Over the past couple six months, I’ve had a lot of questions about how to clean and care for vintage pyroceram CorningWare. So I am devoting this post to answering those questions based on my personal experience. However, I’m not an authority on CorningWare use and care so always use your best judgement. And if you have tips you’ve discovered over the years, please do share because I’m always looking for faster and simpler methods.
Please note these care tips apply specifically to pyroceram CorningWare (not to be confused with the newer and currently available stoneware Coring Ware). If you’re not familiar with the differences or just wondering what all the fuss is about, here’s what you need to know.
CorningWare Cleaning and Care Tips
- Avoid scorching: The toughest marks and stains to remove from CorningWare are caused by scorching - specifically on a range cooktop. If you want to keep your CorningWare looking like new, don’t scorch it. Always begin cooking over low to moderate heat and very slowly increase the heat as necessary. Avoid making thick rouxs or starchy soups and NEVER attempt to make caramel in a piece of CorningWare. If you do burn or scorch your CorningWare, soak it immediately (no need to wait for the dish to cool) and do NOT scrape with a metal utensil.
- Wood, silicone or nylon utensils: Metal utensils (e.g. whisks, spoons, spatulas) leave little gray marks on the inside of your CorningWare, especially if you are vigorously stirring or scraping. To avoid these pesky marks, I recommend using wood, silicone or nylon utensils. But if on occasion you do use a metal utensil, don’t worry - you can remove those gray marks with a little elbow grease (keep reading).
- Soak, soak, soak: A lot of new stoneware and even some ceramic cookware isn’t safe to soak because the material can absorb tiny amounts of water and eventually cause crazing or cracking when the dish is exposed to intense heat. However, pyroceram CorningWare is nonporous and perfectly safe to soak. In fact, before you start scrubbing your CorningWare, allow a messy dish to soak for at least 10 minutes (overnight is perfectly fine). Then give it a scrub and watch how easily it wipes clean.
- Toothpick for crevices: There are always a few tiny crevices in each CorningWare dish where gunk seems to build up over time (often under the handles). This build-up of black gunk then bakes harder and harder with each use and never seems to come clean in the dishwasher. Fortunately, there’s a simple solution: a wet toothpick. Trust me, it works perfectly. Just dip the toothpick in a little water and scrape out the gunk. In less than a minute, you’re back to sparkling clean crevices.
- Scotch Brite Dobie or O-Cel-O pads: Sometimes soaking your CorningWare and wiping with a dishcloth doesn’t quite do the job. So grab a Scotch Brite Dobie, O-Cel-O or some other similar nylon scrubbing pad. I really love Dobie pads - the texture is perfect for removing stuck-on food like cheese and eggs. O-Cel-O pads are perfect for removing tough scorch marks and the little gray marks left behind by metal utensils. If you’ve got a really bad set of scorch marks, prepare to invest some serious elbow grease and at least 5 minutes of scrubbing.
- No steel wool or Brillo pads: Do NOT use steel wool or Brillo pads to clean your CorningWare. NEVER, EVER, EVER! EVER! Did I say that enough times? While metal utensils can leave behind gray marks, steel wool can literally destroy your CorningWare’s surface. It will quickly begin to etch the cooking surface, allowing more and more food residue to become trapped in the tiny etches. Which means eventually, your CorningWare will never come clean. So I caution one more time - no matter how big the mess, NEVER use steel wool or Brillo pads.
- Baking Soda and Barkeeper’s Friend: If you’ve got a really tough mess to clean up (like scorch marks), try using enough baking soda to make a paste with your Scotch Brite pad. The non-toxic baking soda provides just enough friction to remove most messes and marks. This is my preferred substance for cleaning CorningWare. But if baking soda doesn't get the job done, you can try a little Barkeeper's Friend instead. You can typically find Barkeeper’s Friend at Walmart with other kitchen cleaners. Because this stuff is so toxic, I tend to reach for it as a last resort.
- Dishwashing Gel vs. Powder: In theory, dishwasher powdered detergent should dissolve and become a soap when it meets the hot water. However I have found that the powder rarely dissolved completely and can instead result in etching of dishes and even CorningWare. So I recommend using a dishwasher liquid gel instead of powders. Of course, in theory it shouldn’t matter (but it seems to).
More Questions and Answers
Q: Have you ever tried oven cleaner on CorningWare?
A: No. One reason I have avoided oven cleaner is because it’s so toxic and I can’t stand even breathing the fumes. But the main reason is I have never found a piece of CorningWare I couldn’t get clean (enough) by following the above care tips.
Q: How do I keep eggs from sticking?
A: The short answer is, you can’t entirely. Non-stick cooking spray helps, but the eggs still stick. Butter and oil help - but the eggs still stick. If you want to cook or scramble an egg, I don’t recommend using CorningWare. The good news is, if you DO cook an egg using CorningWare (and it leaves a residue), a quick 5-10 minute soak and the stuck-on egg will wipe right off with a Scotch Brite Dobie pad...
Q: Is it ok to use chlorine bleach?
A: A few times in the past, I have used chlorine bleach to remove stains. I don't anymore. In theory, since the CorningWare is nonporous, the cookware shouldn’t absorb any of the bleach. However, I find that bleach can end up "stripping" the shiny surface of CorningWare, making it more susceptible to stains and sticking. Again, because bleach is again so toxic, I do NOT recommend using it to clean CorningWare. And if you follow the above care tips, you should never need it.
Q: Is it safe to use CoringWare with scratches, gouges or chips?
A: The short answer is no, it’s not safe because the integrity of the CorningWare material has been compromised. If you have a piece of CorningWare with any of these imperfections, the safest option is to get rid of it. However, when it comes to scratches, here’s my personal rule (and I make no safely guarantees so use your best judgement): if I can feel the scratch with my fingernail, the CorningWare has been compromised and I won’t use it.
Q: What should I do with compromised CorningWare?
A: I have no official recommendation. Some people donate to thrift stores, some people trash it, other people use it for a variety of household duties unrelated to cooking.
How do you care for your CorningWare? Share the knowledge and help all of us preserve this awesome cookware for another generation.