We all know cooling racks as that handy kitchen tool for setting our just-baked cookies, cakes, and breads on to cool evenly. But have you ever wondered if cooling racks can pull double duty and be used inside the oven too? Not all cooling racks are oven-safe, so it’s important to determine if yours can withstand oven temperatures before tossing them in. Read on to find out everything you need to know about using cooling racks in the oven!
Are Cooling Racks Oven-Safe?
Not all cooling racks are created equal when it comes to oven safety. Many cooling racks are made from materials like stainless steel or chrome-plated steel that can withstand high oven temperatures. Look for labels indicating a rack is oven-safe or check the manufacturer’s guidelines. As a general rule, avoid using any cooling racks treated with non-stick coatings in the oven, as these can warp under heat.
When in doubt, it’s best not to risk it. Using a cooling rack that melts in the oven could potentially ruin your oven and give off toxic fumes. Stick to oven-safe materials like stainless steel, chrome-plated steel, or aluminized steel. If you’re still uncertain about whether your cooling rack can handle the heat, it’s better to be safe than sorry and keep it out of the oven.
Benefits of Using Cooling Racks in the Oven
While cooling racks are designed to help baked goods cool evenly, they can also be used inside your oven to enhance the cooking process. Here are some of the top benefits of using a cooling rack in the oven:
- Allows air circulation – Elevating food on a rack promotes air flow all around for fast, even cooking.
- Prevents dirty baking sheets – With food elevated off the pan, drips fall through the rack and keep baking sheets cleaner.
- Speeds up cooking – Increased airflow cooks food quicker than sitting directly on a pan.
- Delivers crispy results – The circulating air helps create deliciously crispy and evenly browned foods.
- Roasts vegetables perfectly – Cooling racks are ideal for roasted veggies like Brussels sprouts or root vegetables.
- Cooks bacon evenly – Bacon cooked on a rack comes out consistently crispy.
- Enables smoking – A rack provides the ample airflow needed to smoke meat or fish properly in the oven.
- ** Allows dehydrating** – Using a rack prevents fruit leathers or oven-dried tomatoes from scorching.
Oven Cooking Methods Using Cooling Racks
From roasting chicken to making fruit leathers, cooling racks can come in handy for all kinds of oven cooking techniques:
Roasting Meat, Poultry and Vegetables
Placing meat, poultry or veggies on a rack over a baking sheet allows air to circulate completely around the food for perfect roasting. This helps deliver a crisp, caramelized exterior while the inside cooks to juicy perfection. Cooling racks are especially great for roasting things like chicken legs, pork tenderloin, sausages, or root vegetables like carrots and potatoes.
Baking Breaded Foods
Get super crispy results when baking breaded foods like oven-fried chicken, fish sticks or eggplant Parmesan. Elevating breaded foods on a rack lets the hot air flow around them, mimicking deep frying for an ultra crispy crunchy crust.
Broiling Meat, Seafood and Vegetables
For tender, browned results when broiling foods in the oven, use a cooling rack over a broiler pan. The gaps in the rack allow the heat to circulate all around. Broil thin fish fillets, chicken breasts, or veggies like zucchini or eggplant directly on the rack.
Smoking Meat and Fish
To properly smoke foods like salmon, pork shoulder or beef brisket in the oven, ample airflow is essential. Placing the food directly on a cooling rack provides the generous circulation needed for low and slow smoking.
Dehydrating Fruits and Vegetables
Cooling racks are useful when making fruit leathers, oven-dried tomatoes, or apple chips. Elevating the food on a rack allows air flow to prevent scorching or uneven drying for the best texture.
Jerky sliced across a cooling rack and placed in the oven will dry out evenly. The rack suspends the meat to promote air circulation for proper dehydration.
For crisp, evenly cooked bacon, use a cooling rack placed over a baking sheet in the oven. The rack allows the rendered bacon fat to drip off, while the hot air crisps up the bacon perfectly on all sides.
Oven “Fried” Foods
Get all the crispy crunchy flavor of fried food without the grease by oven “frying” on a rack. The circulating air mimics deep frying for ultra crispy oven baked chicken fingers, fries, doughnuts and more.
Choosing the Right Cooling Rack
When selecting a cooling rack for oven use, keep these tips in mind:
- Material – Stainless steel is the most durable and easiest to clean. Chrome-plated steel also works well.
- Coating – Consider a non-stick coating if concerned about food sticking. Avoid non-stick for high oven temperatures.
- Size and shape – Rectangular or square racks are the most versatile. Make sure it fits your baking sheets.
- Bar vs wire grid style – Bar racks are best for small foods falling through the cracks. Grid styles maximize airflow.
- Dishwasher safe – Look for dishwasher safe racks for easy cleaning. Avoid dishwashing non-stick coated racks.
Caring for Cooling Racks
Caring properly for your cooling racks will help them last. Follow these tips:
- Wash racks after each use with hot soapy water using a sponge or nylon scrub brush. Avoid abrasive scouring pads.
- For stuck on food, soak in warm water to loosen, then scrub gently.
- Rinse racks thoroughly after washing and dry completely to prevent rust.
- Check manufacturer instructions to see if your rack is dishwasher safe for easy cleaning.
- Store cooling racks neatly in a cabinet to prevent bending. Hang on a hook if space allows.
While cooling racks are certainly handy for their intended purpose of cooling baked goods, they can also be used right in your oven for better cooking results. Just be sure to verify that your rack is oven-safe first, and avoid non-stick coated varieties for oven use. With the right heat-resistant rack, you can roast vegetables perfectly, cook bacon evenly, get crispy “fried” textures and more. Expand your cooking repertoire by taking advantage of all that versatile cooling racks have to offer!