Frying food requires a frying pan, oil, and heat—but what can you use if you don’t have a frying pan? Is a casserole dish an acceptable alternative? Most casserole dishes are oven-only and not for stovetop use but there’s, however, one exception.
Casserole dishes are not suitable for use on electric hobs or gas hobs due to the material which would crack or burn. Therefore casserole dishes are not suitable for use as a frying pan. Other materials, including glass, pyrex, ceramic, stone and aluminium, aren’t made for direct heat.
In this article, I am going to talk about whether or not you can use a casserole dish as a frying pan, what you can use instead and the consequences of using a casserole dish as a frying pan.
Which Casserole Dishes Can Be Used As A Frying Pan?
While most casserole dishes are designed only to withstand radiant heat from the oven, cast-iron casserole dishes can endure both radiant (range) and direct (stovetop) heat. Cast iron casserole dishes are strong, safe, and the best bakeware for stovetop use.
Cast iron casserole dishes are acceptable for use as a frying pan. These dishes are durable and resistant to high temperatures. They’re unlikely to warp, shatter, or break under the direct heat of a stovetop.
When frying foods in a cast-iron casserole dish, its versatility and strength allow you to transfer from stovetop to oven without switching pans, which is especially useful when pan-frying foods before moving them to the range to finish cooking.
In addition, you can serve food directly from the casserole dish and store it in the refrigerator. Cast iron casserole dishes are excellent for casseroles, frying foods, baking bread, making soups and stews, and more.
As an added bonus, there are many benefits to using cast iron for cooking.
Cast iron retains heat well, so it’s excellent for searing meat and keeping food warm. When properly seasoned, cast iron has non-stick properties. Finally, cast iron displays food beautifully, especially bread, and food may be served right out of the skillet or baking dish.
Casserole Dishes That You Should NOT Use as a Frying Pan
If a casserole dish’s material is something other than cast iron, it’s best to assume that it’s not safe for stovetop use. Other materials are vulnerable when exposed to high temperatures and may shatter, crack, or warp when placed onto direct heat.
These include the following:
- Glass/Pyrex: These are the most common casserole dishes. When glass or pyrex casserole dishes are cooled or heated rapidly, such as on a stovetop, the material expands and contracts, leading to thermal shock. Thermal shock causes the material to shatter, crack, or break.
- Ceramic: While ceramic cookware is made for stovetop use, most ceramic bakeware is not safe for stovetop cooking. Ceramic casserole dishes must heat evenly or else, like glass, it expands and contracts, leading to cracks or breakage.
- Stoneware: Stoneware casserole dishes are very resistant to heat, but stone bakeware isn’t recommended for stovetop use. Bakeware is designed to handle gentle, indirect heat, whereas stovetops apply heat directly and rapidly. Even stoneware designed for the stovetop often requires trivets to diffuse heat and lessen the risk of damage.
- Stainless Steel: Stainless steel bakeware is heat-resistant, but they’re prone to warping if direct heat is applied. These metal casserole dishes are safe in the oven, but burners are much hotter and will cause uneven heating. These aren’t suitable pans for frying foods on a stovetop.
- Aluminum or Foil Disposable Pans: Videos on YouTube show people placing disposable aluminum or foil casserole dishes directly onto stovetops to fry foods, but this is extremely dangerous. These lightweight pans are meant for the oven, where temperatures don’t exceed 575°F (301.67°C). Stovetops get much hotter and could melt the pan. In addition, the thin material is easily punctured.
Can You Fry Foods in the Oven While Using a Casserole Dish?
Frying means cooking something in oil or fat; therefore, oven frying is a legitimate way to “fry” foods. However, these “oven-fried” methods don’t usually produce the same results as pan-frying because the heat isn’t high enough.
Technically, you can fry foods in a casserole dish in the oven. The result, however, won’t be the same as traditional fried foods. The heat transfer is too low to maintain the temperature needed for effective frying.
Even with an oven running at its maximum heat, the heat transfer isn’t as efficient as direct heat from a stove heating element. Ovens essentially use heated air for cooking foods.
The air is circulated around the pan, heating it, which is a much slower process than the direct heat that’s applied when frying foods in hot fat, such as in butter, lard, or oil, on a stovetop.
How To Use a Cast Iron Casserole Dish As a Frying Pan
As we’ve mentioned throughout this post, cast-iron casserole dishes are generally safe for use as a frying pan. In this section, we’ll discuss the steps to fry up your favourite foods:
- Place the cast iron casserole dish over a burner. Center the dish, making sure it’s secure, and not leaning or wobbly. If the dish is large enough, you may place it over two burners.
- Turn on the burner. Adjust the heat based on the recipe instructions. If you’re deep-frying, add the oil before heating. If pan-frying, add the oil after the pan is heated.
- Use a food thermometer to check the temperature of the oil. Be sure that the oil is at the desired temperature for your recipe. If the oil gets too hot or starts smoking, remove it from the heat.
- Add food to the pan. Fry your food according to the recipe instructions.
- Turn off the heat. You don’t want to touch the casserole dish until it’s completely cooled. The cooling of a cast-iron dish could take a while, as cast iron does not respond to rapid heat changes.
The Dangers of Using a Casserole Dish as a Frying Pan
There are numerous hazards associated with the heating of certain materials. Some dangers of using non-cast iron casserole dishes as frying pans include:
- Grease Fires: If a casserole dish shatters on a stovetop, any oil will leak onto the burner. Oil and heat can lead to a dangerous and potentially deadly grease fire, which can spread rapidly.
- Glass Injuries: Glass or ceramic exposed to heat tends to “explode,” sending sharp pieces flying through the air.
- Burns: Bakeware that bursts on the stovetop can throw hot foods or liquids into the surrounding area, leading to burns.
Use These Precautions
When frying food using a cast-iron casserole dish, take precautions to ensure the safety of yourself, others, your bakeware, and your appliances.
- Always read the instructions and warnings on the label of your casserole dish. Using a casserole dish for a purpose other than its intended isn’t recommended and potentially dangerous.
- Never put any wet foods directly into hot grease. The fat may pop and lead to a grease fire. Pat wet foods with a paper towel before transferring them to the oil.
- Never leave your cast iron casserole dish unattended on a hot stove. Grease fires can start in seconds.
- Remove food with large, heat-resistant tongs. Tongs prevent the spilling or splashing of oil onto the burners, reducing the risk of a grease fire or burns.
- Use pot holders when handling a hot cast-iron casserole dish while frying. The heat spreads to all parts of the pan, including the handles and lid (if using one).
- Don’t try to lift the cast iron casserole dish while it’s hot. Lifting a heavy pan could cause severe injury if the pan is spilled or dropped. Cast iron retains heat well, so once the casserole dish heats up, it’ll take a while to cool down.
- Keep a tight-fitting metal lid nearby. A lid will allow you to cover the casserole dish to cut off the fire’s oxygen supply if a fire occurs.
- Never try to extinguish a grease fire with water. Pouring water onto a grease fire will cause the grease to splutter, sending hot oil flying all over.
You can avoid a grease fire by being careful and using the precautions listed above. If, however, a grease fire starts, here are steps on what to do:
- Cover the casserole dish with a tight-fitting lid to starve the fire of oxygen.
- Pour baking soda onto the fire if it’s small enough.
- Spray the fire with a fire extinguisher if a lid and baking soda did not work or if the fire is larger.
If the fire is unmanageable and you’re unable to extinguish it, get out of the house and call 911.