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Coolest Pot on the Planet

I just found the cooking vessel that will truly change a lot of my culinary life. It's from Williams-Sonoma, but I found it in an antiques mall in Cayucos, CA when we were up the Central Coast on vacation. It's a double boiler, though it could also be used as a bain-marie, with a deep copper lower pot, and a heavy white porcelain upper one. This has a round bottom on the inside, flattened enough on the outside to sit on a flat surface. The copper handle is fastened to a copper band, with a screw adjustment to remove the handle if necessary. This had been priced at $165, marked down to $135; we've found that it's still listed at W-S for $230.

My first thought was that this is what I'd want if I decided to try making hollandaise, and in fact it might convince me to try doing that. It's also going to prompt me to get more into custards - I don't like sweet ones at all, but the potential of savory ones is something I'd like to explore. When I made mac'n'cheese the other night I made the bechamel cheese sauce in this, and while it took a bit more time the velvety-smooth result was a revelation. My next experiment is going to be using it for my overnight-on-the-hot-tray steelcut oatmeal.

Knowing what I know now, I think I'd be perfectly willing to pay retail for this thing, if that was the only way to get it. Besides, it's so handsome I don't at all mind the fact that I've got no cupboard room for it; it looks really nice sitting on the cooktop.

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  1. Can you post some pics or a link? I'd like to see it.

    1 Reply
    1. re: ChrisOfStumptown

      I'd love to see it too! Even with bechamel crust on it. ;)

    2. Does it look like this?

      http://www.williams-sonoma.com/produc...

      If so I agree they are gorgeous. I have an old one from Waldow. It is great for making and holding sauces and for melting chocolate.

      11 Replies
      1. re: tim irvine

        That's it exactly; I see I was $100 short on the price! It's still probably worth the money. It would appear to be all but indestructible, unless you just get silly with it. It's also a bit handsomer, I think, with some age on the copper.

        1. re: Will Owen

          Mmmm... I really want one of those, and also a mauviel zabaglione pan too! I don't know why I like speciality pots and pans, but i do. A lot.

          You got a bargain!

          1. re: Fumet

            Hi, Fumet: "... I like speciality pots and pans..."

            Then you have a lot of liking ahead of you! Turbotieres and other special poissonnieres, Pommes Anna and Vapeur, Tart Tatin, Couscousieres, Jambonieres, Rechifrittes, Oefrier, Legumier, Gloutte, Galattiere, Tourtiere, Castaplana, Chaudron, Plat Genoise, Braisiere, Caquelon, Cafetiere, etc., etc. The list goes on and on.

            And then there are about 100 different kinds of molds!

            Be careful how much you allow yourself to like... The next "coolest pot on the planet" is one step further down the road to perdition!

            Aloha,
            Kaleo

            1. re: kaleokahu

              Hear! hear! I am headed for perdition with my pommes vapeur which I adore for its cuteness and for parslied new potatoes. The tarte tatin and the pommes Anna look awfully engaging, too. I cruise ebay and others regularly. Alas, those who buy such esoteric plans must love them. There are cheaper ways to decorate with copper.

              1. re: tim irvine

                Hi, Tim:

                What's highest on your wish list? I'll keep an eye out for you. kaleokahu@gmail.com.

                Aloha,
                Kaleo

                1. re: kaleokahu

                  Actually the pommes Anna. They are beautiful. I love potatoes, and I love butter. It doubles nicely as a smaller casserole.

                  1. re: tim irvine

                    Hi, Tim:

                    I'll look for you. There was a really fine one on eBay last week. They sometimes go for very little. How shall I alert you?

                    When you find one, let me recommend the recipe by Robert Jueneman posted here: http://forums.egullet.org/topic/10470... It's notable for: (a) oven-only cooking; and (b) the fact that the pan halves are not joined except to turn the cake. I have found all the stovetop recipes I've tried wanting, but this one is easy and consistently excellent.

                    Aloha,
                    Kaleo

                2. re: tim irvine

                  I have a tart tatin which is pretty useful - not just for making tart tatin.. Its good on the stove when there's not much room, or in the oven with a few roasted vegetables. In a strange way, this useful nature has tainted its appeal for me. Plus, it was too easy to smuggle in to the house, no adrenaline whatsoever.

                  Now, a copper bain Marie, or turbotiere have limited use, look great, and would be hell to smuggle in to the kitchen and pretend that they had always been there. Perfect! I want them.

                  That pomme vapour looks very odd.. I'm putting it low down my list.

