Sur La Table Responds To Reader's Hot Handle Incident

We have an official company response in regards to our post, “Sur La Table Mug Handle Found Scorchingly Hot After 2 Minutes In Microwave.” Susanna Linse, Sur La Table Media Relations Manager writes:

“Ceramic earthenware is a porous material; when a ceramic earthenware piece is filled up with liquid and put in the microwave, both the liquid and the vessel get hot. This is why the vendor stamped the warning “may get hot in microwave” on each piece. It is okay to use the microwave to warm food or liquid in ceramic earthenware but it is not correct to cook, bake or boil with this kind of ceramic.

In addition, if a ceramic piece is cold or is filled with icy liquid, it may break when put in the microwave. B40 earthenware, used for bakers and casseroles, is microwave-safe.

Sur La Table guarantees complete product satisfaction. The customer may return the product for a full refund at the store where it was purchased. Merci beaucoup.”We also spoke more with the original complainant. It wasn’t just, oh, ouchie, that was hot – her hand was literally shiny afterwards as a whole sheet of skin was seared off.

So there you have it, folks. Don’t put ceramic earthenware in the microwave if you plan on keeping the skin on your hands. We again reiterate our idea that they change “may get hot in microwave” to “will get hot in microwave.” Your customers, and their palms, will thank you.

PREVIOUSLY: Sur La Table Mug Handle Found Scorchingly Hot After 2 Minutes In Microwave

Comments

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  1. Skiffer says:

    How about instead of “may get hot in microwave” they change it to “not suitable for idiots”?

  2. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    “Not microwave safe” would mean that the material is not safe to microwave, such as a plastic that can melt, or something that can create fumes (or explode).

    I think in this case, logic should prevail. Put something in the microwave for two minutes, expect that it might be too hot to touch.

  3. kastickboy says:

    You would think that instead of making such snide remarks, they would simply make the handle with a different material(i.e. one that doesn’t get as hot as the mug itself). The consumer was obviously pointing out a complaint, they could have taken it to heart and improved their product.

    I guess running a company doesn’t require common sense after all.

  4. hi says:

    Do you really beleive someone who isn’t smart enough to know that things heat up in a microwave is going to understand “Ceramic earthenware is a porous material”? Might wanna supply a wikipedia link or something with that… and a sippy cup.

  5. FREAKHEAD says:

    At least the mug is big enough to put all the warning labels on.

    Seriously, we should just wrap everyone and thing in bubble wrap b/c common sense has been lost on this nanny nation.

  6. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    @kastickboy:

    A customer should use common sense too. You don’t have people complaining to companies who produce cast iron skillets that the handles get too hot. By design, that is what happens. Same thing here. The customer wants a mug made of this material.

  7. chortik says:

    yep, SKIFFER’s right.

  8. faust1200 says:

    “It tastes like…burning.” -Ralph Wiggum

  9. matt1978 says:

    @kastickboy: Because then it would be a ceramic earthenware mug with a magical handle, doofus.

  10. zibby says:

    This happened to me once; I put a coffee mug in the ‘ol microwave for 60 seconds, then grabbed it without thinking and got a huge, painful blister out of the deal.

    The difference is that afterwards I was kicking myself for being an absent-minded numbskull instead of whining to some website and trying to sell the absurd notion that something was wrong with the cup.

    Man, that was one painful blister.

  11. IrisMR says:

    I gotta agree with the Sur La Table folks. It’s not made to be used that way.

  12. 00exmachina says:

    ‘You would think that instead of making such snide remarks, they would simply make the handle with a different material(i.e. one that doesn’t get as hot as the mug itself). ‘

    The problem with using a different material is elementary physics my dear watson.
    Using another material introduces a point of failure into the mug that is not present by using the same material through out.

    Using another material means you are dealing with 2 different expansion rates, and a seam. Which would mean that the handle would fall off over time simply from being microwaved.

