If your kitchen is a busy place filled with activity: baking, cooking, and entertaining, you want a countertop that can withstand the wear and tear of everyday use.
When customers are looking at new kitchen countertop materials, we are often asked two questions: "Can I place hot pots and pans directly on my countertops?" and "Can I cut food directly on top of the counters?"
While there are many durable options for kitchen counters, not all products respond well to heat and sharp objects. Read below for more details!
Already have a scratch or a scorch mark in your countertops? Consult one of our recommended stone and countertop repair professionals!
Cambria, Silestone, Pental Quartz, HanStone, and Caesarstone all say NO to hot pots and pans because of thermal shock. Thermal shock is the phenomenon where a cold surface is heated at an extremely fast rate, causing the material to crack.
Scorching or burning the surface isn't the problem; Silestone even says "don't worry about dropping a lit match onto your Silestone countertop; it won't scorch." But due to the risk of thermal shock, all quartz manufacturers recommend that you use a trivet or hot pad under hot pots and pans.
All of the listed quartz manufacturers also warn against cutting food directly on the counter, as while they're incredibly scratch-resistant, they're not scratch-proof. And on a smooth, solid-color quartz surface, scratches are going to be more noticeable than on a heavily textured or patterned surface.
Granite is a granular igneous rock, and one of the most popular choices for kitchen countertops. But since it is a natural stone composite of many different minerals, it too is subject to thermal shock and can crack, especially close to edges or overhangs. Repeatedly setting hot pans in one area will weaken it and it could eventually crack.
The granite won't scorch, but the heat can degrade or discolor the sealer used on the granite, or transfer the sealer to the bottoms of hot pots and pans (leaving discoloration). We have also heard of people setting wax paper with hot, fresh-from-the-oven cookies on their granite, only for the cookies to leave little dark "shadows" of wax paper embedded in the pores of the granite.
We recommend using trivets or hot pads with granite to reduce the risk of ruining the sealer or causing thermal shock.
Because of its porous nature, food prep directly on unsealed granite could leave bacteria in the granite. Also, granite, while far stronger than marble and other stones, is still susceptible to scratching. However, scratches may be less noticeable on granite than quartz because of the natural fissures and flecks in granite's surface. We recommend using cutting boards on granite.
We typically don't recommend marble for kitchen countertops, as this calcium-based stone can be quickly damaged and etched by acids in fruit, vinegar, juice, or other common kitchen items.
A softer natural stone, marble is very susceptible to scratches. This, combined with its acid-sensitivity, means that it should not be used as a prep surface for most foods (marble has, however, been used as an excellent baking surface for centuries, and some homeowners will keep a marble block specifically for rolling out dough).
Marble is more likely to crack due to thermal shock than quartz or granite, and as such you should not set hot pots or pans directly on marble.
If you like the look of marble, consider quartz countertops. There are now dozens of quartz slabs designed to look like marble without the maintenance issues.
Soapstone is both chemical resistant and heat resistant, so you can set hot pots and pans directly on soapstone without risk of cracking or scorching. Soapstone is much softer and more prone to scratching than granite or quartz however, so preparing food directly on your soapstone counters could easily scratch it.
Dupont recommends that you use hot pads or trivets on your Corian, and due to its softer composition, you could easily scratch it if you prepared food on top of it (bacterial growth is not a concern due to Corian's non-porous nature). Use a cutting board.
Formica says to always use hot pads or trivets with Laminate: the glue could fail, causing it to peel or separate, and you could scorch the surface.
Use a cutting board to avoid scratching your Laminate.
Butcher block is specifically recommended for food prep, and as such you only need to use a cutting board over it it if you bought it for looks and want to maintain it's appearance. However, to avoid contamination and health hazards, only cut fruits and vegetables on your butcher block, and have a loose, separate cutting board for meat.
Because it is wood, placing hot pots and pans on it could easily scorch it or leave burn marks. The oils used to finish your butcher block could also cook and be discolored by the extreme heat.
Maintenance on butcher block counters is a labor of love, however, so take that into consideration when looking at this counter option.
You can set hot pots on sintered surfaces without issue, since the fusion of materials is so tight and strong.
You can prepare food directly on sintered surfaces without scratching them; however, you will dull your knives if you cut food directly on these countertops.
However, these surfaces are very expensive compared to other countertop types. Because they are so dense, they take a lot longer to cut and fabricate, increasing production time and cost.
The only countertop materials that you can safely set hot pots and pans on are Soapstone and sintered surfaces; in fact, they are recommended as countertop materials for that purpose.
Setting hot items directly on quartz or granite may not damage them immediately, but they could eventually crack due to thermal shock.
Marble, Corian, and Laminate are all far too delicate for direct contact with hot pots or even some heated appliances (electric kettles, waffle makers, etc.).
Can you use your countertop as a cutting board? If it's butcher block, then yes! Be aware that it will need regular maintenance and that the butcher block will scratch and show signs of wear.
You can cut food on sintered surfaces without damaging them, but it will dull your knives, so it's better to use a cutting board.
You can also cut food on quartz, just be aware that scratch-resistant is not scratch-proof, and you could potentially scratch your quartz. We don't recommend cutting food directly on granite, marble, soapstone, Corian, or Laminate.
Interested in any of these countertop options?
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