The ubiquitous nature of stainless steel cookware means they are heavily represented in most kitchens. They are used in cooking, smoking, frying, and serving food. But how about using stainless steel cookware in the oven?
Stainless steel can go in the oven if all parts of the pot or pan are metallic. Wooden or plastic handles and covers can get damaged in the oven, which spoils the food. Low-quality stainless steel may also react with the food at standard oven temperatures.
Read on to find out why stainless steel is oven-safe and how to safely use stainless steel cookware in the oven.
Stainless steel is safe in an oven. It’s a powerful metal alloy featuring manganese, silicon, nickel, chromium, nitrogen, and carbon. The chemical composition ensures it can withstand the high temperatures in a standard kitchen oven.
However, the level of heat tolerance will come down to the quality of the stainless steel. The chemical composition will vary across manufacturers, as low-quality stainless steel may split, melt or break in an oven.
Even with high-quality stainless steel, you still need to pay attention to the attachments. Some stainless steel cookware comes with plastic, wooden, or silicone handles and covers.
These attachments add to the aesthetic appeal of the pots and pans and make them easier to handle when cooking. However, such attachments shouldn’t go in the oven because the heat will damage them.
Therefore, oven-safe stainless steel cookware is high quality and doesn’t have any wooden or plastic components.
The highest quality stainless steel for kitchen use has around 18-20% chromium content and 8-10% nickel content, making it more resistant to corrosion and rust. Such stainless steel cookware also has good tensile strength and will not leach into your food.
Grade 304 stainless steel cookware is known to have the characteristics mentioned above. So, if you have them, they can go in your oven.
Important Tips to Keep in Mind When Using Stainless Steel in the Oven
We’ve established the fact that you can use high-quality stainless steel in your oven. However, there are some important points to keep in mind for a safe and hitch-free cooking experience.
Use Oven Mitts on the Handle and Lid
Since only steel pans and pots with steel handles and lids can go in the oven, you need to exercise extra care when handling your cooking. Grabbing the stainless steel handle absent-mindedly with your bare hands can lead to serious injury.
Wear padded gloves or wrap the handle or lid with a thick rag before attempting to lift the pot or pan.
Stainless steel becomes porous when it’s cold.
In this condition, food will stick to the surface if you put it in the oven. Preheating the pan or pot will cause the steel to expand and close out any pores, giving you a smooth surface to cook with.
A quick way to know if your pan or pot is hot enough to go in the oven is to add a few drops of water onto the surface and then watch to see if the droplets dry out immediately or roll around a bit in the pan. If you see the latter, your pan is ready to go in the oven.
If you add oil to the pan before it’s preheated, the oil will sink into the pores we talked about above when you start cooking. Wait until the pan is hot enough before adding your oil. Swirl the oil around the pot or pan to coat it properly before you start cooking. The cookware will be ready to use in less than five seconds after applying the oil.
Allow your stainless steel cookware to calm down before pouring some cold water on them.
Similarly, taking out your stainless steel pot from the freezer and straight into the oven is a bad idea, as you’ll end up warping the pot. Preheat the pot from the freezer before putting it in the oven. You should also allow the pot fresh from the oven to cool down before washing.
Stainless steel isn’t the only cookware material you can use in the oven. So, why should you use it instead of getting an aluminum or cast-iron pot? We’ll look at the reasons below.
Stainless steel cookware will last for decades as long as you use and maintain it properly.
There’s no risk of breaking or chipping, as high-quality stainless steel can withstand general wear and tear and is resistant to rust and corrosion. The durability of stainless steel gives you more flexibility as it can be useful in many applications.
Stainless steel absorbs heat quickly and evenly distributes heat, and will therefore always deliver great results in an oven. The multiple layers used in the cookware construction deliver a homogenous cooking surface which ensures your food will heat evenly from the sides and bottom of the pot or pan.
Stainless steel won’t react with your food and alter the structure as you’d get with materials such as cast iron, copper, aluminum, and Teflon. So, you can cook or bake with stainless steel cookware without worrying about harmful chemicals getting into your food or metallic taste leaching into your food.
It’s Easy to Maintain
Maintaining and cleaning stainless steel is super straightforward. You can remove burnt or dried-on food by soaking the ware in water in the sink until it’s soft enough for scrubbing.
This approach won’t work with cookware material such as cast iron because it will rust quickly with prolonged exposure to water. Stainless steel can also withstand the use of special cleaners and polishes without damage.
You may also like: How to Clean a Stainless Steel Kettle
You probably have some stainless steel pots and pans in your kitchen already. Even if you don’t, thousands of shops have stocked high-quality 18/8 or 304 stainless steel you can order right away. The high number of manufacturers has made stainless steel more affordable and within reach compared to options like Teflon.
Sure, materials like aluminum and cast iron are cheaper overall, but they are inferior to stainless steel and have many other disadvantages.
Stainless steel can withstand high heat up to 500 – 600°F (260 – 315.6°C). The vast majority of manufacturers will have a cap at 500°F (260°C). Pay attention to your pot or ovens user manual for the recommended heat range.
However, you don’t have to worry about damaging the pot or pan in the oven because most foods will cook at temperatures below 500°F (260°C), including baking.
Since stainless steel can work well in the oven, it should have no issues working in the microwave as well, right? Wrong. Metals don’t work well in microwaves.
You can’t use stainless steel in a microwave because stainless steel will reflect microwaves, making it hard for the food to heat up. Additionally, the stainless steel coming in contact with the walls of the microwave can lead to sparks inside the unit.
So, apart from the fact that stainless steel can’t heat up properly in a microwave, using stainless steel cookware in a microwave is a potential fire hazard. It will damage the microwave and possibly start a fire in your kitchen.
Keep in mind that some people still use small stainless steel cookware in their microwave without any problems.
If the pot, plate, or pan is small enough to stay clear of the microwave wall, you can heat the food without any problems. You only have to wait a bit longer than normal compared to heating food with microwave-friendly plastics.
Still, since there’s a chance of damaging your appliance and causing a fire, it’s best to avoid using stainless steel cookware in a microwave.
Most manufacturers rate their stainless cookware as dishwasher safe, so you can use stainless steel in a dishwasher. However, the stainless steel cookware may acquire watermarks and tough spots that may be near impossible to get out.
Similarly, dishwasher detergent is extremely harsh and may cause spotting and discoloration over time. With prolonged use, the detergent will gradually wear down the material dulling the alluring shine that makes stainless steel stand out.
These risks remain even with stainless-steel cookware passed dishwasher safe by manufacturers. Therefore, it’s best to wash by hand more, using the dishwasher sparingly.
Stainless steel pans can go in the oven as long as they don’t have wooden or plastic handles. If you have a 304 or 18/8 stainless steel pan or pot with a bare steel handle, you can bake foods with it in the oven without worrying about damage.
Using poor-quality stainless steel or those with plastic or wooden handles will render your food inedible as the materials melt under the intense heat.