When a recipe calls for sautéing, browning, searing or stir-frying, you know the heat has to go up. And just as you can’t use some oils at high temperatures, some pots and pans don’t go well with high heat.
The type of cookware you use for high heat cooking can be the difference between a perfectly seared steak and a burnt raw one.
Here, I review what materials perform best at high temperatures and identify some of the best cookware for high heat cooking.
What Is High Heat Cooking and When to Use It?
As the name suggests, cooking with high heat involves preparing food at an elevated temperature for a shorter time.
Of course, this depends on the food and cooking style. For example, when searing a steak, you will need a high temperature setting to quickly cook the outside while leaving the inside cooked, moist, and tender.
In this case, using low heat would only mean waiting for ages to get a perfect sear and probably ending up with an overcooked inside.
Yet, remember that turning the heat up on your stove to insane levels isn’t a faster way of preparing your food!
Although you can cook at high heat on the stovetop, most manufacturers advertise a safe oven temperature for their cookware. The average oven-safe temperature is around 260°C (500°F).
Non-stick cookware or cookware with silicone handles will typically have an oven-safe temperature below 230°C (450°F). As a rule, above 500°F is good.
Cast iron and carbon steel cookware are ideal, as it’s not likely you can damage them in a home oven.
Of course, you don’t stir fry in the oven! So what about the stovetop? Well, usually, something that is oven safe will be stovetop safe to at least that temperature. This is because it is the cooking surface that is the hottest, not the handles.
Sometimes the whole pan needs to be hot though, as you can see in this video, professionals will get the whole of the wok very hot before using it:
High heat cooking may be something more for a chef than a cook. Most food will be OK if cooked at medium or medium-high heat. Yet, with some foods and cooking techniques, very high heat can help get that extra “restaurant quality” factor.
Yet your kitchen stovetop may not actually have the power to generate this heat. In this case you may need something like an outdoor wok station.
Types of Cookware that Can Withstand High Heat Cooking
When it comes to high heat cooking, not all cookware in your kitchen will do. Some can handle the heat while some will burn your food or, even worse, emit smoke and start flaking.
The following are the best cookware materials for high heat cooking;
Due to its incredible durability and heat retention, cast iron makes for perfect high heat cookware.
Most cast iron and carbon steel cookware won’t usually have an oven-safe temperature advertised. This is because it can take pretty much any heat a home oven can throw at it. The melting point of cast iron is 1125°C-1200°C (2060°F-2200°F). You won’t reach that temperature when cooking at home.
But the seasoning can’t always take this much heat. Good seasoning should resist most normal cooking temperatures. If the heat does damage the seasoning, it isn’t hard to replace.
Although quite hefty and requiring some maintenance, cast iron is an excellent material for high heat cooking.
If you’ve never cooked in a cast iron pan or pot, then I recommend trying it. There’s something about both the process and the result that’s really quite different.
Due to its high heat capacity, stainless steel cookware is a popular option for high heat cooking. Additionally, it’s durable, light-weight, and can even acquire seasoning with the right strategy, as you can see in the video below.
Yet stainless steel can be hard to clean as food will stick to it.
Further, in terms of heat conductivity, it’s not great. That’s why a lot of stainless-steel cookware is combined with layers of copper or aluminum.
This combination of cookware materials is perfect for even, safe, high heat cooking.
I would suggest including cast iron and stainless steel pans in your kitchen, as each provides something a bit different.
Carbon steel is lighter than cast iron, both literally and figuratively. It’s almost the same material, but it’s thinner, heats a bit quicker, and retains a bit less heat than cast iron.
Remember, carbon steel pans require seasoning and will rust with just a few uses without proper maintenance. And unlike stainless steel, carbon steel isn’t dishwasher safe.
Generally, I would stick to a cast iron pan instead of a carbon steel skillet, as cast iron provides that extra heat retention.
Yet, carbon steel is the perfect cookware material when it comes to woks. It can take the temperature needed for stir-fries, retains its heat well but is light enough to let you toss your vegetables.
Enameled Cast Iron
Enameled cast iron pans have a cast iron base coated with hard porcelain enamel. This lessens the hassle of using cast iron cookware as it requires no prior seasoning and is easy to clean. Like “bare” cast iron, it can withstand high temperatures and provides an even heat distribution.
On the downside, enameled cast iron is more expensive than cast iron, heavier, and at higher risk of chipping.
