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Best of Revere Ware blog – Is Revere Ware oven safe

We have answered this question via our customer support perhaps 100 times, and first wrote about it on our blog back in 2013.   It’s been in our care guide probably since 2009.  It is still one of our most common questions we get.

As far as we know, Revere Ware did initially claim that their cookware was oven safe to a temperature of 350 F.  But in later years they revised their recommendation to not use Bakelite parts in the oven at all. The change is probably due to the fact that earlier ovens were gas fired from the bottom and tended to heat evenly where newer ovens (electric) can heat from a broil burner and areas of the oven (near the top) can easily exceed the safe temperature for Bakelite (350 degrees F) even with the oven temperature set to below 350.

Even worse, modern ovens have a rapid preheat cycle that will use very high settings on the electric coils to get an oven up to operating temperature up fast.

The problem is that, if you overheat Bakelite, it won’t just melt.  Bakelite is a phenolic plastic, which is made from, among other things, formaldehyde.  If you overheat Bakelite it will break down and release the formaldehyde. Trust me, it smells bad and you don’t want to experience this.

If you really want a Revere Ware Dutch oven that you can put in the oven, look for some of the all metal pieces, such as from the Institutional / 5000 line, or the 1800 Patio Ware line.  You’ll get that iconic copper bottom and something that is oven safe.  See our photo guide for more information on these and other lines.

Patio Ware / 1400 line

 

Institutional / 5000 line

 

 

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Dealing with burnt on grease

Reader Ellen asks:

“Hello!”  I purchased a small old-style fry pan in an “antique” store.  There is no copper on the bottom.  Unfortunately, my husband decided to use it – on high – and seared grease into it!
I have tried Brillo/SOS; baking soda; soaking.  What will get this grease sear off?
“Thank You!”
In terms of burnt on grease, what I’ve used for grease splatters on the outside of tea kettles is to put some water in it, heat it up (to make the grease stains hot) and then use some Bar Keepers Friend (a fine polishing powder) to polish them away.
Dealing with burnt on grease on the inside of a probably poses more difficulty because it isn’t a finely polishes surface like the outside; It may have started that way, but years of metal utensils and acidic foods can leave the inside of the pan with many pits and grooves for the grease hid in.  Still, the same trick may work, with a little more elbow grease.
My recommendation is to heat the pan slightly, and then give it a good scrubbing with a green Scotch Brite pad and some soap and water.  Then heat it up again and give it a good polishing with Bar Keepers Friend.  If this doesn’t get all the grease stains off, repeat as often as necessary.
The only thing to watch out for is, with a heated pan, don’t douse it with cold water as you will risk warping it.  Better to heat the pan mildly and use some warm water for the soap and water part, and any rinsing.
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Aluminum and dishwashers; just say no

Reader Michael asks:

I have a pre-1968 Revere ware percolator and the inside of the grounds basket is black. Ive noticed this on a lot of revere ware percolators for sale. Is this normal? Is that pump assembly not stainless steel?

I was a bachelor for quite some time before getting married and having kids, and I learned a lot of domestic tricks during that time.  One of them was to never put anything aluminum in the dishwasher.  If you do, you will be sorely disappointed.  The basket assembly on the Revere Ware percolators is indeed aluminum.
The high temperatures and harsh chemicals of the dishwasher (see our recent article on drinking glasses) cause the aluminum to oxidize, coating it with very unattractive black layer. Here is a poor guy from Reddit who put is Bialetti espresso maker in the dishwasher.
As it is explained there:
This is caused by a chemical reaction between the soap and the aluminum producing Hydrogen. The reaction is exacerbated by the lack of phosphates in the detergent, high temperature water, and long soak time in the dishwasher.
So what do you do if you’ve made the mistake of putting a prized aluminum piece in the dishwasher?  I’ve always used something like a green Scotch Brite pad to physically scrub the oxidation off.  If you have a piece that used to be shiny, this will definitely dull the shine, which you can try to restore using Bar Keepers Friend.
I found this blog post that suggests using vinegar to remove the black layer, but I haven’t tried it (because I no longer put my aluminum in the dishwasher ha ha); they also have some other useful suggestions.
The best tip though is to just avoid putting aluminum in the dishwasher.
Oh, and wooden items too; they will swell up and won’t be the same ever again.

 

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The best of RevereWareParts blog: May 2010 dishwasher test

In spring of 2010 I decided to do a test to see how well Bakelite held up in a dishwasher.  If you want to preserve your Bakelite, best to wash by hand.

Bakelite Dishwasher Test

Previously, when figuring out whether Bakelite was dishwasher safe or not, I had to rely on my own anecdotal evidence, far from scientific. Finding that less than satisfying, I decided to perform my own test to see just how well Bakelite held up in the dishwasher.

