While they’re made from the same material, porcelain bowls and plates, casseroles, skillets, and Dutch ovens are not created equal. Some of them are safe to use in the oven; others can’t always withstand its high heat.
As a porcelain owner, here’s how to know which is which.
Though there are a few exceptions, porcelain dinnerware shouldn’t be put in the oven. On the other hand, bakeware made entirely of porcelain—or cookware enameled with it—is typically oven-safe up to 500°F (260°C).
Porcelain products are fragile. They shouldn’t be used for high-heat cooking, and they need to be heated gradually. For this reason, you never want to put them in a hot oven, but preheat it with them placed inside it instead.
Sudden temperature changes, which physicists call “thermal shocks,” are one of ceramic’s worst enemies.
Just like you should protect your porcelain cookware from the thermal shock of a preheated oven, avoid placing it on a cold counter when it’s hot. The temperature change can cause it to contract and break apart into pieces. Instead, turn off the oven and allow your casserole, skillet, or Dutch oven to cool down for 15-20 minutes before taking it out.
Trust me on this technique. It has helped me save a lot of money on replacement bakeware!
But remember that it has its limits, too. Some porcelain pieces were never originally meant to go into the oven.
Is Your Porcelain Dinnerware Oven-Safe?
You turn up the temperature knob, pull out the oven mitts, and prepare to reheat yesterday’s most delicious meal. But can you safely heat with the porcelain piece you had in mind, and to what temperature?
Many of us have porcelain soup bowls and serving plates that we use rarely, or only on special occasions. Yet not everyone knows for sure whether or not these sets are oven-safe.
To tell if a porcelain set is safe to use in the oven, look at the bottom of your bowls and plates. If it says “oven safe,” “oven friendly,” or there’s a symbol like the one below, you can indeed warm food in them.
Make sure you’re not confusing the oven-safe sign with the microwave-safe one, as they often look similar. One is taller (just like your stove) and has vertical waves; the other is shorter (like your microwave) and with horizontal waves.
When in doubt, the direction of the waves will help you tell them apart.
The best thing to do with dinnerware that’s not oven friendly is to avoid reheating or cooking foods with it. Otherwise, the exposure to thermal shocks and the high heat of your home oven can shatter it in pieces.
Can Porcelain Cookware Go in the Oven?
It’s cheap, long-lasting, and is just as stylish as it is versatile.
But can it go in the oven, and to what temperature? If you just found yourself asking this question, here’s how to get to a good answer.
There’s porcelain bakeware, and then there’s porcelain or porcelain-enamel cookware. To be able to use them correctly, you need to know about the differences between the two.
Casserole dishes made from 100% porcelain are generally safe to bake with at temperatures of up to 550-575°F (287-301°C). Always refer to the owner’s manual for your bakeware’s make and model for more specific instructions from the manufacturer.
Porcelain is made of china clay (kaolin), which gives it its plasticity, and pottery stone (petunse), which adds hardness. It’s made from natural materials and, because it’s non-porous, it won’t absorb stains or odors, which is why many home cooks favor it over other types of cookware.
It can also be used as enamel for metallic cookware, such as cast iron, carbon steel, stainless steel, or aluminum, to give them a glossy coating that keeps food from sticking to and reacting with the bare metal.
Virtually all porcelain-enameled cast iron skillets and Dutch ovens can be used in the oven. To minimize the risk of cracking or losing enamel, you must determine the maximum temperature before baking with them.
As a general rule of thumb, higher-end models will tolerate heat of up to 500°F (260°C), whereas those on the lower end can’t be safely-heated above 350-400°F (177-204°C).
Once again, it’s necessary to refer to the owner’s manual for your skillet or Dutch oven before exposing it to excess heat. They’re expensive to buy and replace, and most manufacturers’ warranties won’t cover damages due to misuse.
Is Porcelain Microwavable?
Microwaves are a staple in American kitchens. From reheating leftovers to cooking quick and easy meals, they’ve made our lives easier. But they can also be tricky when it comes to certain types of kitchenware.
So is porcelain safe to use in the microwave?
Porcelain is generally safe to use in the microwave. However, dinnerware with a golden trip or silver finish isn’t. Metals reflect microwaves, which can cause problems, all the way from causing sparks to starting a fire.
Another thing to watch out for is unusual handles on artisanal hand-made porcelain pieces, especially ones without pinholes.
“If the pot has an enclosed hollow area (like a hollow handle that doesn’t have a pinhole for air to exit or, sometimes, the knob on a lid,” Karen Opas, Master of Fine Arts in Ceramics and Sculpture, says on Quora, “the rapid heating and expansion of the air inside the it can result in popping the knob or handle off the pot or popping out a piece of your pot.”
Is Porcelain a Good Conductor of Heat?
No, porcelain is actually an insulator of heat and electricity. It’s typically used for making the electrical insulators which support high-voltage cables on long-distance transmission lines.
Ironically, the fact that porcelain doesn’t conduct heat also makes it a great choice of material for producing bakeware. It takes longer to get up to heat, but, once it’s there, it distributes that heat very evenly and without any cold spots. That’s the main reason why few other pieces of bakeware can slow-cook your food as uniformly as a casserole.
Is Porcelain the Same as Ceramic?
Technically, porcelain is a type of ceramic, with one important difference: while both porcelain and ceramic are made from clay baked in kiln ovens, the kind of clay used to make porcelain is denser and is fired at a higher temperature than that used to produce ceramic.
Porcelain is denser and less porous than ceramic, which makes dinnerware and cookware made from it harder, more durable, and water resistant. For the same reasons, it’s also the more expensive option of the two.
Now, you know the ins and outs of heating and cooking food in porcelain kitchenware.
Many home cooks like porcelain because it’s a natural material that won’t leach any metals into their foods. If you’re one of them, remember these tips, as it’s susceptible to cracking when exposed to thermal shocks.