Cast iron pans are the ultimate heavy-duty cooking vessels. But can they go in the oven? Here’s everything you need to know.
Let’s answer a cookware question that’s been plaguing generations upon generations of home cooks: Can a cast iron pan go in the oven? Spoiler alert: the answer’s a big, fat, resounding YES. Trust me, you’re going to want to read the full answer to this one.
Cast iron pans can do it all. One of the best things about these pans is their versatility. Not only can you use them on the stovetop to sear steaks, fry eggs, sauté mushrooms, and make latkes, but you can also pop them in the oven to roast meats, bake bread, cook pizza pies, and even make desserts.
So, yes, you can put a cast iron pan in the oven. As long as the cooking surface is uncoated and the handles are bare iron, you’re good to go. These pans are actually super handy for baking, roasting, and broiling because they hold onto heat so well. So don’t be afraid to use your cast iron pan in the oven or broiler — they’re made for it!
Remember: Before convection ovens and all those fancy non-stick and stainless steel pans, most people cooked with cast iron pans in coal- and wood-fired ovens. And let me tell you, those ovens got a lot hotter than the ones we have today!
Back in the day, people didn’t have the luxury of convection fans and temperature dials like we do today. They had to rely on the heat of glowing coals or smoldering wood to cook their food, and those ovens could get up to 700°F (ca. 370°C), even 1000°F (538°C).
Unless you own a charcoal grill, can you even imagine cooking at those temperatures?
That’s how tough cast iron pans are.
Why Cast Iron Pans Are Oven-Safe
Cast iron is made of a heavy-duty, heat-resistant material. That’s cast iron, a type of iron that has been melted, poured into a mold, and allowed to cool and solidify. The resulting metal is dense and durable, making it perfect for use in cookware.
Since it’s so dense and heat-resistant, cast iron is able to withstand high temperatures without melting or warping. This makes it ideal for use in the oven or under the broiler, where temperatures can reach up to 500-550°F (ca. 260-290°C). Additionally, the weight and heat capacity of a cast iron pan helps to retain heat and distribute it evenly, making it great for baking and roasting.
What makes cast iron pans so great for oven cooking is their ability to hold and release heat slowly instead of cooling off straight away. This helps to even out the temperature fluctuations that happen in the oven as the thermostat cycles on and off.
Basically, the thermostat in your oven is like a thermostat in your house — it’s designed to keep the temperature inside the oven at a consistent level. When the oven gets too cold or too hot, the thermostat turns on and off to keep the temperature in the range that it needs to be.
A cast iron pan can help to even out these fluctuations by holding onto heat and releasing it slowly as it cooks. This helps to keep the temperature of the pan and the food being cooked more consistent, which leads to crispier, more evenly cooked dishes.
Can Cast Iron Pans With Wooden Handles Go in the Oven?
There’s one exception to the rule:
If you’ve got a cast iron pan with wooden handles, think twice before popping it in the oven.
Now, don’t get me wrong — cast iron pans are great for cooking in the oven. Generally. If you read this far, you already know why. But when it comes to cast iron pans with wooden handles, things can get a little dicey.
You see, wooden handles are not as heat-resistant as the rest of the pan, and they can become damaged or even catch fire if exposed to high temperatures for a long period of time. While you might be able to use a cast iron pan with wooden handles on the stovetop, it’s a bad idea to put it in the oven.
To sum it up, if you’ve got a cast iron pan with metal handles, you’re in the clear. These pans can go in the oven no problem. Just don’t forget to use an oven mitt or a potholder to protect your hands, as the handles will get hot during cooking. But if you’ve got a pan with wooden handles, you should only use it on the stovetop.
What About Enameled Cast Iron Pans?
Here’s another question for you: Can you put an enameled cast iron pan in the oven? Well, now, the answer is a little more complicated than a simple “yes” or “no.”
The deal is that enameled cast iron pans are coated with a layer of porcelain enamel, which is a type of ceramic material that’s sprayed and baked onto the surface of the pan. This enamel gives the pan its glossy finish and helps to prevent food from sticking, but it also has some limitations when it comes to high-heat cooking.
While enameled cast iron pans can withstand relatively high heat, the enamel can crack or chip if exposed to too high heat or rapid temperature changes. This means that it’s not a good idea to put an enameled cast iron pan in the oven at temperatures above what’s recommended in the owner’s manual.
Also, if your enameled cast iron pan has a lid — many do — the lid may not be able to withstand the same temperatures as the pan itself. Enameled lids have handles made of other metals, which can become damaged if exposed to high heat for an extended period of time.