Special Ceramic Nonstick Coating
While convention non-stick coatings will break down at high heats, ceramic-coated cookware can withstand up to 425°C (800°F). Just so you can compare, Teflon and similar non-stick coatings will start deteriorating after 260°C (500°F), or less in some cases. Remember to stay away from the dishwasher if you want to preserve the non-stick properties.
Why do Many Cookware Sets have a Separate Oven Safe Temperature for their lids?
Lids, often made of glass, usually have a lower temperature than the cookware. Typically, it’s about 175°C (350°F). Often, when cooking at high heat, you won’t need the lid. If cooking on the stovetop, the lid won’t get as much heat as the pan is in the way.
Best Cookware for High Heat Cooking
All-Clad Brushed D5 Stainless Cookware Set (10pcs)
This 10-piece cookware set boasts superior heat capacity and distribution with a blend of stainless steel and aluminum. The durability of stainless steel along the aluminum’s heat capacity makes this set perfect for safe, high heat cooking.
The entire set is oven safe to 315°C (600°F), including the lids, thus perfect for searing and sautéing. One thing, though, the bottom of the stainless steel pans can discolor with high heat use. Don’t worry too much about this; you can clean it up.
Though they can take some elbow grease to clean, these pots and pans are a great addition to any kitchen. When it comes to aesthetics, their brushed, attractive exterior doesn’t disappoint either.
I also love that they are safe to use on all cooktops, including induction. Visit my in-depth All-Clad D5 Review for more details on how this set performs in the kitchen.
Tips: Don’t add oil until the frying pan is hot and avoid overly abrasive material when cleaning (use stainless steel barkeepers).
- Oven safe to 315°C (600°F)
- Induction compatible
- Set includes enough pieces for everyday cooking
- Comes with lids
- Long handles stay cool
- Dishwasher safe
- Small handles get hot during cooking
- Bottom discolors when used on high heat
- Can be difficult to clean
If you like the performance of the D5, but want something more attractive, All-Clad also offer a very nice looking copper core cookware set. I explain in my review that it’s also 5-ply and has superb cooking performance. It’s very similar to this D5 set, but perhaps slightly more attractive and quite a bit more expensive. Something to consider!
WearEver Nonstick Ceramic Coating Cookware Set, 10-Piece, Gold
This non-stick ceramic cookware set includes 5,3.5, and 3-quart cooking pots; 10.5 and 8-inch frying pans; three universal lids; and two nylon cooking utensils.
These nonstick pans and pots are light-weight but sturdy and feature some of the strongest handles I’ve ever seen on pans.
Yet there are many dissatisfied customers.
For one, the manufacturers advertise a warranty that is quite limited. They don’t cover dishwasher damages, heat discoloration, coating chipping, and flaking.
Straight out of the box, the set is terrific. Yet, there are many reports of it losing it’s non-stick properties after only a few uses.
- Oven safe to 400°C (750°F), lids only to 175°C (350°F)
- Teflon free non-stick coating
- Great price
- Sleek and attractive
- Interchangeable lids
- Reports of sticking after several uses
- Discoloration with high heat use
- Complains of the manufacturer not standing by their warranty
- Reports it’s not dishwasher safe
GreenPan Chatham ceramic Non-Stick 10Pc Cookware Set, Grey
The set comes with two frying pans, one casserole dish, one sauté pan, two saucepans. Everything, except the fry pans, comes with lids.
GreenPan says that they are oven safe to 315°C (600°F) or 220°C (425°F) for lids. This is pretty high, both for non-stick and for lids, covering most home cooking scenarios.
There are some reports about the set becoming more sticky over time and being cumbersome to clean.
This set is probably a good choice if you are looking for non-stick cookware that works at high heat. Beware, though, any non-stick cookware is likely to degrade if repeatedly exposed to very high heat.
- Oven safe to 315°C (600°F), 220°C (425°F) for lids
- Healthy ceramic coating
- Great price for a ceramic 10-piece
- Dishwasher safe
- Reports of losing non-stick property
- Not suitable for induction cooking
Lodge Pre-Seasoned Cast-Iron Combo Cooker, 2-Piece Set, 10.25″, Black
If you are familiar with Lodge’s cookware, you know their cast iron pans do it all. From searing to Dutch oven cooking, you can rely on this combo cooker for everyday use.
I love the incredible versatility of the set. It can work as a Dutch oven, a fryer, and a deep skillet. I like that the lid also doubles up as a cast-iron skillet.
