A loud, enveloping hum greets us when we step through double doors into the Demeyere factory. Everywhere, stacks of gleaming stainless steel saucepans and blinking machines tower like small buildings, and we move between them struck by the scale of it all—and the cleanliness. The floors are pristine, the operations orderly, with workers in jeans and tee-shirts watching over the machinery with a very distinctive calm.
Even though this is a place where raw metal is pressed and cut and welded and refined into cookware—nearly a thousand pots and pans every day—there’s nothing jarring about it. We came all this way to see the factory in motion, because today we’re adding two new lines of Demeyere cookware to our Shop.
Because Demeyere cookware is so esteemed (it's been around, family-run, for a century!), but not as well known in the States as it is in Europe, here’s a little bit more about the people behind it and why we admire their cookware. (And if you trust us on that bit and just want to know which pot or pan to buy, skip down to hear more about each line).
Demeyere makes all their stainless steel cookware in the 30,000 square foot factory we visited, which is located in the small city of Herentals just outside of Antwerp. Entirely Belgian-designed and produced, Demeyere’s cookware isn’t as well known in the American marketplace as it is in Europe, where it’s all but ubiquitous in restaurant and home kitchens.
The first thing you’ll notice about Demeyere pots and pans (and admittedly, why it was love at first sight for us) is that they’re refreshingly design-forward.
Two of the new Demeyere designs we just launched in the Shop.
You can see it in the ergonomic handles—which are welded to the body of the skillets and saucepans without the use of rivets. That means the inside of the pans are perfectly smooth, so they stay cleaner (and clean up easier!). And the handles won't get hot while you cook.
The shape of their cookware is so iconic that some of the lines don’t even have the Demeyere logo at all: The design speaks for the brand. But it's not just about good looks. Demeyere fine-tunes the base of every pot and pan for precision and speed on induction ranges, and surface of every piece is treated with a secret technology that prevents discoloration.
Modern-day Demeyere cookware has been a century in the making, and family-run all along. Christophe Demeyere, the company’s general manager who showed us around the factory (and all of Antwerp) during our visit, is the fourth generation to lead the brand. But before there was a Demeyere company at all, there was Christophe’s great-great grandfather:
In 1904, a 16-year-old Belgian plumber and zinc worker named Emmanuel Demeyere moved from his hometown of Courtrai to Antwerp. He was a talented metalworker, and the cookie company De Beukelaer had hired him to manufacture tin boxes for their baked goods. Proving expert in his field, Emmanuel was also asked to make parts for Minerva automobiles, the Rolls Royce of Belgian car design in its time. He was that good.
It turned out that Emmanuel’s son, Maurice Karel, had similar talent for metalworking—but with the added entrepreneurial spirit that often emerges in a second-generation craft: In 1908, he founded Demeyere to focus on the production of metal housewares, and by age 17 was running production and overseeing all four employees—all over age 40.
At that time, Demeyere made coffee pots and ash trays (both of which they became famous for), but also kettles, milk jugs, vases, umbrella stands, and more.
Within a decade, WWI had swept through Europe, and Maurice Karel went to serve in the Engineering Corps in the Belgian army. Ever tactical, he used his time in the service to absorb as much about his trade as possible. Returning home from the war in 1919, he joined his brother Willem in strengthening the Demeyere brand—and with immediate results: So sought-after were Demeyere products in the 1920s that Antwerp’s Bell Telephone company commissioned them to produce millions of capacitor boxes, in addition to their regular offerings.
The brothers moved the company into a factory space in Deurne, a central district of Antwerp, where production would continue for 77 years. During WWII, Demeyere survived by manufacturing the large soup pots required for serving the hungry.
It was likely no surprise that Maurice Karel’s son, Maurits Emmanuel, also had a talent for engineering. And business, too. He joined the company in 1946 and saw an opportunity in the post-war trends in home design: With the rise of entertaining in the 50s and 60s, open, centralized kitchens were coming into vogue, whereas previously they’d been closed off from the rest of the house. It was time to try their hand at cookware.
Up until this time, most cookware was made from aluminum, and wrought with flaws: It corroded to a frightening black, in addition to not being terribly strong. Maurits Emmanuel noticed that stainless steel—prized by medical manufacturers for being a more hygienic and stronger metal—was now more affordable and readily available. “During the course of the history of the company, we’ve always followed the latest state of the technology,” Christophe explained during our visit.
Stainless steel would prove to be a more difficult material to manufacture than aluminum, being harder, but that boded well for use on the stovetop. It was already being made into flatware with good results. Maurits Emmanuel decided it was time to try their hand at cookware—and they saw an opportunity to not only enter the field, but to improve it.
“He was one of the pioneers,” Christophe says of his grandfather.
By combining a stainless steel body with an aluminum base, the new cookware was still a great conductor of heat. But in this new application, stainless steel had a weakness: The material tended to discolor, corroding to a grey-yellow after exposure to high heat. (Maybe you’ve had pots and pans dull this way after the first few uses?)
To solve this, Maurits Emmanuel came up with a surface treatment for stainless steel that he called Silvinox, which guarded the surface of the pots and pans against discoloration and made it easier to clean. While the process has been automated over the years, Demeyere still uses it on every single piece of their cookware.
In the Silvinox part of the factory, cookware is dipped in a variety of (secret) solutions for (undisclosed) amounts of time, resulting in a finish that stays lustrous and silvery for lifetime. After the Silvinox process, the pots and pans are washed thoroughly before drying and packing up for retail. The Demeyere family decided against a patent on Silvinox so they wouldn’t have to release the formula, so while the process has been refined over time, it’s still a secret.
