I use these pans almost every day and they show it. Here’s what a set of working vintage saucepans looks like.
- Type: Set of five tin-lined saucepans in hammered finish with iron handles fitted with three copper rivets
- French description: Cinque casseroles étamées et martelées avec queue en fer munie de trois rivets en cuivre
- Dimensions: 12, 14, 16, 18, and 20cm (4.7 to 8 inches) in diameter
- Thickness: 3mm at rim
- Weight: 1075g (2.4 lbs) to 2895g (6.4 lbs)
- Stampings: “GAILLARD PARIS” and “MADE IN FRANCE”
- Maker and age estimate: Gaillard; 1960s-1980s
- Source: barttof
I made this website to showcase my copper collection but also to demonstrate how vintage copper is as useable today for cooking as it was when it was made decades ago. But I’m guilty of modeling the exact opposite: my gallery is full of picture-perfect freshly restored pieces that are large, heavy, and clearly not often used for cooking. The thing is, I do cook every day in my copper, just not in the big behemoths. So with this post, I want to begin showing the real workhorses in my kitchen, and this set is a great place to start.
If you’re going to make copper an everyday part of your kitchen, a good set of saucepans like this should be one of your first purchases, as this set was for me. At 3mm thick, they’re sturdy and hefty and have enough copper in them to confer the benefits of this wonderful metal: even heating, heat retention, and responsiveness. I use these guys all the time for cooking and they are terrific.
These pots were made by Gaillard, a storied French copper maker active from 1820 to about 1980. Going by its stamps, this set was likely made and sold during Gaillard’s final decade. They are lightly hammered with sturdy iron handles, beautifully made.
Those are modern-era rivets. I’m fairly certain that the tinning job is original to the pots. The tin doesn’t have the almost frosting-like softness of a brand new job, but has thinned a bit and hardened to a low- to no-stick surface. It’s ideal for cooking even though to the eye it looks darkened.
I use these guys almost every time I cook, and I don’t polish them. I have a photo from their listing on eBay, and you can see that they came to me in pristine condition.
Now they’ve tarnished from heat and have drips and spots all over them. I have found that I don’t really see the marks; I reach for them automatically to cook with, and wash them up afterwards, but I don’t feel the urge to polish them. Looking closely, I find the colors and markings to be beautiful.
Tarnish isn’t bad for copper — in fact, it’s a protective coating of sorts, a chemical defense against further oxidation. Rust, however, IS bad for iron handles, which is why you should take a moment to dry around the handle and its base, and even give the pot 10 seconds or so on the hob after you wash and dry it to help it air-dry. I focus on keeping the surfaces clean and dry and figure that the exterior is settling into a good working condition.
I hope this encourages you to make copper part of your cooking every day and not to worry about its appearance. Focus on keeping the cooking surfaces clean, and drying the pot and handle thoroughly, and they will serve you quite happily for hundreds of years.