This is a great pan, and Fred Bridge made it even better.
- Type: Tin-lined sauté pan in smooth finish with an iron handle and helper handle attached with three copper rivets
- French description: Sauteuse étamée avec queue de fer et poignée auxiliaire munies de trois rivets en cuivre
- Dimensions: 26cm diameter by 7.5cm tall (10.2 inches by 3 inches)
- Thickness: 2.5mm
- Weight: 3714g (8.2 lbs)
- Stampings: “Made in France for the Bridge Company”
- Maker and age estimate: Mauviel; 1980s
- Source: Harestew
In my opinion a 26cm sauté pan is one of the most useful French copper pans you can find. It’s a great everyday size for home cooking — perfect for proteins for two, or if you’re cooking for a bigger group, ideal for side dishes like green beans or sautéed vegetables. If you’re looking to try a tinned French copper pan, a workhorse sauté like this is a great place to start — 26cm, 28cm, or 30cm.
What makes this one special is its helper handle: a second handle positioned on the opposite side from the main handle. A helper handle is terrific for a heavy stick-handled pan because it makes it possible to use two hands to lift and maneuver the pan. This 26cm sauté weighs about 3.7 kilos (a little over 8 pounds), which isn’t too massive as French copper goes, so it’s a little unusual to see it with a second handle. I’m more accustomed to seeing helper handles on bigger sautés that weigh 10 pounds or more.
I’m a big fan of helper handles because they address one of the main objections to thick French copper: the weight. If you’re introducing French copper to your family, consider a pan with a helper handle so that others feel more comfortable using it. If you can’t find a vintage one, you can ask your retinner to retrofit an existing pan with a handle if you can find one of the right size, or you may be able to order a new pan with an additional handle. I know that Brooklyn Copper Cookware, Duparquet, House Copper, and Rameria Mazzetti will happily add helper handles for you, but I don’t know if Falk, Mauviel, DeBuyer, or the other large manufacturers will still do this for individual orders.
On this pan, the main handle and helper handle are both iron and fastened with three rivets. The external rivet heads are conical in shape, which I believe means they were finished with an orbital riveting machine.
The interior rivet heads are marked with different numbers: 6 for the main handle, 3 for the helper handle. (Note the period after the 6, which I suspect denotes that it’s a 6 and not a 9.) I think these numbers refer to the size of the rivet but I think they’re relative sizes rather than absolute measurements.
The handles are cast iron with a silvery-gray tone. I’m still learning about the variations in composition of French cast iron handles, but at the moment I believe silvery handles like this have some nickel in them, either as a plating or alloyed with the iron. The result is a lovely smooth finish that’s almost soft in the hand.
The handle has a slight setback to make room for a pot lid, a design change by Mauviel in the 1980s.
This pan is stamped for the Bridge Company; Fred Bridge would have made a special order from Mauviel to add the helper handle. (I’m told that for a long time it was $40 extra to add the helper handle but is now about $200, which may explain why Mauviel resellers don’t seem to be opting for it.)
This is one of my working pans. It lives in the drawers under my cooktop and I use it frequently. It came from Harestew with nice bright fresh tin but you can see how the tin is discoloring with use. This pan is quite clean; the dark patches are oxidation and a bit of brown seasoning, the same phenomenon of polymerized oils that form with heat on a cast iron pan (or any other cooking pan you use, unless you scrub it off). It can be a little disconcerting for a new user of tinned copper to see this discoloration, but to me it’s a sign that the tin is settling in for use.
I’m not in the practice of cleaning tarnish off my working pans. You can see clearly how the copper on the base has reacted with the compounds produced by the flame of my natural gas stovetop to produce some exotic colors. The more I use this, the colors will even out to an even dull red-brown.
I really enjoy cooking with this pan. I’m glad Fred Bridge had the foresight to add helper handles to some of the pans he ordered from Mauviel; he was not the only US reseller to do so, but these pans are still fairly rare. If you see one for sale, snap it up.