Hand-cutting showcases the art of artisan glassmakers who guide and press lead crystal blanks against carborundum and sandstone wheels to grind grooves and/or facets in cooled lead crystal to create a design.
Water constantly trickles over cutting wheels to prevent them
from becoming hot enough to break the crystal. Without lead
content, the cutting wheels would probably shatter the glass.
Producers of better quality hand-cut lead crystal hand-polish cuts by guiding each cut against wheels of increasing fineness: stone, then lead, wood and cork and finally a mixture of water and fine powder.
Producers of lesser quality lead crystal polish cuts by dipping cut crystal into acid. Side-by-side, the difference is significant.
Glass engraving originated as artisan hand work and is not as invasive as hand-cutting. Both lead crystal and soda-glass can be engraved by guiding blank glass against revolving copper wheels that grind fine wheel marks into the glass, leaving a soft grey design.
Engraving is still done by hand but more commonly by machine. Machine engraved monograms on glassware is both popular and affordable.
Acid, applied by hand or by stencil for mass-production, bites or ‘etches’ into glass leaving a frosted design deliberately left unpolished. Etching resembles engraving but leaves no wheel marks on the glass.
A stenciled design is placed on glass to protect areas to remain untouched — and expose areas to be blasted away by a force of sand— leaving a textured design.
Gold, silver or nickel metallic oxides are applied to glass by hand or machine and must be fixed in an annealing oven—-and always washed by hand.
A film of mercury is poured between double walls of glass to look like brilliant silver.
Enameled glass is painted with oxides mixed with finely powdered glass suspended in oil. The design is permanently fixed in a low temperature muffle kiln. If paint pigments are not fixed with heat, they’re considered ‘cold colors’, which eventually wear off.
Decals are designs printed on film-coated paper with special paint which may be colorful and/or metallic. The paper designs are applied to the glass and fixed with heat in a process similar to ironing a decal on a t-shirt. Decals are commonly used to decorate barware and colorful glassware for children.
This technique requires a design to be first engraved on a copper plate which is inked. The ink is then transferred to paper and applied to the glass while the ink is wet. The same copper plate is used for duplication. All transferred designs on glass must be fixed with heat.
Even if fixed with heat, all glassware with applied ornamentation that is: metallic, painted, decals or transfer, should be washed by hand.
All glassware pictured in this post was hand/mouth blown in Murano.
Glassware shaped by mouth or mold can be transparent, translucent or opaque and made in every color of an artist’s palette — and a variety of techniques combine colors in wondrous ways.
Colored glass is made by mixing non-metallic elements as sulphur and selenium and metallic oxides as copper, antimony, manganese, iron, nickel, cobalt and gold into batches of glass ingredients prior to fusion in a glass furnace.
Cobalt and ruby red are more expensive to make than other colors because oxides to make these colors are more costly.
Overlays of color may be transparent, translucent or opaque and of different thicknesses. If the top layer of glass is transparent, or if portions of the top layer are cut away, lower layers of color are revealed.
PATTERNS MADE FROM GLASS THREADS:
Threads of varying thickness are fused into multi-colored canes, sliced and embedded under clear molten glass. Artisan glassware made from glass rods are a Murano specialty.
Lace-like patterns are made by combining and twisting glass rods so thin,
they’re called ‘threads’.
This paper weight design is millefiori, (1,000 flowers)– a classic design made from slices of colored canes made from glass threads embedded under clear glass.
From the 1870s through the 1920s, extraordinary contributions in the design and execution of glassware were made by Louis Comfort Tiffany, an American master of decorative arts who achieved glass colors and textures still unsurpassed. His stained glass windows, lamps, mosaics and Favrille glass are featured in the American Wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Egyptians poured hot liquid glass around a core of clay or sand to create hollow vessels to hold precious oils and perfumes as early as 1,500 B.C. All glass was translucent or opaque. Clear glass was not developed until the 1,500’s A.D.
