Pros and Cons of Cookware Handles: A Guide

Introduction

 

In our opinion, cookware handles have three major purposes. They are supposed to be comfortable, long lasting, safe and have a great design.  Handles of skillets usually consist of either silicone, metal (stainless steel, iron or carbon steel) or wood.

 

Silicone handles

Plastic and wooden handles have a significantly lower heat conduction compared to metal handles. Therefore, they naturally stay cool for a longer period of time.

 

The disadvantage of plastic handles is that they can melt at high temperatures. Typically, they are safe to a use up to a temperature if 450 – 500 degrees Fahrenheit. This is why plastic handles are usually not oven safe and melt if they accidently touch a gas flame of a neighbored stove.

 

Furthermore, silicone handles cannot be attached directly to the body of a pan (see construction types below). They require a screw construction which is less durable. Arguably, silicone handles also have a inferior look. A stainless steel or wooden handle may simply look better than a silicone one.

 

Metal Handles

Metal handles usually consist either of stainless steel, iron or carbon steel. As we learned here, all three belong to the metals that have a rather low thermal diffusivity. This means that they spread temperature slower compared to other aluminum or copper. However they can still get hot. How fast temperature increases mainly depends on the design of the handle.

 

Generally, the advantages of metal handles are their longevity, superior design and their heat resistance which allows them to be used in the oven.

 

In a direct comparison, stainless steel handles heat up sginificantly slower than iron or carbon steel ones.

 

Wooden Handles

Wooden handles will stay cold for very long, similar to silicone handles.

 

However, wooden handles are neither dishwasher safe nor resistant to high temperatures. At 212 degree Fahrenheit, the water stored in the wood might evaporate and at 424 degrees Fahrenheit, thermal decomposition begins and charcoal and flammable gases develop.

 

Construction Types

The most common methods of attaching handles to the body of a pan are screwing, rivetingwelding and casting.

 

In the table below we have summarized the different types of attachments that work for the different types of pans.

 

Riveting Welding Casting Screwing
Pure stainless steel body Yes Yes No No*
Cladded body Yes (No) * No No*
Aluminum body Yes No No* Yes
Cast Iron No No Yes Yes
Carbon Steel Yes Yes Yes (Yes)*

 

Screw handle

Pots Pan skillet cookware handle screw attachment

Fry pan handle screw attachment

 

The screw is typically delivered into a casted extension of the pan’s side walls. Screws are often used either in wooden handle or in silicone handle constructions. This is because neither wood nor silicone handles can be riveted or welded.

 

Cladded or carbon steel pans are made from sheets which don’t have any casted extensions. However, we have  seen constructions where an attachment piece is rivetted to a steel/cladded body and a screw handle system attached to this piece.

 

Screw handles have the disadvantage that they need to be reaffirmed regularly by using a screwdriver. Otherwise they often start to wobble quickly.

Riveted handle

Fry pan skillet rivets rivetted handle steel cookware multi ply

Rivetted handle to a multi-ply fry pan

 

During the riveting process, rivets are pressed together under extreme force. In order to ensure professional riveting, the materials of the rivets plus the pressure and the timing during the process requires some coordination, expertise and right machinery.

 

If done right, riveting and welding are the longest lasting and most robust options to attach a handle to a pan.

 

If rivets are not worked right, they can start to loosen. The likelihood is increased if the pan is constantly exposed to rapid temperature changes (hot rivets put under cold water). In addition, rivets bear the risk of food leftovers that accumulate between the rivet and the pan. However, this is rather a design than a hygienic issue. To avoid it, customers should put the pan into the dishwasher now and then (if dishwasher safe).

Welding

Pots and pans welded handle multi ply fry pan cookware

Example of a handle welded to a stainless steel fry pan using surface welding technique

 

Welding allows to attach a handle to a fry pan permanently without the risk of wobbling and without having to use rivets.

 

We differentiate between deep infusion spot welding and surface welding. Spot welding leaves welding spots on the handle plate but is easier and cheaper to perform. Surface welding is the more difficult but also more beautiful method to attach a handle to a fry pan. This is because it does not leave any visible wleding spots.

 

Surface welding can usually only be performed if the body of the pan is made from pure stainless steel. However, after in depth analysis and relatively complex prior calculations of a pan’s energy flow, surface welding can also be used on some cladded cookware constructions.

 

Aluminum or Copper are too soft to be welded. This is why aluminum pans are always either screwed or riveted. 

 

Casting

Carbon steel and cast iron pans can be casted in one piece. The homogenous construction ensures the highest stability. However, both types of handles are heavy and heat-up significantly faster than stainless steel.

Source: Flickr

Potentially, Aluminum casted pans could be casted, too. However due to its comparably good ability to transfer heat, the handle would heat up about 23 times faster than a stainless one.

 

Handle Forms

Especially metal handles come in a variety of different shapes. The design affects the comfort, weight and capability to block heat.

 

Stainless steel handles can either have a “Y-shape” (photo in the riveted handle section above) or run straight to the body of the pan (photo in the welding section above). In addition, they can be hollow (often filled with lighter material) or be made purely from stainless steel.

 

A hollow handle is up to 300g lighter than a pure stianless steel handle. The “Y-shape” helps to block heat. The table below is supposed to lay out the advantages of the different ways to construct a stainless steel handle.

 

Comparison of the best pro and con stainless steel cookware handle for pots and pans

Comparison of stainless steel cookware handle types

 

Summary

Screwing, rivetingwelding and casting are the main ways to attach a handle to a fry pan or a pot. Riveting and surface welding show best durability and arguably the best design. They are only possible with stainless steel handles.

 

Silicone and wooden handles are usually attached using a screw and cannot be used in the oven (and wood also not in the dishwasher).  Due to cast irons low capability to transfer heat, handles can be casted in one piece.

 

Stainless steel can be designed in many different ways. They are usually attached either through riveting or welding. A hollow design with the right shape helps to reduce weight and prevent the handle from getting hot too quickly.

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