Ernest Mauviel must be rolling over in his grave.
My thanks to reader Martin for noticing these events, which prompted me to take a closer look.
For copper traditionalists, Mauviel’s 2021 catalog bears good news and bad news.
The good news is that cast iron handles are back. For 2021, Mauviel reveals a new addition to the copper-steel bimetal M’Héritage line: the M’200CI with a true cast iron handle, a welcome return to form. In 2015, the company stopped producing pans with cast iron handles and instead used cast stainless steel handles with an “electroplated iron finish” — a matte black coating that was marketed as a sort of ersatz cast iron. Though Mauviel at the time portrayed the change as a response to consumer demand, the coated steel handles seemed a dubious improvement. I am not surprised that the company is restoring the real thing.
The bad news is that the M’200 replaces the M’250 line, the flagship of Mauviel’s M’Héritage series, and this is a downgrade in quality. As the number suggests, M’200 is 2mm thick instead of the M’250’s 2.5mm. Mauviel takes pains to point out that this bimetal is still 90% copper and 10% stainless steel, but whereas the M’250 was 2.3mm of copper, the M’200 is now 1.8mm of copper. In other words, the M’200 has 20% less copper content than the M’250 it replaces.
(I take no pleasure in pointing out that the cutaway photo for the new M’200 line on page 122 of the 2021 catalog actually shows the M’250. You can see the photo at right, and it first appeared in the 2015 catalog. This means that the diagram shows the generous 2.3mm copper thickness of the M’250 line, whereas an actual M’200 pan will have 1.8mm.)
I am disappointed at the elimination of the M’250 line and puzzled at the business decision.
Up until 2007, all of Mauviel’s 1.6mm to 2mm thick copper, whether tin- or steel-lined, was sold as sur table grade — that is, insufficiently thick for stovetop use and therefore best reserved for serving prepared food at the table. Proper cooking grade was 2.5mm thick or more, called extra fort. After 2007, Mauviel softened its marketing language a bit and the 1.5mm M’150 line became “standard use” while the 2.5mm M’250 line remained “professional use.”
But now, in 2021, that distinction appears to have become inconvenient. According to Mauviel, the 2mm M’200 line is now “professional use” and 2.5mm bimetal is a thing of the past. This defies the company’s own long-standing representation of its products and is certainly not based on the inherent qualities of the cookware; but perhaps the overriding purpose is to help the marketing department justify two uncomfortably similar product lines that present no real functional differentiation.
And that leads me to a second issue: the relationship of price to value. The M’200 line has 20% less copper than the M’250 line, and so shouldn’t it be priced accordingly? If the prices I am seeing right now at Mauviel’s USA-based online store represent their pricing tiers going forward, I am struggling to make sense of their strategy. The website appears to be in some disarray: currently there is the existing M’150C (“electroplated iron finish” handle), M’150CI (new cast iron handle), the new M’200CI (new cast iron handle), M’250C (becoming obsolete), and, oddly, “M’250CI” which shouldn’t exist. Perhaps Mauviel tried a limited run of M’250 with the new handle and is hoping to sell them? In any event, the prices for these mysterious “M’250CI” pieces are the same as those listed for their brass-handled “B” counterparts, so I will assume they are representative.
I’ve captured list prices from Mauviel’s website on July 11, 2021 across a few comparable pieces (that is, with the “C” and “CI” handles), supplemented with earlier data from January 2021 for some items that are now out of stock, to see how they are pricing these tiers.
|Frying pan, 20cm/7.9 in||$210||$220||$290||$265|
|Frying pan, 26cm/10.2 in||$265||$265||$375||$315|
|Frying pan, 30cm/11.9 in||$310||$355||$435||$420|
|Rondeau with lid, 24cm/9.4 in||$485||$620||$620|
|Sauté with lid, 24cm/9.4 in||$420||$460||$525||$525|
|Saucepan with lid, 12cm/4.7 in||$180||$210|
|Saucepan with lid, 14cm/5.5 in||$220||$265|
|Saucepan with lid, 16cm/6.3 in||$265||$265||$315||$315|
|Saucepan with lid, 18cm/7.1 in||$330||$365||$390||$390|
|Saucepan with lid, 20cm/7.9||$365||$420||$420|
|Stewpan with lid, 24cm/9.4 in||N/A||$520||$715||$712|
Here’s what I’m seeing.
- A 2mm frying pan will cost more than what a 2.5mm frying pan cost previously.
- A 2mm saucepan will cost the same as what a 2.5mm saucepan cost previously.
- Before, when deciding between 1.5mm and 2.5mm saucepans, you would spend about $30-$60 more to get 75% more copper; now for the same price premium you will get only 40% more copper.
- For some 1.5mm pieces, you will pay a $30-$40 price premium for a cast iron handle on the same pan; other pieces are priced the same with either handle.
I am not a consumer pricing expert, but based on what I see, Mauviel’s pricing is not tied to the actual differentiator between their product lines, and that is their copper content. Wouldn’t a consumer expect to see the M’200 priced somewhere between the M’150 and M’250? Instead, as you can see above, the M’200 is priced at or above the comparable M’250 piece as though they were equivalent.
This change leaves Mauviel in an interesting place: going forward, their only true professional grade copper products will be the tin-lined M’Tradition at 2.6mm. Fortunately for us, in addition to braisières, turbotières, poissonières, pommes-Anna and other legacy pieces, Mauviel offers an assortment of sturdy stovetop pots and pans that can serve as the core of a batterie de cuisine en cuivre.
But note that the handle offerings are limited to bronze (that is, brass) and stainless steel. The coveted “CI” cast iron handles are reserved for the copper-steel bimetal M’150 and M’200 lines and the M’Cook 5-ply line. (The “electroplated iron finish” handles are no more.) This means that the only stay-cool handle option for new-production tinned copper is shiny polished cast steel; if you prefer the look of copper against iron, your only option is 1.5mm or 2mm bimetal.
My feelings about these developments at Mauviel is mixed. On one hand, I am glad to see that Mauviel is maintaining the M’Tradition line. I have feared for the last few years that Mauviel would abandon straight-gauge copper altogether; the company’s product lines have ballooned to a range of bimetal, multi-ply, carbon steel, and aluminum offerings, and that is a lot of production to sell. I foresaw a future for the company wherein tinned copper was sidelined as limited-run curiosity pieces and I am glad to see M’Tradition still commanding a multi-page spread in the 2021 catalog.
But on the other hand, I am sad to see Mauviel attempting to train consumers to lower their expectations. 2.5mm bimetal and 2.0 bimetal are not the same thing. I am sure there are solid business reasons for Mauviel to drop the M’250 — goodness knows the pandemic has affected global industry in ways I can hardly imagine. But there is a reason why Mauviel and every other French maker consistently characterized 2mm copper as table service grade, and in my opinion it is flat-out disingenuous for Mauviel to pretend otherwise.
My advice? Don’t buy M’200 thinking it’s the same as M’250. In fact, dollar for dollar, the M’200 isn’t worth the price. Falk and Matfer-Bourgeat (but not de Buyer, as I erroneously thought) are now your best resources for new 2.5mm bimetal copper. Mauviel’s 2.6mm M’Tradition tinned copper is fine, but I don’t recommend brass handles and the only other option is the polished stainless steel. But for similar prices you can buy thicker brand-new pieces with cast iron handles from Brooklyn Copper Cookware, Duparquet, and House Copper. And of course, you can always buy vintage.