Friday, May 31, 2013

Saucy Corningware Rangetoppers - Quick Tomato Sauce and Bechamel

In September of last year (2012) a reader posed a question regarding Corningware Range toppers.  I had heard of them, but I had never seen one in person. At some point during the 70's or 80's, maybe, I am not sure which, Corningware introduced a line of Pyroceramic cookware with a bonded aluminum bottom.  Evidently, the purpose was to distribute heat more evenly.  Now I suppose the theory is sound, but honestly, I have never really had a problem with hot spots when using my original version of Corningware.

Pyroceramic cookware acts a lot like cast iron, thus it absorbs heat readily and, though it may take just a bit longer to come to temperature, it holds that heat really well.  The only rule of thumb I follow is to NEVER go above Medium heat.  Copper is the same way; medium is the highest you should ever have to heat the pan.  If I am deep frying, I use a deep fryer or a cast iron pot.  I say this with the proviso that on my old gas range, in San Diego, I would often use medium-high heat, but the modern Cooktop I have now is capable of producing significantly more BTUs than my old gas powered dinosaur from the 40's. 

So, if you have a stove that is from the 70's or later, you should never use anything higher than medium heat with Corningware.  Even that has a proviso... If you are boiling water, medium-high heat is fine.

That being said.....  I actually found one of these "Rangetoppers" a couple weeks ago at the Good Will.

It's a 1 1/2 quart sauce pan (N-1 1/2-B).

I am just getting around to playing with it... (I got side tracked cleaning my Electromatic Cornflower Percolator and my Stove Top Black Starburst Percolator that I have not posted about yet)  In order to put it through it's paces, I decided to make sauces.  The most touchy sauces I could think of (aside from cheese sauce)

Tomato Sauce and a Bechamel.  Both of which can scorch fairly easily if the heat is too high or if there is a hot spot in a pan. As an added bonus, I can use both of these sauces to make the world's most perfect food....  Lasagne!!!!!

Now for the actual "Chicken, Cauliflower, Fennel Lasagne" recipe your going to have to check out Culinary Alchemy, but here is how I make Quick Tomato Sauce (when I don't have 7 hours to make my Slow-Cooked Tomato Sauce) and onion laced Bechamel.

Quick Tomato Sauce

1 1/2 TB Olive Oil
1 cup Onion, finely chopped
2 cloves Garlic, minced
35g Carrot, shredded (about half of a medium sized)
28oz can Crushed Tomatoes
5 Basil Leaves, chiffonade
Salt and Pepper to Taste

Heat oil in the in your 1 1/2 quart Rangetopper (N-1 1/2-B) set over low heat.

Once oil it hot, add the Onion, Garlic and Carrot, then sweat for 30 minutes (yep, low and slow.  I guess my "quick" tomato sauce isn't as quick as I thought)

Add the crushed tomatoes and stir to combine.

Raise the heat to medium.... and cook, stirring constantly, just until it comes to a simmer....

Reduce heat to low again and simmer for 15 minutes longer.

Remove from the flame and stir in the Basil.

Season with Salt and Pepper, then pour into a bowl and allow to cool.

So here is the pot, after cooking the tomato sauce...

No scorching and easy cleanup; but my regular Corningware does that too so I am still unconvinced.

Now for the Bechamel.........

Onion Bechamel

4 TB Unsalted Butter
3 TB finely minced Onion
2 cloves Garlic, minced
3 TB AP Flour
3 cups Whole Milk
1/4 tsp Nutmeg, grated
Salt & Pepper to Taste

Melt butter in your 1 1/2 quart Rangetopper (N-1 1/2-B) set over medium heat.

When the foam subsides, add the Onion and the Garlic, then saute for 4 minutes.

Add the Flour and whisk until well combined...

Continue cooking for 2 minutes to remove the raw flavor from the Flour.

Whisk in the Milk, and bring to a simmer over low heat.

Add Nutmeg and simmer for 10 minutes, until the sauce thickens.

Remove pan from the flame and season with Salt and Pepper.

In this case, divide the hot Bechamel by placing 1 cup in a small bowl and the remaining sauce in another bowl, then cover both with plastic wrap on the surface to prevent crusting.

And look at our pan.....  No scorching with the milk sauce either.

Conclusion:  I really am not convinced that the applied aluminum bottom really makes that big of a difference.  Maybe if I tried to cook on high heat, it might.  But I would not make tomato sauce or bechamel on high heat, even in one of my copper pots.  As a result of the metal bottom, these pans CANNOT be used in the microwave, which reduces their multipurpose capability.  In essence, defeating the whole idea of having Corningware.  The bonded Aluminum is non-magnetic, so they cannot  be used on Induction Cooktops either...  Then again, this is true of regular Corningware pans as well.  

It makes a great display piece though.

Where is your Corningware??


  1. I am wondering what type of whisk you are using. Doesn't it leave metal marks?

    Love you blog.
    Denise K

  2. Hi Denise... Welcome! I was using a stainless steel whisk. There were a few metal marks afterwards, but Barkeepers Friend took them right out, with only minimal scrubbing.

  3. Thanks! I just got the sponge you recommend and will contine to search out the Barkeeper's Friend. I can buy at Amazon, but thought i would try locally first. I have recently rescued some vintage cornflower that needs more than baking soda.

    I have been crazy about Corningware longer than I would like to admit. Wish I had the room for all that I find, but alas I have to leavequite a bit behind.

    Thanks again,
    Denise K.

  4. I recently read somewhere that ALL Corning Ware "Rangetoppers" have aluminum on the bottom, but that some have the aluminum "covered up" by more pyroceram. Is this true?

    1. Yes. Most Rangetoppers (N-Series) have aluminum cladding on the bottom, however, there are some (I have an N-1 1/2-B) that have the aluminum encapsulated. I am not sure why the change was made, but it appears to have been towards the very end of the Rangetopper series run.

  5. The only real advantage to a aluminum clad Rangetopper would be if you were cooking on an open coil electric heat source. Gas or smooth top electric is so uniform that the aluminum cladding won't make any difference. Remember that the thermal conductivity of aluminum is 60 times greater then Pyroceram.

  6. I have a SOL range topper N-10-B 10" What number lid goes with it please.


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