The Proof is in the Pan

You're about to make a roast and you have several pans to choose from in your kitchen.  Which one do you go with? This may be a question that has come across your mind, or maybe you just always use the same one without any thought?  But choosing the right pan is important for the kind of cooking that a particular dish requires.

I became curious about this topic after a friend of mine broke a ceramic pan in her oven while roasting.  The bottom of the pan said, "oven and dishwasher safe". Many pans will also use the wording "oven proof".  What is the difference between the two?  I went to the web to find out, but much to my dismay, I didn't find a clear answer. 

I think the labeling of "oven proof" and "oven safe" is misleading and confusing  to the consumer.  The definition I came across to describe "oven proof" said that the pan is heat tolerant and is generally ok in temperatures between 375 and 500 degrees.  "Oven safe", on the other hand, was described as able to withstand temperatures of an oven with out breaking, burning or melting. I would think that if you are going to put anything in the oven it should be able to hold up to any temperature with out doing damage to the pan or pot. Are you taking a risk then if you use an "oven proof" item, because it may crack?

If you buy a fancy name brand pot or pan, one that comes in a box with a care instruction booklet, then you get information about the temperatures it will withstand.  But, what about all those pots, pans and bowls at places such as "World Market" or "Pier One"?  The pan my friend used was from World Market and said oven safe, and still broke.

On a similar note, what about the microwave? If a bowl or pan is marked microwave safe, how can you be sure? If a pan says oven safe it doesn't necessarily mean microwave safe either. I came across this home test that you can do to make sure if something is in fact microwave safe. "Place a measured cup of water in the microwave and the item along side. Set the timer for 1 minute and turn it on. At the end of the time if the object is hot and the water is cold or only slightly warm, you do not want to use it in the microwave. If the item is warm or slightly warm and the water is warmer, you can use it for cooking for short duration warm ups under 2 minutes. If the water is hot and the item is cold you can use it without any restrictions." I am not aware of a way to test items for oven temperature safety, except to follow these simple guidlines.

  • When roasting, use a pan that is specifically for roasting.  It is usually a heavy metal pan made from stainless steel or aluminum, and has handles so you can lift it safely out of the oven. For more information on the pros and cons of these metal types, here is a quick link for you.
  • Glass is a good choice for baking. Here is a quick link to Pyrex for you.
  • Glass baking pans retain heat and continue to cook for a few minutes after the pan is removed from the oven.
  • Glass baking dish make a good choice for foods that should be browned.
  • When using a glass baking dish, oven temperature should be reduced by 25 degrees because of the material's ability to hold heat for longer periods of time.
  • Dishes with a high level of acid such as citrus fruits or tomatoes should be baked in glass baking pans to avoid discoloration of your food.
  • If you like to cut the baked dish while still in the pan, glass is a better choice than a metal pan.
  • Metal pans are great for broiling.  Glass or ceramic dishes should never be used because the extreme temperature will break them.
  • Do not use metal pans with acidic foods. Baking pans constructed of metal can cause a chemical reaction that can result in discoloration of the food.
  • Oven temperature should be reduced 25 degrees if you are using a dark metal pan, which will heat faster than lighter metal.
  • Metal dishes are easily scratched and Teflon finishes can be damaged if you cut directly in the pan.
  • High quality ceramic cookware is good for baked desserts and casseroles.
  • Glazed ceramics are covered with a heat and water resistant transparent glaze, while enameled ceramics are made out of cast-iron covered with ceramic.

Some of this information was obtained by


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