Monday, 30 March 2009

Kitchen Shrapnel

I'm no stranger to the kitchen. While growing up, I might have found cooking things more complex than a box dinner `difficult,` I've since taken on cooking tasks that frighten the novice. I'm especially good at making candies, if I say so myself. However, in my time making various sweets, I've had a few things blow up in my face. My favourite was when a batch of toffee, in a very smooth vessel, suddenly went super critical and blew up all over my kitchen. Covered in burning sugar, the only thing I could think of was wow, that was cool! and I wish I had a student I could explain what happened to!

In more mundane matters, I've had quite a few PYREX dishes explode on me over the years. Technically, it's not `explode` but a `accelerated, dramatic failure.` You say `Dramatic Failure,` I say `It throws shrapnel.` This has always caused me a bit of confusion, because Pyrex gear I use in my assorted labs o'er the years has never blown up without some sort of violent reaction inside, or some serious thermal shock (we're talking going from from liquid nitrogen to tossed in a hot oven sort of thermal shocks, here). And believe me, we've abused our lab gear.

Well, rest assured, people, because your Pyrex does not explode. We're deluded, you see:

But the story did not go unnoticed. Just a few days later, we received a FedEx letter from World Kitchen, a Reston, Va., company that now owns CorningWare and Pyrex, as well as several other household names.

"This letter is in response to your December 1 article entitled 'Bakers Beware: Shattering Pyrex Pans,' which includes claims that PYREX® glass bakeware ... breaks in a manner they deem to be 'exploding,' huffed Douglas S. Arnold, a vice president of World Kitchen.

Deeply hurt by the consumers' cruel cuts, Arnold continued: "We want to assure you that neither PYREX glass bakeware nor other glass bakeware 'explodes.' Glass does not explode but it can break. As glass bonds break, people may hear a noise and be surprised."

That shards land in other rooms is a figment of our imagination. Our surprised imagination. So why is my lab glassware safe?

Are Pyrex Bowls Dangerous?

Maybe. Pyrex bowls were originally made of something called borosilicate glass, which is very resistant to thermal shock. Currently, Pyrex is made of soda-lime glass, presumably as a cost-cutting measure, as soda-lime glass is very inexpensive. Also, Pyrex is no longer made by the original manufacturer, and is essentially a brand name, rather than a material.

Because my lab glassware is still made out of the old stuff, or newer formulations that still resistant to thermal shock. I'm half tempted to see if I can get some lab grade baking pans from Fisher... or if I should resign myself to pouring out candies at an arm's lenght.

1 comment:

Alaskan Dave Down Under said...

They're just trying to cover their asses. Anyone who's done any labwork knows that the cheap stuff explodes.