Pictured above are three types of Soviet “Kotelok” military issue cook-pot mess kits. Soldiers on both sides of the Eastern Front made use of this piece of Soviet gear. They are handy cooking pots for reenacting, a good size for preparing a quick meal for a few people.
On the left is a pre-war model from 1927, made of aluminum, unpainted. This was a battlefield relic that was extensively restored, using argon welding and epoxy on the outside, with a new wire handle.
At center is a wartime model, made of steel. The exterior has green paint, while the inside retains traces of a bright finish. A variety of tinned and enameled steel pots were manufactured during WWII.
On the right is one from 1951, made of tinned steel, painted green, darkened with soot from use.
Aluminum melts at 1200 degrees F. It is possible to melt a pot like this with an extremely hot campfire. When I cook with this, I suspend it above the coals, and I always make sure there is food or water inside before I start cooking with it.
Steel has a higher melting point – but tin melts at only around 400 degrees F. It’s very easy to reach this temperature with a wood fire, the heat of which is hard to control. When using the tinned steel version for cooking, you have to be very aware of this. The last time I cooked with the tinned steel kit, I had it 3/4 full of water, suspended well above the coals of my fire, and I still melted a very small amount of tin from the pot’s rim. I have seen tin flowing inside these when placed directly on a heat source and used for roasting or frying.
Any style of Kotelok is handy for eating out of but for actual cooking, in my opinion, the aluminum version is clearly superior.