Is My Cookware Really Oven-Safe?
The appeal of oven-safe cookware can be found right in the name; these pans, pots, and skillets easily transfer from stovetop to oven, allowing cooks to get the benefits of both cooking styles without dirtying more pieces of cookware. But because "oven-safe" appears on so many product labels and in so many marketing campaigns, it's often tough to tell just how "safe" a particular piece of cookware will be when it's lifted from the stove and placed in the oven. That's why we asked a group of chefs, recipe developers, and culinary experts to give us the full scoop on oven safe cookware, including which materials to seek out, which to avoid, and which specific items make especially worthy investments.
What Is Oven-Safe Cookware?
While "oven-safe" can certainly apply to any and every piece of cookware that goes in the oven (including baking sheets, cake pans, and casserole dishes), it's frequently used to describe items designed to move seamlessly between a cooktop and an oven. "Oven-safe cookware simply applies to materials that can withstand a high heat in the oven for an extended period of time without melting or damaging the cookware," explains UK-based private chef Michael Johnson.
Which Materials are Reliably Oven-Safe?
If you're in the market for effective and durable oven safe cookware, then these materials will serve you well:
Time-honored and nearly-indestructible, raw cast iron skillets and enameled cast iron (cast iron coated with ceramic) pans and Dutch ovens are always a reliable option for stove-to-oven cooking. "Cast iron is durable, spreads heat evenly across the pan, and can become perfectly non-stick if it's well-seasoned," insists recipe developer Kyrie Luke of Healthfully Rooted Home.
Stainless steel counts among the most popular materials used for cookware, and there's an excellent reason for that: Stainless steel is "durable and unfazed by high temperatures," according to executive editor Lisa McManus of America's Test Kitchen.
Carbon steel functions as a hybrid between cast iron and stainless steel, and it encompasses the benefits of both materials.That's why it's "the most popular in professional kitchens," says chef and barbecue master Brian Andrada of The Golden. He tells us that carbon steel "can be utilized in the same way as cast iron, but it's lighter. Carbon steel is the best choice for stove-to-oven cooking and can even be used on induction cooktops."
What to Avoid
To maximize your cookware's oven-safe status, you should both seek out prime materials and should also steer clear of certain materials and processes. Specifically:
Don't put oven safe cookware in a preheating oven.
Even if you're working with a piece of cookware that's designated as "oven-safe," you shouldn't put it in the oven during the preheating process. "During the preheating phase, most ovens are sending blasts of heat at temperatures far higher than the target temperature (e.g., you set the oven to 350 degrees F but it's sending blasts at 500 degrees F or even more)," says founder and food educator Brigitte Gemme of Vegan Family Kitchen. "This can lead to breakage (which I have sadly experienced), even of high-quality oven resistant cookware like Pyrex. This is worse if the dish itself is cold, but it's a risk even if the dish isn't cold."
Don't use non-stick pans or skillets.
Anyone who's ever grappled with a crusted-over skillet or a burnt pot can understand the appeal of non-stick cookware specially designed to prevent these issues. However, Luke warns that non-stick cookware isn't generally suited to oven cooking: "Typically, non-stick pans are only able to handle heat up to 350 degrees F, and it's easy to ruin a non-stick pan in the oven. Further, most non-stick pans are made of chemicals that can leach into your food [when overheated]."
Beware of cookware with "mixed materials."
Le Creuset Dutch ovens are famously oven safe and top many shoppers' lists of aspirational cookware, but some versions include a plastic knob on the lid, which can only withstand oven temperatures of 375 degrees F or less. Much to the chagrin of many buyers, these knobs will soften and even melt when left in hotter ovens for extended periods, and this debacle serves as a prime example of the dangers of "oven-safe" cookware with mixed materials. "Avoid mixed materials. You may love the cushy silicone padding on the handle of a skillet or pot when you squeeze it in the store, but it will limit the max temperature at which that pan can be used in the oven. All silicone is not made alike, and some starts to melt at just 400 degrees. Why risk it? Buy pans with metal handles and they'll be safe at any temperature and will be more durable to boot," advises McManus.
Try these highly-recommended oven safe cookware items:
Lodge Cast Iron Skillet
Generations of professional chefs and home cooks swear by the quality, endurance, and affordability of the Lodge line of cast iron skillets. Founder and recipe developer Jessica Clark of Gluten Free Supper proudly considers herself part of the Lodge fanbase, telling Allrecipes that "having cookware that allows you to go from stove to oven is essential when making one-pan meals, and this is why I love Lodge cast iron cookware. It is stove safe and oven safe, and it holds up for many, many years!"
Staub Dutch Oven
The enameled cast iron pots made by prestigious French cookware brand Staub are a definite splurge item, but recipe developer Caroline Hoffman of Thyme with Caroline assures us that they're well worth the expense. "I really trust Staub brand items as they have lasted me the longest and have given me the best bang for my buck. I tend to lean on my Staub Dutch oven the most when working from stovetop to oven since that's the whole purpose of them, and the enameled outside coating stays marvelously intact for a long time, so users won't be seeing much chipping or anything like that," says Hoffman.
Calphalon Contemporary Tri-Ply Stainless Steel Cooking Set
Stainless steel cookware can be purchased at any price point (and at any quality standard), but if you're looking for cooking equipment that can handle serious mileage, a higher-dollar collection like the Calphalon Contemporary Tri-Ply Stainless Steel Cooking Set is a worth purchase. "We love doing everyday cooking with our Calphalon Contemporary Tri-Ply Stainless Steel Cooking Set. We purchased our set over six years ago after going through many non-stick pans. Because it is stainless steel, we don't have to worry about non-stick coats chipping or scratching off into our food, which was happening to us often. To clean it up, we can toss it in the dishwasher when we have finished cooking with it. These pans work on basically every surface and cook very evenly, including on gas, electric, halogen, glass, or induction stovetops, and they are both oven and broiler safe," raves chef and recipe developer Jessica Randhawa of The Forked Spoon.
This story originally appeared on allrecipes.com