Blowing air through a pipe to inflate molten glass originated in Syria in the first Century B.C. Making hollow glass vessels began to flourish throughout the Roman Empire.
SHAPING GLASS TODAY:
At glass factories, silica and other glass ingredients are sieved and mixed with scrap glass called cullet. Cullet comprises 1/4 to 1/2 of a new batch of glass because it helps ingredients fuse faster and is used as a starter to save fuel. This ancient technique of using scrap glass is an example of true recycling.
All ingredients are mixed in large pots and placed in furnaces in the afternoon to achieve proper temperature and fusion for the next morning’s production. Fusion takes place at 2,700-3,000º Fahrenheit. In Murano, workers begin their work day at 6:00 A.M because factories get very hot in the afternoon. The first glass furnaces heated with wood, (the reason glass factories were near forests): oil replaced wood, then methane, natural gas and electricity.
Over 400 large glass-melting furnaces in the U.S currently employ an energy-saving technology of oxy-fuel firing.
The gaffer (master glass blower/artisan) blows air through the blow-pipe into the molten-metal and presses simple iron paddles and calipers against the billowing taffy-like glass to define a shape. The blow-pipe is constantly rotated to prevent sagging due to gravity.
As molten glass is shaped, it’s reheated frequently to maintain a workable temperature which the artisan team judges only by color. Finished shapes are cooled slowly to prevent crystallization.
Watching a team spend more than 30 minutes developing a large mouth-blown shape, the gaffer shattered it because it was not up to his standard of excellence. The blown shape probably had large bubbles or striations (visible streaking). Minute bubbles in mouth-blown glass are quite acceptable, large bubbles are not.
Molds are used to create uniform shapes and sizes for soda glass, lead crystal or borosilicate glass. Any of these molten glass formula can be mouth blown or machine blown into molds for mass-production.
Products shaped in cast-iron molds usually have mold marks whether mouth or machine blown. Mold marks lessen the quality and value of glassware. Manufacturers of better soda-glass products usually grind mold marks away;an acceptable practice.
Soaked wooden molds are used to shape better quality glasses because hot molten glass in soaked wood creates steam—and steam prevents mold marks from developing.
Mouth-blown tumblers can be mass-produced by mouth-blowing molten metal into iron molds, used to shape tumblers one-at-a-time. Where a tumbler is attached to the blowpipe, the closed end is cut open by machine, leaving a very sharp edge.
As glasses pass beneath an intense flame with the cut edge face-up, the sharp-edge quivers, melts and thickens to become a smooth ‘safedge’. Glasses with a safedge are inexpensive; they require no polishing by hand or machine.
Pressed glass was patented in 1825 by John Bakewell, an American, who developed a way to make pressed glass knobs for furniture. Mechanical glass pressing machines soon led to the global mass-production of inexpensive decorative glassware.
Gathers of molten-glass are plunged into molds to form the outside shape or bottom of a product. Before the molten-glass solidifies, a second mold presses down to shape the inside or topside of the glass shape. This process allows for mass-production because it requires little or no hand labor for production or finishing—and making it affordable.
Molds impart texture to help offset inevitable mold marks. Pressed glass replicates the texture of ‘cut glass’ but has its own charm— even with mold marks—although some manufacturers grind the mold marks away (adding to the cost).
Antique Colonial and Depression pressed glassware is highly valued by collectors but mold markings are essential for authenticity. Mold marks are retained in replicas of Colonial and Depression glassware but labels must state that they’re reproductions.
A soda-glass cake plate is being mass-produced as calibrated amounts of molten glass drop onto a rapidly rotating mold. A top mold is pressed down to control the shape and texture of each plate. A conveyor belt carries each hot plate through an annealing oven where it cools slowly to prevent cracking.
Texture eliminates any need for polishing and the plates can be immediately boxed for shipping. Costly technology is offset by minimum hand-labor and volume sales; an example of economies of scale .
