For me it was love at first sight.
- Type: Tin-lined stewpot in hammered finish with brass handles fitted with three copper rivets; fitted lid with brass handle fastened with one copper rivet on each end
- French description: Bassine à ragoût étamée et martelée avec poignées en laiton munies de trois rivets en cuivre; couvercle emboîté avec poignée en laiton munies d’un rivet sur chaque côté
- Dimensions: 40cm diameter by 22.5cm tall (15.7 inches by 8.9 inches)
- Weight: 9038g (20 lbs) without lid ; 11326g (25 lbs) with lid
- Thickness: 3mm at rim
- Stampings: Chomette Favor; Made in France
- Maker and age estimate: Mauviel; 1980s-1990s
- Source: FrenchAntiquity (Etsy)
French cooking is, by and large, moist cooking: sauces, poaching, braising, time and temperature working together. The stewpot is where these impulses can come together in one dish. There’s nothing magical about it, but there’s definitely something optimal: a stewpot is twice as wide as it is tall, a broad and sturdy space for the multiple steps of browning and simmering that build flavor.
This one is a lovely example. There is a certain species of Mauviel work in the 1980s or 1990s — I wish I knew exactly when — that manifests a particularly fine pattern of hammering and a lovely rosy color of copper. I know it when I see it, and this pot has it. (This 32cm stewpot has it too, as well as this rondeau, though the latter I believe it is the work of Havard and not Mauviel; perhaps it’s just the hammering that I find so bewitching.)
This pot carries a stamp from the French kitchenware store Chomette Favor, indicating it was made most likely by Mauviel and most likely in the 1980s to 1990s. It also has the Made in France stamp that I believe is particular to Mauviel.
But even without the stamps, there are multiple indicators that this is a modern-era pot. The brass handles are classic Mauviel style but the rivets are small and regular in shape, polished by the riveting machine that inserted them. The internal rivet heads are machine-made and have faint numbers on them, another sign of industrial production.
And there are no signs of dovetailing (as an older hand-assembled pot would have). This pot was deep-drawn: a circular sheet of copper was placed on a hydraulic press and rammed into shape. The result is a beautifully even pot with no seams around its base or up its sides.
There is a lot of copper in this pot. It is 3mm thick at the rim and weighs a hefty 20 pounds even without its lid. At 40cm diameter, it’s scaled for a restaurant. It has been used but not violently so — its exterior is relatively unscratched; compare it to my Chomette rondeau for example, that looks like it’s been through a knife fight.
But this pot does show its age. Its tin is darkened from use and there are some glints of copper that indicate it’s approaching the threshold for retinning. (The general rule is that when the exposed copper adds up to a square inch or more of area, it’s time.)
But it is the lid that shows the most wear and tear. Someone at some point has stacked something quite heavy on top of this pot and the lid has been squashed. That said, it is quite a strong lid — it weighs five pounds — and it has held its own. But as you can see, what should be a smooth expanse of copper is instead rippled. A good retinner can smooth this out, but to be honest, it doesn’t bother me very much.
Big pots like this don’t get much use in a private home but I love mine nonetheless, and this one is a particularly fine and handsome example of what I like best about Mauviel.