Cookware is an essential preparation vessel used inside the kitchen. The saucepan is a small vessel used for simmering and boiling, typically made with one long handle. Larger variants are created with a similar shape but with two ear-shaped handles (which are called saucepots).
Several manufacturers use various materials to provide a cooler temperature than the actual pan when it comes to handles. Riveted pans or those bind with rivets uses wood, stainless steel, and silicon as handle substitute. Heat-resistant plastics are also used to reduce the pan’s heat conductivity. Metals like cast iron, aluminum, and stainless steel have high heat conductivity. That is why handles are covered with cooling materials (like plastic) to prevent your hands from scalding or burning.
Why Are Saucepan Handles Made of Wood or Plastic?
Using the right kitchen equipment will save your precious effort and time in cooking and aids in providing amazing results whenever you want to discover new dishes. Having multipurpose cookware gives you’re the security of available methods of cooking.
Manufacturers create different cookware since we will always need the same cookware for every cooking need. For instance, using large cast-iron cookware will be too much for a small amount of gravy and sauces. Using a proper-sized saucepan will eliminate the need to heat and cleaning large utensils.
Saucepans are created with a combination of materials or cast in a single mold. Riveted-type and screwed-type pans use rivets or screws to attach handles. These handles, however, are commonly created with a different material.
The common material used in creating detachable handles is wood and plastic. Saucepan handles are made with wood or plastic due to their cooling ability for long cooking periods. This means that these materials distribute heat slower than metal handles, providing additional comfort when lifting your pan.
Having a saucepan handle made with metal will create better grip and ergonomics than those made with a single material. If you are stir-frying your vegetables or creating delicious fried rice, using a wooden handle can make your flipping easier.
Plastic can slow down the diffusion of heat coming through the pan. This is because plastic is not a good heat conductor. Heat particles cannot pass through efficiently on plastic handles—which provides a cooler surface than the actual pan.
Insulators like plastic are effective materials for cooking. As a material, insulators restrain electrons’ flow, a part of an atom responsible for releasing heat energy. Electric charges cannot flow freely if insulators are added, reducing the overall heat distribution to your pan.
Is Plastic A Good Insulator?
Plastic might be a brittle material for several pieces of machinery, but it can provide better insulation than other materials. This is why electronics, car engines, and even cookware uses plastic as their primary insulator. In a general sense, an insulator is a material that prevents electrons from passing through.
Trapping an enormous amount of heat is the main property of an insulator, which plastic can effectively provide. Traditional polymers can insulate electrically and thermally. This means that plastic handles can provide better comfort against heat (when using a non-electronic heat source) and electricity (when using an electronically-operated heat source).
Polymer, a common chemical bond found on plastic, can provide flexible insulators economically. If used as a handle, this can provide comfort since it restricts electrons passing through the cookware. Electrons that are delocalized are retained from their form, limiting their heat-producing energy.
This is why placing heat-resisting materials like wood and plastic to your cookware can provide better insulation than the actual material used in cookware (cast iron, ceramic, aluminum, stainless steel). Using a saucepan with plastic or wood handles on an electric stove will prevent you from getting electrocuted.
The only downturn of these insulators is they are not flameproof. This means that direct heat can instantly melt and burn your insulators. Wood can burn with temperatures exceeding 248°F/120°C, while plastic used in making handles can last on temperatures not more than 224.6°F /107°C.
Placing your cookware with handles made of wood and plastic in an oven or outdoor grill setting is not suggested. Direct heat can instantly burn your plastic and wood, while temperatures inside the oven can melt and scorch your handles.
This is why saucepan handles made with insulators are not suggested for baking purposes. To safely use your cookware, do not allow your saucepan from touching hot surfaces. It may not conduct heat faster, but direct heat can deconstruct its properties, causing it to burn.
What Is Plastic Used for Saucepan Handles?
Saucepan handles are commonly made with good insulators. In a general sense, wood and plastic are excellent heat insulators. However, using the best plastic for your saucepan handles will produce sturdier cookware. Thermosetting plastic is commonly viable in the cookware market due to its improved heat-resisting properties.
If your plastic has thermosetting properties, the material will irreversibly turn solid once heated. Thermosetting polymers like bakelite are used in creating saucepan handles. This soft liquid turns rock solid once heat cross-link the polymer chains.
Polymer chains produce a chemical reaction when heat is applied, causing the material to tighten completely. This process (called curing) produces high-quality polymers that are 20 times tougher and heat-resistant. However, this material must be mold quickly since it cannot be remolded once the curing process finishes.
Bakelite or phenol-formaldehyde is produced by heating phenol and formaldehyde with several catalysts like zinc chloride and hydrochloric acid. The continuous heating process cures bakelite, making it partially soluble.
While the polymer mixture is piping hot, it is shaped into long handles or ear-shaped handles. This mixture is cooled further until it forms rock-like consistency. This is attached to a saucepan through screws or rivets.
Saucepan handles made with plastic are durable and heat-resistant. However, it is prone to melting due to its low melting point. This is why saucepan handles are not suggested inside the oven or on direct heat.
Melted saucepan handles imposed grave health risks—since these handles could release toxic gases like dioxins, carbon monoxide, and furans. These fumes can affect your respiratory and digestive system when inhaled. Eating food smoked with carbon monoxide can upset your stomach lining.