The test was simple; I attached two Bakelite handle halves to the dishwasher rack with zip ties, one on the top rack, and one on the bottom.  In our household, we do about a load of dishes each day, so it is safe to say that the number of washes is about equal to the number of days in the dishwasher, within a few percent.

After two months, or 60 washes, I began to notice a little bit of fading and dulling of the shine on the Bakelite. Below is what the handles look like after six months, or 180 washes.  The darker/shinier handle is the unwashed (new) comparison.

Clearly, the Bakelite has suffered as a result of washing in the dishwasher.  There was no difference between the top rack and bottom rack; both suffered equally.

I can now say with great confidence that you should refrain from putting your cookware with Bakelite parts into the dishwasher.

 

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When your Revere Ware boils dry

Reader Nedra contacted us with a pot that had boiled dry with water and left black stuff all over the bottom.

Hello,  I have a 2 quart pan that I left on the stove too long.  The water that was in the pan completely
evaporated and left the bottom of the pan black.  What do you recommend to clean with?  I am so
upset….one of my favorite go-to pans.

Sometimes heavy hard water deposits, which you will always have some of when you boil a pot dry, can get charred black like this. Regardless of what it is, the best approach I’ve found is heating up some vinegar and powdered dishwasher detergent.  I have no idea why powdered is better than liquid, but that is what I’ve always used and it works.

We first tried this when my wife was making simple syrup (sugar and water) and boiled the mixture dry.  That smoked quite a bit and brought the fire department, as we had smoke detectors through our alarm company.  The firefighters were pleasant and somewhat amused.

Given the rock hard layer it left behind, we thought the pan was a goner.  But lo and behold, repeated heating and scraping with a flat metal spatula got most of the stuff off and a green Scotch Brite pad took care of what remained.   But that’s not the only method.  Here is what Nedra did:

Thank you for getting back to me so soon.  I did put baking soda and apple cider vinegar, that’s all I had on hand.  I left it over night and it seems to be lifting a little bit. I’ll buy straight vinegar today.

And then:

First I coated the pan with oven cleaner and left it on overnight, nothing.  Then I added baking soda and white vinegar and let that sit for a few hours.  Did it again but this time heated the pan.  I used a steel wool pad with soap and elbow grease and low and behold I have my shiny pan back   I’ve attached before and after photos for you.

Now, a couple of words of warning here.   Oven cleaner can cause pits in your stainless steel so is not recommended.  Steel wool can leave little bits of itself behind which will promote rust.  It is best to stick with a Scotch Brite pad for scouring and, if you want a bit more of a polish, use Bar Keepers Friend.

But, don’t use a Scotch Brite pad on the outside of your cookware as it will dull the finish.  On the inside, this is ok as the finish gets naturally dulled by acidic foods and metal cooking utensils.  Bar Keepers Friend however is good for both the inside and outside of your stainless steel cookware and is a great way to bring back some of that shine.

 

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Bakelite problems

Reader Eileen contacted us this week with an inquiry about her Bakelite handles emitting a foul odor:

I use my Revere pots and pans daily. Today, while making my younger children mac n’ cheese, the handle to the pot started to melt. The chemical smell caused us to evacuate the house for several hours.

This presents a good opportunity to talk about safely using cookware with Bakelite handles.

The biggest danger to Bakelite handles is a gas stove.  If a small pan is put on a large burner such that the flames, or the heat licks up the sides, it will cause the Bakelite to fail and emit this foul odor.  Bakelite is a phenolic plastic; it doesn’t melt when overheated, it breaks down into its constituent parts, one of which is formaldehyde, which is the foul odor Eileen smelled.  Despite the potential risk for this type of failure, we hear very few reports of this type of problem.

However, one issue is that, as Bakelite becomes older and damaged, it will fail through overheating much easier.  Repeated washes in a dishwasher can cause damage that will make Bakelite much more susceptible to overheating.  We did a dishwasher test and have shown that it doesn’t take a lot of repeating washings in the dishwasher for the handles to show visible discoloration, a prelude to the type of damage that can make them more sensitive to overheating.

The other risk to Bakelite is using pieces with Bakelite in an oven.  You might think a Dutch oven was intended for the oven, and when Revere Ware first started selling their iconic cookware they did offer it as oven safe.  But some time later they reversed their position and no-longer suggested it was such.

Bakelite is safe up to 35o degrees F, for a limited time.  But modern ovens can often have hotter spots within them, especially when they are heating up.  We don’t offer our parts as oven or dishwasher safe.

So our three safety tips for the day for cookware with Bakelite handles are:

  1. Never use them in an oven
  2. Wash them by hand, not in a dishwasher
  3. Take care when using them with a gas stove, not to turn the gas up too high
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Stainless steel stains and spots

A customer asks:

One of the pans has black spots and fuzzy grey ones in the interior (silver toned) pan. What are those spots and how do I get rid of them?

