How to Use and Care for Nonstick Cookware

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There are plenty of benefits to using nonstick cookware regularly — it allows food to release easily from the pan, it's easy to clean, and it’s useful for people who are watching their fat intake, as food can be cooked in less oil, butter, or other fat than in traditional cookware. However, it's vital that you properly maintain your nonstick cookware to ensure it lasts more than a year or two.

Nonstick pots and pans are typically aluminum or stainless steel with a slick, nonporous chemical coating over the interior that makes a slick, nonreactive surface that keeps food from sticking to the bottom of the pan. If scratches or chips appear in the nonstick surface, it’s time to replace the cookware.

Cooking With Nonstick Cookware

Most home cooks find that skillets and sauté pans are the most useful shapes for nonstick cookware, as they can be used to fry or scramble eggs, cook pancakes, or sauté delicate foods like fish. A nonstick saucepan can also be useful for cooking rice or making custards, allowing for easy cleanup.

Using your nonstick cookware in the manner that the manufacturer intended will help keep your cookware in the best condition:

  • Some manufacturers recommend rubbing a thin coating of vegetable oil over the cooking surface before using your nonstick cookware for the first time, which will condition and protect the cooking surface.
  • Do not preheat an empty pan. Nonstick cookware is usually made of aluminum, which heats faster than heavier, denser stainless steel. Add a little bit of oil to the pan first (enough to lightly coat the surface), and preheat it for a few seconds before adding the food.
  • Use oil, such as vegetable oil or grapeseed oil, rather than nonstick cooking spray. Nonstick spray contains lecithin, which will eventually make your nonstick surface gummy.
  • Use only low or medium heat on nonstick cookware. Higher heat can degrade the cooking surface and, depending on the type of nonstick coating, has the potential to release toxic vapors into the air.
  • Avoid using metal utensils on a nonstick cooking surface. Instead, use wooden spoons, nylon, plastic or silicone-coated utensils. This will prevent the surface from getting scratched or nicked.
  • Check with the manufacturer before using your cookware in the oven and observe the recommended maximum temperature. Some nonstick cookware is oven-safe, but many brands are not.

Caring for Nonstick Cookware

Your nonstick cookware should last three to five years if you care for it appropriately.

  • Use a soft dishrag or non-abrasive sponge to clean the cookware with dish detergent and warm water. Avoid using abrasive cleansers, steel wool or other harsh, rough cleaning surfaces.
  • Persistent stuck-on food can be scrubbed off with a paste of baking soda and water or non-abrasive cleaners.
  • While some manufacturers tout their nonstick cookware as dishwasher-safe, it’s always better to wash it by hand. The hot water and harsh detergent can corrode the nonstick surface.
  • Do not stack nonstick cookware, as this can scratch or chip the cooking surface. If you do need to stack your cookware because of space constraints, put a layer of paper towels between each pan.