Pan roasted filet with a delicious non-stick coating
February 13, 2008 9:08 AM   Subscribe

Is it safe to assume that if a frying pan lacks warnings about it being unsafe for ovens, it is, in fact, safe for ovens?

I'll be doing some valentine's day cooking tomorrow night, and need to do the ol' "sear in a frying pan, finish in the oven" technique with very limited cookware resources.

The pan I'm planning on using is a non-stick frying pan that is pretty sturdy and has stood up to repeated abuse through various failed attempts at stove-top cooking. It has yet to venture into the oven at any heat, and I'd like to avoid disaster. Nothing says "completely UNromantic" like noxious fumes and meat with a nice coating of teflon.

Thoughts on ways to definitively ascertain safety of this procedure, or can I assume I'm in the clear in the absence of a warning?
posted by undercoverhuwaaah to Food & Drink (27 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
What kind of non-stick coating does your pan have? And what kind of handle does it have?
posted by dersins at 9:13 AM on February 13, 2008

Best answer: As long as the handle isn't plastic, you should be OK. Typically, frying entails a much higher temperature than baking. If the oven finishing is broiling, you probably won't have it in there long enough to do any damage, and you could probably get away with broiling with a plastic handle if the handle stays outside of broiler range.

If it's baking, and you have a plastic handle, or you're really concerned about the teflon, just transfer the stuff into an oven-safe casserole before the finishing.
posted by beagle at 9:17 AM on February 13, 2008

It depends on the temperature of the oven. You really shouldn't put nonstick cookware in an oven above 450F (it may kill your canary). But, in the 350-400 range, assuming you've got a metal handle, I wouldn't worry about it.

Get yourself some cast iron, though, for the future. Dirt cheap, and can't be beaten for this kind of application.
posted by uncleozzy at 9:18 AM on February 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

None of my wood or plastic-handled frying pans have warnings about the oven, but I wouldn't put them in there. I don't think that's a safe assumption.
posted by smackfu at 9:18 AM on February 13, 2008

Best answer: The most probable reason for not being oven-safe is the handle. Plastic or wood, of course, are no good. Also, if you've had failed attempts at stovetop cooking with it then there's a good chance the coating is not so good anymore. Even if it's not harmful to use in the oven it might cause some cooking problems with sticking and burning. If you can swing it I'd run out to Target and get a pre-seasoned (important) Lodge cast-iron pan for like $15. I go stove-to-oven with mine all the time and it's a dream. It's ready to use after a soapless rinse in the sink and will last forever.
posted by monkeymadness at 9:20 AM on February 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

Silicon handles are fine <4>
Plastic, not so much.
posted by Lord_Pall at 9:20 AM on February 13, 2008

Wow. There was one post before I started writing mine. Glad to see lots of folks are willing to offer advice so quickly!
posted by monkeymadness at 9:21 AM on February 13, 2008

Silicon handles are fine

Only up to around 400 / 450 F.
posted by dersins at 9:24 AM on February 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

Seconding beagle and monkeymadness. Get thee a cast-iron frying pan, which is infinitely more versatile than a non-stick pan.
posted by LN at 9:27 AM on February 13, 2008

I wouldn't put a Teflon-coated pan in the oven.

Then again, since I learned about perfluorooctanoic acid, I stopped using Teflon-coated cookware, so perhaps I'm not the right person to answer this question.
posted by ikkyu2 at 9:32 AM on February 13, 2008

Response by poster: I'm sure glad I asked this question - thanks for all the great responses. I'll be making a stop at Target tonight for sure.
posted by undercoverhuwaaah at 9:37 AM on February 13, 2008

wrap the handle in a few layers of tinfoil if you're concerned.
posted by thinkingwoman at 10:12 AM on February 13, 2008