This vitreous matter can be
transparent, translucent or opaque,
delicate or strong and
functional or decorative.
Throughout glass history, diverse glass formulae enabled artisan glass blowers, cutters and engravers as well as mass-producers of glasswares to enrich our lives.
Decorative and functional glass shapes are created by hand/mouth, mold or machine and embellished with cutting, etching and engraving by hand or machine in broad price ranges.
HOW DO WE KNOW IF GLASS WARES ARE GOOD?
Glass wares are as good as the raw materials
and production methods used to produce them.
Sand is fused with specific ingredients to become soda-glass, lead crystal or borosilicate glass (used in laboratories or as cookware). We cannot assess the quality of artisan or mass-produced glass without transparency of raw materials and production methods on all labels.
Non-leaded glass (most of our everyday drinkware) is made of various compositions of soda glass. Venetian soda-glass was ‘greenish’ until the middle of the 15th Century when a method of purifying soda ash was developed. The result was glass so clear and colorless it was called cristallo because it resembled rock crystal. Even though many bridal registries refer to all stemware as crystal—the word implies lack of color, it is not a formula of glass.
Melting pure silica requires temperatures higher than commercially practical. Alkalis, soluble salts as soda and potash may be added to reduce the fusion temperature of silica.
Ingredients commonly added to silica:
SODA: an alkali of sodium carbonate (usually ashes of dried and burned marine plants) which serve as a flux to reduce the fusion point of silica. LIME: makes glass more stable, lighter, cheaper and cool faster. POTASH: burned beech wood, oak or fern is substituted for soda to make glass harder, more brilliant and capable of being cut and/or engraved (not to be confused with lead crystal).
In 1676, English glassmakers introduced lead oxide as a flux in potash-lime glass to create glass with exceptional clarity and brilliance: marketed as lead crystal. Lead crystal is heavy, colorless, brilliant, and refracts and reflects light. It has a distinctive musical tone when the edge is flicked with a finger or struck with a pencil.
Lead oxides makes glass ‘softer’ — which makes it easier to cut and engrave but easier to shatter.
Producers of lead crystal usually list the percentage of lead oxide although exact formulae are guarded secrets.
To qualify as lead crystal, international guidelines require a minimum of 10% lead oxide. Steuben Glass (no longer made: still revered) used a platinum lined melting tank and stirring rod because platinum resists corrosive effects of molten lead crystal and imparts no impurities to the lead crystal formula.
Lead Crystal Quality Designations:
Half-lead requires a minimum of 24% lead oxide. Full-lead requires a minimum of 30% lead oxide. (cristal superior)
CAVEAT: Never store wines and spirits in lead crystal decanters. Lead increasingly leaches from lead crystal into wine or spirits.
Made with boric acid, borosilicate glass, invented in the 1880s by German scientist Otto Schott, was used for heat resistant laboratory and cooking glass. It does not expand with heat or cold but cannot pass from freezer to oven. Silica content is usually from 55 to 80%.
In 1915, Corning introduced a clear, low-thermal-expansion borosilicate glass for laboratory glass and kitchenware; trademarked PYREX; (each letter is uppercase).
Glassware is ubiquitous and glassware breaks, yet we all love glassware and stand in awe of man’s magical transmutation of glass from sand!
Our lives are enriched by the function and beauty of glassware in our homes but today’s choices are confusing. Many styles and shapes of glassware are similar to each other and the price range is very broad.
It’s almost impossible to buy inferior glassware although we may not like the color, shape, weight and size of some products. We have no money to throw away but many of us don’t know how to identify and differentiate qualities that make some glasses superior to other glasses.
We”ll explore timeless, generic principles of quality from designers and technical experts at international artisan and mass-production glass factories. Diverse formulae provide diverse glasswares for drinking and cooking but each product is only as good as the specific raw materials and production methods used to make it. It’s impossible to assess artisan or mass-produced glass without judging these elements.
