Cast Iron Cookware Handles: FAQs

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If you’ve never absentmindedly reached for the handle on your cast iron skillet only to abruptly pull your hand back and yell out something that would make your grandma blush…have you even cooked with cast iron? 

I’ve done exactly that so many times that I would probably make it onto at least a couple true crime podcast episodes – my fingerprints are practically nonexistent. 

But if you’re one of the lucky ones with all your original ridges and swoops, you should try your best to keep it that way. Hand burns are a huge pain, literally. 

Luckily, I’ve learned from my mistakes, and I want to bestow all of my knowledge to you. These answers to all the cast iron cookware handle FAQs will save you a whole lot of tears, Neosporin, and money for the swear jar. 

So let’s get into it!

Do Cast Iron Pan Handles Get Hot? 

As it turns out, one of the biggest things to love about cast iron cookware (the reasonable price point) AND one of the most intimidating things about it stem from the same trait: the fact that almost all pieces are one big, solid hunk of metal.

This folksy construction is great when it’s saving you a couple bucks, but it also means that the handles of cast iron cookware get nearly as hot as the cooking surface itself. Cast iron is a conductive material, and when there’s no separation of handle and pan, heat is free to spread every which way, totally unimpeded. 

So if you’ve got a bunch of stuff going on in the kitchen and grab a hot cast iron skillet handle absentmindedly, that mistake could land you in the emergency room. Or, at the very least, with a little less ice in your freezer.

Cookware pieces made from multiple components aren’t quite as prone to hot handles. For one thing, thermal transfer from one entity to another is a much slower process than heat conduction across a single entity. 

Additionally, handles on pieces like these are often made from bent sheet metal, not solid metal. The more of the handle’s overall mass that gets exposed to its cooler surroundings, the less it retains heat. 

How to Choose the Best Handle Cover for Your Cast Iron Pan

Yes, hot handles are an inevitable part of cooking with cast iron – but don’t let that scare you away! Fortunately, there are a lot of ways you can bust out that heirloom skillet and chef it up worry-free.

One of the best ways to keep your hands cool while you’re getting that enviable sear on your steak? Handle covers!

And with plenty of options for these nifty doodads on the market these days, you’re sure to find something that works for you. Here are some pros and cons for each of the popular choices:

Silicone Handle Covers For Cast Iron

Silicone is probably the most widely available style of cast iron handle cover. Do a quick Google search, and most of the results are made from this stretchy, heat-resistant miracle of modern manufacturing. 

However, just because something is standard doesn’t mean it’s right for you. I’ll give you all my insights and let you be the judge!

  • (Mostly) Oven-safe: If your cooking repertoire involves a lot of stovetop to oven maneuvers, you’ll like that you can transfer your skillet without having a melty mess on your hands. Provided you stay within the handle cover’s optimal temperature range, that is.
  • Works as described: Some silicone handle covers will provide more insulation than others, depending on the thickness of the silicone. But even the thinnest handle cover significantly improves the safety of handling a hot skillet.
  • Helps you get a grip: Silicone’s rubbery texture can give you some extra gripping power – much needed with the infamously heavy cast iron.
  • Sizing woes: A silicone handle cover that’s too snug will be difficult to put on, and nearly impossible after the skillet is hot since you’ll need two hands. But go too big, and you risk the pan sliding out- bye Bye-bye dinner, hello foot burns. 
  • Keep away from open flames: If you have a gas stove with a particularly high flame, then you may come back from a bathroom break to a partially charred handle cover and a nasty burnt plastic smell. Silicone is heat resistant, NOT flame retardant. 

Leather Handle Covers For Cast Iron

If someone were to claim natural materials can’t outperform synthetics and I was trying to prove them wrong, leather handle covers would be my exhibit A. 

Sure, they can’t do EVERYTHING that silicone handle covers can do. But when it comes to the things that both can accomplish, leather does it better.

