Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

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January 20, 2013

01/20/2013 — Lee Ward: Breaks give rise to tempest in a Pyrex container

ASHLAND — Some of my first kitchen memories include my grandmother making pound cake, fresh trout caught by my dad and Pyrex dishes.

My mother told me Pyrex dishes were glass that didn’t act like glass. You could bake in it, store things in it, put it in the freezer and it would not break.

She was right, mostly.

I learned from experience you can slam a four-cup Pyrex measuring glass against a cabinet and it will break.

You also can drop it on a concrete floor and, yes indeed, it will break.

One of my girlfriends was over and she put chicken tenders in a Pyrex dish and cooked them on the stovetop.

“Can you do that?” I asked.

“Sure,” she replied. “It’s Pyrex.”

I learned later stovetop cooking is a Pyrex no-no, but it didn’t break and I was impressed.

Pyrex is made from borosilicate glass that doesn’t expand or compress when exposed to high heat or low temperatures, theoretically making it safe to go from freezer to oven.

In the last few weeks, there has been an outcry about the nearly 100-year-old kitchen marvel, with more people complaining their dishes aren’t holding up like they used to.

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw a report on television about the increase in Pyrex breaks and wrote it off to people being increasingly stupid and finding more creative ways to cause the dishes to break.

I could just see some stupid person pelting his or her spouse with an oblong baking dish and then whining it broke against the wall when he or she missed.

I was insistent on defending my beloved Pyrex.

To be fair, I decided to investigate.

Discovermagazine.com posted a report explaining a study published in American Ceramics Society Bulletin that found Pyrex does not hold up as well as we have been led to believe.

The report found Corning, the company that owned Pyrex at the time, started using soda lime silicate glass instead of borosilicate glass in the 1990s to boost the glassware’s ability to withstand being dropped. Scientists conducting the study found soda lime silicate glass will shatter after a 99-degree temperature change, but borosilicate glass can withstand temperature changes of more than 300 degrees.

“Even at modest kitchen temperatures,” the scientists write, “there is a definite possibility of thermal shock fracture.”

I’m still not satisfied Pyrex’s good name hasn’t been slammed. I haven’t broken any Pyrex in years, knock on wood, and never from temperature changes in cooking. Of course, my use is pretty conservative — no freezer-to-oven transfers at my house and no stovetop cooking, either.

I do know what broken Pyrex looks like, though, and it’s not pretty. Whatever you do, don’t drop it.

LEE WARD can be reached at lward@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2661.

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