                3. re: kaleokahu

                  The other day at TJMaxx I saw some blini pans, much like the deBayer carbon steel pans we've all been raving about, but only 15cm in diameter and 1cm deep. Pretty thick steel. Only $5 each.

                  But I don't have enough use to justify even that. Instead I bought a 14cm enameled steel 'paella' pan, really more of a tapas serving dish.

                  1. re: paulj

                    That's good value for money... If you ever use it!

                    How about this weird one :

                    http://www.auravita.com/product/De-Bu...

          2. <quote>It's a double boiler, though it could also be used as a bain-marie </quote>

            What is the difference between the two?

            2 Replies
            1. re: redips

              In a bain marie, the upper pot sits in the water. In a double boiler, the upper pot sits above the water without touching it.

              1. re: Jay F

                Than you, mwhitmore! Now I know what's for breakfast tomorrow.

                I think a chunk of cold butter would do as well as the cream to stop the cooking …

            2. Oh dear. I needed an excuse to get a new pan the same way I needed a big hole in my head. You're not helping by suggesting full retail price is worth it! Your uses for the thing are killing me. (I do wish every single type of pot and pan had a post just like this one on Chowhound. Kudos to your enabling skills!)

              1. Hi Will,

                I picked up the exact pan you have at a similar bargain a few years ago, and couldn't pass it up. I've never used it though, but for decoration.

                I've been meaning to test it out when I saw on a documentary that JFK preferred scrambled eggs made in a double boiler.

                alarash

                1. WOW! I need a bib because I am drooling. I have a similar setup with an AC saucepan and a double-boiler insert, but this is beyond beyond. Here is something to try: There are two completely different scrambled egg recipes. Everyone knows Sautéed Scrambled Eggs. But try this: Heat your Divine Cooking Utensil with water in the pot, a piece of butter in the insert. Beat some eggs lightly, add to insert, cover and cook to thicken. Stir occasionally. When the mass of eggs has thickened considerably, stir continuously---PITA I know, but worth it. When the mass of eggs is no longer liquid, add salt, pepper (optional) and a dash of heavy cream (also optional, but it will stop/slow down the cooking). I call it Custard Scrambled Eggs, and I got the idea from Nero Wolfe(can't remember which book, offhand).

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: mwhitmore

                    Sounds almost like chinese steamed eggs (but switch the butter for broth -)).

                    1. re: ninrn

                      yeah . . . that was my first thought. coolest for brownies? Imported or domestic . . .

                      but really? $300 - $400 for a double boiler? I mean its beautiful, but you can get all clad or cuisinart inserts in the $60 range, off brands in the $30's.

                      http://www.amazon.com/RSVP-MDB-1-Doub...

                      1. re: KaimukiMan

                        I've got a small enamelled steel one, a 2 1/2 qt. anodized-finish one, and a glass one, each of which gets used sometimes for something. This will get used for a whole lot more, and in fact will let me do things that were too difficult or tricky with the others. And for the record I have one All-Clad pan that I'd love to get rid of, but it was a very expensive present from the then-new Mrs. O, so I try to find some use for it now and then.

                    2. Hi,
                      I have a question about this pan. I saw it in a Williams Sonoma recently. I would use the porcelain upper for melting chocolate. The deep copper pot on the bottom is tin lined. I don't own any tin lined copper. The smallest copper pot I own is 3.5 quarts and is stainless lined. I own a small disk bottomed stainless saucepan that I use for making small amounts of polenta and also a sauce for fish (white wine, capers, butter and lemon juice.) Am I correct to assume that I will probably have an easier time with my polenta and won't have any issues with my acidic fish sauce in the tin lined copper?

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: sherrib

                        Hi, Sherri:

                        Unless you are leaving very acidic sauce in the pan for hours, you should have no problem.

                        A word of caution, though. These are specialty pans specifically designed for double-boiling and Bain-Marie tasks. The shape is usually narrower at the rim than it is at the base, so that a straight-wall ceramic insert can be *surrounded* by the hot/simmering water; this is not an ideal shape for a saucepan. Likewise, because the metal outer pan's function is merely to heat the water between the metal and ceramic, the copper is usually very thin; as a consequence, you might be disappointed with some scorching and hotspots if you were to use just the base as a saucepan.

                        But for chocolate, custards, *holding* sauces and the like, these pans are outstanding.

                        Aloha,
                        Kaleo

                        1. re: kaleokahu

                          Thanks Kaleo. Maybe I should start with a copper saucepan to replace the disk bottomed one and then graduate to the double boiler...