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saucepan with a copper bottom

Copper-bottomed cooking pot: a science project

Why do pots have copper bottoms?

Because heat and electricity are closely related, copper is also a good conductor of heat. This is why good cooking pots often have copper bottoms.

What is copper?
What is heat?
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Copper, iron, or aluminum pots?

If you have any copper-bottom saucepans at home, try this experiment: boil the same amount of water in a saucepan with a copper bottom and one with a steel (iron) or aluminum bottom. Which takes longer?

What is aluminum?
What is steel?

What kind of spoon conducts more heat?

Check out whether copper is really a better conductor than other things are. Put a piece of copper pipe into a pot of cold water along with other things like a wooden spoon, a steel spoon, a strip of aluminum foil, and a plastic serving spoon.

What is plastic?

Put a small dab of butter on the dry end of each object, and put the pot of water on the stove and heat it up. (To save energy, you can do this when you were going to cook dinner anyway).

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Making predictions

As the things heat up, they’ll eventually melt the butter. Which one do you think will heat up fastest? Why? Which one will be slowest? See if your predictions are right, and try to explain why you were right (or wrong).

Drawing conclusions

Why do we use wooden spoons to stir our pots? Why not steel spoons or glass spoons? Or why not plastic?

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