Look, I get it. Sometimes, you’re too lazy to take your food out of ceramic and put it in something that’s ovenproof. Or you just have a beautiful ceramic casserole dish, and you want to cook something in it. But is that really safe? Or are you risking burning down your entire house with this move? That’s what we’re here to find out.
Can You Put Ceramic Dishes in the Oven?
Let’s answer this question straight away. You can put ceramic in the oven, but not always. The only ceramic dishes that you can put safely in an oven are the ones that are marked as oven-safe.
That means that they can withstand temperature changes, and won’t get destroyed in a preheated oven. That’s all thanks to the fact that some ceramic dishes are coated with a special glaze.
That glaze makes the dish both waterproof and oven-safe. However, it does cost a pretty penny. So usually, these oven-safe ceramic dishes are more expensive than the ones that aren’t.
Types of Ceramic
Another important thing to know is that there are three types of ceramic that can be made into kitchenware. There’s earthenware, stoneware, and porcelain. I want to quickly break these down so that you know what you’re buying, and why you’re buying it.
Earthenware is the cheapest type of ceramic out of the three because it’s pretty brittle, and usually not oven-safe on its own. Also, it’s porous, which is why I don’t like earthenware when I’m cooking and baking. That being said, to remedy this problem, it can be glazed, which makes it oven-safe.
Then, there’s stoneware that’s made from a type of clay that’s pretty durable and dense. It can usually withstand pretty high temperatures and doesn’t require a glaze.
Lastly, at the top of the ceramic pyramid, we have porcelain, which is the most expensive, as well as durable type. But here’s the thing; even though porcelain is durable, it doesn’t always have to be oven-safe.
Most older porcelain dishes don’t even have any sort of labels on them, so figuring out how much heat they can stand can be difficult. If you don’t see any symbols or numbers at the bottom, I would honestly avoid putting them in the oven. Since they can be so expensive, it’s usually not worth risking having them break and shatter.
What Happens if Ceramic Is Not Oven-Safe
I want to preface this section by saying that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with ceramic dishes that aren’t oven-safe. They’re still useful and come in various shapes, sizes, and beautiful designs. However, they’re just not as versatile as the ones that can withstand high temperatures.
That being said, if you were to put ceramic that’s not oven-safe into a preheated oven, one of two things will happen. For one, it might crack, and then ceramic shards will go inside your dish.
The other thing that could happen is that the ceramic will literally just break in half. Then, the food inside will spill out and create a huge mess.
In fact, it’s a mess of such huge proportions that it resembles the one you can make by putting aluminum foil at the bottom of the oven. It’s almost impossible to clean up properly, and could potentially damage your oven.
How to Check if Ceramic Is Oven-Safe
There are two ways that you can determine if a bowl or plate is oven-safe. And no, I’m not talking about sticking it in the oven and hoping for the best.
The first thing you can do is look for labels on the ceramic. If it can take hot temperatures, it will have a clear label, usually on the bottom. In theory, you can take these ceramic dishes straight from a cold fridge, and put them in a preheated oven without a care in the world. But I wouldn’t recommend doing that because not all ceramic was created equal.
If you can’t find the words oven-safe on the bottom of your dish, there might be a little symbol. For example, if you see wavy lines, that means that it can go in an oven or microwave. There should also be some numbers at the bottom that show what’s the maximum temperature that the dish can withstand.
You might also see an oven symbol or a little flame that shows that it’s safe to put on a gas ring.
The Thickness Theory
You could, in theory, determine whether or not the dish is oven-safe based on its thickness. Supposedly, if the ceramic is thick enough, it will withstand high temperatures.
But here’s my problem with that theory. First of all, what does “thick enough” even mean? How can you even tell?
Also, way back in the day, I had a super-thick ceramic casserole dish that wasn’t oven-safe. The first time I put it in a preheated oven, it cracked, shattered, and I ended up having to buy a new one. So my advice is to just stick to the labels, because checking the thickness is unreliable, and you’ll never know for sure.
In fact, without looking at the labels, it’s literally like putting a cardboard pizza box in the oven. Sure, you could test the theory, and see if it could survive in an oven. But your kitchen could also catch on fire, and that’s just not worth the test.
Can You Put Ceramic Dishes in the Microwave?
Now, unlike an oven, there’s usually more wiggle room when it comes to putting ceramic in a microwave.Since there’s no preheating involved, there’s little chance that your dish will break while inside the microwave. Luckily, there’s a test that you can do to check whether the ceramic is microwave-safe.
The Water Cup Test
To perform this, you’ll need:
- A cup or glass that you’re 100% sure is microwave-safe
- The ceramic dish that you want to test
- A microwave
Get a cup or glass that you know is safe for the microwave. It should have the same labels as the ones I talked about earlier for the oven.
Then, fill the (let’s say) cup 3/4 with water, and put it in the microwave. Next, you’ll want to put the ceramic dish beside the cup. If it can’t fit in the microwave, put the cup inside the dish.
To really test how well the dish can withstand heat, crank your microwave to high, and set the timer for one minute. Let the whole thing play out, and then, using an oven mitt or kitchen towel, take out the cup of water.
With your fingers, test to see the temperature of the water, and the dish. If the water is cold, but the ceramic dish is hot, it means that it isn’t microwave-safe. But if the situation is reversed, i.e. the water’s hot, but the dish is cold, it’s safe.
If you’ve got more ceramic dishes that you want to test, just repeat the process. Also, my advice is to label your dishes as they come out.
Once you’ve verified that they can’t be in the microwave, put some sort of label at the bottom of them, using a marker. Do the same for the ones that are heat-resistant. You can draw or write pretty much anything you want, but I like using wavy lines.
The Best Oven-Proof Ceramic Dishes
So far, I’ve explained what makes ceramic dishes oven-safe, and how to test your existing ones in the microwave. But if the worst has happened, and you accidentally used a dish that wasn’t oven-safe and it cracked, you’re probably in dire need of a new one. After a lot of research and testing, I’ve come up with my top three best ceramic cookware sets that won’t crack under pressure (or heat).
First up, I want to talk about the GreenPan SearSmart Ceramic Cookware Set. It comes as a 10-piece, but you can also buy the pots and pans separately. It’s oven and broiler-safe to up to 600°F, and you can even put it in the dishwasher.
Then, there’s the GreenLife Soft Grip Ceramic Set, which comes with 14 pieces. What’s cool about the GreenLife set is that you can buy it in 10 colors, including pink, red, black, and yellow. Also, you can get it with a different number of pieces, or with a baking set.
The last company that I wanted to include is WearEver, who offer a 10-piece and 15-piece set. Even though it can’t withstand as much heat as GreenPan, it can still handle a respectable 350°F. It’s also scratch-resistant, dishwasher-safe, and non-stick.
Hopefully, I’ve answered all of your questions when it comes to exposing ceramics to heat. As I said, before you do any tests, turn your dish over, and look for any symbols or numbers at the bottom. But if you can’t find anything, just do the microwave test because that’s your safest bet.
And if you’re on the market for new oven-safe ceramic cookware, you can check out my top three choices. They’re all incredibly durable, sturdy, and I know that they’ll last you a really long time.