In a previous post, “Tea Time,” I mentioned a couple of different borosilicate teapots I’d ordered. The directions on one said it was okay to microwave but was not safe for stovetop use. The other said it was not okay to microwave but was safe for stovetop use. This understandably confused me because the whole purpose of borosilicate glass is that it is more resistant to thermal shock than soda-lime glass and will withstand high temperatures without cracking. In fact, the old pre-1998 Pyrex coffee pots, the ones my mother always used, were made of borosilicate glass.
I contacted the distributor and asked about the disparity in instructions. A customer service representative responded and said both pots were microwave safe since neither had any metal parts. When I asked about stovetop use, the representative said, “We made the decision a few years ago for safety reasons to not recommend using the teapots directly on the stovetop.” The teapot with instructions saying it could be used on the stovetop was an older model that has been discontinued, so those instructions had not been updated.
I figured that since both pots were made of the same materials, and the decision to not recommend for stovetop use seemed arbitrary and more of a legal matter than a problem with the pots, then both should be stovetop safe. Besides, borosilicate teapots are supposed to be safer to use than stainless steel or even iron (and vastly safer than aluminum) since they don’t leach minerals and contaminants into the water, and you lose that benefit if you can’t use the pots on the stove.
Although I’d been using the teapot that said it was safe for the stove, I hesitated to use the other pot on the stove since I didn’t want to throw away the money I’d spent on it if there really was a problem, so I researched the matter of safety.
It turns out borosilicate pots are perfectly safe when used on medium heat. If the heat is too high, it can heat up the handle and burn fingers. If you drop the pot because of the heated handle, you can burn more than just fingers. Also, pouring boiling water can be dangerous, so the recommendation I found was to let the pot sit for a minute before pouring the water into a cup.
Also, as it turns out, water for tea shouldn’t be heated to boiling anyway — boiling water can burn the delicate tea leaves so some teamakers say that to make a perfect cup of tea, it’s necessary to turn off the water right before it hits the boiling point, and if you wait too long and it boils, then let the water sit for a minute before boiling. A further word of caution: don’t reboil water. If there are contaminants in the water, boiling concentrates the contaminants, and reboiling concentrates them even further.
The upshot of all this is that I’ve been using the non-stovetop-safe pot on the stove, cooking at medium heat, trying to turn off the pot before the water boils, and if I can’t, then waiting for a minute to pour, and so far, no problems.
Despite all this, I ordered a whistling teakettle. Remember, I’m the same person who got distracted and blew up a pan of eggs. Twice. On the same day. Yep. Blew them up. Loud cracks of explosions. Bits of egg all over the kitchen. Borosilicate pots (any pot, actually) is not safe if you let the pot boil dry, and if I don’t want to hang around to watch the pot boil (and yes, despite the adage, watched pots do boil), I need the reminder. (It didn’t dawn on me until just now that I could figure out how long it takes to boil water here, and then set the timer. Duh.)
Well, now I have options.
I’ve spent so much time researching this matter, and the information borders on the esoteric, that I’ve been trying to figure out a way to use it in one of my books, but I can’t think of any way that any of this could help with a murder or solving a murder. It could go toward defining a character, I suppose, since I often try to give characters a small quirk, but such a small quirk doesn’t seem to merit all the time I spent on research.
So, please feel free to use this information if you want. Someone should get some use out of all my hard work!
Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.