What the heck are universal silicone lids? If your internet habits are anything like mine, you've been seeing these floppy, colorful products everywhere: in Instagram ads, kitchen sustainability round-ups, and shopping guides.
Touted as ways to reduce waste (no more aluminum foil for baking or plastic wrap for storage) while also acting in place of standard pot and pan lids on the stove, silicone lids claim to do it all. But can they?
I started ramping up my personal crusade against single-use plastic in the kitchen a few months ago, which made me a very pleasant person to be around over the holidays—a person who never once yelled at anyone for throwing away a mostly clean plastic baggie (sorry, Mom). I'm far from operating at a fully sustainable level, but I'm trying, so if a product says it will help me in that effort, I'm all ears.
But it was hard not to be skeptical, mostly because the issues that tempt me to use disposable materials in the kitchen are not the same ones that the silicone lids claim to solve. Almost all of my pots and pans have lids, so I don't resort to using foil to cover them on the stove. Plus, my food storage game is pretty on-point: Thanks to a large collection of washable pint and quart containers, plastic wrap almost never makes an appearance. To put it bluntly, I wasn't convinced that a silicone lid would make a dent in my kitchen waste, or be half as versatile as it claimed. Could one product really take me from the stove to the oven to the fridge?
Ultimately, I ordered a bunch of lids to the office and put those bad boys to the test.
Best Overall: GIR Platinum-Grade Silicone Universal Lid
The GIR (which stands for Get It Right, and they do!) lid was the only silicone lid I could imagine using again in my own kitchen. GIR offers the most variety of any brand in terms of lid shapes, sizes, and colors: There are eight sizes total (five round, two rectangle, and one square) and 11 colorways. Notably, of all the brands I looked into, it was the only one to offer a 9x13-inch rectangular lid, which is possibly the most useful version of all; while it wouldn't make sense for stovetop cooking, the size and shape is ideal for covering anything you make in a standard baking dish in the oven, and can take it straight to the fridge, covering leftovers.
The GIR is heatproof to the highest temperature of all the lids I tested—550°F, according to the packaging. It's easy to keep track of temperature when cooking in the oven, but nearly impossible to do so on the stovetop, where the edge of a pan set over medium-high heat might well surpass 400°F. Lids with lower heat maximums warped, jumped, and peeled during some stovetop tests, but the GIR stayed flat, functional, and undamaged. The knob on top even stayed cool enough to handle with bare hands (though not, admittedly, during the in-oven test).
When an airtight seal was important, the GIR lid came through as well. The lid suctioned perfectly to a round baking dish and stayed put, trapping steam inside and yielding a very tender potato gratin. In the fridge, the GIR lid kept a bowl of guacamole freshest after 24 hours of storage.
Even despite its good qualities, the GIR lid is certainly not universal. (In my opinion, none of the lids were.) Unless you have a skillet, round baking dish, and storage bowl that are all the same size, a single silicone lid is not going to be a kitchen-wide champion. If you do have a bunch of identically-shaped cookware, my advice is to buy a lid slightly larger than your frying pan or skillet; a 10-inch lid is difficult to use with a 10-inch pan, but will seal perfectly to a 10-inch bowl. That said, a large round GIR will definitely work in place of plastic wrap in one of the few places I still find myself using it (tightly covering a bowl of yeasted dough while it rises) and the 9x13-inch rectangle lid might officially banish foil from my kitchen drawer forever.
How I Tested
In order to be considered for testing, each of the universal silicone lids had to meet some general criteria. First, they had to be formulated for use on the stovetop, in the oven, and for refrigerated storage. Additionally, they had to be both dishwasher and microwave safe. In order to standardize the sizing, I used the 10- to 11-inch options from each company. Once selected, I put each of the five lids through the following experiments:
- On the stove: shakshuka. I used a lid to cover 8-inch stainless steel skillets of shakshuka over medium heat after adding in the eggs, checking how the whites and yolks had set after three minutes.
- In the oven: gratin. I made potato gratins in 9-inch round baking dishes, topped with silicone lids in place of foil, in a 350°F oven; I pulled each gratin after 45 minutes (usually when you'd remove the foil to brown the top), to compare potato tenderness and moisture retention.
