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I know I'm lucky my house didn't burn down, but do I really need to buy new cookware?
July 20, 2009 6:54 AM   Subscribe

Can I safely use a burnt Revere Ware copper-bottomed saucepan?

I have an old Revere Ware copper-bottomed saucepan, maybe 30 years old. I was heating some water on the gas stovetop and got distracted--called away to another room, stupidly left the pot boiling for a good hour or so. By the time I returned, all the water had boiled away, the inside of the pot was swirled with white powdery marks, and the bottom had a thin layer of black burnt stuff flaking off. Under the black layer, which I can scrub off pretty easily, there's still copper.

I'd rather throw away the pot than risk having the bottom fall off while cooking or some other disaster, but I don't want to throw away a still-usable pot. Is it safe to use?
posted by Meg_Murry to Food & Drink (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
The residue at the bottom is just a combination of salts (white powder) and organic material (black layer) that was present in the water. Once you scrub all that off you'll have the same pan you did before the accident. I'm not clear why you think the bottom would fall off? Is it loose?
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 6:57 AM on July 20, 2009


I've done that in a Revere Ware pan (multiple times...) and it hasn't fallen apart yet. If you get some Bar Keepers Friend, that should take off the burn marks.
posted by gjc at 7:00 AM on July 20, 2009


Oh, what a relief! I have no actual scientific reason to think the bottom would fall off, so maybe I should have phrased my question less hyperbolically. Mostly I was just concerned that if it burned so badly that there's material flaking off (something I'd never seen before), maybe the structural integrity was weakened. Thanks for setting my mind at ease!
posted by Meg_Murry at 7:02 AM on July 20, 2009


An hour? Heck, I've done this overnight. The sharp outline of a glowing orange pot in a dark room is absolutely Spielbergian.

This is one of the great benefits of solid-material pots and pans (copper, iron etc). There's really no way to do meaningful damage to a solid piece of metal.
posted by rokusan at 7:15 AM on July 20, 2009


To get the stuff off that's stuck to the bottom, pour baking soda in the pan, enough to give at least a 1/4 inch coating, then add just enough water to make it a pasty consistency. Forget about it for a few hours/days then scrub it out.
Good as new.

Gets out burnt pop corn too.
posted by readery at 7:21 AM on July 20, 2009


Revere Ware pots are stainless steel with a thin exterior copper coating on the bottom. It's extraordinarily unlikely that the inside surface could become toxic. A good scrub with cleanser or even steelwool will restore it to it's original condition. If this weren't so, my mother wouldn't have a pot left in the house.
posted by bonehead at 7:52 AM on July 20, 2009


FYI, my grandfather had an all-aluminum pan and it completely melted on the stove (this would have been the 1980s; no telling how old the pan was). He severely burned his foot with the molten aluminum.

I seem to have inherited his distractability, but none of my pans have melted like that, for which I'm extremely grateful.
posted by amtho at 7:52 AM on July 20, 2009


Okay, I should have made an exception for aluminum. I don't believe in aluminum cookware for any application at all.
posted by rokusan at 8:05 AM on July 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have done this exact thing. (There were iridescent swirly-marks from the spiral pasta which were faintly visible for years.) Fifteen years later, we're still using the pot.
posted by desuetude at 8:15 AM on July 20, 2009


Revere Ware lasts forever. Want to clean the copper bottom without scrubbing? Pour on some vinegar and salt, and brush/wipe it around. You won't believe the results. The stainless steel inside can be cleaned with steel wool (SOS pads, etc.)
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:21 AM on July 20, 2009


The vinegar/salt thing gives you a weak solution of hydrochloric acid, which is why it turns copper super-pink so very quickly. It does that by eating away the tarnished outside of the copper, though, so it's not a great way to clean something that doesn't have a whole lot of copper there (possibly this kind of cookware, which I presume doesn't really need much cleaning on the outside anyway) or something with sharp surface detail (old coins - pretty much all "coin cleaning" techniques give serious coin collectors fits).

The vinegar/salt trick is a really neat kitchen-chemistry demo, though. If you leave a copper coin in the mixture for a very long time you will end up with a mass of blue crystals :-).

The sharp outline of a glowing orange pot in a dark room is absolutely Spielbergian.

I think you could successfully anneal a solid-copper pan by doing this. Annealed copper is amazingly soft; you could get a big dent in your pan if you dropped it on the floor. It work-hardens really quickly, though - I've easily bent a quarter-inch-thick copper boat nail into a pigtail shape after annealing it, but there's no way I'd be able to bend it back again without re-annealing it.
posted by dansdata at 9:32 AM on July 20, 2009


This is one of the great benefits of solid-material pots and pans (copper, iron etc). There's really no way to do meaningful damage to a solid piece of metal.

Not quite true, rokusan . One can heat a clad pan so hot that the two metals split, from the difference in their expansion rates, ruining the pan forever.

Ask me how I know.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:13 PM on July 20, 2009


And, for the record: aluminum has been vindicated of any wrongdoing. It's safe to use.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:13 PM on July 20, 2009


Yeah, aluminum is tricky stuff. It doesn't glow before it melts, and has a relatively low melting temperature. Just normal, normal, normal, FIREY MOLTEN SPLASHING! Luckily, I learned this with a piece of stock and a blow torch, not a kitchen pan.
posted by gjc at 6:50 PM on July 20, 2009


And, for the record: aluminum has been vindicated of any wrongdoing. It's safe to use.

Except that it fucking burns. Ask the British Navy.
posted by rokusan at 1:55 AM on July 21, 2009


Ah, that problem.

I was expecting some worrying about the link between aluminum and Alzheimer's, which has since been proven non-causal.
posted by IAmBroom at 4:12 PM on July 21, 2009


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