Almost 500 years ago, in the small Alpine town of Ybbsitz, Austria, the Riess family began producing premium carbon steel cookware, the iron of which came from the Erzeberg mine, some 45 miles away. “There was no brand at that time,” said Julian Riess, namesake to the famous cookware manufacturer, who, along with two of his cousins, is the company’s 11th-generation owner. “In the area where we are based, there used to be hundreds of blacksmiths. Some produced pans. Others produced knives. We have always made pans.”
Riess was formally founded in in the early 1800s, but it would take an additional 100 years until the family began producing the enameled pots and pans that have made them famous both in and out of Austria. “We started making porcelain vitreous enamel in 1922,” Riess said. “Back then, it was the only way to make a coating where pure carbon steel would not rust.” The process, which is carried on today, involves bonding powdered glass to steel using temperatures upwards of 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit. The result is a smooth, non-stick surface that’s both long-lasting and efficient at conducting heat.
Much of the Riess’s sustained appeal comes from its simple, easy-to-recognize shapes and colorways, Riess added. These include its iconic white line, which has been in production since the 1920s, and the more recent pastels. “We have about 600 different shapes, including pots, pans, colanders and ladles,” he said. “In Austria, everyone’s grandmother had them. Their mothers had them. Today they make people think of their childhood.”