Yes, you read that right: it’s almost 20 inches across, and that’s just the body of the pan.
|Type||Tin-lined sauté pan in hammered finish with cast iron handle fastened with three copper rivets|
|French description||Sauteuse étamée et martelée avec poignée en fonte munie de trois rivets en cuivre|
|Dimensions||50cm diameter by 13.5cm tall (19.7 by 5.3 inches)|
|Thickness||4.0mm at rim|
|Weight||16900g (37.3 lbs)|
|Maker and age estimate||Unknown; 1920s-1930s?|
This is a really extraordinary find. Mega-scale restaurant pieces like this were made, and can still be found, but they were rare in their day and I expect only a few survive. As you can see in the three catalogs below — left to right, they are Gaillard (1914), Jacquotot (1925), and Gaillard (1956) — the listed dimensions for sautés topped out in the mid-40s. A piece this big must have been a special order.
It is also 4mm thick. At this scale, I imagine it would have to be thick — the floor of this pan presents a span of unreinforced copper that, if dropped or subjected to some kind of physical shock, would be vulnerable to deformation. The extra-thick 4mm sheet would be necessary to help prevent that. And as you can see below, the floor of the pan is as close to perfectly flat as I can detect. This perfect geometry is really marvelous to see on a piece of this scale.
This piece is beautifully made. Look more closely at the two crisp planes of bevels around the edge of the base: these were applied after the pan was made to help work-harden the copper in this vulnerable area. This extra step is a sign of additional measures taken during manufacture to prepare the piece for service, and I take it as a sign of quality construction.
The handle is cast iron and Stephen measured it at almost 52cm in length (20.5 inches); the baseplate is a full 25cm (9.8 inches) wide.
The exterior rivet heads are small buttons with a few hammer marks on them. The interior rivets are slightly flattened mushroom-heads. I have come to see that the rivets on most restaurant pieces have been re-tightened at some point, if not replaced completely, due to the routine force applied to working pieces in busy kitchens, but I am inclined to think that these are original rivets. The flat impressions on the mushroom heads could be artifacts of the initial fastening — I don’t know enough about compression riveting machines to know for sure.
My observation is that this is an early 20th century piece. The amount of force it would have taken to bend 4mm copper sheet into the body of this piece would have required a very powerful metal press, beyond the capabilities of hand-powered equipment from the 19th century. Steam- and hydraulic-powered presses were developed in the mid-19th century but I do not think they were in use in the copper cookware industry until the very end of the 19th century.
I estimate this piece was made in the 1910s to 1930s based on the combination of machine-assisted elements (metal press, machine-made rivets), hand-finishing (bevels), and the size stamp. There may have been additional stamps to provide more clues to the maker and era but they have been worn away. If my age estimate for this piece is correct, then it could have been produced by one of the larger chaudronneries active at the time: Gaillard, Dehillerin, Legry, or Jacquotot being among the most prominent in Paris, or by several other supplier houses in Villedieu-les-poëles.
Whoever made it, it is a stunning piece and in fabulous condition. Says Stephen, “The pan is in excellent shape and has seen little to no use.”
I used fine steel wool on the handle to remove surface rust and then applied a coat of Renaissance wax followed by polishing the copper. I have included a “before” photo of the pan before I cleaned it.
As you can see in the “before” photo above, the pan arrived with a fair amount of tarnish. (That is Stephen’s 46cm Gaillard rondeau in the background, for scale.) But all Stephen needed to do was clean away the tarnish from the exterior to reveal a beautifully shiny and even finish. This piece has been kept in good condition — another miracle for a hefty pan of this scale.
This is truly a spectacular find: monumental 50cm scale, 4mm thickness, perfect geometry, and shiny copper still showing its beautiful hammering. I congratulate Stephen on the acquisition and I am so glad that this marvelous piece has come into his care.