Nonstick pots and pans make every day tasks, such as frying eggs, a whole lot easier. Nonstick cookware should cook foods evenly and clean up without any effort. But not all nonstick lives up to the hype. If you’re thinking about upgrading your pots and pans and not sure whether to buy ceramic-coated nonstick or the regular nonstick finish, here are the similarities and differences between the two types of nonstick.
The Main Takeaways
Ceramic-coated aluminum or stainless steel pans
Usually safe in the oven and broiler
Is more of an investment, but is more durable
Aluminum or stainless steel coated in a nonstick finish
Consistently slick surface
Can be very affordable and good for beginners
Whether sautéing mushrooms or cooking pasta, we’ll walk through a variety of common kitchen tasks and pick which type of nonstick pots and pans performs the best. Read on to find out which type of nonstick meets your kitchen needs and give you our recommendations for the best set of each type.
Ceramic and nonstick pots and pans both keep food from sticking while cooking but use different materials to achieve it. Ceramic-coated aluminum cookware uses a natural mineral coating to keep food from adhering to the surface. The ceramic coating is free of PFOS, PFOA, and PTFE. Most other nonstick pots and pans are coated in PTFE, aka Teflon, to achieve their nonstick properties, and should not be exposed to hot temperatures. In fact, both types of nonstick should be heated on low to medium heat.
Though the cookware is heated on low to medium heat, ceramic is able to be heated to a higher temperature than nonstick and retains heat more reliably. Both types of cookware heat evenly and shouldn’t have hot spots.
When it comes to your cooktop, it’s what’s inside the cookware that counts. Stainless steel, which you’re more likely to find with a ceramic-coated cookware, can have the magnetic force needed for induction cooktops. Regular nonstick coating is usually surrounding an aluminum core, which is not compatible with induction cooktops.
Neither type of nonstick requires seasoning to maintain. Ceramic-coated nonstick does tend to lose its nonstick properties more quickly than regular nonstick. To help maintain the finish on either type, use non-metal utensils and hand wash.
Ceramic nonstick cookware is the winner for cooking pasta. Though both will keep the pasta from sticking to the bottom of the pot when boiling, a ceramic-coated pot brings water to a boil quickly, and retains the heat after you’ve added the salt and noodles. Ceramic is able to be heated to a higher temperature safely and will heat the pot evenly. Ceramic is also nonreactive, which means that it's safe to cook any type of pasta sauce in the pans. Clean up is a breeze with the ceramic-coated surface that can be easily wiped out.
Both nonstick and ceramic coatings are winners when it comes to frying eggs. The nonstick surfaces require little butter or oil to keep the eggs from sticking but the little that is added will give tasty crispy edges. Both types of cookware can heat the eggs quickly and cook it evenly. And the best part? The nonstick surfaces keep any egg from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Use heat-safe non-metal utensils to transfer the eggs to a plate or gently slide the eggs out of the pan and right on to the plate.
Ceramic nonstick is a better choice for searing steak. To successfully sear, the pan needs to get very hot and ceramic can be heated to higher temperatures than nonstick. Some cookware will have a sear surface, which is a slightly textured surface that promotes a proper sear. Taking good care of your ceramic nonstick pan means that you don’t preheat it before adding ingredients. Add oil to the pan, allow it to heat up, and then begin searing the steak. Be sure to use non-metal tongs to turn the steak. The pan can also be placed in the oven to finish cooking, if desired.
Deglazing is the process of adding liquid to a hot pan and scraping up the bits of caramelized food that are stuck to the bottom of it. These bits are called fond and they add a lot of flavor to a sauce, gravy, or braise. Nonstick cookware inhibits food from sticking to the bottom of the pan and creating the fond, which means there isn't any deglazing that can be done. For deglazing, stick with stainless steel pans for the best results.
Sautéing mushrooms is a task that either ceramic nonstick or regular nonstick can complete without a problem. Neither pan will need much oil or butter to reach desired doneness. Mushrooms should be cooked on medium heat until they release their liquid and become soft. The liquid should evaporate, which will happen quicker with a hotter pan. Both ceramic and nonstick pans will keep the mushrooms from sticking to the pan and can become hot enough to evaporate the liquid. Both types of pans heat evenly and would result in tasty sautéed mushrooms.
Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
Is there anything better than a perfectly cooked grilled cheese sandwich? One of the struggles of making a grilled cheese sandwich is getting each side evenly browned while also melting the cheese. Nonstick pans win this round because they don’t reach as high of temperatures but still heat evenly. A too hot pan can quickly go from brown to burnt too quickly and not allow the cheese to melt. A cooler pan will also help keep each side evenly browned, i.e. not have the first side golden and the second side scorched.
Stuck-on rice is no fun to clean but nonstick ensures you won’t need any elbow grease to get it spotless. Nonstick will bring the water to a simmer in no time, and will respond to lowering the heat to properly steam the rice and prevent scorching. If making a rice dish with multiple components, you’ll only need a little oil or butter and spices won’t stick to the bottom and burn. Nonstick pots and pans come in all different sizes so you can pick the right one to make small amounts of rice or a big one-pot rice dinner.
Caraway Cookware Set
What It’s Best For: Small spaces and induction stoves
The Caraway Cookware Set is made of ceramic-coated aluminum that’s PFOA and PTFE-free, and works with all types of stovetops, including induction. The high-quality nonstick pans will last through years of everyday use, and come in multiple attractive colors. The pans are meant to be heated on low to medium heat, yet are able to handle high-heat cooking temperatures in the oven.
Caraway cookware has consistently achieved perfect ratings from all of our testers and experts. The pans heat evenly, with no hot spots or scorching. Food releases easily from the surface, making the recommended hand-washing not an issue when it comes to cleaning up. The 12-piece Caraway set includes a fry pan, a saucepan, a sauté pan, a Dutch oven, two trivets and storage.
Price at time of publication: $445
Calphalon Signature Nonstick 10-Piece Cookware Set
What It’s Best For: Cooking for large groups and convenience
The Calphalon Signature Hard Anodized Nonstick Cookware is made of hard-anodized aluminum with stainless steel handles and tempered glass lids. It comes with six different pots and pans, with the large 8-quart stockpot accommodating multiple pounds of pasta and big batches of soup. The nonstick interior is made of a 3-layer PFOA-free coating that wipes out easily.
Our home reviewer and Lab testers were all thoroughly impressed by its nonstick quality and its durability. Metal utensils can be used on this cookware set and it is also dishwasher-safe. The full set includes two fry pans, two saucepans, a sauté pan, and a stock pot, and it has a lifetime warranty.
Price at time of publication: $363
Should You Buy Nonstick or Ceramic Cookware?
Ceramic nonstick cookware and regular nonstick cookware are both highly effective at keeping food from sticking while cooking. There are affordable options for either one and they both should be heated on low to medium and hand washed. If you want PTFE-free cookware, then ceramic nonstick is the best choice for you. All nonstick loses its properties over time, but regular nonstick retains its properties for a longer time, so, if you want a longer-lasting finish, then nonstick is a better choice for you.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Rachel Knecht is a recipe developer, food writer, and recipe tester based in Seattle. Her recipes and writing have appeared on Simply Recipes and she began writing for Spruce Eats in 2022.
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