On Set: Copper Pot Collection

On Set: Copper Pot Collection

French copper pots from the Food Over 50 set

​The one thing on our Food Over 50 kitchen set that gets the most response from viewers is the eclectic collection of French copper pots and pans that rest on the shelves by the ovens. I've been cooking with them for years or in some cases decades.

​I acquired my copper gear from a variety of sources, over a span of many years. It now amounts to a couple dozen pieces. The French, who are the best at manufacturing this kind of cookware, refer to it as a Batterie De Cuisine Cuivre Extra-Fort. This literally means, Extra-Strong Copper Cooking Armaments. The "extra-strong" means the copper is at least 2mm thick - 3mm is better - and sports heavy, solid iron "whale's tail" handles.

Some of the older pots are on the lower shelf. I've picked these up at estate sales around California, a car boot sale in England, and online from a broker in France who scrounges used copper cookware for resale. The smallest is a 1-litre, slope-sided saute pot. These vessels with slanted sides are superb for reducing a sauce, because they allow for added evaporation. I have 5 of them, from 1-litre to 8-litre. And on the same shelf is my battle-scarred goliath, the 16-litre stockpot that weighs over 15-pounds completely empty. You may have noticed it in use on the show. When it's full and bubbling away it takes a weightlifter to heft it.

A more recent acquisition is the nest of copper "casserole" pots on the upper shelf of the same rack. These I bought a few years back at E. Dehillerin in Paris. This is the venerable cookware shop near Musee la Louvre that first opened its doors in 1820. If you find yourself in Paris and you groove on copper cookware, stop in at E. Dehillerin. It's on rue Coquilliere.

Some of my copper pieces are tin-lined, like the low-sided saute pan in which I prepared the ratatouille for our first episode, "Red Meat & Cholesterol." Others are stainless steel-lined, which is more modern and durable. But either cooks beautifully since copper is a spectacular conductor of heat. It also looks rather snazzy on camera, although I don't use my copper gear to show off. It's about brand neutrality. Manufacturers nowadays forge their names and logos right into the metal of most modern cookware. But Public Television is non-commercial television. That's why I use my own, un-marked pots and pans, even if they're a little old and battered just like me.