Ditto ikkyu2. After reading the toxicology literature on PFOAs, I'm off non-stick also. High temperatures do cause more degredation than lows. I'm not convinced of the safety of this idea. There are many safer alternatives for finishing in the oven than cookware with fluorinated coatings.
posted by bonehead at 10:40 AM on February 13, 2008

Nthing that (a) you should be fine but (b) really, this is what cast iron is for.
posted by rokusan at 10:41 AM on February 13, 2008

get a pre-seasoned (important) Lodge cast-iron pan

Going to disagree on the pre-seasoned part of that. My understanding from reading this great book is that the "pre-seasoning" is actually a chemical treatment, a kind of paint really, and my own experience is that it can come off in your food. Made a pan full of fried potatoes and onions and they came out solid grey. I then stripped all that crap off immediately and re-seasoned the pan, and now it does a respectable job.

I'd recommend seasoning your own unseasoned skillet. It's not hard, there are instructions all over the web. I'd also recommend finding a skillet with a smooth cooking surface and not a pebbled one. I'm not sure Lodge makes them like that. Check flea markets for good deals. I have an old one I bought off the floor of a barn and it runs circles around my pre-seasoned-then-completely-stripped-and-re-seasoned Lodge skillet.
posted by middleclasstool at 11:12 AM on February 13, 2008

Response by poster: hmm...any other thoughts on pre-seasoned? Any other horror stories of blackened food?
posted by undercoverhuwaaah at 11:20 AM on February 13, 2008

Season your own pan, for sure. And no, you don't get black bits in your food from a cast-iron pan, but you certainly would from a non-stick pan whose coating is starting to degrade!
posted by LN at 11:36 AM on February 13, 2008

I've used both and don't have a huge preference. I don't think pre-seasoning is a big advantage, but most of the pans you'll find in the store have it. (Cast iron has a bad reputation for being difficult to season, which it's really not, but it's caused the few companies that produce it to push the pre-seasoned stuff hard.) I've never seen any of the pre-seasoning stuff come off, but I haven't done potatoes or anything where it would be really obvious in a brand-new one. If you can find the un-pre-seasoned stuff and don't mind doing a little bit of work (basically coating it in Crisco and putting it in a hot oven for a while), I'd go that route.

The smooth cooking surface is indeed nice, although I've never seen anything that's new that comes this way. I think Lodge's are sort of rough/pebbly because that's the way they come out of the molds (which are sand, I assume). If you really wanted to, you could probably polish one down to smoothness and then season it. I've found though that once you get a nice layer of seasoning, it sorta evens out the bottom of the pan. Good ways to build up seasoning -- after you have the initial coating on there as per instructions -- are frying bacon or anything else where a substantial amount of fat will cook out.

IMO, the most versatile cast iron implement you can buy is a "chicken fryer." It's basically a very deep skillet (8 or 9" bottom dia, 3 or 4" deep) with an optional lid. You can use it as a skillet, but also for (as the name implies) pan frying, and you can even use it as a roasting pan in the oven. With the lid you can do chili and other covered dishes that normally require a dutch oven -- although it will remove all your (non-factory-applied) seasoning if you cook liquid, acidic dishes. If I could only have one cooking vessel, that'd be what I'd use. (As it is, I have a skillet and a dutch oven and a Corningware casserole dish for doing acidic foods.)

Not that I'm recommending it over the cast iron, but just as an alternative, Pyrex used to make glass frying pans that were oven as well as stovetop safe. I'm not sure they sell them anymore -- Pyrex has gotten lame and is no longer anything special, materials-wise -- but if you see one at a yard sale it might not be a bad buy. Short of dropping one on a concrete floor, they're essentially indestructible. They are completely chemically inert.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:47 AM on February 13, 2008

This is the 'chicken fryer' I was referring to; I got the dimensions wrong. It's 10-1/4" dia by 3" deep.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:51 AM on February 13, 2008

If you don't want the weighty lump of metal that's a cast-iron pan -- even though every kitchen should have one -- restaurant supply stores have the thinner all-metal pans that go straight from the hob to the oven.

