Most of the time you will find cooking utensils with wood, plastic, or rubber handles on the market.
You still find cooking utensils with metal handles, but not so much.
Why is wood, rubber, or plastic more preferable than metal as cooking utensil handles?
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Why are handles of cooking utensils usually made from wood, plastic or rubber?
Normally cooking utensils are made of metal which is a heat conductor. When cooking utensils are put on the stove and heated, the utensils’ temperature will increase. So if the handles of the utensils are made of metal, the hot temperature will burn your hand when you try to hold it. Wood, plastic, and rubber are heat insulators. To solve the problem, the handles of the utensils are made of heat insulators like rubber, wood, and plastic. Rubber, wood, and plastic are bad conductors of heat, they are able to prevent the heat from the cooking utensils (metal) transferred to the users.
What is heat?
Heat is a transfer of energy from high temperature to low temperature, it happens when there is a difference of temperature between objects.
The transfer of heat energy is from a high temperature area to a low temperature area.
Example, you hold a cold glass rod at one end and the other end near to the fire. After some time, the end rod that you hold will increase in temperature and may burn your palm.
How heat is transferred in the solid (conduction) ?
When a solid rod is heated with fire at one end, the particles (atoms, or molecules) at the heated end rod vibrate at a higher rate.
Then these particles collide with other particles beside them and pass the energy.
The vibration of particles passing to the next one beside and finally through the whole rod of solid, the solid rod becomes hot (high temperature).
This is a heat conduction for a normal solid.
What about metal solid?
Metal solid does have free electrons in its structure because the metal atom’s outer orbit attaches the electrons loosely toward the nucleus.
Basically metal solid is a pool of free moving electrons.
When metal solid is heated, not only the metal atoms vibrate and collide with other metal atoms, the free electrons are also energized by the heat and collide with other electrons or adjacent metal atoms.
The free electrons of metal solids make them a better heat conductor compared to other solids like wood, plastic, and rubber which lack free electrons.
Insulator solids don’t have free electrons.
What happened if you use a metal handle cooking utensil?
If you have a metal pot with a metal handle, when cooking, you must use a cloth to cover the metal handle when holding it, to prevent your hand from getting burned.
Electric shocked Prevention
Rubber, wood, and plastic are also a good electric insulator.
Cooking utensils with handles made of rubber, wood, and plastic can prevent electrical shock from an electric stove.
Wood or plastic handles can provide a more aesthetic and pleasing look for the cooking utensils. Don’t you think a black colour pan coupled with a wood handle can be more attractive compared to a completely cast iron made pan?
To protect non-stick cooking utensil’s coating
Non-stick utensils normally coupled with wooden or plastic handles, as these materials do not scratch the non-stick coatings. On the other hand, a metal handle will scratch the pan coating easily.
The cost to manufacture wooden or plastic handles is lower compared to metal handles. The wood or plastic material is cheaper than metal material. The process of shaping and polishing metal could be more expensive compared to plastic (injection molding cost can be very cheap when it is mass produced).
What is the most suitable material for handles of cooking utensils?
The most suitable material for making cooking utensil handles is bakelite.
Bakelite is an excellent heat insulator, it can prevent the heat conduction and avoid the handle from becoming hot.
It is also lightweight, durable, scratch resistant, could be moulded into any shape, and the material should not get softened during heating.
Bakelite is a polymer made up of the monomers phenol and formaldehyde.
Because of the bakelite molecular structure, this material has a low electrical conductivity, high strength, and high heat resistance.
The properties of the bakelite make it suitable to be used for electrical switches, machine parts of electrical systems, adhesives and binding agents, coating industry, and handles of a variety of utensils.
The properties of the cooking utensil’s handle should be:
- Heat resistant (poor heat conduction)
- Highly durable (high strength), not softened when applied with heat.
- Electrical resistant
- Good for molding to any shape
- Scratch resistant
- Resistant to destructive solvents.
These properties are to ensure the users are able to use the cooking utensils in safe condition.