- In the fridge: guacamole. After dividing a big batch of guacamole between storage bowls, I sealed each with a different silicone lid and stuck them in the fridge, checking in at 8, 12, and 24 hours for browning.
Factors I Evaluated
Can they take the heat?
Would the lids function just as well on the stovetop as they did in the oven? I was curious to see if they would warp or buckle when placed on a hot pan or shift if the food underneath them bubbled or splattered.
Can they create a truly airtight seal?
Would the flat silicone undersides of these lids suction effectively to skillets and baking dishes alike? Could they really transform any bowl in my kitchen to an airtight storage container?
Are they easy to work with?
Because they aren't stiff like traditional pan or pot lids, I worried the silicone lids might flop into the food I was cooking, getting messy and possibly breaking their airtight seal. Would these be easy to place on top of, or remove from, a hot pan?
The Other Contenders
Le Creuset Silicone Lids, set of 3: This set gets points for aesthetics; the 4-inch, 8-inch, and 11-inch round lids look like bendable versions of the iconic dutch oven lid, complete with button knob and raised logo. While the lid did not buckle or warp from the heat while covering a pan on the stovetop, the thin material jumped when shakshuka bubbled, and the knob got way too hot to handle with bare hands. It created a totally airtight seal with the baking dish and bowl, which yielded tender potatoes and only lightly browned guacamole. It's a decent option to use when a recipe specifies to cover tightly with foil in the oven, provided your cookware is round.
Five.Two Airtight Silicone Lids, set of 5: As far as buying in a set goes, the Five.Two package will give you the most variety. $40 gets you five rounds in different diameters: 4-, 6-, 8-, 10-, and 12.5-inches. True to their name, these lids created an effective airtight seal in the the oven, yielding a nicely tender gratin and a pleasing release of steam when removed. On the stove, however, they buckled in a serious way, and even suffered a little discoloration where the edge touched the pan.
Chef'n Universal Covers, set of 2: According to the Chef'n website, these lids (9- and 11-inches, sold as a set), can be used "ridged side down to simmer or vent, and smooth side down to seal," which addresses the issue of not always wanting an airtight seal. But in my testing, I found that even the smooth side was incapable of creating such a seal, slipping askew on the baking dish every time I moved the oven rack and easily sliding off the guacamole bowl in the fridge. The lid also got slightly damaged where it touched the the pan, turning crusty and white along the edge.
Crate & Barrel Silicone Lids, set of 3: Though Crate & Barrel's website copy doesn't say so specifically, the makeup of these lids (ridges on one side, flat on the other) means they can also ostensibly provide an airtight seal when necessary and allow for a little steam escape when that's required. But similar to the Chef'n lid, even the smooth side did not stay sealed to the baking dish in the oven, shifting loose and tipping into the gratin. Most distressingly, after just one use on the stovetop, the edge of the lid cracked and peeled in one location where it had been in contact with the lip of the pan, leaving a large flaky white patch.
Made In Universal Lid: This guy didn't qualify for the full test, as it's less universal than I'd hoped. Shaped like a blue pizza paddle (and about as heavy), it's great for covering pans of all sizes on the stove, but isn't useful for microwaving or storage. It's also only oven safe up to 350°F, which felt like a bit of a deal-breaker. For heavy-duty stovetop cooking, however, where bubbling and splattering is a real concern, the weighty Made In lid won't warp or move around. Its stiff design means it can achieve partial cover of a pan on the stove (like a traditional lid), where the silicone numbers simply flop into the pan.
A silicone lid can be worth owning, but you shouldn't expect it to be "universal." The lid that came with your pan or pot will do a better job on the stovetop (and is just as sustainable!), so leave the silicone numbers to the oven, countertop, and fridge. You'll get more mileage out of a round lid if you have a round baking dish already: It will function in place of aluminum foil in the oven and in place of plastic wrap over similarly-sized bowls for food storage. If you own a standard 9x13-inch baking dish, a rectangular silicone lid from GIR will still minimize your kitchen waste by taking the place of foil for gratins, baked pastas, and more.
Originally Appeared on Epicurious