It wasn’t long before Demeyere stainless steel cookware emerged as a forerunner in the European cookware market. They launched their first line in 1967, and expanded to other countries in the 70s. Maurits Emmanuel’s son Maurits Jan, a civil engineer in electro-mechanics, was the Demeyere who noticed a new energy-saving technology called induction cooking (even before induction cooktops hit the market), and made strides in optimizing their cookware to work with it from the very start.
He also moved the company to the Herentals location in the 80s, to the factory where we took our tour. His son is Christophe, who led us around on our tour. Clearly at home in the space and with all the workers, Christophe remembers riding bikes through this factory as a kid and hearing his grandfather and dad talk about new products over meals.
Not long after the turn of the century, the well-establish knife company Zwilling J.A. Henckels gave Demeyere a call. “They approached us because of our technologies, the name, our credibility in the industry,” Christophe says—in short Zwilling wanted to add a credible line of stainless steel cookware to their portfolio, and Demeyere was the obvious choice.
Christophe oversaw the acquisition on the company’s hundredth birthday in 2008 and stayed on as Demeyere's General Manager. “It was a really, really good fit amongst people,” he says of the merger. “We’ve come up with a one plus one equals three concept.”
Just under a century after it was founded, Demeyere employs over a hundred people and manufactures some hundreds of thousands of pots and pans/year.
We saw a lot of incredible design during our few days in Antwerp: We stayed at the Hotel Julien, a pair of restored 16th century buildings by the architect Vincent Van Duysen in the city center, and visited Kanaal, an old distillery-turned-showroom and residential complex from celebrity designer Axel Vervoordt that's just outside the town. We took pictures in front of the gothic Guild Houses, the tiny winding streets.
Coming from such a creatively propelled place, it's perfectly fitting that Demeyere cookware is as design forward as it is technologically savvy.
The maze of machines in their lab-like factory are each specialized: One bakes together a precise combo of metal layers to form each pot's base, another presses (using between 100 and 400 tons of pressure) another disc of metal into the shape of pot, a third welds these the base to the bottom of each pot—magnetic side facing out, so it will light up your induction cooktop.
Watching them is strangely soothing, despite the blazing temperatures and tons of pressure.
All Demeyere cookware undergoes quality testing: A worker inspects every piece of cookware visually, and for heat retention, before it's boxed up and sent out.
There are also what Demeyere calls "destructive tests," which happen once every shift: We watched as a testing machine pulled on the handle of a pot, to test the strength of the welding points. When it eventually snaps (at a level of pressure you'd never reach in your home kitchen!), if some material from the pot is still adhered to the handle the weld passes the test—and rest of this batch of cookware is moved onto the next stage of processing.
There's also the "peel-off" test, wherein they measure the force required to pull off the base of a pot; it has to be above a certain limit for the rest of the batch to pass the test. (Don't worry, these sacrified pots would never make their way to you!)
A photo posted by Amanda Hesser (@amandahesser) on
All to say, they stand behind their guarantees. Here's a little more about the three lines we’re carrying from Demeyere, our favorite features of each of them, and which one is best for you.
Fry Pan, Saucepan, Sauté Pan, Dutch Oven, Saucier with Lid, and Stockpot
Designed with an American customer in mind, Demeyere’s 5-ply pots and pans are clad not just on the bottom, but also up all the sides. (The American customer is used to working with cookware that's clad allover.) With so much active, heat-retaining surface area, they’re forgiving and versatile, a perfect line for the home cook.
Say you’re reducing a sauce—with a 5-Plus pot you’ll be introducing heat from all sides so the water will evaporate faster, speeding up your cook time.
Fry Pan in 7.9", 9.4", and 11" sizes
One of Demeyere’s most souped-up lines, the 7-ply Proline features a base layer that has a TriplInduc surface on the cooktop-side, which is optimized for heating up zippily on induction (between 15% and 30% faster than your frying pan at home!). That’s the kind of speed that you actually notice, even as a home cook.
The core is aluminum, for added conductivity (and for bonding the base to the stainless steel interior)—and, of course, amplifying conductivity and heat distribution. The base will never warp or grow hot or cold spots. When your cold steak hits the hot surface, the pan will maintain an impressively high temperature from the retained heat. (And if your bacon or filet of sole flops up the side of the Proline fry pan, the ends will cook evenly too!)
Plus, you can put these fry pans in the dishwasher because they have what's called a closed rim (a stainless steel layer around the edge of the pot, where otherwise the core material would be exposed). Pots and pans without closed rims will lose aluminum in the dishwashing cycle, and get sharp along the edges.
Fry Pan, Saucepan with Lid, Saucier Pan, Sauté Pan with Lid, Sauce Pot with Lid
Designed with chefs and restaurateurs in mind—and in the case of Food52 readers, those of you who value precision and efficiency the way a chef would—the Apollo line is Demeyere’s most purely functional. The sides of the pan aren’t clad, the way the 5-Plus are; they’re just a single, straight layer of stainless steel, and the base is extra thick.
The result is a line of super efficient cookware: When you’re sautéeing vegetables or making soup, you don’t need heat radiating from the sides of your pan. You just need the heat to be insulated. The Apollo line will get rip-roaring hot on the bottom, and then hold that heat in without expelling an unnecessary amount.
Shop our new Demeyere cookware here in our shop, and watch the video at the top of this post to see more of our trip to the factory.