    Which would of course lead to a completely different consumerist article. Personally I’m in favor of the line the company took. Better quality product with acknowleged limitations, vs a product with a design flaw.

  13. DeeJayQueue says:

    Printing “will get hot in microwave” on the bottom of the mug implies a certain definite outcome. If you put it in the microwave but don’t turn it on, it won’t get hot. I know what you’re thinking… “Hurr, who puts things in the microwave without turning them on?” but it takes all kinds of people to make the world turn. People might be out there doing that, we don’t know, and SLT can’t be responsible for all outcomes of a given situation. Maybe the wording should be changed completely… something like “This Mug will get hot if it is used to microwave things, be careful.”

  14. DeeJayQueue says:

    @DeeJayQueue: Oh, and for context, I used to teach a fire prevention course when I was younger, and as part of the course we went over silly things people did in their homes to start fires, based on newspaper and magazine articles I’d read. One of the things I did was to take a cake pan and pretend to grease the whole thing, inside and out. The instructions on the box said “Grease entire baking pan” so there’s no accounting for common sense. I think the company who made the cake mix got sued and lost when the house burnt down IIRC.

  15. balthisar says:

    @zibby: Ah, good old personal responsibility. You’re a freak. Oh, yeah, and, uh, been there and done that. ;-)

  16. macinjosh says:

    Did SLT write “Merci beaucoup” or was that Consumerist? :)

  17. surgesilk says:

    I think that “It may” get hot being in the microwave is more accurate, it would depend on how long it was in there or in the case of the truly stupid, whether the microwave was actually turned on. Simply being placed in the mocorwave does not mean that it absolutely will be hot.

  18. ancientsociety says:

    Oh I must have missed this story the other day. The lack of common sense and personal responsibility in this country is astounding.

    Whoever takes a vessel out of ANY type of heat source (microwave/oven/fire/etc.) without some type of protection or by at least testing it first deserves to get burnt. It’s not a “design flaw”, unless it’s refering to the “victim”.

  19. SVreader says:

    When I make tea, I heat up the water in a pot on the stove, and then pour it into the mug. Ta-da! Cool mug handle.

  20. m0unds says:

    Imagine that.. It gets hot in the microwave.

  21. Beerad says:

    Yeah, regarding the product labeling you can’t really stamp it with “will get hot in microwave” because inevitably people will complain “hey, I put this in the microwave and it didn’t get hot like you said it would!” I suppose they could go for “If you heat this in the microwave it will get hot” but that just seems like you’re being snarky.

    I don’t think SLT’s response was snide as some have suggested; could have been a tad more apologetic, but the rep explained why the mug heated up and why the stamp said what it did. If I were fielding customer complaints that products were acting exactly as advertised I wouldn’t be overly fawning in my response either.

  22. MonkeyMonk says:

    I wonder how many times this person spilled their entire cup of coffee on the floor trying to read the microwave warnings on the underside?

  23. ThomFabian says:

    So the make-things-hot-machine that you put your ceramic mug into made it hot?

    How dare it?

  24. Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg says:

    Instead of “will get hot in microwave,” which will invariable lead to complaints like the one suggested by Beerad and others above. Perhaps the best solution is to mark it with “handle may get EXTREMELY hot in microwave”

  25. mexifelio says:

    I’d hate to see what happens at bathtime…

  26. mindshadow says:

    @kastickboy:

    Actually making a ceramic (especially earthenware) cup with a different material for the handle is a pain in the ass.

    Earthenware ceramic aren’t good for heating or cooling anything, really. I’m actually a bit confused why the company is using earthenware instead of stoneware. Earthenware is not good for heating things, period. Since earthenware is pourous it has a tendency to trap moisture in it, which makes it difficult to keep *truly* clean. Also it can lead to things like the vessel itself exploding from the expanding moisture (earthenware doesn’t need much help in that department, as it’s very prone to heat shock).* I’m always very leary of using earthenware for anything but decorative stuff. If I remember correctly you can make some very, very functional and useful baking dishes with earthenware since it insulates a little better (which is probably a lot of why this post is even here, as earthenware has a tendency to hold its temperature well), but you have to heat it slowly to the temp of the oven to prevent heat shock.

