As owner Matt puts it, “My expectations were massively exceeded.”
|Type||Tin-lined Windsor in hammered finish with iron handle fastened by three copper rivets|
|French description||Sauteuse évasée martelée et étamée avec queue fer munie de trois rivets en cuivre|
|Dimensions||15.9cm diameter at rim by 6.4cm tall (6.3 by 2.5 inches)|
|Thickness||2.6mm at rim, likely thicker in base|
|Maker and age estimate||Unknown; 1850s-1880s?|
This little pan has become a favorite of its owner Matt M., and part of the pleasure is his feeling of having found a special piece. “I saw this little gem and had to get it,” he told me. “The pictures on eBay were not very good but the price was right. My expectations were massively exceeded.” (I’m sure the beautiful polish and tinning job by Rocky Mountain Retinning helped!)
A sauteuse évasée — also called a Windsor — has a flared shape specialized for the reduction of sauces by maximizing the surface area exposed to the air. But there is a second, more subtle effect going on: the geometry ensures that the ratio of surface area to volume remains steady. What this means is that as water evaporates out of the sauce and the level drops, the pan narrows and the exposed surface area gets a little smaller too. This may sound counterproductive for the whole sauce-reducing process, but it actually works in your favor: the rate of evaporation slows down as the sauce concentrates. If, like me, you’ve ever yelped in dismay to find your balsamic reduction has turned gluey while your back was turned, you might try a Windsor next time as it’ll start putting on the brakes before you burn things.
This is a petite one, just under 16 centimeters (6.3 inches) at the rim tapering to 12cm (4.7 inches) at the base. You could fit the base of this pan in the palm of your hand, but the flared shape means it can hold more than a saucepan with the same footprint. Larger Windsors with more floor space can even step in as sauté pans, which is why this kind of pan is sometimes called a fait tout — “does everything.” (That said, I see pans ranging from from cocottes to stewpots to stockpots sometimes also called faits tout, perhaps reflecting the loosening of the French strictures around pans kept for specific purposes.)
But this pan has unusual geometry in that its sides are quite steep. In the photos below, the pan on the left is this shiny hammered Windsor, and on the right is a Peter Brux Windsor of the same diameter. The second photo is overlaid with triangles lined up with each pan’s sidewall. The triangles are the same height, but as you can see, the triangle on the left is skinnier than the one on the right. The sidewalls of this hammered Windsor are at a steeper angle than a “normal” Windsor.
Another unusual element of this pan is its construction.
Yep, those are dovetails. I think this is the first dovetailed Windsor I’ve seen. I’m sure there must be more out there, but based on my experience — or rather, lack of experience — I think they’re pretty rare. Most Windsors are hand-raised from a flat sheet or spun on a lathe, and I can’t see an obvious reason why this one had to be dovetailed instead. But the work is beautiful. The four large crenellations are perfectly aligned like the points of a compass. (And speaking of compass — albeit of a different sort — you can spot the dot in the center of the base. This is the mark left by the smith’s compass as he swept the circle he would cut for the base piece.) As is often the case with dovetailed pieces, the handle is placed over the sidewall dovetail — the bottom of that seam looks to have become slightly separated but has been repaired with brass.
This pan has been made with care and skill. The base is beveled to give the edge an extra work-hardened plane to help resist dings.
The rivets are large and flush-set on the interior, and small and rounded on the exterior. You can more clearly see the sidewall dovetail on the inside of the pan.
The handle is cast iron that has been filed all over at a consistent angle, giving it a lovely even texture. “The handle has a beautiful ergonomic feel, which I find on some of my J. Gaillard pans,” says Matt. “It is not perfectly straight, and so I imagine it was hand worked. It is quite thick but has a noticeably flat top. It just feels as if the person putting it together was conscious of a ‘comfortable feel.'”
“The construction and unique side angle leads me to believe that this is late 1800s to early 1900s,” Matt adds. I suspect it’s a little earlier than that, possibly 1850 to 1880. I’d love to hear what you think as well.
“I’ve never seen a pan like this and am super happy to own it,” says Matt. I heartily agree that this is a special piece and I’d like to thank Matt for sharing these photos and his impressions of it.