Melamine Mixing Bowl
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Melamine Mixing Bowls are a type of Plastic Mixing Bowl made from Melamine, which is a type of organic, nitrogen rich very lightweight and durable plastic. They are generally used to hold and mix foods behind the scenes but can be decorative and are not out of place as a serving dish on the table.

When discussing Mixing Bowls, the first concept we should put forward is that there is not one "best mixing bowl.” There are so many varied uses that one bowl just can't be good at all of the tasks. Each type of bowl made from a given material has both pros and cons that may work, or not work, in a given situation.

The characteristics that should we consider are Reactivity, Fragility, Absorption, Size, Shape, and Weight.

REACTIVITY

We don't usually think about it a lot, but the kitchen is akin to a culinary chemistry lab so we need to understand that some ingredients and materials don't play well together. When you are the chef, you are in charge. If you make a bad match between materials, you can end up with bad tastes, weird colors, staining, etc.

The most noted reactive compound in the kitchen is Acid, with Vinegar being one of most common. But Acid is also found in Wine, Citrus (Lemons, Oranges, etc.), Tomatoes (including Tomato Sauce), and many other Fruits (Pineapple, Peach, Apple, Grapes, etc.). These Acidic Foods can be problematic if they come in contact with metals like Copper, Cast Iron, Aluminum, or other reactive materials. Plastic bowls, like Melamine Mixing Bowls are non-reactive, and can be a good choice for quickly whipping up a Citrus Vinaigrette.

There is a big "BUT " when working with Acids and Melamine. Acidic foods do not react with Melamine but they do cause it to leech Melamine into the foods contained in the bowl. For example, a glass of Orange Juice held in a Melamine Cup for 15 minutes would leech approximately 10 Parts per Billion (PPB) of Melamine into the Juice. The U.S. FDA sets 2,500 PPB as the threshold for safety so there is margin for error when working with Acid and Melamine, but why even go there? See Culinary Uses below for more.

FRAGILITY

Another consideration is fragility, by which we mean, softness, brittleness, and temperature sensitivity. Melamine is hard and durable. Some might even call it "unbreakable." In restaurants, it has a much lower replacement rate (around 10% to 20%) than Porcelain (50% to 150%). It is also scratch resistant from utensils or kitchen implements.

Melamine is a flame-retardant plastic but it is not heat-proof which means that heat can be a problem for Melamine. The first problem with heat involves the leeching of Melamine Resin into food. The pace of leeching  is much more rapid at temperatures of 160˚F and higher which is why we don't use Melamine for hot foods. At even higher temperatures, around 662˚ F, the Melamine itself will melt. On the way up, but before reaching 600˚F, Melamine can warp and bend, which is another good reason to keep it away from extremes of heat, like the broiler or the microwave.

Another difference between Melamine and other materials used in tableware is that Melamine is an Insulator instead of a Conductor. This means it doesn't transmit changes in temperature very quickly and that you are less likely to be burnt serving hot food. It is not a perfect insulator, though so pay attention and don't hold too hot plates or food.

 ABSORPTION

Some mixing bowl materials do a better job of repelling fats and repelling odors. If you have ever stored Spaghetti Sauce in an absorbent plastic bowl, you should know the dreaded, red schmear that lingers. The stain remains because the plastic of the bowl is absorbent and took on some of the colored Oil (a Fat) from the Sauce. Melamine is harder and resists absorbing oils but if you leave food on the dirty Melamine and it dries, it can stain. Wash Melamine as soon as practicable.  

SIZE

Mixing Bowls come in many sizes. Not every size is right for every kitchen or chef. Generally, Mixing Bowls can be classified by size as:

1. Under Two Quarts

2. Two to Four Quarts

3. Five to Seven Quarts

4. Eight to Ten Quarts

5. Eleven to Twenty Quarts

6. More than Twenty Quarts

The smallest Mixing Bowls are easy to store and can be handy for small tasks like Whisking together a few eggs. Slightly larger bowls are good for handling parts of a Recipe that will later be consolidated in a larger bowl. Separately mixing the wet & dry ingredients for a batter, is a good example. Bowls larger than 5 quarts tend to have enough space to hold multiple ingredients and still do some work. The larger the bowl, the better your margin for error when stirring, mixing, whisking, beating, etc. Tall sides will help keep any of your mistakes or missteps inside the bowl and off of the counter.

