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36cm sauté with helper handle, “British Transport Commission”

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A reader helped identify the owner stamps on this pan and fill in some of its history.

36cm sauté with helper handle

  • Type: Tin-lined sauté pan in hammered finish with iron handle and copper helper handle fitted with three copper rivets
  • French descriptionSauteuse étamée et martelée avec queue de fer et poignée d’assistance en cuivre munie de trois rivets en cuivre
  • Dimensions: 36cm diameter by 8cm high (14.2 inches by 3.1 inches)
  • Thickness: 3.1mm at rim
  • Weight: 7016g (15.5 lbs)
  • Stampings: “BTCS”; “CSBTC”; multiple letters and numbers (see gallery below)
  • Maker and age estimate: Unknown, but similar to Gaillard; 1900-1920s?
  • Source: eBay (UK)

This is an extraordinary pan, and it’s in the exact condition I got it. I consider this one of the best finds I’ve ever had. Not everyone likes these huge sauté pans; they’re way too large for jumping food (for which the French sauté shape was intended) and at 15 pounds cold this is a beast even to carry around the kitchen.

The helper handle makes this pan easier to maneuver, and it’s lovely — and rare — to find one on a vintage pan like this. While the stick handle on this pan is made of iron, the helper handle seems to be made of solid copper. Copper is not an ideal substance for a pan handle as it will quickly heat up with the body of the pan. This handle, then, is made not for heat protection, but as a second handle to haul the pan around with hands well-protected by a side towel or potholder.

Copper has one advantage over iron or brass, however, and that it is more malleable — easier to shape. The second handle could have been an addition to the pan after it was made, meaning that someone had to create and shape the handle to the pan. It would have been much easier to do this with copper than with iron or brass.

This pan has gone through many hands before it came to me and it’s tattooed with owner’s marks. Reader Roger W. was able to identify the “BTHS” stamp as the mark of the British Transport Hotel Services, the catering arm of the nationalized hotel and rail services in the United Kingdom from 1948 to 1984, and the “CSBTC” as the mark of the British Transport Commission.

Says Roger,

I think that your sauté became a state asset in 1948 and the government set up the British Transport Commission whose catering service put their stamp on it. It was then provided to the British Transport Hotels Service who put their stamp on it. My best guess is that the numbers are codes for individual BTHS kitchens into whose care it was placed. When it needed retinning  it was returned to a central hub in exchange for a replacement pan. When the pile of worn pans was big enough then tinners would be invited to estimate for the job, lowest quote gets the work. The pan could be reissued to a different kitchen and be stamped like a library book.

Roger, thank you so much for taking the time to look at these marks and connect them to this history!

The interior tin is in pretty good shape, though it has some patches of gray. I’m still not certain exactly what the gray stuff is but it’s fine for cooking. I’m reluctant to put this pan through the retinning process when it’s in such good shape now.

36cm sauté with helper handle

36cm sauté with helper handle

I just love this pan. I felt lucky to get it from the eBay seller in Scotland. I’m Scots on my mother’s side and I feel a connection to this wee beastie.

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