Why do steel pans have handles made of plastic/wood?
Choosing the kind of handles that your cookware has is almost as important a decision as choosing the cookware itself. The kind of handle that you have on your cookware can completely change the way that you cook in your kitchen.
Plastic and wood handles are often chosen because they are heat-resistant and provide the ability for the user to touch the cookware without a pot holder. However, these styles of handle also have drawbacks.
There are many different options when it comes to pot handles. Different cookware companies make handles from materials such as stainless steel, iron, aluminium, glass, silicone, plastic, wood, nickel, copper and even brass. Steel pans commonly have handles made from plastic or wood, although not all steel cookware has a plastic or wood handle; some steel cookware has metal handles.
Plastic handles are generally made from Phenolic plastic, which is a kind of plastic designed to take high heats without melting or warping. This is useful for cookware because hobs can get extremely hot. This is also a benefit in the dishwasher, which can often melt plastics during the drying cycle. Silicone, another type of plastic, is also sometimes used, which can withstand heats of nearly 537 degrees C. Silicone is often seen in cookware designed for stove or oven use.
Wood is another material often seen on steel cookware. Wood handles are inexpensive to make, and are easy to attach to the cookware. Most wooden handles are screwed right to the pot with screws or bolts. Wood handles also keep the high heat of cookware off of the cook's hands by providing an area on the pot that is safe to touch with bare hands.
Plastic offers several benefits to a professional or part-time cook. Plastic is easy to clean, and does not conduct heat well. This means that there is no danger of burning your hands when grabbing a pot handle. In fact, it is unlikely that a plastic handle will ever get hot enough to feel more than just warm to the touch. Wood has its own set of benefits. Wood is resistant to heat as well as plastic. It can remain cool throughout most hob tasks. Wood will often feel cooler to the touch than plastic handles.
Plastic handles are susceptible to chipping and loosening. They can also melt if they touch a heating element directly, or if placed in a hot oven. Wood handles will corrode over time, and may dry and crack if routinely washed in a dishwasher.