Last year we wrote an article on removal of hard water stains; the grey spots are likely hard water stains.

The black spots are likely burnt on food that gets stuck in pits that are formed when cooking with acidic foods, like tomato sauce.  I’ve seen some cookware pieces with pretty prominent pits, and it isn’t hard to imaging food getting burn on in those pits and resisting removal by scrubbing.  Here is a picture we found from an article on stainless steel stains:

To remove the hard water stains, adding some vinegar and scrubbing with a Scotch-Brite pad, or balled up aluminum foil works quite well.

To remove the black spots, you can try adding vinegar and then some baking soda, and letting it soak, then scrubbing well with a Scotch-Brite pad.

In both cases, a good polish with Bar Keepers Friend will help get rid of any remaining residue.

The pits may not fully disappear, as that would require significant refinishing of the inside of the pan, but you can minimize the appearance by regularly cleaning in this way.

 

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When Bakelite emits a foul odor

When we think of overheating plastic, we think of plastic melting.  But Bakelite is a little different.  When overheated, it doesn’t melt, but instead breaks down into its constituent parts, one of which (formaldehyde) smells nasty, and isn’t good to inhale.

Bakelite is safe to 350 degrees Fahrenheit; putting it in an oven is not a good idea.  The most common culprit for overheating is a gas stove where the flames are too high, and the lick up the sides of a sauce pan and heat the handles directly.

While we always assumed that overheating was the only ways to cause problems, there is at least one anecdotal report that once overheated, Bakelite may be sensitive to overheating at a lower temperature.

After many years steady use, I’m getting toxic fumes when I use them on anything but very low heat. It smells exactly like burnt plastic and the fumes seem unhealthful, not just smelly. I’m assuming it’s the handles, but they don’t seem degraded more than normal for their age. I do have a gas stove and tried lowering the flame, since the flames can lick around the edge of the pan and up toward the handles. But I am still getting the fumes strongly, even when the handles are very warm at all.

If you have the same issue, or if your handles have previously been overheated and seem sensitive to even lower heat, it is probably safest to replace your handles.  If replacement isn’t an option (you have one that we don’t make) you might try restoring them as described here, being sure to remove any Bakelite that looks damaged, to get to undamaged Bakelite.

To to sure, Bakelite is known to be safe as it has been used on cookware, and many other products, for around 80 years.  When used properly, there is no danger.  But it does have the potential for misuse if it is used in the oven or on too high heat.  It is better to be safe than sorry.

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What the heck is a carborundum nano sponge?

One of the latest fads in cookware cleaning seems to be the carborundum nano sponge.  There are tons of YouTube videos that purport miracles they can perform, and a wealth of different vendors selling them on Amazon.com.  They claim to be able to perform cleaning miracles.

Here is a typical before and after photo.

Always being one to find a better way to clean my Revere Ware, I thought I’d give it a try.

So what is it?  Well carborundum (that’s a mouthful) is another name for silicon carbide, the second hardest substance known to man.  a carborundum nano sponge is just a sponge with a layer of carborundum along the outside.  Carpenters will notice these look and feel suspiciously like similar spongy sanding blocks they use.

The sponges do in fact feel just like a spongy block with some sandpaper on the outside.  From looking at them, I suspected they were going to function just like any other abrasive scrubber, and that is pretty much my take-away; they are just another abrasive scrubber.

Can they perform miracles?  Soundly, no.  The ability to remove gunk comes at a price, namely, you will scratch your cookware, as you might expect.  And they with the amount of elbow grease required, the results can hardly be called a miracle.

Here is an aluminum baking sheet before, and after a few minutes of scrubbing in the center.

Better, yes.  Significantly so, no.  And the swirl marks from the abrasive nature of the scrubber are clearly visible in the aluminum.

So what about some really caked on great on the bottom of a Revere Ware pan?  Here is another before and after, also after a few minutes of scrubbing.

If you are struggling to see much difference, don’t worry, it’s not your eyesight.  Making progress with this sponge is pretty difficult.

I also tried the sponge on a the outside stainless part of the pan.

The first picture above shows an untouched area.  The second shows an area I scrubbed with the carborundum nano sponge; you can clearly see the swirl marks it created in the stainless steel.

Now, there are two things to consider here.  First, these sponge are almost all certainly made cheaply by Chinese companies.  For all we know, the material on the outside may not be (and probably isn’t) carborundum.  If it is, it probably isn’t “nano”, whatever that means.  Second is, does anyone really think that scrubbing a polished surface with the second hardest material know to man WON’T scratch it?

My advice is give these sponges a pass.  If you want to get the burned on gunk off the bottom of your pan, try the method outlined in our cleaning guide for better results that won’t scratch your polished stainless finish.  Or, try one of the new methods we came across recently for items too big to dunk in a big boiling pot.  We’ll get around to trying those ourselves one of these days.

 

 

 

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