  • Like a fire blanket for your fingies: I can’t overstate how little heat gets through with a leather cover. So go ahead, and toss those ingredients until you get sore! The only burn you’ll feel is in your arm muscles.
  • The cover fits…no “ifs”: Some covers have the same fit issues as their silicone counterparts, but there are others that have a wraparound flap that ensures a perfect fit- every time, every pan. 
  • Goes with the flow: You can put on leather covers after the pan gets hot, before…whatever you vibe with. You can even switch it from skillet to skillet without a second thought.
  • Doesn’t mix with ovens: Unlike silicone, you can rule out any kind of oven usage with a leather handle cover. However, given how easy they are to get on and off, you may find you don’t even need it. Just toss the cover on when you need to remove your skillet from the oven and you’ll be ready to rock!
  • Turns your kitchen into a tannery: It seems obvious in hindsight, but I wasn’t prepared for my house to smell like a saddlery shop while I broke in my handle cover. The heat really amplifies that leathery scent! Of course, if you enjoy that, maybe this is a pro for you; I just missed my husband wandering in and asking, “Whatcha cooking? Smells AMAZING!”

Fabric Handle Covers For Cast Iron

At face value, fabric covers may not seem that sturdy compared to leather and silicone. But don’t underestimate them! 

The wealth of positive Amazon reviews and Redditors who swear by them is proof of their rightful place among the top picks.

  • Keeps your paws protected: Depending on how thick the quilting of the covers is, fabric is about as reliable a heat protectant as leather. And if you’re one of those plant-based peeps, vegan to boot!
  • Inexpensive and DIY-able: Fabric handle covers are as cost-effective as silicone store-bought, around $10 for a multipack. But unlike silicone handle covers, you can also get a little crafty and make them yourself with stuff you probably have sitting around the house. 
  • Easy to maneuver: Fabric handle covers are easy to get on and off, even when your pan is piping hot.
  • Here for a good time, not a long time: Fabric isn’t the best material to leave on a hot handle for extended periods. While it provides short-term protection from heat, it heats up pretty quickly with extended contact. Depending on what it’s made of, it could even be flammable, so keep it away from open flames. 
  • Not oven safe: You probably inferred this from the last bullet point, but uh…Yeah. No ovens for fabric handle covers.

Can You Leave a Silicone Handle Cover On Cast Iron?

Browse the reviews on Amazon for silicone handle covers. You’ll see a few common gripes- gripes I tend to agree with. 

In the interest of brevity, I’ll sum them up for you: there’s no good answer as to whether or not you should leave silicone handle covers on or off, and either way, you run the risk of getting burned. 

If you leave one on when you’re cooking, it’ll likely get too hot for you to pick up the pan. Unless you’re just using a handle cover to be able to give the skillet a shake every now and then, leaving it on pretty much defeats the purpose. 

And if silicone is exposed to roasting temperatures for too long, it can dry out and crack.

However, putting it on just before you need to grab the handle is no good, either. Sure, you could finagle it, but if the handle cover fits well, you’ll probably need two hands to put it on. 

If you can just slip the cover on, then it’s not tight enough and you run the risk of slippage or spillage. 

So in summary, the answer is yes, you can leave the silicone handle cover on provided you’re not exceeding its temperature maximums. But if you want to use it effectively, you may not want to.

Are Silicone Handles Safe for Oven Use?

Silicone handles and handle covers are generally safe for oven use, to an extent that is. 

Typically, silicone handles/handle covers have a maximum heat tolerance of anywhere from 400-475 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Make sure you check the manufacturer’s specs for the limits specific to your model. 

That being said, you should still exercise caution before you just grab a handle that’s been in the oven. 

As we’ve established, silicone is heat resistant, but it can still be pretty hot to the touch if it’s exposed to high temperatures for a long time. Before you remove anything, touch it with your fingertip to make sure it’s a safe handling temperature. If you’re at all unsure, play it safe; take it out with a potholder or oven mitt instead. 

You don’t want to be holding on to a heavy, hot skillet that you end up dropping. 

How to Safely Handle Hot Cast Iron Pan Handles

You didn’t think you could just use handle covers and call it a day, did you? Sorry, friend; we’ve only scratched the surface of hot cast iron handling safety!

Handle covers are great, don’t get me wrong! But you’ll want to use them in conjunction with other safety measures to keep burns at bay. 

Oven Mitts

In my opinion, oven mitts are the gold standard for cast iron cookware burn prevention. 

