This Condiment Will Fix Your Copper Pans

The art of cleaning your pots and pans is practically its own genre of know-how, where the Venn diagram of cooking tips and cleaning tips overlaps. There are primers on handling your stainless steel pots and pans with baking soda, like this one from The Spruce, and entire debates over whether to use soap on cast iron skillets, like this one on Eat This, Not That! However, one issue that's perhaps even more complicated is how, exactly, to best clean copper pots and pans. 

Copper pots and pans are expensive. They are an investment in your cooking, when you want the best results for certain dishes. Because copper conducts heat so well but doesn't hold onto it too long, copper pots and pans are a dream for delicate things that need to be quickly cooked but not burned by long-lasting heat, including everything from seafood to melting chocolate (via Serious Eats). If you are going to splurge on copper pots and pans, you certainly want these non-stick gems to stick around in your kitchen portfolio for as long as possible.

To do so, you need to know the most effective cleaning method. This is especially important because, without the proper care, over time, copper reacts with air and moisture and oxidizes, forming copper oxide, which you certainly do not want transferring into your food. However, if you use a polish that removes that layer of oxidation, that can damage the pot or pan (per How to Clean Stuff). So, how do you clean your copper cookware in a way that's safe but preserves the pot or pan?

How ketchup can safely clean your copper cookware

It might surprise you that the answer is not in your cleaning supplies cabinet, but in your pantry or refrigerator: ketchup. According to Taste of Home, when you combine a weak acid with table salt, it safely dissolves copper oxide. Guess where you can find both a weak acid and table salt? That's right — ketchup. 

The acid, writes The Spruce, comes from the vinegar in ketchup, as well as the tomatoes themselves, as they contain some citric acid. This makes ketchup a surprisingly handy and versatile cleaning hack that also works for pots and pans in other materials, as well as polishing silver and brass. 

To clean your copper pots and pans with ketchup, just apply a thin coat of the condiment and then rub it off with a clean rag (via Delish). Taste of Home recommends that, in between the application and removal, you should leave the ketchup on as long as you can to really let it do its thing. You can even mix in some corn starch or flour to turn the ketchup a paste that will dry up so you can simply scrape it off instead of scrubbing.

Copper pots and pans might be pricey, but at least taking care of them doesn't have to be.