This is what I’ve learned about cooking with and cleaning up my vintage pots and pans.
I was accustomed to cooking with stainless steel, aluminum, and cast iron cookware before I started using tin-lined copper, and these are the adjustments I’ve made.
I preheat pans on Medium heat and not for very long. I was accustomed to parking my cast iron or steel pan for ten minutes on a burner turned up to High, but my copper pans heat up much more quickly and efficiently. Now I set the heat to Medium and the pan is ready within a few minutes.
I don’t leave an empty copper pan on an active burner. I preheat my pans with a splash of oil or butter in them to help moderate the heat. A few seconds is fine, of course — there’s plenty of time to fetch the oil from the cabinet while the pan is heating up.
I don’t use the High heat setting any more. Because my copper pans are so efficient with absorbing, spreading, and holding heat, I don’t need to flood them with flame. My Medium heat setting gets me a nice hot pan that’s well able to brown food.
I don’t use any metal cooking utensils. When I started cooking with copper I gathered up every metal (or metal-edged) implement I had and marched them into storage. Instead I use wooden, bamboo, plastic, or silicone tools, or metal tools where the edges have been coated.
I only use non-scratch scrub sponges. As with my metal utensils, I rounded up all my scratchy sponges and herded them into the housework-only bucket.
I soak pans but I don’t immerse them in water. I’ve found soaking to be the magic trick to get even the worst caramelized residue off of tin without needing to scrub it. But I never dip the pan into a sudsy sinkful of water — I don’t want to invite water into the crevice between the pan and its handle. I fill the pan with soapy water and let it sit in the sink or on the counter out of the way.
I clean carefully around handles. This is a problem area for pans because cooking oils and grease can settle in there and get grody.
I dry carefully around handles. This is especially important with iron-handled pots where rust can accumulate if the iron stays moist.
After the pan is clean and dry, I put it back on the cooktop and give it about 10 seconds of heat. This warms the pan enough to help any remaining water in the handle crevices to evaporate.