Thursday, July 5, 2012

Corning Ware: My Favorite Pieces Part 2

Oatmeal in A-11/2-B


I've talked before about how much I love old vintage pyroceram Corning Ware (and vintage Pyrex bowls, but that's an entirely different post). And I guarantee today will not be my last post praising pyroceram Corning Ware - some things are just too good not to share. But just in case you're new to my blog and unfamiliar with all the wonderful reasons to make room for pyroceram Corning Ware in your kitchen, check out this post from last year for an in-depth explanation on what all the fuss is about.

What's the most enduring reason to own pyroceram Corning Ware? Exceptional durability. It's tough to break in no small part because of pyroceram's innate ability to withstand tremendous thermal shock (it can move directly from the freezer to a blistering hot oven). And it is perhaps this same incredible durability that ultimately spelled doom for the original Corning Ware brand and the fantastic pyroceram material - you can't buy it in stores today and CorningWare today is just a brand name slapped on incredibly NOT special glazed stoneware sold at surprisingly high prices.

CorningWare Stoneware Stamp

So why did something so durable as pyroceram disappear from store shelves and from many American kitchens? Perhaps we were sick of cookware that resembled our grandmother's kitchen. Perhaps we no longer valued durability and versatility above trends and design. Or perhaps we simply didn't realize what was lost when World Kitchen flushed the pyroceram material out of their product line.

That's my excuse anyway, because when I moved out on my own, I didn't want any of those old fuddy-duddy Blue Cornflower casserole dishes in MY kitchen. I gravitated right to stainless steel and non-stick and plenty of plastics. I was green behind the ears, inexperienced and so trend-conscious. And I had no idea why Corning Ware was so special.

That all changed about a year ago. I started researching cookware, I stumbled on the history of Corning Ware and within a week I had scoured every local thrift shop for whatever Corning Ware I could find.

I was so enthusiastic, I promised to eventually develop a series of "Cooking with Cornflower" recipes specifically tailored to take advantage of this amazing cookware's versatility.

- INSERT AWKWARD PAUSE HERE -

I have not yet developed any such recipes. But to be fair, I really needed to experiment further with different pieces of Corning Ware, better understand advantages and limitations and test hypotheses on heat conductivity. Of course, I also got distracted by all kinds of other fun blogging series like Food Fetish Fridays, Made with Love Mondays, and Tuesday Tutor.

But if you're a regular reader of my blog, you'll have noticed pieces of Blue Cornflower and French White pyroceram Corning Ware featuring quite brazenly in many photos. And while I haven't taken the time to build a list of recipes specifically for Corning Ware, I can share some insight into my favorite pieces and why I reach for them every time.

Corning Ware in Cabinet

Which brings up a point I should clarify - I do use my vintage cookware. It's not for staging, it's not for nostalgia and it's not intended to decorate my kitchen. Boyfriend Javelin and I recently examined a packed dishwasher load and noted that roughly half of the load was Corning Ware pieces. That was a bit of a surprise to me considering that 2 years ago I barely touched the few pieces of Corning Ware from my grandmother buried at the back of my cabinet.

And since I use my Corning Ware pretty much every day for a variety of tasks, I have developed an affinity for specific pieces that I seem to use over and over - and these pieces I would recommend seeking out for your own kitchen. Consider this a continuation of last year's post where I shared a few of my favorite Corning Ware pieces. I also shared some valuable tips on differentiating between pyroceram Corning Ware and stoneware CorningWare.

Speaking of which, perhaps you're wondering where you can find some of your own Corning Ware. If you're not picky about patterns or specific pieces, I suggest starting with thrift stores - just examine each piece carefully because people often donate Corning Ware because it finally got a chip (which destroys the integrity of the cookware).

If you're like me and prefer to coordinate your kitchen patterns, you may find Etsy, eBay and Craigslist more to your liking - unless you're one of the lucky few living near military bases and surrounded by gads of thrift stores (like me at the time of this writing). Then your odds of finding coordinating and hard to find pieces at local thrift stores dramatically improves.

Blue Cornflower A-series 1 1/2 Quart
Sealed Corning Ware A-11/2-B

  • What makes this piece a favorite really has more to do with size and its matching plastic lid. Since it's just Boyfriend Javelin and I eating most meals, this pieces is the perfect size to reheat soup, store leftovers or even microwave a quick batch of oatmeal first thing in the morning.
Oatmeal in A-11/2-B
  • The side walls are steep enough that nothing boils-over easily, it's small enough to fit comfortably in our tiny apartment fridge and (thanks to pyroceram) it can go straight from the fridge to the cooktop (or hot oven). I especially love the matching plastic lid that seals tighter than a glass lid and takes up less room in the refrigerator. This is a great all-around size and shape and I really recommend making room for it in your cupboard.


French White 7 oz Ramekins (with matching plastic lids)
French White Corning Ware Ramekins with Lids
  • You've probably seen sets of Pyrex (or Anchor) glass storage bowls with matching plastic lids - they're sold just about everywhere and I own quite a few myself.
Pyrex Glass Storage Bowls with Lids
  • But there's a problem with these glass bowls - they're quite sensitive to temperature change and will crack or craze easily. We've had to toss 4 or 5 of these glass bowls (mostly Anchor) after running them through the dishwasher or using them to reheat leftovers in the microwave. The glass simply couldn't withstand the temperature changes.
Capped Ramekins Ready for ChillingFrench White Corning Ware Ramekins Stacked
  • We now use pyroceram ramekins to store food if any kind of temperature change will be involved. Boyfriend Javelin takes his cold oatmeal for breakfast in one of these ramekins every morning. I use them to store caramel, syrups or compotes (blistering hot, right from the stove) - and I don't have to hope the glass will hold. I love these for making panna cotta or creme brûlée because I can seal them with the matching lids (goodbye plastic wrap). Because they're pyroceram, I can also slide them directly under the broiler to crisp breadcrumbs on individual servings of mac and cheese. Honestly, these ramekins are indispensable in my kitchen.

