Product testing is an integral part of inspecting a product. (See Product Testing and Product Inspection – What’s the Difference?). When it comes to cookware testing, the safety of the user is often at stake.
Grouping all the items that fall under “cookware” into one category can often be very vague and misleading, since there are so many different types of products. From the view point of cookware testing in particular, a meat cleaver is very different from a Pyrex casserole dish or an electric blender. All of these items come in contact with food and are used by consumers on a day-to-day basis. However, beyond that, the potential quality problems you will encounter and the regulations these items should meet are completely different.
Despite this, there are basic tests that you should make sure are performed on all cookware items, even if the more advanced testing may vary from item to item.
Cookware Testing for Temperature
It is expected that most items used in the kitchen will come in contact with some kind of extreme set of temperatures. Rubber sealing on storage containers shouldn’t crack in the freezer, and ice cream makers should not freeze because of condensation after adding ice. Likewise, an oven mitt shouldn’t burn when you pull a pan out of the oven, and the control panel of an electric pressure cooker should not get too hot for you to touch.
The most common temperature tests are:
Heat Contact Test for Cookware
This is a test commonly performed for pot holders, spatulas, ladles, etc. Heat up a test tool, like a frying pan or hot plate, to a given temperature and then place the item onto the tool for a given time (5min, 10min, etc.). The item must show no changes or deformations in that specific time frame.
Thermal Shock Test for Cookware
Glass items, pots, pans, and others are often subject to thermal shock testing. Heat the item to a given temperature. Then immediately submerge the item in a cool water bath. The heated temperature and the temperature of the water bath should be determined by calculating the amount of stress the item should be able to withstand. For example, for an item that should withstand a 250°F temperature difference, you might heat the item to a temperature of 285°F. In this case, the item should then be submerged in a water bath with a temperature of 35°F. The item must show no changes or deformations after being submerged.
Cold Exposure Test for Cookware
Cold exposure testing should be carried out for items that require refrigeration. Place the item in a refrigeration unit set to a given temperature and leave for a set amount of time (typically 6+ hours). The item should show no signs of degradation and still function properly after removal.
Real World Function Testing for Cookware
Normal function tests are hard to generalize and often specific to the type of item you are inspecting. Items with motors should have a RPM check, containers with seals should have some kind of leakage test, and items with Velcro should have a fatigue test to make sure the Velcro adheres for more than just a few uses. To determine normal function tests, you need to think hard about how your item works and what could go wrong. But real world function tests are much easier to review.
The real world function test is used to simulate EXACTLY how your consumer will use the product. The auditor will use the item just as specified in the included instruction manual. If there is no instruction manual included, then they will just use the product as they would in their own homes.
For instance, in order to test a butter dish, they will make sure a stick of butter fits in the given container. For a pepper mill, the auditor will fill it with pepper corns and grind them. For a rotisserie oven, they will put a whole chicken in and cook it. You get the the idea, every item will get tested for their specific function.
A key aspect of function testing includes verifying any claims made by the product’s packaging. Advertising non-stick coating? Inspectors will make sure an egg does not stick to the pan during use. Advertising a 1 ½ cup capacity for popsicle molds? They will measure out and freeze 1 ½ cups of liquid into the mold just like the advertising claims. This is all done to protect the consumer from any false advertising and, more importantly, a potentially harmful product.
There are thousands of different on-site tests that a QC company uses during inspections, but finding the right tests for your item can be a challenge. You, as the buyer, have the difficult task of deciding what tests you want to be performed and what requirements you need your product to meet. Safety and reliability are two important considerations when determining what kinds of cookware testing should be performed.
Talk to both your QC company and your supplier in order to find out what tests are vital for your item. Your QC company should be able to advise you of the potential tests you can choose from, while the factory needs to advise what tolerances they are actually capable of meeting. The factory also needs to let you know what tools and other equipment they can provide to the auditor during inspection.
To learn more about product testing for cookware, check out Quality Control for Cookware, a video interview with a cookware expert!