They aren’t attached to the pan in any way, so they stay cool, but you also have full maneuverability of your hands! Bonus points if you have oven mitts with fingers or grip.

The only downside is that you have to remember to put them on. If you’re used to cooking with pans whose handles don’t get hot, you may be better off using a handle cover for tossing or turning the pan and using an oven mitt for extra support when you move the pan, lest you grab the handle absentmindedly. 

Pot Holders

Pot holders are a notch below oven mitts, just because they don’t provide full hand coverage and you have to have them in the right position to avoid burns. 

However, they’re still a good option if you don’t have a handle cover on hand. 

Even if you do, you’ll need a second hand for stability while moving the pan, and they’re awesome in that scenario. 

Handle Covers

We’ve gone over handle covers in detail already, so I won’t bore you with repetitive background info, here. 

What I will say is this: unless you have forearms of steel, never, NEVER pick up a cast iron pan by the handle alone, even if you have a handle cover on. They’re too heavy and the angle you have to hold them at so they don’t tip is too awkward for most people to pull that off. 

What Are the Best Practices for Cleaning Cast Iron Handles?

You should clean the handle of your cast iron cookware the same way you clean the rest of the pan! 

Here are some tips and tricks to keep your cast iron in good health.

  • De-grime, don’t degrease: Use small amounts of mild soap to wash your cast iron skillet. There’s no need to use a heavy degreasing soap; you’ll strip it of the polymerized fats that give it its slick surface. Also, don’t attempt to scrape off any caked-on bits of food. Instead, simmer some water in it for about 15 minutes to loosen up any residual gunk. 
  • Don’t rinse with cold water while the pan is still hot: Doing so causes thermal shock, which can in turn damage the structure of the pan. 
  • Dry it right away: Letting your cast iron cookware air-dry usually means rust. In addition to not being safe to cook with, rusty cast iron is brittle. 
  • Season with an oil of your choice after it’s dry: Use a small amount of oil and spread it over the surface with a paper towel the way you would put lotion on your skin. 

Which Is Better for Cast Iron Cookware: Built-in Handles, or Removable Handle Covers?

Remember how I said most cast iron cookware is made from one solid hunk of metal? Well, now we’re going to talk about the ones that aren’t. 

Yep, that’s right- some cast iron cookware was made with the age-old hot handle problem in mind. These higher-end pieces have attached handles that keep their cool better than the competition.

But if this was a perfect solution for everyone, they would’ve stopped making the old-school cast iron cookware by now. Since they haven’t, it’s safe to say that built-in handles aren’t the miracle cure they seem to be. 

Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons! 

Built-in Handles

Whenever I see cast iron pan handles made from something other than cast iron, they’re usually wood or stainless steel. Cast iron with a wood handle is the standard for crepe pans, and it’s also common for cookware used in Japanese cuisine.  

But given the amount of kitchen innovation I’ve seen in my lifetime, I won’t rule other materials out. The pros and cons here are less dependent on the material of the handle and more dependent on the oven safety of the handle.

Even so, most of this info applies to any cast iron pan with a separate built-in handle. So let’s dive in!

  • Easy to grab without getting burned (duh): Pretty self-explanatory- a built-in handle allows for safe handling no matter how hot the cooking surface of the pan is.
  • Lighter: Handles wouldn’t strike you as significant in terms of adding to the overall bulkiness of cast iron cookware. But it’s notable how much heft gets cut by replacing the handle with a lighter material.
  • More expensive: You can get a quality cast iron skillet for 30 bucks out the door- but if it has a built-in handle on it? You’re looking at $100 or more for a reliable piece since making it was a much more involved process than traditional cast iron cookware.
  • Not always oven-safe: It goes without saying, but anything with a wood handle is a hard pass on the oven. Same with most plastics.

Removable Handle Covers

Once again, we’ve already covered cast iron cookware handles in probably more detail than you ever thought you needed, so I won’t go all broken record on you. 

But since we’re on the topic, it’s important to touch on how they stack up against built-in handles. It’ll help you decide whether springing for cast iron cookware with a separate handle is worth it.  

