Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Low Tech Cooking Pottery

Poo-poo on tee-eye. Titanium (Ti) ain't what it's cracked up to be.

It is a metal incorrectly described by absolutely everyone stupid as "amazingly lightweight and strong, and perhaps the way to go if you're obsessive about ounces." It isn't.

Titanium is a metal. Titanium is light, compared to uranium, but not compared to steel.

Aluminum is the way to go if you're obsessive about ounces. Titanium is only 12% lighter than steel, though it has most of steel's strength. Aluminum is 54% lighter than steel and has 75% of steel's strength. Titanium doesn't ding or dent very easily (making it tough), and is highly resistant to corrosion (which keeps it pretty).

If you want a cooking pot and you don't care a lot about how pretty it is, but you do care about how heavy it is, then aluminum is the way to go. You sort of care how tough a pot is and you probably care a lot about how much it costs. You may also kind of care how gunky it's going to end up looking. Titanium is significantly heavier and vastly more expensive than aluminum, but tougher, and those who own titanium gear feel smarter because it looks new longer. A lot of people who feel that way don't go backpacking because if they go backpacking they will get their clothes dirty, they will get sweaty and tired, and they really above all want to keep that just-off-the-shelf look.

Titanium is for them. Titanium is for people who don't want to sweat or ever walk uphill.

I have a 16-ounce measuring cup from a company called Gooseberry Patch, and that's what I use. It cost $5.95 and weighs 1.8 ounces (16-ounce/2-cup volume = 0.47 L; 1.8 ounce weight = 51 g; $5.95 = cheap). It has no lid but it did come with a built in handle. The handle doesn't fold but it works. Even the stupid can make the handle work, which is a good thing for me. I use a piece of aluminum foil as a lid. Don't like it but it works. For the size and weight and price of the cup, it works. I can put up with the makeshift lid.

Titanium is more corrosion-resistant than iron, steel, or aluminum and is almost as strong as steel while weighing a tad less. Titanium is about as corrosion resistant as platinum. That says something. Its melting point is higher than that of steel or aluminum (about 400 degrees F above steel and 2000 degrees F above aluminum) and it's less likely to warp. Although expensive, it is getting cheaper as it appears in more and more products.

Titanium in particular is a tough metal to work, but its use by the military over the past half century or so has led to the development of manufacturing techniques that have made titanium practical as a material for consumer products, though it's still the expensive choice, at around $100 per pound.

OK, so where is this taking us?

To lunch.

Last weekend I bought some beans and salsa, onions, bell peppers, and a can of crushed tomatoes and made a big pot of eats. Most of it is in the freezer right now. Cheap food. Good.

I decided to save the can and play with it. The can is 4 inches in diameter by 4 5/8 inches high (10 by 12 cm). It holds 28 fluid ounces (0.83 L). It weighs 3 ounces (85 g). It is steel. It is sturdy, and it came free with the crushed tomatoes in it. I made a makeshift lid from an aluminum oven liner and a paper clip. Added weight, about 0.2 ounces (6 g). Round off the weight to 3.5 ounces, total (99 g).

Now compare that to REI's "Ti Ware Titanium Pot", which holds 0.9 L and costs $44.95. It weighs 4.05 ounces (115 g) and holds 30.43 fluid ounces (0.9 L), and measures 2.8 by 5.5 inches (7 by 14 cm). It is made of course of titanium. It is lovely.

The key here is that this baby holds 3.4 ounces more, weighs half an ounce more and costs $44.95 more than my can, which is a piece of garbage. Even accounting for the cost of the tomatoes, the difference is $43.97. The REI pot has a manufactured lid, which is nice. A $43.97 lid. And a big floppy handle, which is 99% useless anyway.

The can is not sexy at all, but it should be pretty good as a cooking pot. I only heat water anyway. Steel cans are tough, cheap, and available at every grocery. Remove the lid, the label, and rinse out, then use. Eventually it will start to rust, a little, but if you rinse it out after use and then heat it a bit before stuffing back into your pack, it won't hardly do that at all.

I like this. Will have to try it out soon. Way cool.


Gooseberry Patch 2-Cup Cherry Measuring Cup (K320)
(Note: The illustration is a bit wonked. The cup actually has straight sides. It is not tapered.)

REI Ti Ware Titanium Pot - 0.9 Liter