When your cast-iron skillet is too hot to handle, can these covers help you out?
Published Mar. 1, 2018.
We love cast-iron skillets for their superior heat retention, which allows them to excel at searing, browning, and shallow-frying. But because they get and stay so hot, they can also be tricky to handle—not just while they're on the stove or in the oven but long after they're off or out of the heat. Handle covers promise to protect your hands from the hot metal, making these pans easier and safer to use. Most covers can't be put in the oven, though they can be used to remove pans that have been heated there; instead, they're intended primarily for stovetop cooking projects.
Instructions on how to use these covers differ. Some manufacturers recommend that they be used like potholders, slipped over the handle only when you need to maneuver the skillet and then promptly removed. Others say that they should go on the handle and stay there throughout your meal preparation, preventing you from accidentally grabbing the handle unguarded. Since these instructions are not always made clear to consumers, we decided to test handle covers both ways, investigating five models priced from about $7.00 to about $16.00, in various sizes, shapes, and materials (four were made from silicone and one from leather with a synthetic lining).
We soon learned that it was not a good idea to keep any cover on the skillet handle throughout use. As long as the cover stays in contact with the handle, it will steadily absorb the handle's heat. When we put each cover on a cast-iron skillet handle and heated the skillet over a medium-high flame, all models reached 110 degrees—the temperature our testers found too hot to grip—within 18 minutes. In practice, that means that the most heat-resistant covers give you just enough time to make fried eggs, but not enough to pan-fry pork chops or complete the first steps of many other cast iron recipes. What's more, some of the models melted or scorched when left on for longer than 5 minutes while the skillet was on the stovetop.
The covers fared better when used like potholders, put on the handles only when needed and then taken off. After heating the cast-iron skillets over a medium-high flame for 20 minutes—this time without the covers—we put the covers on and used them to take the skillets off the heat, as if to scrape the contents into a bowl. All the covers stayed under 110 degrees for at least 30 seconds, ample time to grip and lift the skillet, and our first- and second-place models were comfortable to hold for considerably longer—6½ and 2½ minutes, respectively.
Similarly, the covers did a decent job when used to remove a cast-iron skillet holding a roast chicken from a 450-degree oven; each m...
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Miye is a senior editor for ATK Reviews. She covers booze, blades, and gadgets of questionable value.