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.
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 recently added another Corning Ware microwave browning skillet to my collection — a 6-inch MW-83-B scored at Savers — so I decided it was time to try it out. The MW-83-B is similar to the P-83-B in Corning Ware’s Menuette line, making it the perfect size for a fried egg.
With this little footed skillet, it’s possible to cook a pretty good sunny-side-up egg — lightly browned edges, runny yolk — in about a minute.
1 egg, cracked into a bowl
Place the empty skillet in the microwave and cook on high for 30 seconds to preheat. Spray the skillet liberally with oil, then pour in the egg and microwave for another 40 seconds. Season with salt and pepper and serve.
Note: Cooking times are for a 1100-watt microwave. You may need to experiment a bit to achieve your desired level of doneness. The Corning Ware 411 blog has some more detailed information on cooking with microwave browning skillets, including a vintage chart of cooking times for various foods.
Pictured: Corning Ware Amana MW-83-B Microwave Browning Skillet
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!
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!
The clean lines … the stylish knob … the black-and-white design … how could I resist this little dish that looks like it’s straight out of Mad Men? The Corning Ware Buffet Servers were made in the ’60s, notable for their round shape, pyroceram lid and bakelite knob. Just like all Corning Ware, they can go from freezer to oven, over a flame, etc., but with more pizzazz! I snagged this 2 1/2 quart model at Savers — the lid in particular is in great condition, making it a lucky find.
Incidentally this dish also goes with the P-201-HG handles I wrote about last month. I love putting all the pieces together! More information about Buffet Servers is available on the Corning Ware 411 blog here and here.
Corning Ware’s personal-sized casserole dishes, called Petite Pans, are one of my favorite things to collect. I see them pretty often at the thrift stores I frequent (Goodwill, Savers, Hope Thrift), and I’ve splurged on a couple harder-to-find patterns on eBay. The P-43-B is the best size in my opinion (22 ounces), perfect for pot pies, french onion soup, individual lasagnas and more. I love the variety of patterns, and it’s handy that the pans nest easily and don’t take up much space.
There is also a 12-oz size, the P-41-B, which is really cute (I’ve only ever found it in the Blue Cornflower pattern):
The Petite Pans can morph from casserole to mini skillet with their own special detachable handle:
They have glass lids too, but I haven’t managed to get my hands on one yet. There are also plastic lids for fridge/freezer storage — perfect for freezing single-serving leftovers. Which brings me to one of the biggest reasons Corning Ware is so amazing: It can cook on the stove top, in the oven and under the broiler, then go into the freezer, then go straight from freezer to stove/oven again. And the microwave, for that matter. Try that with any other ceramic or glass dish, and you’ll be left with a pile of shards and a big mess!
These tiny pans from Corning Ware’s Menuette line are so cute, especially in two of my favorite patterns: Wildflower (on top in the above photo) and Floral Bouquet Third Edition (bottom). I found the P-82-B saucepan at Goodwill and the P-83-B skillet at Savers, and couldn’t pass them up even though I tend to prefer models with detachable handles.
The skillet is just the right size to fry an egg, something I’ve been meaning to try in my Corning Ware. Since cooking with pyroceram is fairly new to me, it’s been really fun to get a feel for it. The egg ended up with nice brown crispy bits on the bottom and a slightly runny yolk, just the way I like it. Using plenty of butter was a good idea.
The pans originally came in sets of three with tiny lids, so that gives me a few things to hunt for…. There’s more info about the Menuette line over at the Corning Ware 411 site.
Pyrex divided dishes are especially fun to collect, due to the sheer variety of limited-release patterns out there. My favorite is Dandelion Duet (pictured above), which came out in 1959, advertised for its ability to hold two separate packages of frozen foods in one dish. (The Corning Museum of Glass has a great ad from the era in its library collection here.)
After a flurry of bidding on the Goodwill auction website, I’ve found myself with quite a few dishes (is this what obsession looks like?):
Clockwise from top right: Verde, Snowflake (x2), Pink Daisy, Opal, Royal Wheat, Golden Acorn, Town and Country, Dandelion Duet, Butterfly Gold.
Since shopping Goodwill online is sort of like cheating, I also took a picture of the pieces I actually scored in real-world thrift stores (Savers and Hope Thrift). Finding lids is always a particular treat.
So what can divided dishes be used for? Chips and dip, cheese and crackers, soup and salad, chicken and waffles, spicy and mild, two different sides, different flavors of jello, individual pies with one crust … the possibilities are endless. I’ve also heard of people using them as dinner plates.
It’s worth noting that other manufacturers also made divided dishes. I frequently see Glasbake models in thrift stores, and Fire King seems to have some too.
I’ve seen this piece sans lid a few times in different thrift stores, but when I found one with a lid at Savers I had to buy it. Corning Ware browning skillets are pretty interesting because they have a special coating that makes the bottom of the pan heat up in the microwave:
That means it can sear steak, sizzle burgers, saute onions, fry eggs, make a grilled cheese sandwich and more, all in the microwave!
Essentially you nuke the empty pan in the microwave to heat it up, then add food and nuke some more. The pan has raised “feet” on the corners to keep the hot surface from damaging the floor of the microwave.
I’m looking forward to trying it out. Fried eggs sound like fun, or at the very least it seems like a handy way to heat up chicken nuggets or fish sticks for the kids!