“It doesn’t quite fit into the usual categories.”
VFC says: This guest post was written and photographed by reader Roger W.
When I first saw this I assumed that it was a lid from a stewpan or marmite, but on closer inspection the weight, the position of the handles, the beveled edge of the base, and, most compellingly, the orientation of the stamps show it to be a complete piece of cookware in its own right.
|Type||Tin-lined sauté pan with two brass handles attached with three rivets|
|French description||Plat à sauter étamé et martelé avec deux poignées en laiton munies de trois rivets en cuivre|
|Dimensions||32cm diameter by 6cm tall (12.6 by 2.4 inches)|
|Weight||4000g (8.8 lbs)|
|Stampings||“MADE IN PARIS FOR E. BONNET 55 DEAN ST LONDON W”; 32|
|Maker and age estimate||Unknown Paris maker; late 19th century|
I have chosen to call this a plat à sauter because it is a broad term used to describe a conventional stick-handle sauté pan and as an alternative name for a rondeau. It doesn’t quite fit into the usual categories. The stamp shows that it was originally sold in London and although D-handled sautés are not unknown in French kitchens, I think it was a form mainly used in England.
In “Modern Cookery for Private Families” (first published 1847), Eliza Acton shows a two-handled sauté pan that she says “is much used by French cooks instead of a frying pan; it is more particularly convenient for tossing quickly over the fire small collops, or aught else which requires but little cooking.” She also has an illustration of a more conventional though low-sided sauté pan that she refers to as “modern.” She stresses the need for a dinner-plate-size frying pan for “nicer purposes.”
The cook who first owned this probably used it as a skillet rather than a sauté. “The Wife’s Own Book of Cookery” by Frederick Bishop (1856), shown on the right, lists a stick-handled flat-bottom pan with vertical sides (number 55 in the illustration) as a cutlet pan, and this gives us an indication of the use that would be made of the sauté.
Below are a couple of English pans that at one time would have been considered a cutlet pan and a frying pan. (Neither is marked, but the larger one at the top of the photo is Jones Bros and the smaller probably Benham and Froud.) As French cuisine became de rigueur, retailers renamed exactly the same pans sauté and crêpe pans respectively without any change to the design. Any buyer asking for a sauté pan in an English department store, even into the 20th century, is likely to have been offered this type with very low sides, and would have used it as a skillet.
The stamp on this French plat à sauter is not complete but having compared it to an online photograph (also shown) I know that it was sold from E. Bonnet at 55 Dean St. in London.
It will be apparent from the marks on the tin that this is a pan I use. I find it perfect for paella because the thick copper overcomes the problem of a big pan on a small burner that would lead to uncooked rice around the edges of a steel paella pan. The pan is beautifully made and I would love to hear if anyone has an idea which Paris house might be the maker.
VFC says: I always look forward to Roger’s guest posts because I always learn something, and this post is a perfect example.
I can corroborate that Roger’s pan is likely a late 19th century piece. According to the London postal directories, Édouard Bonnet was a “cook’s materials dealer” at 55 Dean Street as early as 1882 and as late as 1901. Those dates are not bookends, so to speak, but are based on the availability of the postal directories, and therefore are accurate but not precise: the next earlier directory prior to 1882 is 1852, and of course he is not listed there. However, the firm must have closed within a few years of 1901, as the next directory in 1904 does not list him. So while I can’t be precise about the company’s operating period, I am nevertheless sure that it was extant between 1882 and 1901, and that’s a healthy 19-year lifespan for a retail store.
Roger provided some additional photos of the pan’s construction and in my opinion these details also support this age estimate. The handles are cast brass fastened with copper rivets that are beautifully flush-set on the inside, and the exterior rivets are multifaceted like tiny jewels. That level of finish on the rivets is extraordinary and certainly original to the pan, as replacement rivets would likely have rounded mushroom heads on the inside and outer heads bashed flat for tightening.
The pan is beautifully finished. The sidewalls have been hammered and the edge of the base has been beveled, more indications of attention to detail. A craftsman spent quite some time on this piece before it was ready for service.
I can venture a hypothesis as to the maker. Take a look at the handle on Roger’s 32cm pan on the left and my 40cm Gaillard rondeau on the right. The shape of each handle looks very similar to me, from the curves of the side lobes to the position and sharpness of the point at the bottom. Though the handles would have been produced from different molds — the difference in diameter of each pan would demand it — I believe the handles are iterations of the same design.
My Gaillard pan carries the oval “GAILLARD 81 FAUBG ST DENIS” stamp that I have dated to 1890-1903. Based on this, I suggest that Roger’s pan is Gaillard imported from Paris by Edouard Bonnet. It’s truly a beautiful piece.
The strong similarities between Roger’s pan and my Gaillard do not end with the handles. Like Roger’s pan, my pan is also short for its diameter: it is a mere 11cm tall, whereas my other 40cm rondeau — also Gaillard with the same 1890-1903 stamp — is 17cm tall. Could my rondeau be a mis-labeled plat à sauter? Could there be others lurking in my collection? I took a survey of the measurements of my rondeaux and sautés.
|Pan diameter (cm)||Sauté heights (cm)||Rondeaux heights (cm)||Outliers|
|28cm||7.5 to 8.0||9.0 to 9.5||29cm “Cockerel” rondeau (1860-1882), 6.0cm tall|
|30cm||6.5 to 10.0||11.0|
|32cm||8.5||12.5||Roger’s 32cm plat à sauter (1881-1901), 6.0cm tall|
|36cm||8.0 to 10.5||10.0 to 14.0|
|40cm||10.5||17.0||40cm Gaillard rondeau (1890-1903), 11cm tall|
All three outliers are pre-1900 pans. I think Roger is correct that there was a style of extra-shallow two-handled French sauté pan that seems to have gone extinct, driven out of its ecological niche by long-handled sautés and deeper rondeaux. This bears further investigation!
Roger, thank you again for sharing this pan with us, and for teaching us something new! Readers, what do you think? Do you have examples of these unusually short two-handled pans?