled?  Let us know in the comments and we will do our best to research and add to this list.

6 Responses to What’s That Pan Made Of?

  1. Courtney N. says:

    I was just given the Bulbhead Red Copper 5 Piece Square pan as a gift. I have two autistic sons. From reading this, it sounds like this pan wouldn’t be safe. I am concerned about the copper, and even the aluminum, leaching. Would you pass on this pan, especially with two autistic children?

    • Cookware Advisor says:

      hi Courtney, I don’t think I would have any safety concerns with these pans, there is no copper or aluminum touching the food. My objection is more to the way they are marketed as ultra tough copper pans whereas they are average quality, non-stick coated aluminum pans.

      Hope that helps. Beyond that, it’s really your call, you have to feel comfortable with whatever you decide.

      • Courtney N. says:

        Thank you for responding so quickly! I guess I was concerned that the aluminum (or copper if there is any) could somehow leach into the top coating when heated. I don’t know how these things work, so that was my main concern. I know the aluminum is buried down there a bit, and I wasn’t sure if just because it doesn’t touch the food, leaching wasn’t still a problem. You know way more about cookware than I do, looking at your site! Thank you for your help.

    • Chris says:

      In addition to providing a non-stick surface, the coating on a frying pan is there to act as a barrier against migration of any materials from the metal of the pan into the food. This is a requirement of the US FDA. If the coating did not fulfil this “Zero Migration” requirement, it wouldn’t be allowed onto the market. Accordingly, you needn’t be worried about Aluminum leaching into the food provided the coating is undamaged – i.e. no deep scratches. There is virtually no copper in these coatings (just a few ppm). The coating manufacturer just uses copper colored pigments that don’t contain copper. I also don’t like the marketing story that’s used to promote these copper colored pans. But in terms of food contact safety, there is nothing wrong with the coating. Performance-wise, the coating is mid-ranking in terms of non-stick longevity.

  2. Skip says:

    I have tried several different TV ceramic pans (Orgreenic, Gotham Steel, Copper Chef, and a few others whose name I can’t remember. I definitely abuse these pans, using metal utensils, steel wool for cleaning, cooking on the grill and under the broiler, dumping water into a hot pan and so on.

    They developed micro-cracks after about a month or so of this abuse, and that made food stick. I then tried seasoning the pan as if it were a cast-iron pan. I poured oil in to cover the bottom and heated it to almost smoke (about 400 degrees F). I then let it sit until it cooled, and poured off the oil and rubbed it down with paper towel. The non-stick came back and stayed until I threw it in the dishwasher.

    General comment – the $20 pans stood up to a lot of abuse and I could bring back the non-stick with a little effort. They were not as good as my $80 Celphalon pan, but I can get four new pans for the price of the one expensive pan. However, the thing I dislike about these low-end all-aluminum pans is that they tend to warp. Gotham Steel warped the least of my low-end pans, but it still warped. The warping means that the pan does not sit flat on the electric stove so does not heat evenly.

    The bottom line – I like these pans and use them for a lot of my every-day cooking. Just don’t expect a $20 pan to perform as good as a $50 pan.

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