One question I commonly see online, at least when it comes to putting stuff in ovens, is what happens to bakeware made of glass. Can you put it in the oven to prepare or reheat food, and more importantly, should you?
With that in mind, here’s a handy little article on everything you ever needed to know about glass bakeware and how safe it is inside of hot ovens. In addition to some safety tips and warnings, this article will also cover some individual facts about modern glass bakeware.
Is It Safe to Put Glass in the Oven?
Most modern glass bakeware is still made using borosilicate. Of course, several powerhouse brands such as Pyrex and Anchor Hocking switch to using a cheaper alternative, like soda-lime glass. The problem is, both borosilicate and soda-lime glass can shatter at high temperatures.
So, does that mean that glass bakeware is completely unsafe to use?
Well, yes and no; even if we discount popular brands, there are still glass bakeware products out there that work perfectly fine and don’t shatter, or at least don’t shatter immediately. It all depends on the temperature of the oven, as well as glass weakening over time due to other reasons.
However, even the safest of tempered glasses isn’t immune to shattering as a result of heating. There’s really no guarantee one way or the other, so if you’re not sure about glass bakeware, you can always go with metal or ceramic products.
Limitations of Glass Bakeware
Wrong Temperature Range
Glass bakeware, as odd as it might seem to people who don’t cook often, comes with its own user manual. Someone might scratch their head and ask ‘but wait, why would a saucepan or a pot need a user manual? We all know how to use it!’
Well, with glass bakeware products, the manuals list lots of important maintenance information, including the highest temperature it can handle. So, when buying a new glass item, make sure to go through the manual and find the highest temperature range. If, by any chance, you place the item in an oven that’s hotter than that limit, the item will likely break.
Sudden Temperature Change
Sadly, this particular situation is inevitable to happen. When you transfer a glass item from a cold environment to an extremely hot one (and vice versa), it will shatter. And no, it doesn’t help if you have regular, tempered, protective, or tinted glass — the sudden shift will get it.
Of course, this won’t happen the first time you place your glass item in the oven, or the fourth, or even the eleventh. However, the constant temperature shifting does affect the glass, and it’s really only a matter of time before it bursts into tiny pieces inside of your oven. You effectively have a ticking time bomb in your cupboard.
Wrong Type of Glass
Believe it or not, some people put the strangest non-tempered glass things in the oven, including but not limited to:
Each oven-friendly glass product will have a little label on it that says ‘oven-safe’ or anything similar. But just to be on the safe side (since there are lots of fraudsters out there who will slap a label onto anything), always check the materials. If your glass bakeware is made of soda-lime or borosilicate glass, you’re good to go.
Making Sure the Glass Doesn’t Shatter in the Oven: 7 Easy Steps
Now that you know the limitations of glass bakeware, you’ll need to do everything you can to prevent any shattering. Here’s a list of 7 easy steps that will ensure safety while using glass bakeware in ovens.
1. Read the Manual
As I stated earlier, each piece (or set) of glass bakeware comes with its own user manual. One of the reasons is to check the top temperature you can use the bakeware in. which I will cover shortly
Another, equally important reason behind checking the manual is the fact that some people use oven-safe dishes on other surfaces and in other appliances, like toaster ovens, broilers, and stovetops. By using an oven-safe glass item in a non-oven environment, you can risk breaking or shattering it just like you would by overheating it.
And speaking of heat…
2. Preheating the Oven
Heating the oven before putting any food in is incredibly important. As stated earlier, sudden temperature shifts can damage any material, but glass, in particular, is susceptible to breaking in such an environment.
So, if you happen to suddenly flick the oven on and place the glass item inside, chances are it will break because of the glass heating too fast. But with a preheated oven, the temperature will be distributed evenly along the glass exterior of the dish. In fact, most modern manufacturers of glass bakeware actually urge the user to preheat the oven before putting the unit inside.