Historian Jacques Barzun wrote; “Without a sense of history, the feeling is given that the whole system drowns down ready-made from the skies.”
And so, we begin our story of glass.
Obsidian is natural glass formed when a thick volcanic lava flow, rich in silica, cools into a brown-black, vitrified material. More than 11,000 years ago, prehistoric people quarried obsidian from a cliff near Mammoth Hot Springs, Wyoming and fashioned it into tools and weapons.
We don’t know how man-made glass came to be but we marvel
that early man made glass from sand more than 4,000 years ago.
The essential ingredient of man-made glass is silica (found in
nature as sand) and melted at extremely high temperatures and
shaped and cooled to a vitreous (non-porous) state. Historians
question if a very hot cooking fire on a beach might have fused
sand with soda?
We may not know how man-made glass came to be but we do
know glassware history chronicles man’s history. Early glass
wares were made using solid core, mold-casting and carving
techniques. Solid glass beads were made in 2,500 B.C. and
Egyptians poured hot liquid glass around a core of clay or sand
as early as 1,500 B.C to make vessels for precious oils and perfumes.
Blowing air through a pipe to inflate and shape a glob of molten glass attached to the opposite end is believed to have originated in Syria, 1st Century B.C. The production of hollow glass vessels flourished throughout the Roman Empire until its’ decline, circa 476 A.D. All glass was translucent or opaque: clear glass had not yet been developed.
Venice, an independent state on the Adriatic, became a crossroad of sea trade. Inspired by glass wares originating in the Middle East, 13th Century Venice became a center of glass-making. The Venetians crushed quartz river pebbles for pure silica which they combined with soda ash from Mediterranean coastal plants. Danger to wooden buildings from glass furnace-fire forced the glass industry to move to the nearby islands of Murano and where it remains.
In the early 1600’s, the heavily forested Virginia colonies provided wood for the intense furnace heat required to fuse ingredients for making glass and glass-making became America’s first industry. By the 1950’s, glass-making was still a regional industry but unemployment, especially in West Virginia, was very high.
During his presidential campaign, Jack Kennedy pledged to create jobs in this area. Mrs. Kennedy honored his pledge by ordering stemware for the White House from West Virginia: the very glasses we sold in Berger’s Gift Gallery.
Buying trips to Murano always put me in an eight century time-warp; factory showroom windows provided sights even more magical than the glass wares!
Glass ingredients were batched in pots each afternoon and placed in special furnaces to achieve a high temperature for proper fusion for the next day’s production. The result was a fused hot mass called ‘molten metal’ —shaped and cooled slowly to become glass.
I never dreamed I’d return to Murano as an FIT professor and revisit world-renowned glass factories to interview management and artisans whose very breath creates the beauty of glass. Artisan production hadn’t changed.
I later visited several mass-production glass factories in other locations in Italy. Furnace technology was similar; some had modifications and even the iron paddles and calipers were similar to ancient tools.
Glassware production is currently global—although competition from low wage countries and rising costs of raw material and labor have forced many international manufacturers out of business. Mergers, bankruptcy, buy-outs and reorganizations chronicle their struggle to survive. My sorriest example: NYC.’s 5th Avenue isn’t the same without Steuben Glass.
I never cease to marvel at the vitreous material that protects us from the elements, enhances beverages and helps us explore our world via test tube, microscope and telescope.
The next time you put on eyeglasses,
look in a mirror—or sip champagne,
imagine your world without glass.
Carry a magnifying glass to read manufacturer’s names and metal content which may or may not be on all used and vintage cookware. You probably have no recourse for returns or refunds in flea markets, thrift shops, estate sales or charity bazaars. Selections may be limited, prices erratic, and other information, a ‘guesstimate’ of the seller…..but just maybe, you’ll find a treasure.