But for searing/finishing, cast-iron is the right choice: it absorbs the high heat that you need for a fast Maillard-reaction sear, and can then withstand the oven temperature. Look for unseasoned, or even a flea market pick, since you have time to do the seasoning before tomorrow night.
posted by holgate at 11:55 AM on February 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

I use my pre-seasoned pans every day and have never had any problem with them. As far as I know it's not any more of a chemical treatment than oiling it at high pressure. I regularly re-season them but they all worked great from the get-go.
posted by monkeymadness at 11:56 AM on February 13, 2008

Hmm. I used Amazon's Search Inside this Book feature, middleclasstool, and could find no references to chemicals, paint, pre-seasoning, or Lodge in Jack's Skillet. Doesn't mean they're not there, but are you sure that was your source?

I don't recall having a problem with my Lodge preseasoned cast iron, but it's been a looong time since I bought it. I was under the impression that it was a vegetable oil based treatment, though. Given your rather compressed timeline (this is for Valentines, right? Hunting around thrift stores and garage sales isn't an option), I'd say go ahead and get the Lodge at Target tonight. Pick up a package of bacon, some good neutral oil and some coarse kosher salt, too, if you don't have it already. Rinse the pan out, without using soap, dry and then set it over low heat to dry further. Raise the heat, fry the bacon -- yes, all of it -- and clean up using the salt, paper towel and oil method. (as described here). Did the bacon come out looking gray and nasty? No? Mmmm, dinner.
posted by mumkin at 11:59 AM on February 13, 2008

Best answer: I've used a Lodge preseasoned cast iron pan for several stovetop to oven applications and have had absolutely no problems with it. Highly recommended and very good value.
posted by peacheater at 1:11 PM on February 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

I have both pre-seasoned and self-seasoned (well, really bacon-seasoned, but I did the work, the bacon just made the ultimate sacrifice) cast iron pans, and neither has given me any problems. No weird grey food, no bad tastes. Some stores only stock the pre-seasoned cast iron, other stores have both. Around here, outdoor- and farming-supply stores (such as Sportsmans Warehouse, Cabellas, etc) tend to have better selections than stores like Target and Walmart, in case you don't find what you are looking for at first. And even at Walmart, sometimes there is a better selection of cast iron in the camping section than there is in the cooking section.
posted by Forktine at 1:23 PM on February 13, 2008

are you sure that was your source?

Yeah, I had to double-check right after I made that comment, because it's been a couple of years since I read the skillet buying and care chapter. From page 17:

"The outside of a good iron skillet should be a nice smooth matte. The inside, the cooking surface, should be smoother, about the texture of a watermelon that has just been washed down with cold water from a garden hose.

"If you're buying your skillet new, it won't be black, of course. Yet. Curing and cooking and history is what turns it black. If you're buying your skillet new, it'll be, well, iron-colored. If it is black already, they've painted it. Don't buy it. But I don't recommend buying your skillet new. Your skillet ought to be roughly as old as you are, in my opinion."

Copyright date is 1997, so pre-seasoned skillets were around long before its publication. He says "black" skillets and not specifically "pre-seasoned," but the only black skillets I see in stores are pre-seasoned.
posted by middleclasstool at 2:08 PM on February 13, 2008

Lodge's pre-seasoning isn't 'painting', though: it's electrostatic sprayed-on vegetable oil that's baked into the surface. That range only dates from 2002. (Video here: 5:30in)

My issue with it is that there's often some tackiness that you don't get when using solid fats for seasoning. Agreed, though, that the hammered surface is preferable.
posted by holgate at 2:30 PM on February 13, 2008

Aha, then my info's outdated. Good to know, though those taters went straight in the can.
posted by middleclasstool at 2:37 PM on February 13, 2008

« Older Most reputable property managers in Philadelphia?   |   Good country bands in and around AZ? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.