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Best of Blog: Big Daddy Sponges

In bringing back some of my favorite (and most useful) blog posts from the 12 years we’ve been posting, this one stands out as one of my favorites.

I like Sponge Daddy sponges as they really do a great job and are scratch free for non-stick and other more delicate items.  But they are expensive.

My solution 5 year ago was to buy the bigger Big Daddy sponge, and cut it in to 4, that are roughly the same size as the Scrub Daddy sponges, at a fraction of the cost.  So, with all the inflation we’ve had lately, what does that look like today?

More expensive but almost an equal savings at 30% the cost.

 

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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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The etching of glasses in the dishwasher, and what to do about it

TL;DR to solve the etching of glassware, we are using half as much detergent and running a shorter dishwasher cycle.

For years now we’ve experienced the slow fogging of our drinking glasses.  At one time we thought perhaps it was that we had bought cheap glasses, so we bought some better ones, but experience the same thing.  We thought perhaps it was hard water deposits, even though we have a softener, but soaking in vinegar and scrubbing didn’t make a difference; the glasses are definitely getting etched.

Now, to be sure, it definitely does affect some glasses and not others.  But we can’t seem to figure out why.  Some inexpensive glasses are not affected while other expensive ones are.

Some resources we found identified phosphates as the culprit, but most detergents have been phosphate free for some time. And we were using two of Consumer Reports top detergent brands.

Like many lingering issues, this one nibbled at us, and I just felt that it was somewhat hopeless as the things we had tried didn’t seem to make a difference.

Well, recently I decided to give it another go did some searching.  Something in this article stuck me.

A senior scientist from P&G explained that a perfect glass-etching storm can happen inside a dishwasher if you have these four things: soft water, low soil load, high temperatures, and chelating agents. She went on to say, “Chelating agents, or chelants, are a major part of auto-dishwashing formulations because they form soluble complexes with calcium and other metal ions, enabling them to remove food soils and limescale, soften water, and boost hygienic cleaning action.” When you soften water as I do at my home, you remove the calcium from the water. Uh oh!

To prevent glass etching, she suggested not rinsing dishes and glasses, wash in shorter cycles, not using the pots-and-pans or sanitizing settings, and using a dishwashing product that contains zinc.

Softened water – check
Low soil – check (I’ve been aggressively scraping and rinsing plates after twice having to fix a clogged discharge tube)
High temperatures – check
Chelating agents – check

So I’ve got all the elements there for the problem.  I tried to find a detergent with zinc, but no-one seems to advertise that, or even show an ingredients list for their products.

I did a little more searching and found some very interesting tips

  1. Use less detergent
  2. Use a shorter cycle

I’d read that due to energy efficiency regulations, dishwashers now run much longer than they used to in order to get the same amount of clean.  Ours typically runs a 2 hours cycle, but does have a 1 hour quick cycle.  It makes sense that a shorter cycle gives less time for the detergent to react with the glass, and there is less detergent so it has more of a chance of reacting with the dirt, rather than the glass.

So our approach now is to cut our detergent tabs in half, and run the quick cycle.  So far, the dishes are coming out just as clean, so I am hopeful that our etching problem is also solved.  I think I am going to zip tie some glasses that have previously etched in our dishwasher like I previously did with a Bakelite dishwasher test, and see what happens.

I have high hopes that this will solve our problem.

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Worn Revere Ware stamps

Reader Camille asks:

There is one piece left of a set of Revere Ware that was my mother’s and is at least 65 years old. It is definitely pre—1968, and I’m thinking that it was gifted to her in the early 1950s. The piece that’s left is the large pot and it is so old that only way you can see the stamp is with a bright light and a magnifying glass. Is this common for the older pots?

This is common with older pots. The copper does oxidize over time, and when you use copper cleaner regularly it can slowly remove some copper.  I personally have quite a few pieces that have very faint stamps like this.
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Use caution with Revere Ware aluminum disc cookware

We’ve previously recommended Revere Ware’s Tri-Ply cookware, because it does a good job of spreading the heat on the bottom of the pan.  The Tri-Ply cookware came in two varieties, one with the aluminum sandwiched between the two layers of stainless steel that are part of the cookware, and one with an aluminum and stainless steel disk attached to the bottom of the cooking vessel.

We were previously aware of rare occurrences where the aluminum disc would fall off, spilling out molten aluminum.  These seemed like on-off rare occurrences.  However, more recently we’ve been receiving more and more reports of this phenomenon.  Here is the latest:

This only seems to affect the aluminum disc types.  Because molten metal pours out when the disk falls off, there is a danger of series burns, and damage to stoves, counters, and flooring.

It isn’t clear why this seems to be happening more now, or whether it has always been a problem and we are just hearing about it more now.  It is possible that as this cookware ages and is exposed to repeated use, something may be happening to the materials that allows this to happen.

In the case above, the use wasn’t extreme in any way:

It was a electric stove on medium/ high heat boiling water. the pot was steaming boiling  when i went to dump the water in the sink  i hear something hit the floor  i thought it was water but it was liquid metal  the melted the flooring.  The bottom was still some what attached.

Given everything we know about this type of failure, I would caution anyone using this type of Revere Ware cookware as it may no longer be safe.

