So, on the heels of my review of the 28cm Falk Culinair CopperCore here: https://www.chowhound.com/post/falk-c..., several people wondered aloud about how other induction-compatible copper compares. Specifically, I was asked about the deBuyer Prima Matera. Since I no longer have any Prima Matera, and my tests have evolved a bit, I volunteered to run the same tests run on the Falk on a PM pan if someone would loan me theirs. A kind and trusting Hound appeared, and a few days later, so did his never-used 27cm Prima Matera fry pan. Out came the Vollrath Mirage Pro, my thermometers, and some pork belly...
I should first say that the PM and the Falk are seriously different pans. Yes, they both have pan bodies made of slightly less than 2mm of copper (Falk, 1.9mm; deBuyer, 1.8mm) a thin (0.2mm) stainless lining, and cast stainless handles. But there the similarities end. The PM is a bimetal pan body to which a relatively thick 2mm ferromagnetic disk has been added to its bottom, whereas the Falk is fully-clad copper triply, the outer layer of which is 0.4mm of ferromagnetic stainless. On the PM, the exterior walls are copper. On the Falk, the only exposed copper is at the rim. The PM’s walls are polished and its lining is heavily brushed; The Falk’s exterior is brushed and the lining is smooth.
But the differences extend beyond basic construction and finish. The deBuyer pan’s 20.2cm floor is substantially smaller than the Falk’s (24.3cm) and the Fissler’s (21.5cm). The deBuyer’s walls are more splayed, and stand 4.8cm tall. While both pans are within 2mm of being equal height at their rims, the deBuyer’s much smaller floor (320cm² vs Falk’s 464cm²) and splayed walls make this a seemingly taller and yet smaller-cooking pan than it is. The PM is a 2-egg/1-steak pan, whereas the Falk is a 3 egg/2 steak pan. Weight-wise, the Prima Matera is 1.86kg/4.1lbs. This compares to the Falk’s 2.41kg/5.3lbs. Most cooks should be able to toss food in the Prima Matera.
One way of looking at the differences is that the deBuyer is a medium-small 2mm pan, and the Falk is a medium 2.5mm pan, even though there is only 0.1mm difference in copper thickness. The Vollrath’s 5” coil size is proportionately larger for the PM, too.
So in running the same tests on a smaller, different pan, are the pans even commensurable? I think they are, as long as the differences in results are explained—or at least attributed. For example, temperature readings at the deBuyer’s floor edge must be taken closer to the center than they were with the Falk. Likewise with readings taken at the rim—the PM is effectively formed from a 31cm diameter bimetal disk, whereas the Falk is pressed from a 35cm diameter sheet of cladded metal. For another, it must be borne in mind that the PM’s steel bottom disk is 5x as thick as the Falk’s full-coverage bottom.
OK, so with those differences in mind, here’s how the PM compares—thermally—to the Falk.
Test #1. After exactly 10 minutes at power setting 20/100 on the Vollrath induction hob, the PM rose to 381F dead center, 331F at the floor edge, and 278F at the rim. These are ∆Ts of 50F and 103F respectively. For what it’s worth, the Falk hit 395F in the same time, at which point the ∆Ts were 72F and 108F. Under this test, the PM was slightly more even, although that might be attributable to shorter measurement differences and the 5x thicker bottom steel.
Test #2. This test was run at the power setting required to stabilize the empty pan at 350F. Here, the deBuyer stabilized at 354F at power setting 15/100 (By comparison, the Falk held at 350F at power setting 12/100). At the 354F center equilibrium, the PM registered 322F at the edge and 284F at the rim. These are ∆Ts of 32F and 70F.
Test #3. This test was done to emulate what many cooks do to preheat: blast with heat to the Leidenfrost Point, and then turn the heat down substantially to cook. Here, I preheated the pan to 350F at 80/100 and then reduced the heat to 40/100. One minute later, the edge and rim temperatures were taken. They were 250F and 215F, for ∆Ts of 100F and 135F. This is clearly a case where 1:05 at 80/100 is not an advisable preheat, because the resulting ∆Ts are misleadingly high. This may well be the reason some reviewers and users report Prima Matera as being uneven and prone to hot-spotting on induction. I attribute this result to an insufficient preheat here; it was too high and therefore too fast.
