Turning a non-ovenproof skillet into an ovenproof one
June 2, 2008 2:00 PM   Subscribe

Can you really ovenproof a non-ovenproof skillet by wrapping the handle in aluminum foil?

This suggestion appears in several recipes on the Internet, but I can't find any good source to substantiate it. In my case, it is a heavy stainless steel skillet with a rubberized handle that is supposed safe in oven up to 400 degrees. I'd like to take it up to 450, but wasn't sure if the foil trick really worked.
posted by imposster to Food & Drink (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The foil trick won't work.

It's likely that it'll work out okay, just because they might advertise a lower temperature than reality, but no guarantees on that at all.
posted by Project F at 2:13 PM on June 2, 2008

Does it work? No.
posted by unixrat at 2:18 PM on June 2, 2008

My gut instinct as a mechanical engineer that does thermal work and loves to cook is: probably not. I feel like the level of insulation provided by the foil would be very low (especially since it is made of metal) and really wouldn't help to mitigate the heat reaching the rubberized handle.

That said, since it is already supposed to be oven safe up to 400°F, it might be fine going to 450°F with some level of rudimentary insulation. It's up to you, though -- if it doesn't work, your pan will be in much worse shape (and your oven might, too).
posted by malthas at 2:18 PM on June 2, 2008

On preview: what Project F said.
posted by malthas at 2:19 PM on June 2, 2008

Oven thermostats are notoriously unreliable, and makers of "ovenproof" utensils are aware of this -- usually they make their products to take a little bit of abuse beyond the stated limits.

If you accurately turn up the oven to 450 using a thermometer, I think your skillet should be fine.

The foil trick is just to negate uneven heating due to convection currents or radiation. Ambient oven temperature which should be fairly steady and is unaffected by foil coverings.
posted by randomstriker at 2:21 PM on June 2, 2008

It's largely a question of time. As randomstriker says, the foil will reduce heating due to radiation and to some extent convection. But sooner or later the temperature inside the foil is going to match the temperature outside, and at that point your handle may be damaged. My own feeling is that you're only going to delay this by a few minutes at best.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 2:29 PM on June 2, 2008

Response by poster: Well, you've convinced me not to try it, but I'm still somewhat surprised by the number of sources (cookbooks, recipes, blogs, etc.) that promote this "tip"? You'd think there would be an equal number of sources for tips on how to clean up the melted plastic from the failure of aluminum foil to magically deflect the heat rays from non-ovenproof handles. I can only find one example of a knowledgeable person suggesting that you shouldn't do it:

"Plastic or phenolic resin handles have varying degrees of heat resistance, but it is usually falls between 400 and 500 degrees. ... Do not wrap plastic or wooden handles in aluminum foil, thinking that this will make them ovenproof or safe for the broiler. Doing so is likely to result in damaged cookware if not an actual fire, as the heat from the oven or broiler will quickly penetrate the foil."
posted by imposster at 2:43 PM on June 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

Also, awful-smelling and/or toxic fumes. Mmm mmm, good.
posted by fiercecupcake at 4:58 PM on June 2, 2008

Tried the foil trick, but as the engineer above notes, it did little (wooden bits sticking out were browned to the same level as those within). However, I had heavily oiled the handle, and it turned a nice, shiny, super-dark brown.

Looks better than ever; hard, but still insulates from the pan heat well. FWIW, an oil coating may help reduce heat absorption for a while, as the oil volatiles evaporate.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:22 PM on June 2, 2008

I do that, but not for baking in the oven but for very short in-oven grilling. E.g., I start my frittata in a skillet on my stove and finish it under the oven grill (very high, direct heat from above, for about 3-4 minutes). Before putting the skillet under the grill, I wrap the plastic handle in aluminium foil. I always had the impression that the foil is insulating it quite well for some minutes - I can actually touch the handle with bare hands when I take it out, although the metal parts of the skillet get extremely hot under the grill! Since the handle stays cool, I don't see any danger of fumes or melting.
I wouldn't use the same trick for longer time periods, though, just for very short grilling. The risk of ruining your oven is just not worth it.
posted by The Toad at 1:34 AM on June 3, 2008

There's probably some tolerance built into that number to save them from lawsuits. I'd say 450 should be ok if they say 400. It's your risk though.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 5:45 AM on June 3, 2008

Response by poster: The Toad: I think you have a good point. Many of the recipes only have the skillet in the oven for a short period of time. I can see how the foil could be effective for just a few minutes. The recipe I was using called for 30-40 minutes of baking in the oven -- much too long for the foil to keep the handle insulated.
posted by imposster at 7:29 AM on June 3, 2008

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