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.