  • Inexpensive: A cast iron pan with a built-in heat-resistant handle will cost you about $70 more than a standard pan. In contrast, a 6 pack of silicone handle covers will run you about $10 on Amazon. Even the fanciest handle covers top out at $40ish.
  • Interchangeable: You don’t have to pick a piece and commit to it with a handle cover! You can use it on any of your cast iron pieces, current or future. You can even use it on other types of cookware where handle heat might be an issue, like carbon steel or stainless steel.
  • Can keep your hands cooler than a built-in handle: Since you can remove the handle cover from the hot pan when you’re not using it, it’s less likely to get too hot than an attached handle.
  • Fit issues: Not every handle cover will fit every handle perfectly, and a poor-fitting handle cover can have disastrous results.
  • More likely to get damaged, needing replacement: This is mainly a concern with gas stoves that have an open flame, but any cover is prone to damage at high enough temperatures. Fabric and silicone covers can get brittle with frequent use. 

How to Protect Your Hands When Cooking with Cast Iron on High Heat

Pot holders, oven mitts, and handle covers will always be the first line of defense against cast iron injuries. 

But there’s even more you can do to keep yourself safe around a piping-hot skillet! Here are my top 3 pro tips.

Invest In A Splatter Guard

Grabbing a hot pan is the main way people hurt themselves when they’re cooking with cast iron. There’s another more insidious danger, though: hot oil splatters

Fortunately, a nice splatter guard will keep you safe from any rogue oil droplets. So while you’re already shopping for cast iron accessories I’d recommend picking one up. 

Also, safety first and all, but a splatter guard will make your after-dinner cleanup a snap. No more greasy stovetops!

Turn Handles Inward

Even when you’re not actively handling the pan, a hot handle still poses a risk to your hands (and the rest of your body). 

If the hot handle is sticking out off your stovetop, there’s a chance you could brush up against it while you’re going about the rest of your kitchen activities

Turning the handle away from you pretty much eliminates that prospect altogether.  

Narrate Your Movements

Anyone who’s worked in the restaurant industry probably already does this out of habit. I haven’t been a waitress for ten years, but I still catch myself saying “behind” when I walk behind someone. 

It’s useful in home kitchens, too. 

If there’s anyone in the kitchen with you and you’ve got a hot pan in your hands, make sure you keep them aware of where you are. 

Channel your inner David Attenborough and narrate your movements: say “behind” when you’re walking behind someone, or “corner” if you’re coming around a corner.  It’ll keep you and them out of harm’s way. 

Can You Use Cast Iron Cookware on All Stovetops?

Good news: no matter what kind of stovetop you have, you can still be part of the cast iron cookware club!

On that note, you should keep a few things in mind if you want your venture to be successful.


  • Heat low and slow: Gas stoves heat up cookware expeditiously, so there’s no need to crank up your burner to high heat! If you heat your pan too fast, you might end up with a brittle or cracked skillet. And if you manage to keep your pan in one piece, you’ll certainly have to deal with hot spots when you’re cooking. On a gas stove, low-medium heat is optimal for cast iron cookware.
  • Watch out for high flames if you have a handle cover on: We touched on this before, but handle covers aren’t fire-proof no matter what they’re made of. So stay vigilant of those open flames!
  • Reduce the heat once your pan is hot enough: Cast iron is famous for its heat retention capabilities, so take full advantage and save some gas while you’re at it! After the pan is sufficiently hot, you can dial down your burner setting to low.


  • Take your time: Like gas stoves, induction stovetops heat up quickly. Since cast iron does best with gradual heat exposure, don’t turn up the heat super high. I know it’s tempting since cast iron already takes like, a million years to get hot. But be patient – your cast iron cookware will thank you with decades of service. 
  • Lift, don’t slide: Cast iron isn’t perfectly smooth – it’s okay! We like it that way! Your induction stove’s glass top might not though. If you slide your skillet around to toss the food instead of lifting it, you’ll scratch up that pretty cooktop of yours.
  • Be gentle: When you throw down your skillet, don’t actually throw it down. It’s far too heavy! Set it down gently. Otherwise, you’ll have a broken stovetop before you can say “bon appetit”.


