When I received a set of Mario Batali's prep bowls as a gift last year, my response was mild. I thought they were attractive and practical but I wondered how often I would really use them. Fast forward to the present day and they are in constant use in my kitchen, one of the most useful tools I own. But it turns out they have a dark secret. Read on for my full review.
The five bowls nest neatly into a flat, easy to store stack. They are marked on the bottom and inside with 1/8 to 2 cup increments, making them perfect for measuring as well as mise en place setups. The exterior is rough which makes them easy to hold with wet hands, while the smooth insides allow for ingredients to slide out easily. They are strong, easy to clean and dishwasher safe.
There are no 1/3 cup increments, which I occasionally miss. The markings are difficult, but not impossible, to read. Because they're made of melamine, they are not oven or microwave safe.
The pros far outweigh the cons, so on balance, I was ready to give the prep bowls five stars. But I wanted to do a little research on melamine first, since there has been so much in the news about its toxicity as a food product.
It turns out that there is general agreement that melamine is safe for dishware, provided that it isn't heated in an oven or microwave. However, the manufacturing process uses toxic chemicals, namely formaldehyde and urea. And it is difficult to recycle because it will revert back to formaldehyde and urea when broken down. So all-in-all it's not an environmentally sound material, which knocks those stars down in my book.
Melamine is sturdy, however, so it should last for a long time, even in my clumsy hands. And as long as I keep it out of the microwave, it's safe to use as prep bowls. So given all of that, I think I'll keep my wee stack of prep bowls out of the landfill and working hard in my kitchen for as long as I can.
• Melamine review on eHow
• Find them! Set of five stacking Mario Batali Prep Bowls, in persimmon, chianti, espresso, pesto and penne, from Amazon, $9.95
Apartment Therapy Media makes every effort to test and review products fairly and transparently. The views expressed in this review are the personal views of the reviewer and this particular product review was not sponsored or paid for in any way by the manufacturer or an agent working on their behalf.