Why an ovenproof skillet could be a game changer in your kitchen, and how to check that Is your skillet oven proof to use
We fry, we sear, we boil, we bake, we slow-cook, we roast. Sometimes, we can do it all in one pan. It saves us time; it saves us money and it saves us Fairy Liquid. Having an oven-safe skillet or two in your cupboard is well worth it for countless reasons. We can cater for a variety of textures in our meals, flavors and can have better control over our preparation and timing.
Guests are running late? Put the food from the hob straight into the oven, ready to eat until they arrive. No time to cook later? Brown your meat and throw it in the oven with sauces and rice- it will come out ready a few hours later.
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However, before we fire our good cookware into a hot oven, it’s important to check if our pots and pans are definitely designed as ovenproof, and what temperatures they can manage. If you don’t, you could be faced with melted handles, cracking and breaking, or simply wasting away the lifespan of your skillet.
CheckIs your skillet oven proof
The first thing to do is check what your skillet is made of. The most common ovenproof materials used in cookware are:
- Cast Iron
- Stainless steel
You may also find combinations of these materials. A useful thing to check is the base of the pan for a symbol that will indicate if it is ovenproof. Even still, it’s important to know the maximum temperature it can withstand, as this could vary between 350° F, and 700° F.
Be wary of heat resistant coatings as well, because the likes of Teflon will lose their non-stick qualities and release toxic gases if the skillet is exposed to temperatures above 500° F. These coatings may improve the performance of the pan, but ultimately it limits the heat resistance. Read the instructions that come with your pan, or check it out online- will the coating be damaged in the oven?
Ceramic non-stick coatings can vary in ability but tend to be safe up to the ranges of 420-500° F, with enamel being in almost the same range at 450-500° F. A layer of seasoning can also manage up to 500° F in your trusty cast iron pans.
Dishes that are marketed as baking dishes tend to be safe, for example, the likes of your casserole pans, baking, and muffin pans should all be well and able for the oven.
Next on the agenda, is to check that all parts of your cookware can withstand oven temperatures. Of course, the inner body of your dish can take the heat over a flame or hob when it is stovetop, but handles, lids, paint, and the rubber or plastic gaskets and seals don’t come into direct contact with the heat source. This means that they may not be designed for temperatures just as high- which they would be exposed to in an oven.
Oven Proof Handles
Handles are often designed to be a way in which we can pick up a pan from the stovetop, without being burned as it doesn’t come into direct contact with heat. Therefore, they often have protective coatings, making them far more comfortable to grip onto. The flipside to this is that they can be made from wood or plastic that will ruin the oven.
The likes of silicone can function fine in temperatures between 350°F and 482°F. The color will probably begin to fade, although it still works all the same. It is possible to purchase removable silicone sleeves that can fit over a variety of different sized pans, that come in handy when trying to remove your cookware from the oven.
Bakelite handles do well in temperatures up to 350°F whereas stainless steel or cast iron can last well up to 500°F. An old trick to protect your handles is to wrap them in wet paper towels and they cover them in foil. As long as the paper towels remain wet, this should protect the handles for short periods of time while cooking.
Another option is to purchase a pot or pan that has a detachable handle. These can come off and pop back on just by pressing a button, saving us cupboard space and awkward maneuvers into the preheated oven with handles that don’t fit in all-too-well. What’s more, it instantly makes the pan much more versatile by increasing its heat tolerance, and everything is a lot easier to clean.
Depending on what you are cooking, lids can be essential or not needed at all. When we want to concentrate a liquid and flavors, leaving the pan off in the oven is your best bet. However, when slow cooking and roasting for a longer period of time, the lid holds in moisture and heat. This means our food remains tender and juicy and can keep sauces at the right consistency.
A glass lid on cookware is safe up to 400°F, but the real question is, what are the knobs and handles made of? Some lids may have plastic knobs that prevent you from burning your hands when cooking on the stove, but these will melt in the oven. Phenolic lid knobs are tougher and are safe up to 375°F, but exceeding this puts them at risk of becoming brittle.
It is possible to buy stainless steel knobs to replace those that can’t go into the oven, but still bear in mind the fact that you will need oven mitts to remove them.
Having a skillet that can be used both stovetop and in the oven comes to be well worth the investment, as it compliments cooking for all kinds of dishes. The direct heat from the stovetop can cook food quickly, creating a nice, crispy finish, but this comes at the risk that it remains under cooked in the center.
The oven surrounds the food, cooking it evenly and kindly and can create the tender, flavorful dishes. A pan that does both allows us to take full advantage of the Millard reaction- browning meat or preparing elements of our dish on the stovetop and then finishing it off in the oven. We can open ourselves up to new ways of cooking, exploring different techniques and finding new ways to spice things up at our dinner parties.
All the best searching for your perfect pan!