3. Examine the Glass Every Time
When you preheat the oven, take a good, long look at the dish. Examine it for any signs of damage, such as cracks, smudges, kinks, scratches, discoloration, etc. Sometimes, these scratches will be minor and won’t affect the glass dish. However, if it appears unsafe to you after the examination, don’t use it.
Of course, you should perform the same check after the meal is done. However, do it when the dish cools down; not only do you reduce the risk of burns, but you’ll also avoid any shards if the dish does break due to the heat.
4. Check the Maximum Temperature Every Time
Most standard glass bakeware dishes can handle temperatures of up to 350℉, which is the medium temperature you’ll be using to prepare the bulk of your dishes. However, there are bakeware items out there that can handle 400℉, and even go as far as 500℉.
Now, ‘most’ doesn’t mean ‘all’, and if you can, always check the manual for the highest temperature setting that your bakeware can handle. Anything above that temperature is already a risk.
5. Add Water When Dry Food Cooking
When cooking dry foods, you can expect some of the liquid trapped inside of the food to leak onto the bottom of the glass dish. Now, the dish itself is already warm and getting hotter by the minute. However, the liquid inside of the dry food is usually cold, so when it comes into contact with the hot glass, there’s a chance the dish might burst.
The best way to go around this problem is to pour some water at the bottom of the glass dish. That way, the water will heat alongside the glass and, if any cold water does leave the dry food, it will come into contact with the water that’s already hot. In other words, it won’t reach the glass directly and cause anything dangerous to happen.
6. Metal Utensils and Glass Bakeware Safety
Sometimes, you will have to use a metal utensil to shift the food around inside of the dish. However, be careful of how you go about it. Metal utensils such as forks, ladles, spoons, turners, spatulas, and tongs can scratch the glass surface. One wrong scratch and the whole dish might break at that point.
7. Avoid Wet or Cold Surfaces
As stated earlier, even something like cold water can cause the hot glass to shatter. So, it goes without saying that you should avoid placing hot glass bakeware on either cold or wet surfaces. Instead, place them on a cutting board, cooling rack, or a towel.
What if the Glass Still Shatters?
With this list above, you should be able to avoid glass shattering in the long run. But as I mentioned before, no method is foolproof. Sometimes, the glass will simply shatter due to the heat. If that happens, you will need to take the appropriate safety measures and clean the mess up.
Protection is Key
Before you do anything, remember that you’re handling broken glass. Always wear hand gloves and a pair of goggles, just to be on the safe side. In addition, don’t pick anything up with your hands. You will need something to grab the glass shards with, like tongs, pliers, and a metal spatula.
More than likely, you will have to wait for the oven to cool down before you reach inside for anything. Once it gets to a point where it feels warm, you can use a spatula to scrape off some of the larger food debris splattered across the inside of the oven.
Picking Up the Big Pieces
Whether it’s food or big shards of glass, use the tongs to pick them up slowly once the oven has cooled down. It would be handy if you had a durable plastic or paper bag next to you where you can discard the broken glass and the food remains.
Picking Up the Small Pieces
Obviously, you can’t pick up the small pieces of glass with a large spatula. Instead, sweep them with a cloth or a small broom, and then collect them in a small saucer or a pan.
Baking Soda for Stubborn Food Stains
Baking soda can clean anything in the kitchen. All you need is the right mix of soda and water, as well as a spray bottle. Sprinkle some of the baking soda/water mix onto the stubborn oven stains and let it settle for a while before cleaning it off.
Vacuum it All Up
If you have a small vacuum cleaner, use it to pick up all of the minuscule shards that you couldn’t pick up with the spatula or the cloth. In addition, try using a slice of bread to capture those notorious tiny shards of glass. Though they might be small, they can still prove to be harmful to our health.
Glass bakeware isn’t always the safest option, which is why people either opt for ceramics or metal variants. However, don’t let that stop you from using glass dishes. After all, you can still use them to serve cold desserts and warm snacks. All you have to do is pay a bit of attention and that glass bakeware of yours will be useful to you for the years to come.