When we visit thrift stores, my husband tends to spend most of his time browsing the electronics, gadgets, knick-knacks and other dust-catchers while I’m looking at clothes. (His helpful tip for today is to always take a look at the kitchen section of the Goodwill; the things you find there are almost always items you don’t need and shouldn’t waste money on. Any kitchen gadget that only does one thing (like a banana slicer, for example) is clutter in your kitchen drawer 99.9% of the time, and most of these kind of things end up at the thrift store, usually still in the unopened packaging.)
One thing he’s pretty good at is finding Descoware. He knows I like it, so he always checks for it.
Descoware was the favorite cookware of Julia Child; she used it on her TV show and praised it often. I’m not sure if she had an endorsement deal or just really liked it, but it’s certainly praiseworthy. There is a Descoware fan-site online that has more detailed information about the history of the brand, but the short version is that the D.E.Sanford Company (DESco for short) began importing enameled cast iron cookware from Belgium in the early 1950s and marketed it under their company name. The most popular color was a red-to-orange gradient called “Flame,” though they also offered other colors including yellow, blue, avocado green, and a cream color overprinted with a red and gold maple leaf design. By the 1970s, DESco had been acquired by another company and after shifting production to Japan and making several other changes, Descoware’s patents and trademarks were sold to their largest competitor, Le Creuset. Today Descoware is a popular collectible among fans of mid-century design, but it’s also still sought after by serious cooks. Fortunately, it’s not well-known to the general public, so it still turns up in thrift stores and garage sales fairly regularly, usually at a price much lower than you’ll find at the antique shows and collectors’ sites.
A few years ago, Jim came home with this little saucepan, for which he paid about $4. It’s in pretty good condition; it still has the wooden handle and has no cracks or serious chips in the cooking area, though the rim is a little dinged up.
This week, he found the matching lid. This find set us back another $2. Well worth it.
How to Use Descoware
Look at the inside of the lid. Notice any spikes? Those little spikes are there to allow condensation from the liquids in the pot to continually baste the food. The result is more flavorful and tender meats.
Cast iron retains heat efficiently. Generally recommended low to medium flame because it is easy to overheat your food.High heat used mostly for boiling pasta water or making a reduction sauce. Recommended that only wood or silicone utensils are used.
If you are lucky enough to find a dutch oven with a matching lid, you now have the perfect tool for creating stews and other braised dishes that require simmering over a low heat. I like the convenience of my slow cooker, but the most flavorful stews are the ones I make in my covered dutch oven.
Combine the beautiful colors of the cookware with the heat-retention qualities of cast iron, and your pot can go straight to the table and will continue to keep food warm. We think the best meals are the ones where family and guests linger while conversation and wine flow.