design classic: Eva Trio saucepans by Ole Palsby

I‘ve used Eva Trio pans for about 15 years, bought at different times from either Illums Bolighus in Copenhagen or from an amazing kitchenware shop in Long Melford in Suffolk that looked like an old Edwardian ironmongers and was piled high with everything any cook could possibly want - even if they didn’t actually know that they needed it until they walked in and saw it. They sold cookware sourced from all over Europe and beyond - a sort of small, more human and more densely packed English cousin of Williams Sonoma.

Anyway! I digress.

Recently I decided I needed another saucepan lid. Not because you can never have enough lids but because somehow I have never got around to buying the right lid for the steamer insert and I’ve got tired of using the frying pan balanced on the top because that was the only thing I have that is the right size. It means the steamer is really only used as a drainer.

Here it might help to explain that Eva Trio saucepans and lids are sold separately so that anyone sensible should be able to work out how many lids they really need - how often is every pan on the stove covered at the same time? - and you can chose either a plain flat stainless-steel lid or a glass lid for those jobs where you need to seal in the steam but also need to keep an eye on what is happening.

Anyway (I digress again) …. as there was no trip to Copenhagen planned and the Suffolk shop seems, unfortunately, to have stopped trading I traipsed around London in what turned out to be a fruitless search. 

At one of the largest cookware shops, getting more and more tired and frustrated, I actually asked someone why they did not stock Eva Trio pans. 

Apparently, I was told, “there is little demand”. 

I always think that this is an odd excuse and, of course, self fulfilling .… how can you sell many of anything if you don’t stock it?

English families, I was informed, fall into one of three types …. most buy sets of cheap pans from a department store; some go for expensive pans if they are endorsed by a TV chef or, for real food snobs, the very heaviest and most expensive French pans are the “must-haves.” This was not only a very large kitchenware shop but also a very expensive kitchenware shop so you can probably guess which sort of pan for which sort of customer they stocked.

Not stocking Eva Trio saucepans is a pity because they are practical, sensible, simple and easy to store and easy to maintain and, above all, again being practical, there are a number of options in terms of finish and material: the different sizes and shapes come in stainless steel or in copper, with an aluminium core, or as white ceramic-coated pans or there is the matt-black anodised Dura line. This is not something to do with customers not being able to make up their minds and buying one of each but so that they can chose pans that are the appropriate material for the way they cook - saucepans that are related in terms of design but different in terms of heating characteristics - with copper using a lower slower heat through the base and steel pans with an aluminium core distributing a quick even heat in a different way. 

Oh yes … and they look good. 

As far as I can see, the only place where they fall short is if you are one of those people who like to multitask because these pans are too light to build biceps as you toss crepes.

Eva Trio saucepans were designed by Ole Palsby and have been in production since 1977 but their simple minimalist design means that, unless you know the design history, it would be very difficult to date them. This really is timeless design. 

Palsby was self taught, starting his working life in business, of the accountant sort, before turning his skills to product design when he was in his early thirties. As well as other kitchenwares for Eva he designed glassware for Rosendahl; a famous spherical vacuum jug for the German company Alfi and a very simple and very beautiful glass carafe with a silver stopper for Georg Jensen. 

In his book on Dansk Design, Thomas Dickson wrote that work by Palsby is “clean, sensible and unsentimental.” 

I stumbled slightly over the choice of the word unsentimental as I read the comment but then realised that actually it is a very good use of the word. Many products for kitchens seem to take their starting point from kitchenwares of a hundred or even two hundred years ago. Nostalgia or a sense of design evolution is great but it is sentimental …. presumably a fancy wrought-iron trivet, for instance, is meant to make you feel not only comforted and reassured but that you are the new Auguste Escoffier or the new Mrs Beeton.

Palsby went back to basics when he designed the range of saucepans for Eva .… he took a step back and started again .… looking not only at specific functions and at aspects of production but he rethought practical things like the form of the thicker base and how it works visually and practically with the thinner metal of the vertical sides - he gave the base plate a neat bevel - and he thought carefully about how the lids would be used and how the pans and lids could be stored. 

The handles are metal rather than plastic so, if you really want, any combination of pan and lid can go into the oven. The handles of casserole and roasting trays are simple metal loops. The saucepan handles are long, made with steel rods bent to an elegant extended U shape with the two ends bent downwards and riveted firmly to the vertical sides of the pan. The handles are long enough to not only keep cool enough to hold but long enough to keep your fingers well away from the hot sides of the pan and away from the flames of a gas hob. Too many saucepans seem to have handles that are too short. 

The saucepans have vertical sides with a simple small flange at the top to take the lid and lids and pans seal well keeping in not only steam but flavour because you can use less water when boiling.

There are relatively standard-looking saucepans in the range but also much taller versions for pasta or for larger quantities and much shallower pans that are great for smaller quantities or to sauté. Many other saucepan sets do a three bears trick with the same design just scaled up or scaled down, except for lid knops which are kept the same size and usually look ridiculous on small pans: the Eva Trio pans come in a more limited range of diameters but a greater range of heights which seems much more sensible and elegant.

The lids themselves are flat and have the same long looped handle but in a thinner gauge of steel rod and they can be stacked in what looks like a toast rack or they can be hung neatly from a line of butcher’s hooks above the stove.

On the glass lids there are the same handles and a steel rim that has the same profile or lip as the solid lids but the oven-proof glass is held in by a circular loop of steel rod matching the handle. 

Because the steel lids are flat and don’t have a central knop, you can stack a pan on top of another pan that is cooking on the hob to keep the contents of the upper one warm but not cooking which is particularly useful if you get your timing wrong or even better as a way of freeing up a hot plate when you suddenly get to that point in the recipe where it says something like “then warm the sauce slowly” and you realise that every hot plate is already in use. If you are a sensible and experienced cook then you probably do a quick double-check of the ingredients list when you start, just as a matter of routine, but when did you ever see a recipe that had a symbol for how many hob plates you will have on the go and how many ladles and stirring spoons you are going to get through?


…. just in case you have read an earlier post, I also have an Iittala roasting pan and a stainless-steel Iittala casserole which are much heavier .… not because I want to work on my biceps but because, when I bake or roast or casserole food, I tend to follow recipes where the pan starts on the hob, sealing meat or softening onions or whatever, but is then moved to the oven for a long slow cook at a lowish temperature. You can do that with the Eva Trio pans as well but the Iittala pan seems to me to be more like a ceramic casserole or rather, the best of both Worlds, like a ceramic casserole but one you can use on the hot plate. Maybe that says more about me than about the pans! 


Recently, on a trip to London, I found a selection of Eva Trio cookware at the David Mellor shop on Sloane Square.

Eva Trio