    -Hobbist potter, I.T. technician by trade

    *I heard a story from a school near me that teachers pottery. They used to keep an old earthenware cup on top of their kiln outside, as it had been there forever and nobody was really into moving it. One day while they were firing the cup exploded, VERY forcefully. And this isn’t a rare occurance either. Be careful with eartenware.

  27. mindshadow says:

    Sorry for the grammar mistakes, I wasn’t paying attention to what I was typing and ended up inserting things here and there without fixing my sentences. You get the idea of what i was saying though. :)

  28. junkmail says:

    @mbills2: Might wanna supply a wikipedia link or something with that… and a sippy cup.

    If they’d actually printed the wiki page and sent it to her with a sippy cup and a refund, they would’ve had a customer for LIFE. I don’t even use mugs that often, but I would’ve bought a thousand of ‘em.

  29. King of the Wild Frontier says:

    How about a sticker on the mug that says, “DON’T NUKE THIS”. I’ve got dozens of coffee mugs, literally, and none of them burn my hand when I stick ‘em in the microwave. This brand is a badly-designed product that ignores how most people use mugs.

  30. bohemian says:

    Earthenware is different than the white ceramic that most plates and cups are made out of. I nuke our coffee and latte mugs all the time and they don’t get unusually hot.

    I have a handmade stoneware cup without a handle. Someone offered me coffee at a camping outing. Owie, hot! Stoneware transfers heat at a much faster/higher rate than typical coffee cups. I could see why nuking one for two minutes would make the handle scalding hot.

  31. UpsetPanda says:

    Whatever happened to boiling water…

  32. cashmerewhore says:

    @bohemian:

    Show me something I can microwave for two minutes with liquid in it that won’t get hot. Every bowl I have (plastic, ceramic, glass, whatever) gets hot after about a minute.

  33. thalia says:

    Put anything in the microwave for two minutes, yeah, it’s gonna get hot. Don’t blame other people for your own lack of common sense.

  34. XianZomby says:

    Remember that Saturday Night Live (or was it Mad TV?) sketch where the waiters/waitresses come out to the tables with the food and say “The plate is very hot, so be careful.” And the diners at the table in the center of the TV screen… when their food comes out, they let the waiter know they already know it’s hot “Of course, yes, we know.. it’s hot. yes yes yes. Thank you.” And of course, they touch the plates anyway, because they don’t listen. And I think the guys hand caught on fire.

    That was a riot.

  35. Beerad says:

    @King of the Wild Frontier: I think most people use mugs by considering that they might be hot when heated in the microwave, and the overwhelming consensus of Consumerist commentors would support that theory.

    Obviously your mugs are constructed differently than the SLT one in question; that doesn’t mean it is “badly-designed,” just different. If it was sold as microwavable-yet-still-doesn’t-get-hot, that would be a problem, but there’s no suggestion that it was marketed that way. Mugs have been around for hundreds (thousands?) of years; microwaves for maybe 30? It’s not a “design flaw” that the mug wasn’t intended for all conceivable uses (instead of simply “holding hot liquids,” which is a mug’s purpose, and one that this one presumably performs adequately), and they even warned about the consequences of microwaving. Is there a sticker on a cast iron skillet that says “do not use in microwave?”

  36. kastickboy says:

    @00exmachina: —“Using another material means you are dealing with 2 different expansion rates, and a seam. Which would mean that the handle would fall off over time simply from being microwaved”—

    There is a seam already on the current build of the mug. Also, the different expansion rates vs actual expansion is not that great/important (i.e. a bridge expanding several inches during the summer). No mug (even over time) is going to have its handle broken off due to being Nuked in the microwave and then used to drink out of, however rapidly heating and cooling it would more likely see a failure in the handle. I think the real culprit behind all of this is the company used earthenware instead of a safer material for heating.