For whatever the reasons and attributions, under these tests on my induction hob, the deBuyer Prima Matera 27cm was more even-heating than the 28cmn Falk CopperCore. With a full preheat, its floor was only 22F less even than the monstrously thick (>8mm) Fissler. I suspect, however, that if we were testing 32cm pans (here the PM version is 31.5cm), the result would be different.
As I did before, as a method of assessing downward responsiveness, I timed how long it took the deBuyer to shed 100F after the power was killed. I expected this time to be short because I thought the bare copper walls would radiate away more heat than a clad construction (the Falk’s time had been only 1:49). So I was very surprised that the thinner PM took 4:04 to shed 100F from 350F to 250F. I attribute this large difference to the thermal mass of the deBuyer’s 2mm steel bottom, and not enough copper to quickly conduct and radiate that heat up and away at the walls.
To test upward responsiveness, I timed the temperature rise to 350F on a much higher setting, 80/100. The Falk had been very fast at 1:15, but the deBuyer here hit 350F in 1:05. I really expected that 2mm steel disk would have dragged the time out, but no. I didn’t even have time to move the contact thermometer! So I ran the test twice more at 80/100 for 1:05, at which points the edge registered 250F and the rim 215F.
Ultimately, the upward responsiveness is blindingly fast, but the downward response is slow. In a practical sense, I assess that users should be very watchful not to overheat the deBuyer pan, yet they should not expect similar speed if they want optimal evenness and when they adjust settings downward.
Here, it’s a mixed bag. Upward responsiveness was extremely fast—so fast that there is good use of the wattage. Still, the PM only reached 309F at power setting 12/100 (the Falk had held 350F at the same setting). Taking the blindingly fast upward response together with the necessity for a higher constant power setting, I attribute the lesser efficiency to the uncladded exterior wall shedding heat faster than did the Falk fully-clad. In this sense, the Prima Matera retained and concentrated heat in its floor, as did the Fissler in the previous test (6:59 to shed 100F).
As with the test of the Falk, I preheated the dry PM pan to a constant state where the center holds 350F (Here, 15/100). The preheated pan was then wiped with an oily paper towel; flour added evenly; excess flour quickly knocked out; then the pan is replaced and recentered on the active coil to see what browns and where.
As you can see, there isn’t much of a distinct donut or ring. It *is* a little darker in the center. But if you look closely, you can see browned flour everywhere and snow white flower nowhere—even well up on the walls. For a pan only 2mm thick, the Prima Matera gets a good rating for evenness.
I also decided to repeat the same Falk food test with a preheated and oiled PM pan frying a strip of pork belly that extends the full floor diameter of the pan. Any lesser browning at the strip’s outermost ends would be a decent visual indicator of a higher ∆T and practical unevenness. Grain of salt: Because the PM floor is 4cm smaller-diameter (and the coil proportionately larger), an exact apples:apples comparison probably isn’t possible.
The deBuyer pan was heated at 20/100 to the Leidenfrost Point, then oiled with 2T of peanut oil. One strip of pork belly then was placed across the center of the pan. The strip was cooked 5 minutes per side, then flipped. Each side got 10 minutes total cooking time.
The results are shown in the photo. As with the Falk, there was no discernible hotspot in the deBuyer. Note: The strip in the photo started out spanning the entire floor, but shrank as it cooked. The strips in the Falk test were fresh, whereas this one had been frozen and thawed, undoubtedly causing cell rupture and more shrinkage.
The Prima Matera is a beautiful pan--beautiful like a 1947 Delahaye convertible. Its handle is a work of engineering art (I've seen at least 3 different handles on this pan--the first stock photo is not the one I was sent). But despite the obvious effort that went into keeping the handle cool (e.g., thin cross-sections and a ventilation hole), it didn’t fare much better than the Falk’s handle—it still got uncomfortably warm (137F) 2” from the pan body after long use.
There’s no pouring rim. No that one’s needed on a fry pan, but for the rest of the line, one would be a good selling point.
I don’t want to damn this pan with faint praise. It’s a good pan with good evenness and great upward response. The fit and finish is excellent. Downward response was disappointing. The floor is somewhat small, and that makes for a crowded pan. It’s expensive, very expensive: https://www.amazon.com/PRIMA-MATERA-C... Is it worth $475? You be the judge.
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