It seems like every time I come across a Corning Ware pattern that I haven’t seen before, it turns out to be from the 1990s. And I have a theory about that: The ’90s were probably a period of decline for Corning Ware in general. I certainly wasn’t aware of pyroceram cookware then — I wasn’t going to buy it for my first apartment or put it on my wedding registry. And if no one else was doing that either, it’s no surprise that Corning sold off the Corning Ware brand to World Kitchen at the end of the decade.
World Kitchen promptly killed off pyroceram production and switched to stoneware — cheaper to manufacture but a highly inferior product, in my opinion. So the ’90s patterns are the last of a dying breed.
I’ve found myself with a little collection of ’90s Corning Ware patterns, mostly scored at Goodwill and Savers — occasional finds in the sea of Blue Cornflower and Spice O’ Life that’s out there. They are by no means the only patterns from that era, but they have been fun to discover and add to my collection.
Pictured above, clockwise from top left:
- Shadow Iris (1985-1995)
- Callaway (1998-2000)
- Garden Harvest (1994-1996)
- Country Cornflower (1988-1993)
- Fruit Basket (1997-1998)
- Delicious (1992)
- Fresh Cut (1997-1998)
- Rosemarie (1995-1997)
- Blue Dusk (1994-1997)
Also worth noting: The Corning Ware 411 blog is a terrific source for pattern identification, as well as interesting info about specific models, history, etc.
Corning Ware’s wheat pattern dates back to the 1960s, and is the subject of much speculation among collectors. Evidently it was originally intended to be one of the first Corning Ware patterns, but was supplanted by blue cornflower for whatever reason, and then released later on. The details are a little fuzzy. In any case, I was excited to find one in a thrift store recently, as I’d never seen the pattern in real life.
There was just one problem: I was thrifting while visiting family out of state, and anything I bought would have to make it home by airplane. I could wrap it in dirty laundry and lug it in my carry-on, or even ship it to myself, but that all seemed like too much trouble. I convinced myself that taking a picture would be enough, and moved on.
Fast-forward a couple days: Back at home, I was reorganizing my Corning Ware cabinet and discovered the very same wheat dish on the shelf. I thought to myself, “Good thing I didn’t buy that dish in Washington, because I owned it already and must have forgotten!” I told my husband about it and he laughed — typical me, my brain is a sieve these days and I’ve been known to experience thrifting amnesia.
Then I told the same funny story to my uncle, who had been in the thrift store with me back in Washington. “That’s funny indeed,” he said, because he had gone back to the store, bought the dish, and colluded with my husband to sneak it home for me. They were wondering how long it would take me to notice it. At first I didn’t believe him — he’s a known BS artist — but after calling my husband to confirm, I had a good laugh. It’s been a long time since I’ve been truly surprised by something, and this surprise was a pretty good one.
The whole experience made me feel so loved — people going out of their way to do something special for me — and that’s something I will forever associate with this dish.
I love me some vintage enameled cast iron! Luckily I don’t see it much in thrift stores — otherwise I’d have a real storage problem on my hands.
Descoware dates back to the 1950s through the ’70s, when Le Creuset acquired the company’s patents (and subsequently killed the brand). It’s known for durability and for weighing less than other kinds of cast iron cookware. Julia Child was a fan, and featured it frequently on her cooking show. There’s not a lot of online resources on Descoware, but the Descoware fan site and Cool Finds blog both provide some good info.
I found this little Descoware terrine at Savers, and it looks virtually unused. The cherry flame color, a red-to-orange gradient, was the company’s trademark design. It holds about 3 cups — a size designed for meatloaf or pâté, but which could also be handy for bread pudding, hot party dips, or even a really decadent mac and cheese. I’m looking forward to trying it out!
I see these little Glasbake handled bowls at thrift stores fairly often — usually in plain white milk glass, with slight variations in the shape of the handle. They are frequently referred to as chili bowls or soup bowls, but I think their size is better suited to ice cream. Either way, they were originally sold as “French Casseroles,” intended for individual baked sides.
I was thrilled to find this beautiful set of four colors, complete with original lids, on the Goodwill online auction site. I believe they were part of a “Patioware” set that included square serving tiles — don’t think I’ll ever find those. But the colors are so cheery, I hardly mind. These rank pretty high on my list of favorite pieces!
These versatile little casseroles are among my favorite — even must-have — Pyrex pieces. The Bake, Serve & Store Set came in three incremental sizes: 1 pint (model 471), 1 1/2 pint (472) and 1 quart (473). They’re great dishes for dips, small sides, leftovers … I’ve even heard of people using them for ice cream or cereal.
The Woodland 471 and 473 (on the right in the photo below) were two of my very first thrift store Pyrex finds — I couldn’t believe it when I saw them on the shelf at Hope Thrift. Then because I’m impatient, I bought the Woodland 472 on eBay to complete the set. I found the Spring Blossom set (on the left) on Goodwill’s online auction site — and since I was a beginner at the time, I didn’t pay attention to the model numbers and thought they were going to be larger casseroles. Lesson learned: Sense of scale can be way off in photos! I found a lot of the lids at Goodwill and Savers, which have typically been my best source of lids. Some of my current lids are chipped, so I am always on the lookout to swap them out for more pristine pieces.
One of the nice things about the Bake, Serve & Store lids is that they can be inverted for easy stacking. The same is true for Pyrex refrigerator dishes. I can just imagine a mid-century refrigerator loaded with stacks and stacks of Pyrex!
I try not to collect Fire King. Even though I love a lot of the patterns, it’s functionally the same as Pyrex — and I already have a lot of Pyrex. I don’t have the space to collect both!
Still, I’ve managed to accumulate a few pieces. In this case, I picked up the oval casserole lid first at Goodwill, thinking it would fit another dish I had (which turned out to be round, not oval — damn that memory of mine). As a result I was on the hunt for an oval casserole to match the lid. I ended up finding it in the Meadow Green pattern (along with an 8×8 baking dish) on Goodwill’s online auction site.
Fire King is also known for jadeite, a type of pale green milk glass tableware first produced in the 1940s, as well as peach lustre, a line of iridescent orange ovenware that came in a huge array of shapes and sizes. I also recently learned that Anchor Hocking, manufacturer of Fire King, briefly made a line of cookware similar to Corning Ware — so naturally I am dying to get my hands on some. I will be keeping my eyes peeled in the thrift stores!
It was a rainy day today, so we headed to Savers for a little family thrifting. My husband headed to the electronics, my daughter to the toys, and I made my usual beeline to the ovenware. Our local Savers is often a pretty good source of Corning Ware — I find stuff I can’t believe other people have passed up. Today certainly didn’t disappoint: They had a P-34-B dutch oven in one of my favorite patterns, Floral Bouquet Third Edition. It’s in pristine condition, with a lid, and the original roasting rack! Imagine how easily the racks get separated from their pots — so finding them together was a big score.
Interestingly, the walls and bottom of the pot are thinner than other pieces — perhaps designed more for the oven than the stovetop. It can still go on the stove, though, if kept at a lower temperature. I’ve found that Corning Ware generally gets plenty hot even at a medium-to-low burner setting.
I can’t wait to roast a chicken in this thing, and then make gravy in the same pan!