Sent to you by Chris Hunter via Google Reader:
The folks at CHOW and Modernist Cuisine tested and developed software to test heat conduction through different types of pans so you don't have to, and the results are actually surprising. Before reaching for that expensive copper pan, think twice: a more affordable but thicker steel pan is a better buy.
Modernist Cuisine's Scott Heimendinger explains why above, but the lowdown is this: copper pans definitely transmit heat from the burner to your food faster, but when it comes to even cooking and maintaining regular heating without hot spots around your pan it's the thickness of your pan, not its material, that matters most. A thicker steel or aluminum pan will do a much better job than a copper one, which are usually thinner.
Scott goes on to explain the delicate dance between conduction (heat transfer from the burner to the pan) and convection (heat loss to the air) in the video above. He even offers up a bonus tip to keep your pan extra hot and even: Visit a metal shop and get a half-inch to 1 1/2 inch aluminum block to put over your burner. If that's too much for you, just reach for a thicker stainless steel or non-stick pan when you're shopping for yourself or for a gift and skip the copper ones. Your food will thank you.