The Hottest Multi-Purpose Kitchen Tool
Cooling racks are one of the most important pieces of equipment in your entire kitchen. It might not seem like it, but the humble cooling rack can make or break many dishes. Honestly, it will make your life much easier if you have them around.
Don’t let yourself be fooled by thinking that cooling racks are limited solely to letting your cooked food cool down. There’s much more than meets the eye when it comes to your cooling racks.
If you’ve been wondering can cooling racks go in the oven, or are they just for letting food rest and cool down, you’re in for a pleasant surprise. Cooling racks absolutely can go in the oven. In fact, you probably should use them to hold items while they’re roasting as well.
It should be noted that there are a few exceptions, which we will discuss in a bit.
For now, let’s take a look at all of the things your cooling racks can and can’t do.
What are Cooling Racks, After All?
Cooling racks by design are quite simple. They are typically a flat, metal surface forming a non-stick wire rack. They are designed to allow your food to rest and cool off after it’s been roasted in the oven. The biggest deciding factor in whether your cooling racks are oven safe is the material.
Traditional roasting racks are usually made of iron bars or of stainless steel, both of which are absolutely oven safe. Any kind of metal will be able to be heated and reheated nearly endlessly (a conventional home oven probably won’t get hot enough to actually burn and damage the metal but be sure to consult the manufacturer’s guide as some cooling racks are only rated to maximum temperatures) you’ll just need to be careful that you use an oven-safe mitten while handling to prevent yourself from being burned.
Some cooling racks are made of rubber or polyurethane. These materials should not be placed in a high-heat oven. Only metal cooking racks should be used in the oven. The question remains of course, why would you use something called a “cooling rack” as actually an oven roasting rack?
Cooling Racks or Roasting Racks?
Using a cooling rack to roast your next dish can be an excellent idea. There are actually some unique benefits you can get by using your cooling rack to roast dishes. One major benefit is that the overall cooking temperature can be much more evenly distributed.
By placing the meat you’re cooking on top of a high-quality stainless steel wire rack, you’ll get more uniform cooking. This is because the airflow will fully surround and circulate across your dinner. As an added bonus, you can place a sheet pan below the cooling rack and collect the drippings which you can then turn into a gravy or save for use later on.
If you’re going to be using your cooling rack for oven roasting, make sure that is not dipped in a non-stick coating. When the chemicals that form a non-stick coating are exposed to high heat, it can be unhealthy and create a leaching effect of the chemicals into your food.
The non-stick particles that make these surfaces so smooth can actually flake off and attach themselves to your food! This will ruin your cooking rack, and you definitely don’t want to consume non-stick chemical particles.
Your cooking racks can go into the oven as long as they are made of a solid stainless steel construction and are not non-stick. Most stainless steel racks will be able to survive in fairly hot ovens, even up to 450 or even 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Make sure to check with your specific manufacturer’s instructions before putting your cooking rack in the oven.
It should be noted that non-stick cooking racks must be washed by hand. If you place anything that claims to be non-stick into a dishwasher, the dishwasher will actually strip away the non-stick coating and ruin the equipment.
Considering that chrome-coated iron racks are one of the most affordable options, they’re also among the most popular cooling racks you can buy. Some may wonder if chrome-coated racks are safe for use in a conventional oven.
Chrome coated racks must be used exclusively for cooking since the high heat from an oven will quickly destroy the layer of chrome coating and ruin your cooling rack.
Similar to non-stick options, the flakes of chrome can actually become loose and end up lodged within your food, which is the last place you want chrome-plated materials to be. There have even been studies published by the National Institute of Health warning against the use of chrome-plated cookware due to their tendency to leach nickel and chromium into your food.
Given the potential health concerns with chrome-coated cookware, it’s best to leave them far away from high heat and ovens. To recap, as long as your cooling rack is not non-stick or chrome plated, it’s safe to use in the oven up to the maximum heat limit.
Using Your Cooling Rack as a Cooling Rack
At the risk of stating the obvious, you don’t need to use your racks as roasting racks. You can simply use cooling racks to hold any recently roasted meat or veggies to allow them to cool, or to provide an easy access platform to apply seasoning while the food cools down to an edible temperature.
One lesser-known trick for cooling racks is actually not to use them to cool food at all, but instead to use them as a detailing platform for baking! If you want a steady, solid platform to ice or put the finishing touches on cakes, cookies, brownies, or more, metal cooling racks can be a great tool. You can use your metal cooling racks to hold your baked treats while you apply the finishing touches.
This is a great use for non-stick cooling racks as well since you won’t be placing them into the oven and probably don’t want to have to fight with your cooling rack trying to keep your food stuck to it!
Be sure to place paper towels or another easy-to-throw-away item below your cooling rack so that you can catch any frosting, sprinkles, chocolate chips, or other toppings that fall onto the table!
When to Retire Your Cooling Rack
Even the most hearty oven-safe cooling rack will eventually start to show signs of age and wear. Once the metal starts to appear discolored, burnt, or even possibly feel brittle it’s likely a sign that it’s beginning to wear out.
While metal is extremely durable, repeated heating and cooling will damage the molecular structure of the metal, making it more brittle and prone to breakage over time. Generally, you have to reach very high temperatures to trigger this process, although repeated use over months or years will slowly wear out your metal.
When an object heats up, its molecules vibrate quickly and expand. When it cools down, the molecular structure contracts. While doing this once or twice actually makes the metal even stronger, everything has its breaking point.
If your cooling rack breaks while you’re using it, you’ll end up having your dinner or dessert splattered all over your table! More to clean, and you’ll have to start cooking from scratch! It’s much easier to just go ahead and retire your old discolored and brittle cooling racks before they cause you a headache.
Wrapping Up Your Cooling Racks
In summary, as long as your cooling rack is made of high-quality steel or iron, and is not chrome or non-stick coated, it is safe to put in the oven. As long as you don’t exceed the maximum temperature recommended by your manufacturer, you won’t have anything to worry about.
It should be noted that if you are working with chrome or non-stick coated cooling racks, those will need to stay cool and should not be placed in the oven or in any high heat situation. This is because there can be adverse health consequences caused by the non-stick and chrome particles that can flake off during use.
Now that you know the answer to “can cooling racks go in the oven?” you’re ready to take your roasting to the next level!