We originally ran this article last year when we first launched Dansk in our Shop.
Few pieces of cookware get more attention from our stylists—and prompt more inquiries from our readers and customers—than a sweet little white butter keeper with a wooden handle. For years it's sat on our shelves and snuck into our photos, and we finally got to stock 'em in our Shop (along with bakers and casseroles in the same design, plus the whole shebang in a Food 52-friendly finish).
Vintage hounds and design fans will have guessed the little pot's brand by now: It's Dansk, an iconic Danish design that first took flight in the 1950s. Our own co-founder, Amanda Hesser, has been a fan of the line since eyeing a family friend's collection as a child, snatching up a bevy of it for herself as a young adult:
Just after college, I went to a Dansk store in Pennsylvania, where I'm from. I had little money and nowhere to live, but that didn't stop me from buying up glassware, cooking utensils, a colander, and bowls. Twenty-five years later, I still have much of this original stash (and have joyfully added more and more of the cookware).
Dansk, the company, was originally founded by two Americans, Ted and Martha Nierenberg, who spotted a set of wood and metal flatware they loved during a trip to a design museum in Denmark in 1954. They liked it so much, in fact, that they spent the rest of the trip tracking down the designer, Jens Quistgaard, and convincing him to design a line of cookware together.
He agreed. And Dansk was founded that same year.
So much of a perfectionist was Jens that he insisted on designing the logo, right down to an original, hand-drawn font (the company still uses it). The cookware style he came up with—dubbed Kobenstyle—was to be deliberately lightweight, an easy-to-use foil to the heavy cast iron pots and pans that were so popular at the time. They decided on enameled carbon steel, with angular side handles on the pots and casseroles, and lids that could be flipped over to use as trivets.
You can even slip a skinny wooden spoon through the lid handle to lift and remove it, hands-free. (That's what Jens preferred to do.)
As fans of the cookware know, Dansk has come in and out of production over the years, each relaunch coming from a different manufacturer. The primary reason being the cookware's most desirable feature—those intricate, bending handles that give them a distinguished look—are actually incredibly difficult to manufacture.
Set them out to a chorus of oohs and aahs and you'll understand.
To make that production possible at scale, the current manufacturer has invested in robots to do the welding (originally, it would have been done by hand). They were then able to tackle a number of design improvements, including addresses enamel's predilection to chipping—especially at the edge where the wooden handles meet the pot.
A master metalsmith and woodworker, Jens was "fearless when combining the two materials," according to Jim Mylonas, the brand's V.P. and General Manager. It's a reputation that they're proud to continue (and we encourage cooking and serving with them the same way!).
We're so excited to be launching Dansk's Kobenstyle line in our shop after years of fawning over them in thrift stores; you'll find casseroles, bakers, and saucepans all in a crisp, glossy white finish.
Do you love Dansk? Tell us in the comments.