  • Mind the glass: If you have a glass electric stovetop, then use your cast iron pan gingerly. Set it down softly, and don’t slide it around on the burner. 
  • You can’t beat medium heat: Whether you have an electric stove with coil burners or one with a glass top, you should heat up your skillet over medium heat. You don’t need to be as cautious with your burner settings as you would with a gas or induction stovetop, since electric stoves take the longest to heat up.

Do Cast Iron Cookware Handles Need Seasoning?

You might think you can skip the handles when you’re oiling up your skillet – but think again! 

While you don’t necessarily need to make the surface of the handles non-stick, you’ll want to keep them from rusting. Seasoning is the most surefire way to do that.

The same goes for maintenance. 

Of course, if your piece is pre-seasoned, you can skip the initial seasoning process and just wipe it with a paper towel and the seasoning oil of your choice after each use.

How to Season Cast Iron Cookware Handles

You’ll season cast iron handles the same way you season the rest of the pan! If you need a refresher, here’s the best way to do that. 

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  2. Scrub up…just not too hard! Give your pan a wash to make sure you have an immaculate canvas for your seasoning masterpiece. Remember, cast iron is bulky, but it’s also a delicate flower. Avoid using anything too harsh, like excessive amounts of dish soap or brillo scrubbers.
  3. Grab a sturdy paper towel or an oil applicator and your seasoning oil. It’s time to give your pan some much-needed pampering. Massage the oil into the surface of the pan, including the handle. You shouldn’t use so much that it pools or drips off, but the pan should feel moisturized.
  4. Put the pan in the oven face down and set a timer for an hour. Remove it when the time is up, give it a while to cool down, and take stock of your progress. If there are any dry spots, repeat the process from step 2. 
  5. Once the pan is shiny and slick, you’re good to go! Try to avoid overdoing it on seasoning. The patina can and will flake off in chunks if it’s too thick. 

Cast Iron Cookware Brands and Their Handles

Maybe you’re curious how your pan stacks up in terms of its handle, or you’re trying to get the lowdown before you buy. 

Wherever you’re at in your cast iron journey, knowing your way around the popular manufacturers comes in handy. Each major brand of cast iron cookware has its own je ne sais quoi and its own loyal following. 


Can I just say: Lodge is a national treasure. They’ve got over 100+ years of rich history making durable, safe, and reliable products at accessible prices. You don’t need to shell out $100+ to get quality cast iron cookware- and it’s really Lodge we have to thank for it. 

Their cast iron cookware is just as at home over a campfire as it is on your stovetop. Is it the most sophisticated brand on this list? Not by a long shot. Their pieces haven’t changed much since their founding – and that includes the handles. Picture a cast iron skillet in your head, and you’ve got a lodge skillet.

However, they haven’t shied away from innovation entirely. Even though their cookware is no-frills, nowadays a lot of it comes with its own silicone handle cover. 

Also, Dolly Parton has a line of Lodge skillets engraved with portraits of her, so that’s pretty cool. 

Le Creuset

Can you say “kitchen goals”? If Lodge is Levi’s, then the French brand Le Creuset is Dior. 

Not only are their pieces available in over 20 covetable colors, but they’re also THE authority on enameled cast iron. Full stop. 

But how are they in the handle department? Well, turns out fashion doesn’t necessarily equal function – at least in this instance. Le Creuset handles are still prone to overheating like any other cast iron pot or pan. 

Their Dutch ovens have a stainless steel knob on the lid. According to their use instructions, this also heats up pretty quickly and requires hand protection at high temperatures.


Staub is a lot like Le Creuset: high-end, top-of-the-line cast iron pieces made lovingly in France. 

They don’t have quite the color range that Le Creuset does, but what they lack in color options they make up for in variety. They have infinite sizes and configurations to fit every culinary need. 

But, as it turns out,  even the high-end brands still haven’t figured out how to keep cast iron cookware’s handles cool to the touch. Staub touts their ergonomic handle design, which is awesome, but they still recommend using something to protect your hands. 

Another notable thing about Staub’s handles: some of them are non-standard, so their handle covers are pricier and harder to come by. When I checked, compatible handle covers were an additional $50 on top of the high price point of the pan itself. At that point, you’re probably better off using an oven mitt. 

