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Nostalgic kitchen aids

In Mostviertel, the southwestern quarter of Lower Austria, Riess is producing its ninth generation of enameled pots for cooking and baking.

(Text: Melanie Wagenhofer)
Enameled pots from Riess
An enameled pot from Riess: It looks just as good as what you can cook in it.

The sight of beautifully curved pans, measuring cups, and ladles made of enamel brings joy to the hearts of more than just hobby chefs and retro lovers. Even star chefs like Alfons Schuhbeck and Sarah Wiener succumb to the charms of the material, whose advantages are not merely aesthetic. It saves energy, because you cook with the entire pot, not just the base. And low temperatures (500 watts is enough) further ensure energy-efficient cooking.

Consumer goods made of steel enamel are resistant to cuts and scratches, as well as being temperature resistant, induction compatible, and one hundred percent recyclable. “We started producing induction pots back in 1922, even though induction stoves would not be invented for another 80 years,” jokes Friedrich Riess. Together with his cousins Susanne and Julian he leads the Riess family business, the only cookware manufacturer in Austria and one of the last producers of enamel cookware in Europe.

The source material comes partly from the Steel division of thyssenkrupp. And delivery is fast and flexible. “Each week I tell them how much I need at the moment,” says Riess. The steel company prepares broad sheets of cold-rolled steel suitable for enameling and sends them to Mauthausen, where the Steel Service Center cuts them into smaller coils and ships them to Riess in Ybbsitz. The first step in Ybbsitz is to shape the steel at a pressing plant. From there it is sent for processing at the enameling plant.

The enameling process creates a glassy coating on the metal that not only looks good, but also protects the object from corrosion. Enamel is primarily smelted from a mixture of quartz, feldspar, borax, soda, potash, and metal oxides, known as ‘frit,’ which is milled and mixed with additional additives. The resulting pasty substance is referred to as enamel slurry. Experienced employees apply it by hand to the steel blanks either by submerging the steel in it or spraying it on.

Continuity and sustainability

Mixing bowls, pots, and forms for soufflés and Bundt cakes hang swinging from conveyor belts on their way to the drying line, before going on to be fired. The furnaces generate temperatures of 850 degrees Celsius, and the waste heat is used to dry the products and heat the hall. This saves energy. Visitors encounter sustainability and durability all over the company’s premises, from traditional, pastel-colored pots reminiscent of Granny’s kitchen utensils to machines that date as far back as 1926 and are better at the job and more energy efficient than many new devices. Friedrich Riess is especially proud of the awards the company has received for environmentally friendly production. Thanks to a hydroelectric power station built by his grandfather just for the company, manufacturing at the plant has been energy self-sufficient since the 1920s.

The company’s flexibility helps it maintain its position as Austria’s only cookware manufacturer and deliver to 38 countries worldwide. Items that have vanished from the market are reissued as needed, sometimes in small quantities. Products that have yet to appear are developed from scratch. This goes for tools and enamel signs as well as design objects and special products of all kinds.

Employees of Riess with Carsten Jansen in the visitors center
Employees of Riess with Carsten Jansen in the visitors center
thyssenkrupp Steel is the right partner for these jobs, too. Carsten Jansen has been a member of ­thyssenkrupp’s Technical Customer Support team for eight years, during which time he has relied on an entire team of metallurgists, welding experts, and enameling specialists. Together they tackle problems and new design possibilities, for example, by coming up with ways to improve the formability of the source material, steel.

The family business is currently in its ninth generation, but its future is secure. “Knowledge is our capital,” says Riess. And so the company is sure to remain an heirloom for generations. Just like its products.

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