How old is the cookware? Be guarded about used cookware, especially if you don’t know the former owner. If you find scratched non-stick linings, warping, dented edges so lids don’t fit properly, loose handles and chipped enamel—–pass.
But, if you find a wonderful but ‘beat-up’ copper pot or kettle and fill it with flowers in your fireplace—or use it as a wine or beer cooler, none of the above matters. But if you want to use the same copper kettle for cooking, all of this matters, very much!
Did you get an honest answer about the age of the cookware?
With the exception of 1950’s-60’s stainless steel pans with a thin cladding of copper on the bottom (that does not diffuse heat very well), age of used cookware is hard to judge. Component materials and condition of the cookware is more significant.
Can you identify the metal or metals used to make the cookware?
It’s difficult to verify the metal or alloy of some older cookware. If you can’t identify the metal, be wary of using it for food. If the brand name is known, contact the manufacturer — if they’re still in business.
How long does cookware last?
Good cookware can survive several generations. Inferior cookware won’t last one generation.
Country of origin:
Many nations have long produced quality cookware to showcase native dishes, e.g. fondue pots from Switzerland, paella pans from Spain and stir-fry pots from Pacific Rim nations. As a retail buyer, a lot of the cookware I carried was imported. If cookware made in developed countries is in good condition, it’s probably okay for cooking.
Handles, lids & edges:
Dented edges keep lids from fitting tightly; steam must be kept inside the pan in order to develop succulent juices. Handles must be firmly riveted through the pan, and must not wiggle. Interior rivets must be smooth so food can’t cling, making the pan difficult to wash.
CAVEAT EMPTOR: Sellers of used goods love to ‘make up’ stories about products.
SELECT CLASSIFICATIONS OF COOKWARE YOU NEED:
SELECT THE BEST FABRICATION FOR EACH
1. IDENTIFY RAW MATERIALS: Copper, aluminum, stainless steel, tin, cast iron, stoneware, porcelain, terra cotta and borosilicate cook and bakeware each have benefits and drawbacks such as reactions to foods and/or stove-top or oven heat. Some of these materials are more reactive than others. Pan weight contributes to success; expert chefs recommend pans as heavy as you can handle.
Sandwiched plies of metal and heavy gauge metals have the added benefit of not warping. Decide which materials are best for the foods you cook and select the pots, pans, casseroles and other functional shapes and sizes you need.
2. PRODUCTION METHODS: Globally, cookware is mass-produced and with little exception, production is both labor and capital intensive. Production photographs not only illustrate how diverse shapes are formed; they support the necessary labor and capital manufacturing costs borne by the retail prices of good quality cook wares.
Carefully examine each product: e.g. lids must fit tightly, handles must be securely riveted, the weight or multi-ply construction must be sufficiently heavy so the pan will not warp.
3. FINALLY: Consider each of the following technical elements to assess if standards of production quality are well executed.
MATERIALS: metal, clay, glass:
Just because cookware looks good when new—doesn’t mean it is good. Be sure the generic name of each metal or clay or glass content is properly labeled. Benefits and drawbacks are discussed in my previous cookware post: THE RAW MATERIALS OF COOKWARE.
Avoid manufacturer’s ‘set-enticements’ to save money because cookware sets usually do not result in the best pan for each cooking task. You may end up with shapes and sizes you don’t need.
Handles must feel balanced and be securely bolted or riveted through the wall of the pan. Look inside to determine if the rivets are well soldered and smooth to avoid clinging food. Handles made of a different metal than the pan slow down the transfer of heat and provide a natural heat breaker although pot holders may still be necessary.
Handle lengths vary with the size and function of the pan but must be easy for you to maneuver. Some handles are made of materials that can be placed in the oven. Wood or plastic handles provide heat-breaking properties but cannot be placed in the oven.
Lids must fit tightly to allow succulent juices to constantly rise to the lid and drain back over the food to maximize flavor. Be sure you can lift the lid handle easily to direct it away to avoid steam. Some cookware brands have tempered glass lids; using them is like looking through the glass window of an oven.