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Anatomy of an eBay listing / used Revere Ware skillet

It’s worth taking a look at an eBay listing for a used Revere Ware piece to see what we can learn before we buy.  Take this skillet for instance.

When I see “unmarked” I immediately think two things – it is either a knock off, or it has been used enough that the copper layer has worn down past the stamp.

This piece, with the distinctive two screw handle and knob, is clearly not a knockoff.

So what about the bottom:

Definitely no stamp, so this piece has been used plenty, and some of the copper has worn off. It is probably still thicker than the post-1968 cookware, but still something to be aware of of you are prizing a piece like this for its thicker copper layer.

However, notice the wear pattern on the bottom:

The fact that the rim around the edge is showing some wear whereas  just inside of it is not, is indicative of a warping upward of the center of the pan.  Let’s look at the inside:

The way the light is reflecting, almost guarantees this skillet has a pretty significant warping upward in the center.  Probably not a great skillet if you value a flat bottom.  Here is an example of a skillet on eBay that looks to be much flatter, with little, if any, warping.

If you are buying a used piece on eBay, it may be worth asking the seller if the bottom is warped at all; if they say no, and it come warped, that gives you some recourse t0 return it.

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Rena Ware is not Revere Ware

Lately we’ve gotten a number of inquiries about parts for Rena Ware.  Some people seem to assume that it is the same as Revere Ware, and perhaps this is one reason for the high number of returns we experience on Amazon.com.  Despite the similar sounding name, and the fact that some of the pieces do look similar, they are two different brands and the parts for one are generally not interchangeable with parts for the other.

Here are typical post-1968 Revere Ware 6 quart pots, copper bottom and tri-ply.

Here is a similar pot from Rena Ware.

Clearly there are similarities, but a number of stylistic differences.  Google doesn’t help the confusion either.

I don’t have a lot of information about Rena Ware; here is what I’ve been able to findNOT.

  • The company was founded in 1941 by Fred Zylstra and was focused on waterless cooking.  It seems to be privately owned by one of his descendants now.
  • It is still in business today (renaware.com), and seems to have a tie to multi-level marketing.  I get the impression it isn’t a huge operation, but they do have offices in quite a few countries.  They seem to have a larger presence from Mexico through South America.  Dunn & Bradstreet shows that they have about $50 million in annual revenue.
  • There are about 190 pieces available on eBay compared to 15,000 Revere Ware pieces, so this brand was / is much smaller than Revere Ware ever was.
  • According to the Wikipedia article on Oneida:

In 1983, the company acquired Rena-Ware, a Bellevue-based kitchenware manufacturer with a majority international operations. Oneida sold Rena-ware three years later

Hopefully this post makes its way up in the Google results for Rena Ware so people can see clearly that Rena Ware is not Revere Ware, and there will be less confusion around replacement parts.

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Revere Ware waterless cooking

Revere Ware did some big advertising on their “waterless” cooking method in the 40’s

That’s a nice plug, but it doesn’t really tell us how it works.

Waterless cooking relies on the (higher) water content of certain foods, a low heat setting, and a tight fitting lid to keep the steam generated from escaping, creating a slight pressure inside the pot.  The hot steam helps cook the food faster, but with a low bottom temperature which keeps the food from burning.

So why is waterless cooking better?  For a number of reasons.

  • No boiling means no nutrients lost to the boil water.
  • Low heat means you are using less energy / natural gas to cook
  • You don’t have to add fat for cooking (although recent attitudes on fat have relaxed a little)
  • It supposedly reduces cooking time

I haven’t heard much about waterless cooking in recent times, and not in respect to Revere Ware, which seems to have been one brand that made the practice popular. I’ve never tried it myself.

Before waterless cooking, pressure cooking was a popular way to accomplish much the same thing.  I can’t help but think that today’s Instant Pot is a great way of achieving the same benefits as waterless cooking.  My wife sure loves our instant pot, and uses it almost every day.

But I’ll have to try the waterless way one of these days.

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Revere Ware and glass top stoves

Some people like the look of glass top stoves.  Personally, my wife and I prefer gas cooking as it we find it much more responsive than anything electric.  But what if you do have a glass top stove?  Can you continue to use your Revere Ware cookware?  Reader Mellanie asks:

I received my set of Revere ware in 1967 as a wedding gift from my parents. The pans are in great shape, as is my marriage, and I still use them every day! My problem is that we bought a new stove this year with a glass cooktop and the pans are “rounded” on the bottom now and don’t sit flat on the stove top. Any suggestions for me in cooking with them now. They still work, but it takes longer to cook things. It doesn’t seem to matter much how heavy the contents being prepared is while cooking.

Sadly, you likely can’t (or shouldn’t) use your Revere Ware copper bottom cookware with glass top stoves. For starters, flat surfaces like glass stoves are less than ideal with warped cookware. In addition to the lower heat transmission, they can often warble on the stove by themselves, which I personally find really annoying.

But the best argument against using Revere Ware is that copper can stain a glass stove top. According to GE Appliances:

Copper Bottom pans are also good, but they can leave residues on the cooktop that appear as scratches. These can be removed if cleaned immediately, but do not let a copper-bottom pan boil dry. An overheated copper pot will leave a residue that will permanently stain the cooktop.

Who among us has not accidentally left a pot to boil dry, so this poses a real risk.

Sadly, it is probably best not to use Revere Ware on glass top stoves.

 

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