Busting A Myth: Good cookware only has riveted handles    Permalinktrackback

June 20th, 2012

When you work in a professional kitchen, you get to learn what kitchen equipment can stand the test and what can’t. This is one I know that’s a load of horse hockey.

Myth: Riveted handles mean good quality cookware and welded handles do not.

In our minds, rivets mean strength. Jeans, I-beams and suits of armour are riveted after all!

The problem with rivets in cookware is that those rivets are usually a low-carbon steel and not as strong as the metal in the handle or pot/pan base. In the manufacturing process, hot single-ended rivets are passed through holes in the body and handle, and then the shank is punched or pressed (technically, it’s called “peening”) to flatten and shape the second shank in order to adhere the handle to the pot. Over time, because that metal is softer than the handle or base, it can stretch, causing the handle to become loose. It can even break.

The change of surface shape and metal on the inside of a pot may also cause uneven temperatures in the area around the rivet, creating cool spots within the cookware.

Rivets are also a bone of contention with some cooks over food safety. Because the interior surface of a riveted pot is not smooth, food particles can become trapped around and just under the edges of the rivet. After the pot has been “cleaned” and put away, that’s when those food particles begin to spoil or attract bacteria.

If the rivets start to stretch, food can then make its way under the whole rivet and into the drilled channel. Water trapped under a tight rivet can also worsen the problem. As that water heats up, it expands and creates steam. That steam will push hard on anything its next to in order to complete its expansion.

Why are welds healthier?

Welds are generally made on the outside surface of the pot/pan, leaving a pristine interior surface that can be cleaned easily. The pot part is, in effect, part of the handle, and vice versa.

So how did this come to be?

For decades, rivets were associated with cheap cookware. As any good metallurgist or engineer will tell you, a good weld is stronger than a rivet will ever be. But welding means skilled-trade, unionized workers, and a certain level of skill required to get a good welded joint. This means higher costs and thus was usually not used on cheap cookware, while riveted—or worse yet screwed on—handles were found on cheaper products.

Somewhere in the past two decades the lines got crossed. Many (and by that I mean most) of the high-end kitchen brands of the past (Le Creuset, Calphalon, KitchenAid, Cuisinart, etc.) began to parlay their prestige into lower-end markets. This is why you can find Calphalon products at Target, and KitchenAid at Walmart. In doing so, they needed to have products that cost less to make. For cookware, that means rivets. And because those names are still associated with their high-end pasts, we assume that rivets must also be a high-end feature.

Unfortunately this change in mindset means that customers are now looking for riveted cookware at all price points, making the ubiquity of rivets a great slap in the face of quality and food safety. That’s not to say the pots themselves aren’t good, but that riveted joints are antithetical to the high-end nature and safety of these pots and pans.

In short, it’s another false idea that’s kinda short changing us. My goal is to get people thinking about their food and the products they use to make it, but food industries have a long history of false claims and trying to sell us more and more products.

My favourite welded handle cookware line? “Pots for Eternity” A.K.A. the Classic Line from Paderno. They’re excellent quality, built in Canada and they regularly go on deep discount sale. They also thankfully don’t have glass lids, but that’s for a whole other post.

  1. […] can also sterilize away those nasty microbes hiding in the gaps in your evil, riveted cookware. Just run the torch over the rivets until well hot. This shouldn’t be done on non-stick […]

  2. Bob says:

    I have nothing against welded pans, but this whole story about “back in the day only cheap cookware had rivets” is completely bogus. I own cookware made by great French manufacturers in the late 19th century through the present day. They are almost universally made with rivets.

    Whether to use rivets or not also has to do with the materials in the pan and handle, the size and weight of the pan, and other factors. Some materials are just not easily welded together compared to others.

    I will mostly agree with you that many manufacturers today emphasize rivets because they are often cheaper to manufacture and because they are “traditional” (in a field like cookware, where high-end cookware tends to follow very traditional designs). Welded pans may often be as good or better. But top manufacturers have used riveted pans for centuries — they didn’t just discover it recently to “cheap out” on customers.

    • Zang says:

      When did “For decades, rivets were associated with cheap cookware” become “back in the day only cheap cookware had rivets”?

      Through the middle of the 20th century, a lot of really lousy cookware was produced (Regal, West Bend, Salad Master) and all had screwed or riveted handles. One of the most [sic] revered lines from that time period was Revereware, who had welded handles.

      High-priced French riveted cookware (Mauviel, De Buyer) doesn’t register in the minds of the average joe. That said, old French and Belgian “top manufacturers” like Cristel and Demeyere that once produced riveted products, now only produce products with welded handles. Old ideas are not synonymous with good ideas, nor does it mean they can’t be improved upon.

      “But top manufacturers have used riveted pans for centuries — they didn’t just discover it recently to “cheap out” on customers.”

      And I never suggested that. What I’ve said is that there’s a movement to make riveted handles appear as a premium feature (thank you, All-Clad), when in fact they are less food-safe and cheaper for the manufacturers. And this mainly appears to be a North American phenomenon. While European companies are moving more and more to welds, companies like Lagostina and Paderno who produce excellent-quality welded mid-range products at reasonable prices are now putting rivets on their high end lines in order to match consumer expectations here in North America. In Italy, Lagostina’s premium lines are all welded.

      Sure, you’re not likely to find welded copper or aluminum pans, but when you’re dealing with INOX — the predominant material for cookware — rivets are cheaping out.

  3. kEN lEWIS says:

    We own a set of logostina (Vienna) stainless cookware, with spot welded handles. Several months ago one of the handles fell off while lifting a “Dutch Oven”. A month later a second stainless steel handle fell off the same pot while lifting the dutch oven full of boiling water, I escaped serious injury. We have a full set and would expect a full replacement, since we expect more handles to fall off. My wife is afraid of getting seriously injured if continued use. welded handles ?????

    KL

    • Zang says:

      Ask any metallurgist or engineer as to which is stronger, and you will unanimously hear that a good weld will be stronger than a rivet. The metal used in rivets always has to be softer than the material that it’s being used to hold together; which means in the case of aluminum cookware, those rivets are *quite* soft, relatively and prone to stretching and breaking.

      While yes, a weld breaking is disappointing, it is pure anecdote. The science doesn’t hold water for all welds. Perhaps it was the welder’s first day, or the torch wasn’t hot enough, or the steel used in the pan was contaminated with impurities. The fact is, if you want the strongest bonds you can create, you weld.

  4. Helen says:

    THIS article is DEAD ON; I finally packed away some old Lagostina with those big bolts on the inside of the vessel and they are circled in black. I have been unable to clean because it returns. ANY BOLTS on the inside of the vessel are bacteria-finding-growing. That is only common sense and anyone who says otherwise has not experienced what I have purchased. I spent good money on Lagostina and it was touted to be so great. I agree with this article and have FIRST-HAND experience.

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