Why did my Pyrex baking dish explode?
I had a Halloween party last week, and stayed up late the night before making dolmades. It was my first attempt, so it took several hours preparing the rice mixture, boiling and drying the grape leaves, and rolling and stuffing the dolmades. Around 5 AM, I put them in the fridge and planned to finish them off in the oven the following day.
Following my recipe, I put the thick, heavy Pyrex baking dish on the stovetop, after adding two cups of water and plenty of lemon juice and EVOO to the stacked dolmades. After the water started to boil, I removed it from the stovetop and put it in my preheated oven. Within five minutes, the Pyrex EXPLODED, ruining my beautiful dolmades with a shower of broken glass. I had to throw them all out, and it took forever to clean up the oil-covered glass shards and rice from inside the oven.
How the hell did this happen? I thought Pyrex could stand up to stovetops and ovens, and I've cooked lasagna and cakes in it before. I bought it at Publix supermarket for about $15 or $20 some years back, and it was pretty heavy and seemed quite thick. I was so looking forward to those dolmades, but the hassle of making them followed by the intense disappointment of losing them all was so bad that I'll probably never make them again.
Sorry for the loss of the dolmades -- I love Greek food, and they sounded delish.
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Pyrex (borosilicate glass) is really amazing stuff -- it can handle huge changes in temperatures. As the Corningware jingle went say, "From the freezer, to the oven, to the table." Those temperature changes build up incredible strains and stresses within the material that would break most glass and pottery. When they break, those stresses get released pretty energetically. Unfortunately, bakeware made from brittle materials, stoneware, ceramic, Pyrex, and even cast iron can crack.
Odd aside: the 200 inch telescope at Mt. Palomar, CA, which was the worlds largest telescope for over a half century, has a primary mirror made of Pyrex. Check out the book "The Perfect Machine" for a good read. Early attempts at casting the mirror, which was waffled to save weight, involved using 8-oz custard cups to form the voids (no, it did not work.)
I have had a pyrex explode twice. Both times I had removed the food after baking in the oven and was rinsing the dish under cold water. Twice it exploded into a million pieces and many of the shards ended up down the garbage disposal ruining it (twice). Needless to say, I felt like an idiot the 2nd time. I guess the drastic change in temp is what caused it and I won't be making that mistake again!
From what I remember, Pyrex *used to be* made of borosilicate glass, which is a type of glass that has a lower coefficient of expansion than regular glass (doesn't expand or contract as much with heat). Nowadays, ever since the Pyrex brand name was sold, it's made of simple tempered glass, which, while tough, doesn't handle uneven temperature changes as well as borosilicate glass.
The solution is to acquire and treasure old Pyrex glassware. Or, simply be prepared for the occasional shattering piect of glassware.