DO NOT ADJUST YOUR SET — we will return to our regularly scheduled copper programming in a moment.
- Type: Aluminum stew pot in hammered finish with aluminum handles fastened with three aluminum rivets and aluminum lid handle fastened with one rivet on each bracket
- French description: Marmite en aluminium martelé avec poignées en aluminium munies de trois rivets en aluminium et poignée de couvercle en aluminium munie d’un rivet sur chaque support
- Dimensions: 30cm diameter by 17 cm tall without lid (11.8 inches by 6.7 inches)
- Thickness: 4.2mm at rim
- Weight: 2380g (5.25 lbs) without lid, 2908g (6.4 lbs) with lid
- Stampings: Matfer (pre-1970s script)
- Maker and age estimate: Mauviel; 1940s to 1960s
- Source: eBay (US)
When this pot came up on eBay I jumped on it. I absolutely love these pieces from alternative lines offered by the French copper kitchenware houses after World War II made copper prohibitively expensive. This one is stamped Matfer but I’m fairly certain it was made by Mauviel.
Aluminum is a wonderful material for cookware and approaches copper in its ability to manage heat. I am not a metallurgist or physicist, so if you want to understand the specifics, allow me to point you to “Common Materials of Cookware,” the go-to reference for a comparison of the thermal characteristics of copper, aluminum, stainless steel, carbon steel, and iron. To apply this to vintage cookware collecting, the Chowhound thread “How much aluminum to equal copper?” figures that you need about twice as much aluminum to match copper. In other words, this 4.2mm aluminum pot performs about as well as a 2mm copper pot.
This pot has the same hammered look as Mauviel pieces of the same era. The finish is beautiful and I love the way it looks.
The pot appears to have been hammered all over, just like a copper pot.
The level of fit and finish, however, is not what I would expect for a copper piece. An aluminum pot like this would have sold for a fraction of the cost of an equivalent copper pot. Mauviel began making aluminum pots after World War II and used the same manufacturing line as for copper, deep-drawing aluminum sheets into shape and then hammering them. The handles would have had to be cast from new designs, however, and these have a singularly rough and modern feel quite different from Mauviel’s traditional brass handle design. The rivets are also slightly but clearly out of alignment; this is not an uncommon issue with vintage copper pots and pans, but flaws like this tend to be minor. This is more than I would expect from Mauviel, but the firm at that time was in extremis and perhaps rushing to figure out how to put out pots that were affordable both to make and to buy.
The lid has both light hammering as well as the concentric-ring look of polished metal. I’m told the lid was stamped, and I presume it was first hammered and then polished to create the brushed finish, similar to a stainless steel piece.
You can see the lid hammering a little more clearly in the photo below alongside the hammered base.
I’m certain this pot was made by Mauviel and not by Matfer for several reasons, but the most obvious of them is the handles. Look at this stewpot’s handle side-by-side with that of an aluminum stockpot stamped “Williams Sonoma France” that was undoubtedly supplied by Mauviel. They’re identical (and, interestingly, both askew.) My stewpot is Mauviel.
I love copper, as you know, but it is good to have cookware made of other materials. This stew pot will be great for boiling water and other utility tasks where copper doesn’t offer a performance advantage. It’s unlined aluminum, so it’s going to react with acids; I won’t be using it for tomato-based dishes, but there’s plenty for a pot like this to do. And every time I pull it out it puts a smile on my face.