This cast-iron pan and Dutch oven combo are great for any amount of home cooking heat.
This set promises you even heating, natural, easy-release finish, durability, and versatility with proper seasoning. Cast iron also produces some of the most flavorful dishes.
Lodge has pre-seasoned this cookware set, but it’s always a good idea to add a little seasoning of your own. Simply wash, dry, coat with vegetable oil, and heat until it smokes. (Or check out my guide to seasoning cast iron).
If you treat this set with care, it will be among your best cookware for high heat cooking for a long time.
- Oven safe to over 1000°C (2000°F)
- Works on all cooktops
- Safe for high heat cooking
- Genuinely non-stick when seasoned well
- Great price
- Lid doubles as fry pan
- Takes more effort to clean and maintain
Bruntmoor enameled 2-In-1 Cast Iron Cookware
This enameled cast iron set features a 3-qt skillet and a lid that doubles up as a shallow frying pan or griddle. The multi-cooker also comes with an impressive red-white contrast, which would add a splash of color to any kitchen.
When it comes to performance, this cookware performs just as it looks. It requires no prior seasoning, cleanup is a breeze and stands up to high heat abuse.
Enameled cast iron itself is typically safe for all regular home cooking temperatures. The problem often comes with any handles, which can be plastic or other metals.
So it’s great to see that the handles on this multi-cooker are enameled cast iron, meaning this cookware is oven-safe at high heat.
The ceramic enamel cooking surface doesn’t need seasoning as the enamel layer protects the cast iron.
For lasting durability, I recommend avoiding the dishwasher and handwashing instead.
The enamel interior should be naturally non-stick. This is the case here, but it’s not perfect as there are some customer reports of sticking. I recommend pre-heating and using some vegetable oil before adding food to minimize any sticking.
- Great price
- Easy to clean
- Suitable for high heat cooking
- Integral enameled cast iron handles
- Lid doubles as frying pan
- Reports of sticking
Craft Wok Traditional Hand Hammered Carbon Steel
If you want to stir fry properly, then you need a carbon steel wok. The carbon steel helps maintain a high temperature by not cooling when then food touches it. It can also reach a higher temperature than other cookware materials.
This craft wok is ideal for stir-frying on a gas stove or burner. It won’t work well on an induction stove or electric stove because of the round bottom.
It’s designed for high heat cooking, meaning you can cook traditional stir-fries. The “hammered” look makes it very attractive if you are stir-frying in front of guests (as the fashion dictates these days.)
I’m not so keen on the wooden handle, which doesn’t reach the quality of the rest of the pan, yet the high-quality metal helper handle more than makes up for it.
Pro tip: Use the wooden handle to turn the pan when stir-frying. When you lift the pan, use the metal helper handle (wearing oven mitts, of course!)
Pro tip 2: If you want to wok at really high heat, consider getting a dedicated wok burner.
Beware: this is for gas stoves or burners only, not electric or induction stoves.
- Sturdy and well built
- Metal helper handle is excellent for high heat
- Helper handle is ideal for hanging wok to store
- High heat conductivity
- The wooden handle can sometimes become a bit loose
- Wok laden with food is a bit heavy for wooden handle on its own
As I mentioned, this is only really suitable for gas stoves. Check out my guide to gas stove pots and pans, if you want other cookware for your stove.
Best Cookware for High Heat Cooking
The Lodge Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Combo Cooker is my best high heat cookware. Besides working on all cooktops, this set is heat resistant both on the stove and in the oven. When properly seasoned, it’s also impressively non-stick and produces truly flavorful meals.
This cooker can be used on all cooking surfaces, including stoves, grills, and campfires, but isn’t recommended for glass top stoves (in case it scratches them).
I love the 2 in 1 feature with the lid doubling up as a cast-iron skillet, saving you some space.
With proper care and maintenance, this combo set is sure to give you a genuine non-stick experience with high heat cooking for decades.
Cast iron always is naturally suited to cooking at high heat. If the Lodge combo cooker isn’t what you are looking for, then check out my cast iron cookware roundup.
Still not convinced? There are some other choices out there:
- Carbon steel pans will always be suitable for high heat. Choose any of them if you just want a pan that can take the heat.
- High heat cooking is ideal for stir fry as it gives you a crispy exterior instead of mushy dinner. Check out my carbon steel wok roundup for more.
- Cast Iron Griddles are also ideal for high heat. They will take a while to reach the right temperature though. I like the two burner ones as you can sear several steaks at the same time.