This diminutive pan punches well above its weight, so to speak.
- Type: Tin-lined rondeau in smooth finish with brass handles fitted with three copper rivets; fitted lid with brass handle with one copper rivet on each side
- French description: Rondeau étamé avec poignées en laiton munies de trois rivets en cuivre; couvercle emboîté avec poignée en laiton munie d’un rivet en cuivre sur chaque côté
- Dimensions: 22cm diameter by 8.5cm tall (8.7 inches by 3.3 inches)
- Thickness: 3mm at rim
- Weight: 2512g (5.5lbs) without lid; 3056g (6.7lbs) with lid
- Stampings: None whatsoever
- Maker and age estimate: Unknown, possibly Mauviel; mid-20th century, pre-1957
- Source: Etsy
Truth be told, I was a little disappointed when I unpacked this rondeau. It was a bit smaller than I thought it would be; even though the seller had provided clear photos and accurate measurements, somehow I didn’t get a sense of its scale. Twenty-two centimeters makes for a fine saucepan, but a rondeau this size looks a tad… squat. It’s also smooth and unstamped, and as unfair as this sounds, I find featureless pans like this to be a bit boring. But when I held the pot in my hands I was pleasantly surprised at its heft — it truly is 3mm thick and weighs almost seven pounds with its lid. Still, it wasn’t quite what I’d expected and I didn’t feel an immediate attachment to it. I set it on an upper shelf and forgot about it.
I think it was about a year later that I decided to give it a try for cooking. The recipe for chili for two called for a saucepan but I wanted to use something with more surface area, like a rondeau or a stewpot, so the chili could simmer and reduce a bit. But the pan couldn’t be too big or else the chili would be only an inch deep. And finally, if I wanted to leave the pot to simmer, I had to deal with the unreliable low-simmer function on my gas range: a timer clicks low flame on and off at intervals but my aging range has gone a little batty and irregular (or stops turning on altogether). I needed a pot with some substance to it to help handle the intermittent heat.
I decided to give this pan a try and I am so glad I did because I finally realized what a gem it is. In addition to being the right size for small-scale cooking, it makes the most of the interval heat by smoothing out the heat spikes. When the heat clicks on, even if only for a few seconds, the copper spreads it quickly around the entire body of the pan so that every surface benefits from the added energy. When the heat clicks off, the thick copper retains the heat so that the temperature drops very slowly. The result is that the low-simmer function on my range operates as intended: the pan holds a steady temperature rather than spiking up and down as the heat cycles on and off.
That’s the kind of performance I expect from my big rondeaux, but to get it from a petite pan was a revelation. Most rondeaux start at 28cm and go up from there, and it’s not too difficult to find pieces at 3mm or better. But my experience is that pans smaller than that are considered presentation pieces rather than “real” cooking pieces, and the thickness of the copper diminishes to 2mm or less. This pan, though it is only 22cm in diameter, has the same 3mm thickness as a much larger pan, and it’s a treat to use it.
I now keep this pan within easy reach and use it frequently for smaller portions of stew or sauces. You can see how often I use it by how much patina it’s built up and how the tin has changed. The two photos below show the pan’s interior from the listing on Etsy, and how it looks now. I think the pan when I bought it was still on its original tin; since then, the tin has picked up some dark surface oxidation as well as some brown seasoning from use.
The base has a healthy layer of tarnish as is normal for the area of the copper in direct contact with heat. Copper spreads heat very effectively but it still experiences high temperature at the points in contact with the heat source. The high temperature combined with the variegated compounds in natural gas produce a rainbow of tarnish colors. You can “read” the asterisk-shaped pattern of the cast-iron grill plates over my gas burners, interspersed with patches of tarnish. (I’m going to leave all this in place so it can do its job protecting the raw copper from further oxidation.)
The side handles are brass fastened with three copper rivets. The interior rivets are rounded and slightly flattened — I believe this indicates that they were compressed during a mechanical riveting process.
The droplet-like exterior rivets are smooth, suggesting they were machine-inserted and finished, possibly with an orbital riveting machine. The cast-brass handle is a little rough, to be honest — there is no evidence of hand-filing that would have smoothed seams and bumps away. Notice also that the middle rivet is a little off-center.
The brass handle on the lid is fastened with one copper rivet on each bracket, which I think is proportional to the size of the lid and the handle.
I wish I knew who made this pan. It’s certainly a 20th century pan, but more likely mid-century than late-century. But it’s an interesting combination of high-quality 3mm copper and somewhat unrefined craftsmanship: the un-filed handles, the somewhat rough casting of the lid handle, and the slightly askew rivet holes. The brass handles are reminiscent of Mauviel but the pan’s thickness and smooth finish do not correspond to any line of Mauviel copper of which I am aware. There is also no MADE IN FRANCE stamp, which appears on the majority of French copper produced during the 1960s and later. This introduces a few possibilities: that it was made by a small chaudronnier with no expectation it would be exported from France; that it was made in the 1960s or earlier, prior to the use of the MADE IN FRANCE stamp; that it’s a custom piece made by request; or that it’s not French at all. None of this matters of course for how the pan actually cooks, but as a collector and historian, I wish I knew more about it.
I’ve never seen another one like it, and if I did, I’d buy it and give it to someone I love because this is a great little pan. You can find the same qualities in a saucepan, Windsor, or sauté pan — look for 3mm thickness in 22cm or lesser diameter — but the short-handled rondeau form factor is nice to have.
What a lovely and authentic sharing of your journey in falling in love with and fully appreciating your rondeau.
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