Once you get over ten quarts, you are probably working with larger batches or have copious storage space available. Over twenty quarts in size and you are probably going to be working with double-sized, or triple-sized recipes. They can also get heavy so consider your bowl materials and bowl size in conjunction with your fitness. Melamine is fairly lightweight and is a good choice for a larger Mixing Bowl as long as it is not used with hot foods.

Most home-chefs choose a Small (under two quarts), a Medium(two to four quarts) and a Large Mixing Bowl (five to seven quarts) as a starting point.

SHAPE

The issues with Mixing Bowl shape really come down to depth, geometric shape and rims.

Mixing Bowls are most actively used for Mixing, Whisking and Tossing. Generally, Mixing requires higher sides, meaning a deeper bowl. Keeping the mixed contents inside the bowl leads to a better yield and an easier clean up. Higher sides are also best for holding rising dough.

If the sides are too high, it can be more difficult (especially for shorter chefs and junior chefs) to reach inside the bowl and do their work. This is especially true for Whisking, where a shallower bowl makes it easier to tilt and maneuver the bowl to get the job done. With Tossing the trade off is maneuverability versus containment. We tend to favor tossing with bowls where the height is just slightly more than the width / diameter. 

As to specific shapes, Mixing Bowls are normally round but technically can be any shape. A lot of time can be spent discussing the slope of the interior walls, the type of seams / edges, etc. but we think those items are matters of personal preference. If you don't have a preference now, you will form one as you are trying to pour out the contents or scraping down the edges and fishing out those last bits of dough from a difficult seam.

The issues with Rims are mostly about manipulation. How easy, and or comfortable, is it to grasp and move the bowl?  A rim gives you something to hold on to while you work. One quarter inch to one half inch of rim is our preference.

WEIGHT

Melamine Mixing Bowls are relatively light for their size, especially when compared to a metal or ceramic bowl.

Purchasing

Purchasing

Some Melamine mixing bowl sets are designed to be “nested” or stored one inside the other from largest to smallest. Nested mixing bowls come in various sizes ranging from ¼ cup - 12 cups. Some bowls, or bowl sets, come with covers for each of the bowls. There are many factors to consider when Purchasing Melamine Mixing Bowls.

Some Mixing Bowls have handles and / or built in spouts to ease pouring. Others have non-skid materials to prevent slipping. Measuring gradiations can also be etched into the sides of a Melamine Mixing Bowl. 

Culinary Uses

Melamine Mixing Bowls are generally used to hold and mix foods behind the scenes. They can also be used to Marinade, Temper, Measure, Store, Whisk, Hold, Reheat, etc.

Melamine Mixing Bowls are round, variously sized containers used for combining ingredients manually or mechanically. Melamine is break-resistant and comes in many colors. They can also be used for Stirring, Tossing, Beating, Whipping, Marinating, etc., but because Melamine can be scratched, avoid using sharp or serrated implements to accomplish these tasks. You don't want to scratch the interior of your Mixing Bowl and you don't want to scrape any toxic Melamine into your product.

Melamine Mixing Bowls are a bad choice to use with a heat source but a decent choice to use to bring warm foods to the table for service. Melamine, which is an insulator, won't become too hot to handle between kitchen and table.

As mentioned earlier, we don't use Melamine for hot food because at temperatures over 160˚ F, small quantities of unhealthful Melamine Resin will be leeching into the food. As the food cools, the leeching should lessen, but who needs that extra headache and risk.

Melamine is generally considered Dishwasher-Safe (we use the top rack) but we don't use it in the Microwave or anywhere near a heat source.

Finally, Junior Chefs can be left on the floor with a Melamine Mixing Bowl and a soft utensil.