Sizes and Shapes:
Pans sizes and shapes vary greatly. Buy what you need, considering the foods and recipes you most often prepare —as well as the number of people for whom you usually cook.
There is a relationship of metal gauge-to-weight-to-performance. Expert chefs recommend using pans as heavy as you can comfortably handle. Pans must be balanced so they won’t tip.
Light weight pans (a thin gauge or single ply of aluminum or stainless steel) easily warp or bulge in the center, leaving liquids or oil around the edge. Sandwiched plies of metal or heavy gauge metals usually do not warp.
I selected hand-hammered copper pans for my mother
but they were too heavy for her to lift, so I bought lighter,
but sufficiently heavy gauge, copper pans with tin linings.
They perform very well and still look wonderful, but I prefer
copper lined with nickel or stainless steel —to avoid having
to reline the tin.
Good copper pans are quite expensive. Rather than compromise by buying light-weight copper,it’s better to choose 3 or 4 ply heavy aluminum pans with stainless interiors.
Care and cleaning of cookware:
Cleaning is easier if pots and pans are made of a metal that distributes heat well. This lessens sticking.
Some pans (as cast iron) require seasoning before use.
Follow each manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning. Each metal may require different care.
For all cookware, avoid abrasive cleaners.
GOOD QUALITY IS SO MUCH MORE THAN
BRAND, STYLE AND PRICE.
Just because new cookware LOOKS good, doesn’t mean it IS good.
A proven recipe made with first-rate ingredients can fail — if cooked in an inferior pan.
It’s important to understand the benefits and drawbacks of cookware fabrications as well as the value of essential production techniques that convey the inherent complexity of quality mass-production. Discover potential uses for a variety of pot sizes and shapes, then buy what YOU need.
Plan what you can spend before going to a retail store. Use the Internet to view what your local retail stores carry by brand and fabrication.
This will prepare you for similar products with inexplicable price differences, multiple brands of duplicate wares each extolling superiority, inadequate labeling, misinformation from untrained salespersons and brand-biased advertising.
Do higher prices guarantee good cookware quality?
No. Higher prices may be attributable to:
Country of origin.
Availability and cost of raw materials.
Skilled labor vs. non-skilled labor. Design costs. Excessive mark-ups. Promotional costs.
Mass-produced cookware of any material requires technical craftsmanship resulting in a broad range of quality and price depending upon the variables we’ve discussed in previous posts.
e.g. Iron is plentiful and inexpensive.
Casting methods for iron do not require capital intensive technology making cast-iron cookware affordable as well as excellent for cooking many foods.
Choose easy to wash materials that are good conductors of heat so foods cook uniformly. Innovations in alloys and finishes of materials do not alter the cooking principles of the materials listed. Your answers to the following questions should guide your cookware purchases.
What foods do YOU like to cook?
Specific pots for specific dishes exist in every national cuisine. If couscous is a favorite food, by all means, invest in a couscousiere.
Of course you need basic sauce pans, sauté pans, casseroles and a stock pot. Base the sizes upon your cooking needs, dinner for two, eight or more?
In addition to the basics, there are griddles, terrines, tagines, soufflé dishes, marmites, gratin pans and pans for paella, et cetera. Classifications seem endless.
Do you like to serve oven-to-table foods?
Heavy porcelain or enameled cast-iron oven-to-table casseroles are a well-used and well-loved investment.
Have you assessed your storage space?
Cooking inserts for stock pots turn them into perfect pots for cooking corn on the cob and pasta and they save space.
How important is ‘ease’ of maintenance to you?
If you don’t want to polish copper, pans of sandwiched layers of aluminum lined with stainless steel are excellent and require little care.
INFORMATION IS POWER.
After we were made aware of the benefits of organic food, U.S. sales of organic food were $ 1 billion in 1990 and $34 billion in 2014. Consumers will become architects of change when they are able to judge the quality of cookware themselves.