    @mindshadow:

    Thanks for putting in the effects of Earthenware. I agree that they should probably stick to casserole dishes instead of mugs.

    @AlteredBeast: mainly the point being that pretty much everyone (some can be surprising btw) knows that putting a cup in a microwave makes it warm. Now most cups can go in for 2 minutes and come out warm but not burning your hand instantly. The company shouldn’t be putting out a product that has the potential to injure people who grab mugs from their cupboard and heat a drink in the morning. Granted i purchase all my stuff as Microwave/Oven safe so i dont have to think about it. But honestly, whens the last time you nuked a cup for longer than 2 minutes? They should have the common sense to think about adding something to the handle to keep it from burning you or just label it no microwave safe.

  37. EtherealStrife says:

    @TinyBug: *puts on HOT HAND hat* So then all I have to do is grab the cup directly, avoiding the hot handle!

    Human stupidity will always find a way.

    @King of the Wild Frontier: Speak of the devil. . . . :-P

    The mug clearly states a negative reaction is possible when used in a microwave. The woman used it in a microwave. Case closed. If it said microwave safe then it’d be a different story. But it doesn’t.

  38. SugarRob says:

    Everyone’s snark is better than mine today.

    I can’t believe this warranted a follow-up post, but I think the company’s response was spot on given the circumstances.

  39. TMurphy says:

    I agree that they should specify that the handle will get hot. When I put my normal mug in the microwave with water in it, I know the cup part will get hot, but the handle pretty much doesn’t. Not everyone knows that this ceramic mug will be different and itself heat up, instead of just the part that is in contact with the water. A microwave is not a heat source, but an energy source for water to produce heat, so it would be perfectly logical to assume the part that is designed to be away from the contents to not be hot.

    With all the warnings this day and age, many of them can be ignored as a CYA label directed at the true idiots in society. You get used to “caution: hot” meaning “some parts are hot, some aren’t”. For once the label wasn’t overcompensating for stupidity, so this lady got burned because other people are stupid, not because she is stupid.

    Most minor injuries are caused by reflexive habits gone bad, and this is just another case of that. While I hope this lady doesn’t grab things out of an open flame without thinking, I have to say that I would burn my hand too, in this case, since I always just grab my mug out of the microwave, no second thoughts, as I almost never find it hot.

    She is not an idiot for receiving the burn, but is an idiot for complaining like this. Letting SLT know that they need to clarify their warning would have been the better route.

  40. wesrubix says:

    No it should stay as “may” because it depends on the contents the user puts into the cup.

  41. GreatMoose says:

    @XianZomby:

    My wife and I were talking about that episode last night! One dude’s hands graft to the plate, another guy catches fire, and (my favorite), some lady’s face melts off. Comedy gold.

  42. quagmire0 says:

    “You mean I have to drink this coffee HOT?!?!” – Clerks

  43. edwardso says:

    Fancy-pants mugs burn your hands after microwaving, use the promotional ones from the office or wherever. They stand up to the microwave

  44. GreatMoose says:

    @GreatMoose:

    Ah, here we go! [vids.myspace.com]

    Hot Plates!

    PS: I was wrong, nobody catches on fire. Sadly.

  45. ducksauce says:

    Humans have been making ceramic cups since nearly the beginning of civilization. I really don’t think this design is in serious need for improvement.

    Maybe in additon to having kindergarteners fingerpaint and learn the alphabet public schools should also teach them about how to eat and drink without burning themselves. It seems like a lot of people go through life without learning these lessons on their own.

  46. mindshadow says:

    @ducksauce: Maybe so, but I’m very certain that early humans did not have microwaves or any of those kind of modern conveniences. I’d also hazard a guess that they knew that putting their primative pots on the fire meant it would likely break from heat shock, so the chances of them ever making it to the point they COULD grab it from the fire while hot are slim. Correct me if I’m wrong though.