Smithey Ironware

Smithey Ironware’s cast iron cookware is a new obsession of mine. I can’t tell you how often I’ve found myself reaching for my Smithey skillet lately. Hand-forged in The Holy City (Charleston, SC), these versatile, pre-seasoned pieces complete any kitchen beautifully with their unique hammered copper look. 

Oh, and if you buy one, give your lawyer a call – you’ll have something you’ll need to add to your will. A Smithey pan is an heirloom if there ever was one. You can even have them custom engraved so your legacy will live on through every meal your loved ones cook!

All of this on its own would have been enough to make me a Smithey stan, but it was their handles that really sealed the deal for me. 

Unlike some other high-end cast iron cookware brands, Smithey leveled up the classic skillet design with their attached handle models. 

This ergonomic, lightweight handle is also made of their premium hand-forged cast iron. There’s no need to contend with a different material’s needs and limitations. You can treat it the same way you would the rest of the pan. 

Comfy fingers with no guessing games- it doesn’t get much better than that!


If you like your pans to double as conversation pieces, look no further than Finex. 

Instantly recognizable with a trademark hexagonal shape, Finex cookware is definitely worth the splurge. 

And it’s not just their unique look that sets Finex apart- these babies are functional workhorses! Pre-seasoned, polished, and guaranteed to be “Good Forever”, Finex cast iron cookware is ready for anything you throw at it. 

That killer combo of aesthetic and functional excellence even extends to their handles. Finex designed their wacky, coil-shaped stainless steel/brass handles to fit comfortably into your hand, mitt-free. The signature spiral exposes as much of the handle to the surrounding air as possible, which means it’ll be cool to the touch for you no matter how scorching hot the cooking surface of the pan gets. 

How To Check If Your Handle Cover Is Secure And Heat-Resistant

Covers should always be snug against handles – the alternative can spell disaster. 

So how do you tell if that’s the case?

Well, it usually becomes clear whether they fit when you try to lift the pot or pan. If your handle cover fits poorly, you’ll notice the pan tilting and twisting in your hands. Don’t attempt to test this out when the pan is hot, though! Give the handle covers a trial run when the pan is empty and unheated before you put them to work.

How much the cover insulates the heat from the pan is also a “try it and see” type of thing, albeit one you’ll go about differently. 

To gauge a cover’s heat resistance, give the outfitted handle a light touch first. If that’s comfortable, move on to grabbing it for a few seconds straight. Once you’ve determined all is well there, lift it above a surface where you can easily and quickly set it down if it gets too hot. Remember that gravity will force the pan to press up against your hand.

If it passes those tests, you can rest assured your hands are protected.

Signs That a Handle Cover Needs Replacement

Unlike cast iron cookware, handle covers don’t typically become heirloom pieces. They’ll need to be replaced from time to time. 

Besides charring, which is an instant toss, here are some signs it’s time to start shopping for some new ones. 

The Handle Cover Is Starting To Get Brittle

I’ve noticed this mainly with fabric and silicone handle covers, but I can’t say for sure it wouldn’t happen with leather, too. 

If you give your handle cover a squeeze and it feels like a stale croissant, it’s time to retire it. It’s only a matter of time before it rips, and you don’t want that to happen mid-move. 

The Handle Cover’s Seams Are Coming Loose

This one only applies to covers with stitching, of course, but when a handle cover’s seams start to come loose, it’s on its final days. 

Once again, if you ignore this, the cover could come apart at a less-than-optimal time. It’s best to just be proactive and replace it at that point. 

Cast iron skillet handles

Final Thoughts

Many a hand has been burned by a cast iron skillet handle…but it doesn’t have to be that way.

From oven mitts to pot holders, to handle covers, to effective communication, you’ve got options on options. 

So the next time you hesitate when you reach for that cast iron pan, swallow that lump in your throat and go for it! With a little bit of presence of mind, you can easily cook with cast iron and live to tell the tale. 

About Author

Tia Goodnight

Hey! I'm Tia, and I started this site to bring you the best information on all things kitchen so you can enjoy and elevate your everyday life.

I love trying new techniques and tools, living for the thrill of pulling off a new skill. On weekends you'll find me at the local farmer's markets or hosting friends and family for an evening of yard or card games and delicious food.

If you're looking for honest, real-world advice on all things kitchen and cooking, you're in the right place!