I have no commercial ties and neither promote nor negate brand names.
Pat Breen: EYEWITNESS TO QUALITY
MY NEXT POST: HOW TO JUDGE THE QUALITY OF COOKWARE
“It ain’t easy bein’ green”
…unless your name is Kermit !
Hundreds of brands, shapes, sizes, prices and qualities of non-stick cookware are promoted by signs claiming to be ‘GREEN’-—
the most overworked, misused appellation of the 21st Century.
Motivated by concern for our environment? Hah! ‘GREEN’ is for 1.45 billionU.S. $$$$ for retail sales of ‘release cookware’ (estimated for 2014)generated by non-stick coatings of unlabeled chemicals.
Be WARY, VERY WARY— of ALL NON-STICK COOKWARE IF: METAL UTENSILS CANNOT BE USED. YOU CAN NOT COOK AT TEMPERATURES ABOVE 400°. NAMES OF COATING CHEMICALS ARE NOT LABELED.
When American consumers were made aware of the benefits of organic food,
sales of organic foods grew from $1 billion in 1990 t0 $43.3 billion in 2015; proving consumers are willing to pay for good health.
Current statistics reveal that 90% of today’s cookware sales are for ‘non-stick’ products–(cookware with a ‘release surface’). Of course we prefer easy maintenance and elimination of cooking fat–but why aren’t the chemicals of the release surface listed on labels and packaging?
Do you buy organic foods; then cook them on a bed of chemicals? If you use metal utensils, you might be scraping chemicals into your food!
Many people put processed foods back on the supermarket shelf after reading transparent food labels—but names of chemicals that make-up the non-stick surface are not listed anywhere on the product or packaging. ??? Are U.S.gov agencies unaware that labeling transparency is as important for cookware as for food?
Many stores sell only non-stick cookware! Obviously, PROFIT supersedes health risk.
PTFE NON-STICK COOKING SURFACE
In 1938, PTFE, a polymerized perfluoroethylene was discovered in New Jersey. PTFE was first used for industrial and military application, followed by textile and medical application. In 1954, the wife of a French engineer urged him to make a pan coated with this slippery resin and release surface cookware was created. The FDA approved PTFE for food processing equipment in 1960. Cookware made with PTFE has been made and marketed for consumers under many different brand names since 1961.
For fifty years —we were told these coated wares were safe!
Years later, when it became public that PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) the synthetic chemical compound used to adhere the PTFE to metal cookware was “likely to be carcinogenic”, theEPA launched a stewardship program to eliminate PFOA from content by 2015.
PTFE : Polytetraflourethylene is a coating of a synthetic fluoropolymer of tetrafluorethylene currently applied to a metal substrate by many brand-name manufacturers of non-stick cookware.
Release coating formulas—and number of layers and thickness of the metal substrate of the cookware are not on labels or packaging of any of the hundreds of PTFE cookware products I’ve examined. Also, there are variations in the cost, durability and safety of many brands.
If you insist upon using PTFE coated cookware: follow these guidelines perfectly.
PTFE coated pans should not be preheated. Cook only with low and medium heat. PTFE coating breaks down at 500 degrees and release toxic fumes. PTFE coated pans should not be stacked on top of each other. PTFE coating requires wood-silicone and plastic utensils for stirring and removing. Metal utensils must not be used.
‘CERAMIC’ NON-STICK COOKING SURFACE:
Challenged by need, early man successfully cooked in vessels made of clay. Some of my favorite cookware is porcelain, so I was thrilled in 2007 when in-store and advertising promotions introduced ‘ceramic-coated’ cookware as ‘green’. Could this cookware possibly save our environment?
WAS I WRONG!
I examined hundreds of cookware products labeled ‘ceramic-coated’.
I FOUND NO PERCEPTIBLE SURFACES OF EARTHLY CLAY!