    It’s largely the manufacturer’s fault for using earthenware instead of something more viable like stoneware. It’s also partially the end user’s fault for grabbing a hot cup. At any rate, thanks for the snark.

  47. Televiper says:

    @mindshadow:
    When you take anything from any source of heat you test it to see it can burn you. It’s the basic common sense that any parent would teach their kid as soon as their old enough to eat food on their own.

  48. RottNDude says:

    The bitch got pwned.

  49. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    I’ve been using my cheap ceramic mugs in the microwave for years and have yet to get burned. There is such a thing as testing dishes out in the microwave…it’s a very secretive process that involves heating something up a little at a time to see what it does. If the cup or bowl warms up faster than the food, don’t use it. Simple, yet the common sense of such a notion seems to escape people.

    The other thing is…don’t leave the mug in the microwave for 10 minutes and then come back and expect to be able to grab the handle. All that time the dish has been in the microwave, it’s been absorbing energy too.

    I don’t want to turn this into another nasty blame the victim post, but as in all things, a little common sense goes a long way. Return the mug and use something else.

  50. RvLeshrac says:

    Who is this twit, and why aren’t they responding? Too embarrassed?

  51. flackman says:

    I wish Ben Popken were here… err wait..

    When will somebody acknowledge the danger of leaving a blowtorch on your face for 2 minutes?!

    WILL SOMEONE THINK OF THE MELTED FACES?!

    come on people… this is why we can’t have nice things.

  52. Her Grace says:

    I realize this may make me an outcast, but at least I will be an outcast with proper grammar. I have an earthenware mug in my cupboard, and it gets really hot when microwaved. Scalding hot. My other mugs don’t–they’re the standard white ceramic type–when microwaved for the same amount of time. I was quite surprised when I first got this mug, and heated water for a cup of tea in it (I since have gotten a kettle, thanks). To get the water to the same temperature required the same minute and a half of microwaving, but the mug itself got a LOT hotter than any other mug I’ve ever used.

    I jerked my hand back when I touched it and took it out with a potholder, but if I hadn’t been paying attention, I could have easily burned myself. I didn’t use that mug again to heat things until I had a kettle.

    I think the original complaint, while arguably silly to send in to the Consumerist, is legit. If you’ve never had earthenware, how are you going to know that it gets a LOT more hot and a LOT faster than regular ceramic stuff? A mug getting warm or even moderately hot is one thing, but scalding seems extreme. The mocking comments aren’t warrented.

  53. Beerad says:

    @Her Grace: I agree that nobody should be mocking someone for horribly burning her hand, but I think that the underlying (if heavily covered by snark) message of most commentors is “this isn’t really SLA’s fault, but rather a cautionary tale about how you should always test things in the microwave for hotness before simply picking them up, to avoid injury.”

    To use your experience as a guide, the point is that you should know the limits of the equipment you’re using, especially if it’s of a material or construction you aren’t familiar with. And the fact is that there was a warning label on the mug in question, which nearly everyone seems to agree was adequate.

    Mugs are not automatically “microwave-safe heating containers” — you wouldn’t assume that all plates or bowls are okay to microwave, so why would a mug be any different, especially if looks/feels different from your other mugs?

  54. Woofer00 says:

    @Her Grace: Typically, it’s foolish to assume that all materials are made the same. aluminum doesn’t act like steel, and earthenware doesn’t act like ceramic. Just because they look the same doesn’t mean you can treat them the same. Does every manufacturer have to put a label on their products that indicates not only the material the product is made of, or do they also need to include the increased risk related to use of the materials? How low will you push the requirement of common sense. I might as well go buy a hammer that has a label with “Warning: Heavy and Hard. Injury will occur upon collision with bodily parts. May damage surfaces.” etc etc etc