I remember as a child the trouble I got into once for dropping a glass baking dish. It didn’t help that it was still half full of food!
Is glass cookware worth the risk of ending up with pieces of glass all over your kitchen floor?
Glass cookware is amongst the safest non toxic cookware around. Many people will use it as a baking dish – but did you know that there can be more to it than that?
Why Use Glass Cookware?
One of the disadvantages of most cookware is that you can get chemicals leaching in. In the case of cast iron, it might fortify your diet with iron, but that isn’t suitable for everyone. In the worst cases you risk lead or cadmium leaching into your food. Glass cookware, from a reputable manufacturer, won’t have any chemicals leaching in. It’s non toxic, non-reactive and inert.
So it should be safer. (Though not all glass cookware is safe – see below about what you should look for.)
What other advantages does it have?
Glass cookware, once warmed up, heats your food evenly, which helps with cooking. Do make sure you heat it up slowly though!
It’s also something that works well in the microwave. Since it doesn’t have any metal or water inside, the microwave’s energy will heat the food not the glass.
Easy to Clean and Use
It’s super easy to clean glass. In many ways it’s naturally nonstick, and even when something does get stuck, it isn’t hard to dislodge.
What’s more, you can always chuck glass in the dishwasher. (Ok, not literally “chuck”, but you know what I mean!) This often isn’t the case with many safe cookware alternatives.
What’s more, unlike cast iron or carbon steel, glass cookware doesn’t need seasoning. You don’t need to oil it after use, it won’t rust and you don’t need to baby it. Just don’t drop it!
The clearest advantage of glass is that it is see through. This makes it so easy to peer in the oven and see how that lasagne is doing.
It really comes into its own when serving a nice layered dish. Being able to see a cross section of the dish being served just makes it pop.
It can be risky to store food in cookware. The longer you leave food in cookware, the more chemicals can leach into it. This is the case even with safe cookware like stainless steel.
Since glass cookware is inert, it is safe to store food. This is convenient as it means you can cook in the same dish you had in the refrigerator. Make sure to avoid sudden temperature changes though!
It’s also convenient the other way. You can cover any leftovers with aluminum foil or clingfilm and don’t need to transfer them to another dish. (If you do this with non-glass cookware – you might want to check it is meant for long term food storage.)
Problems with Glass Cookware
It isn’t all clear sailing when it comes to glass cookware, there are some downsides.
The biggest problem is that it can break, and when it does it can be very dangerous.
Clearly, it will break if you drop it on a hard surface (or chip the actual surface – this has happened to me!) But temperature changes can also cause it to shatter. This is where you need to be careful – adding cold water to a hot piece of glass bakeware is the most common mistake.
There are also reports of glass bakeware shattering spontaneously. This is of concern but it appears to be driven by a particular type of glass bakeware (soda lime). Even with soda lime the reports do include temperature changes, albeit small ones. I would be cautious with soda lime glass cookware. Cookware needs to be able to warm up and cool down without breaking.
For similar reasons, most glass cookware is not suitable for the stovetop. The oven heats all the glass, slowly and at the same time. The stovetop quickly concentrates a lot of heat in part of the cookware. Remember – differential heating is what makes glass shatter!
What to look for in Glass Cookware
First, I strongly suggest buying it new from a reputable cookware manufacturer. Yes, glass isn’t supposed to leach nasty chemicals into your food. However that depends on what the manufacturer has included in the glass.
It wasn’t that long ago that it was common to include lead in crystal drinking goblets. This helped them look nice but risked lead in your drink.
In fact there are reports of lead leaching from hand made glass containers.
This is easy to avoid:
Only use food grade glass
Only buy from a reputable manufacturer, or importer – do you trust them?
Avoid hand made cookware.
You need glass that has some resistance to heat changes. It doesn’t mean that you can pour cold water onto hot glass, but it shouldn’t just shatter in the oven.
Tempered glass is the key to this, although it isn’t always labelled as such. Look out for:
A heat proof label
An indication it is microwave safe
(Borosilicate is less likely to shatter than soda lime.)
There is a small amount of glass cookware that you can actually use on the stovetop. There are actually such things as glass frying pans, or saucepans!
This is rare though and needs special treatment – don’t assume any glass bakeware has this.
Corning, which produces the Visions brand, has had cookware that does this since at least the 80’s. Here’s the thing though – their cookware looks like something out of the 80’s! At least to me, something about the tint. Still it’s a nice concept and worth considering.
It’s nice to be able to see the food cooking through the side of the pot, but you can achieve the same with a see through lid on any other cookware. So the biggest sell is probably the safety aspect, and whether you like the look of it.
Should I Get Glass cookware?
Food grade glass cookware is amongst the safest, healthiest cookware you can use. Importantly for me it’s also easy to clean and doesn’t need special treatment.
But, with two young children, stuff falls or gets knocked all the time in my house. I don’t like the idea of spending the next few days finding glass in the nooks and crannies of my kitchen.
I like to have a mixture of cookware including ceramic, non stick, stainless steel and cast iron. For me glass has a place in the line up but not the only place!
About The Author
Beatriz Garcia is a mom of two who likes to cook healthy, tasty and simple meals. You can find her on Clan Kitchen where she regularly writes about cookware.