Take a look at my chicken sitting amidst a bunch of broken glass that was once a 9 x 13 Pyrex casserole dish. Thank goodness the oven was closed when the dish shattered. Given the volume of the explosion from inside my oven, it would have likely blown the glass all over the kitchen had it not been contained. It's a very good thing I didn't choose that moment to peek into the oven to check on the meat.
So what did I do to cause this? Well, I started baking chicken the same way I have been doing for decades in my older Pyrex that dates back to the 1970s, except that this time, I did it in a dish I got for Christmas only 2 years ago. The dish was at room temperature, right out of the cabinet. The chicken had been out of the refrigerator for about 10 minutes. The oven was preheated to 400 before the chicken went in. About 10 minutes into cooking, the dish suddenly broke into a million pieces.
Now, to be fair, the Pyrex website indicates that I was supposed to cover the bottom of the dish with liquid. They also insist that Pyrex glassware is safe when used according to their directions. They aren't likely to sympathize with my complaint since I didn't add liquid, even though the chicken covered the entire bottom of the dish. The thing is, since new Pyrex is passed off as the same product it has always been - same look, same name - everyone assumes that it will behave the same way it always has. I've been cooking in my vintage Pyrex for twenty years and I've never added liquid to baking chicken. My mother and grandmother used Pyrex almost on a daily basis. They never added liquid to baking chicken and yet, they were both still able to hand down their Pyrex to me.
Pyrex is not the same product it has always been. It was once owned by Corning and its dishes were made of borosilicate glass. It is now owned by World Kitchen, and the dishes are made with soda lime glass. Soda lime is more likely to shatter due to temperature changes. If you scroll down and watch the video I've posted from Consumer Reports, you can see that the newer Pyrex made of soda lime glass breaks in their tests 100% of the time (granted, they are using it in an unsafe way), but they report that when they did the same tests to European Pyrex which is still made of borosilicate glass, NONE of the dishes broke. A decades-old Pyrex dish that was subjected to even larger temperature differences also survived unbroken. World Kitchen puts out statements saying that Pyrex is made the same way it has always been made for the last 60 years, but a former Corning scientist says that they were still making Pyrex from borosilicate when he retired in 1987. Hmmm. More evidence that World Kitchen changed the composition of the glass is found in the fact that, after World Kitchen took over, the crack cocaine industry has had to switch from using Pyrex measuring cups (now made of soda lime) to stolen pyrex lab equipment (still borosilicate).
World Kitchen claims that soda lime glass is better because it is less prone to break when you drop it, but when I investigated a little more, I discovered that soda lime glass can be manufactured more cheaply and reduces impact on the environment. Ohhhhh. Now I get it. Note to World Kitchen: I expect glass to break when I drop it, and I don't consider you responsible for my clumsiness. However, I also expect Pyrex to be the same product my mother bought in 1970 and to respond to normal use and kitchen conditions in the same way. If it's not the same product, give it a new name and a new look. Until you do, selling Pyrex and claiming it is the same as before is a covert bait and switch practice with potentially dire consequences.
As my vintage Pyrex wears out, I plan to replace it with some other kind of bakeware. Considering the possibility of glass flying into a face, or being thrown 6-8 feet across the kitchen, I certainly don't want to use a risky product around my aging mother or my daughter who will soon be learning to cook on her own, never mind my own safety. As you cook for your family this Christmas, please take extra precautions if you are using newer Pyrex.
World Kitchen will only take this seriously if they get enough reports. Consumer Reports has called for an investigation by the Consumer Products Safety Commission. If you've had Pyrex break under normal kitchen conditions, please file a report with the CPSC and report it to World Kitchen as well. WK claims they don't get very many complaints. I think that's just another cover up.
Where to report problems with Pyrex:
The Consumer Products Safety Commission: firstname.lastname@example.org
World Kitchen, manufacturer of Pyrex: Go here and find the link to email.
Consumer Reports: Report a problem product
Consumer Affairs: Add your story here.
Consumer Reports, Jan. 2011: Blaming the Victim
Consumer Reports, Oct. 2011: Shattered glass: More than 140 new incidents reported
Pyrex Glassware: Is It Safe to Use?
Should Consumers Beware of Pyrex Bakeware?
New Warnings About Problems With Glass Bakeware