Not a single cookware product of the hundreds I examined —‘each claiming to be ceramic non-stick’— had labeling transparency!
Manufacturers who employ this release surface boast that it’s PTFE / PFOA free and ‘green’ but NEVER explain that the coating is made of chemicals; NOT CLAY!
In a graduate ceramic couse, I learned : ‘CERAMIC’ means ‘cooked clay’.
It is a fact:
Aluminum melts at 1,220 degrees Fahrenheit……but earthly clay
requires 2,000 to 2,400 degrees Fahrenheit temperatures to become hard and durable.
If earthly clay were applied to an aluminum substrate, (aluminum conducts heat almost as well as copper) —the temperature required to harden the earthly clay,
would melt the aluminum substrate.
My Ceramic Glossary defines CERAMIC-COATING as “an inorganic esentially non-metallic coating on metal”. ‘Earthly clay” is not part of the definition.
This led to sol-gel (a wet-chemical method of producing solid materials from small particles) which involves an organometallic compound hydrolyzed to produce “sol”, a colloidal suspension of a solid in a liquid. The “gel” is an integrated network in the colloidal suspension processed to dry as a hard film. ”Sol-gel technology allows better mixing of ceramic components at the molecular level, and hence yields more homogeneous ceramics, because the ions are mixed while in solution. Typically, this is a metal alkoxide as tetramethoxysilane in an alcohol solvent.”
This description never explains the ‘ceramic components’
—and never mentions the word ‘CLAY’; but it makes me aware of the CHEMICAL nature of ‘ceramic-coatings’.
Marketing chemical coatings as ‘ceramic’ may satisfy a technical definition.
For me, it’s ‘fool-the-eye’ marketing!
How deceptive and hypocritical for suppliers, manufacturers and retailers to capitalize on an abstruse meaning of a commonword
—for a common product– commonlythought to be safe.
Further research reveals man-made ‘ceramic’ films or coatings are not all the same. Differences are found in their chemical formula, quality of the mixing and number of layers applied to the metal substrate and the shelf life of each coating may vary.
Even if ‘ceramic-coatings’ are free of PFOA and PTFE…and even if a non-stick colloidal suspension included even a ‘pinch of earthly clay’ mixed with chemicals, no chemicals were listed. In fact, no ingredients (including clay) were listed, on labels of any brand of ‘ceramic-coated’ cookware products I examined—although the word ‘ceramic’ was prominent on all products.
If non-stick coatings are as safe as each brand manufacturer claims,
why aren’t the chemicals used to make the coatings listed?
Doesn’t this make you suspicious of the quality!
Do you buy organic fruits and vegetables
and scrutinize labels before putting edible products in your cart, and then purchase cookware having no label transparency?
If labels or packaging of non-stick cookware reveal little or nothing about the metal substrate and especially the chemical make-up of the release surface and how the coating is adhered to the substrate: CHOOSE DIFFERENT COOKWARE.
Decades of marketing experience convinced me: what manufacturers do not tell us, is something manufacturers are afraid we find out!
Dear friends, • Fresh, healthy food should NOT be cooked on a bed of chemicals. • Easy clean-up and fewer calories from fat are not worth a health risk! • Excellent ∗cookware is available without release surfaces. • Good quality cookware will outlast any stove on which it’s used.
∗ refer to the post: THE RAW MATERIALS OF COOKWARE
DO NOT BUY ANY COOKWARE THAT DOES NOT PROVIDE: • NAME and GAUGE of the metal substrate. • NAMES of CHEMICALS that make-up a release surface. • NAMES OF CHEMICALS used to adhere release coatings to the substrate. ….AND SHOULD YOU EVER FIND ANY, PLEASE LET ME KNOW!
Pat Breen: EYEWITNESS TO QUALITY
MY NEXT POST : CONSIDERATIONS BEFORE SHOPPING FOR COOKWARE