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3 Key Nonstick Pan Questions, Answered

August 22, 2018

There’s much debate over nonstick pans. In one camp, we have cooks who swear by their slick, smooth surfaces, cooks who wouldn’t make scrambled eggs or crepes or grilled cheese sandwiches or stir-fried veggies or fish in anything else. In the other camp are the cooks who are dedidated to cast iron, who love to discuss seasoning methods and the best recipes to to make the most of their hardy surfaces. Just like our readers, the Food52 staff is divided on the topic—not to mention those who opt out of the argument and go for stainless steel instead.

“For a long time, I was a nonstick hater,” says Cory Baldwin, Food52’s director of partner content. “I snubbed them and only used cast iron or enameled cast iron. And then I moved in with a chef. Watching her cook taught me that nonstick has a place, just like cast iron, and to be honest, her 10-inch nonstick skillet was the most-used pan in our house!”

When Cory moved out of that apartment, her roommate gave her an All-Clad nonstick skillet, and “it's definitely the pan I reach for most often, especially when I'm cooking for one,” she says. “It's amazing for frying or scrambling eggs, getting a little char on tortillas or other unleavened breads, toasting spices, reheating leftovers...and obviously it cleans in a snap, unlike my enameled cast iron.”

Other F52ers agree. Senior Video Editor Rob Strype bought an 11-inch Zwilling Carrera ceramic nonstick pan and loved it so much he then bought the 10-inch version, too. “I love challenging it by cooking without any extra oils whenever possible,” he says. “My greatest success story is making pancakes without butter. Nothing sticks!”

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Top Comment:
“It's easy enough to protect pans when stacking them- any sort of foam or soft plastic (I use no-slide shelf liner mostly) can be used, or for that matter folded newspaper or a hundred other things.”
— Smaug
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Staff Writer Valerio Farris bought himself a Ballarini nonstick pan from the Food52 Shop, “not understanding just how massive 12.5 inches is. So, at a mere 23 years old, I acquired the largest pan I might ever own for the rest of my life.” Regardless of his initial shock, he says, “I love it and have a great time cooking massive frittatas and heaping piles of spaghetti in a pan that resembles a flying saucer.”

Today’s nonstick pans—whether coated in ceramic or polytetrafluoroethylene, the modernized version of Teflon—can do everything: They can handle super high heat, can go from stovetop to oven, can give you a perfect sear, and are easy to clean, too...no matter how big they might be. But whether you’re committed to your nonstick pans or still skeptical, odds are you have questions about these pans; in fact, we know you do, because you ask about them on the Hotline.

So, without further ado (or starry-eyed nonstick testimonials), here are your top three questions about nonstick pans from our Hotline—and answers, of course.

“Pro tip,” says Cory, “don't forget to buy silicone-tipped tongs and silicone spatula or two!”

Question:

How do I decide between different ceramic nonstick skillets?

Answer:

Our top two choices for nonstick ceramic skillets are Carrara and GreenPan, and both are great options. Both pans are made with all-natural materials and are PFOA-free, which means that they’re environmentally friendly! But they do have some differences:

GreenPan starts with a three-ply stainless steel body, which is part of what makes these pans oven- and broiler-safe up to an incredible 600 °F...but even if you take it up to 850 °F, it won't blister, peel, or release toxic fumes (unlike most nonstick pans, which will). “Replaced my old scratched Teflon pans and so happy I did,” raves T-Bone6. “Love these pans. They don't stick and they clean up so easily.” Susan H. agrees: “These pans do what they're supposed to do: conduct heat evenly, discourage sticking and are an easy clean. With an induction range, the cookware I generally use is heavy cast iron, and these GreenPans are lightweight, but not flimsy.” “I just love them!” says Carol—and so do we.

Carrara pans are made from cold-forged aluminum, for super even heat distribution—though unlike the GreenPan, they shouldn’t be heated past 300 °F. Their crowning distinction? Carrara pans have a closed aluminum rim and rivet-less handle, which not only protects against chipping but also makes these pans a breeze to clean. “I can finally get rid of every other nonstick fry pan I own!” says Gabie K. “No more frustration trying to clean the eggs from around the bolt heads that are used to attach the handle to the pan. The inside is perfectly smooth ceramic. Someone should write a song about this pan!” Calling all songwriters….

Question:

How do I clean oil stains out of a ceramic nonstick pan?

Answer:

Three words: Bar. Keepers. Friend. “Our team really loves Bar Keepers Friend for cleaning all sorts of pans,” says Lindsay-Jean Hard, community editor. But if you like a more DIY method, we vouch for that, too: “If the coating [of your ceramic pan] becomes discolored, soak the pan in water and baking soda then give it a light scrub with a soft bristle brush,” says contributor Virginia Van Zanten. Both ways work beautifully.

Question:

How do you know if your nonstick cookware has gone bad?

Answer:

First off, there’s no bad nonstick cookware, there are only bad nonstick cookware parents. Joking! But not really. If you care for your cookware, it’ll care for you right back, in the form of delicious meals and pans that will last for years. But we’re all sloppy sometimes, accidentally scraping a fork on the surface (which can lead to scratches), stacking ceramic skillets that should be stored on their own (which can lead to cracking), or using cooking spray instead of oil or butter (which can lead to a buildup of gunk that’ll make the nonstick surface sticky). The coating on nonstick pans will inevitably wear off eventually, but if you care for your babies, you’ll get to enjoy them for a long time.

When you see spots of wear, though, or if the nonstick surface is no longer nonstick (if the coating has worn away) it’s best to dispose of the pans. “Once it show signs of aging like scratches and marks, it's time to toss it,” says Hotline commenter Phil. “That is also how my wife feels about me so I try and stay in shape.” That Phil, he’s so smooth...just like a nonstick skillet.


Perfectly Scrambled Eggs Await

Are you a nonstick lover or a nonstick hater? Let us know in the comments!

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4 Comments

Mary August 27, 2018
I have discarded more non-stick pans than I can remember over the years. I'm well-seasoned like my "non-stick" cast iron so that's a lot of years! I have reached the age where my 50 to 150 year old pans cast iron large skillets and dutch ovens are too heavy - going to my kids - so am looking at lighter weight cookware. I have stainless steel for pots and sauciers (works great and easy to clean), but need deep oven safe braising pots in several sizes. I don't really want "Teflon" and am not sure about ceramic as I stack cookware in my limited cabinet space. Still pondering as I wrestle with my beloved cast iron. Cooking Thanksgiving and Christmas feasts for 20+!
 
Smaug August 27, 2018
It's easy enough to protect pans when stacking them- any sort of foam or soft plastic (I use no-slide shelf liner mostly) can be used, or for that matter folded newspaper or a hundred other things.
 
Katrina G. August 22, 2018
Like many people, I too owned many, many nonstick Calphalon pans and swore by them for years. Now I have switched to cast iron for almost everything as they do the same job with a little TLC. Please, please be careful which nonstick brands you buy because the flakes that come off over time are not just unsightly. They are BAD FOR YOU. This article fails to mention the health implications of ingesting the coating. VERY dangerous.
 
Smaug August 22, 2018
Polytetrafluoroethylene IS Teflon, not a modernized version; most modern versions are PFOA free, but are still PTFE. I've tried two generations of ceramic nonsticks, and both started sticking within a few weeks. A simple way to test Teflon- it should have no affinity for water; after washing the pan (and Teflon needs to be washed very carefully to last), put some water (NOT soapy) in the pan and tilt; it should all run out; anywhere where the water stays (other than some stray drops) is no longer nonstick.