Blue Cornflower 9-inch Pie Plates
Blue Cornflower Pie Plate
  • I love pie. I love it so much that I have a tendency to bake pie after pie after pie - and eat slice after slice after slice. But at some point, with just two of us eating the pie, the bottom crust on the final pieces of pie become a tiny bit soggy after sitting in my fridge for 3 or 4 days. And the larger the pie, the more remaining pieces that end life with a bit of sogginess. So when I found these 9-inch Corning Ware pie plates, I abandoned my 10-inch Pyrex glass plates in favor of smaller pies (and thus fewer slices of sogginess).
     
  • But beyond my preference for a smaller pie plate, I also love these plates because they can go from the freezer to the preheated oven. Since all of my crusts are homemade, I like to chill the final pie shell in the freezer for 5-8 minutes before blind-baking: 1) to make it easier to line the pie shell with foil without disturbing the crimped crust and 2) to ensure a light and flaky crust when the intense heat of the oven meets the ice-cold butter in the crust.
Pie Crust with Crimped Edges
  • I also love how these pie plates bake: hotter than glass and certainly hotter than aluminum. Which means, I can bake pies at a lower temperature (thus saving money) without compromising on a flaky crust. And since these plates are pyroceram, I can use them safely under the broiler which makes caramelizing sugar toppings or browning cheese stress-free.

Blue Cornflower 1-Quart Saucemaker (with detachable handle)
Blue Cornflower Corning Ware Saucemaker with HandleInside of Saucemaker

  • I know this piece is odd-looking, but think of it as the most versatile measuring cup on the planet. Since it's made of pyroceram, it's safe for use on the range top, in the oven or in the microwave (without the handle of course). It can double as a small pot and it can move directly from fridge or freezer to extreme heat.

Whisk Together Filling and CoconutPanna Cotta Cream Mixture

  • That's the kind of versatility every measuring cup should include - and certainly every kitchen needs one of these. Just imagine the uses: scald milk, rinse with ice water while still piping hot, boil water in the microwave, pour in hot caramel or syrup, make gravy on the cooktop right in the measuring cup,  etc. No cracking, no chipping. And that's why this is now my go-to measuring cup.



8 comments:

  1. What nicve beauty pieces you have! I love corningware are my favorites too, When I married my dad give me someones that I have still.
    Now when I can I buy some pieces, I have ramekins that I love:)

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    1. Gloria, my mom has used the same set of Corning Ware from her 1st wedding for 40 years. It always amazes me how low this cookware lasts and how well it was designed.

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  2. I hate that Corning Ware is not the same material, why would they do away with such a great product? It's a travesty. I have a number of the cornflower dishes, but not the pie dish and that super fab saucemaker. I could really use one of those! Heading straight to a thrift store to start my search.

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  3. I have found many of the small pieces in wild flower, but I want the floral bouquet to go with my yellow kitchen. I did find some of the all yellow pieces that I use almost every day. The yellow comes off easily though. I cannot afford ebay or etsy b/c of shipping so I hope to find FB local but it's unlikely. My husband and I made decision a few weeks ago to refrain from buying "made in china" and now we're buying "made in usa" which still helps our co-patriates and last better than the new stuff. I do have some of the french white stuff from the early 90's back when we were both employed without kids and had money. I've used corning ware all my life and I also love my pyrex and hope to find more pieces since I do use it every day and my kids have broken 2 pieces so far this week (:

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  4. Sorry to hear about the Pyrex breakages - I don't use a lot Pyrex pieces except for the old Cinderella style bowls (which I love!), but hopefully you can find some pieces to replace those that broke. The Floral Bouquet pattern for CorningWare is my mother-in-law's favorite pattern as well and it IS tough to find. I'm always looking for useful pieces, but CorningWare didn't produce as much of the Floral Bouquet or in as great of a variety of pieces, so I have found the majority of it online. And as you pointed out, it can be pretty pricey...

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  5. Our set of "cornflower" design CorningWare includes a detachable handle made of stainless steel and hard black plastic. Do you know if this handle can be safely left attached when the pan is left on the range top?

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  6. Can anyone help please? I have recently bought 5 pieces of Pyrosil (Made in the Netherlands) cookware, They are white, have a retro orange circle design on them and glass lids. I have used them successfully on a ceramic hob and in the oven. However, they have grey bases, which are made up of concentric circles, and I am not sure what material this base is made of. I want to use them in the microwave, but have Googled every site that I can find, re Pyrosil, to try to find out, but with no luck. There is a lot of information about the cornflower design, which does not have the grey base, but nothing about the orange circle design. There is no obvious metal on the dishes, but I have no idea what the base is made of. Does anyone know please?

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  7. I just picked up my first pyroceram - a 1qt and 3qt casserole set with lids. I'm the same story... Wanted to move out and enjoy modern designs, did not want to see ANY blue cornflower... Then found out what a joke modern materials often are. I hated the mismatch in my moms cupboards growing up, but now I understand WHY she hung onto all those randomly sized and colored pieces. My fiancé probably thought I was nuts when I started babbling excitedly about vintage casserole bowls - but when I told him the same material was used in the nose cones of rockets he had no disagreement.

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