Wash pans and remove burnt-on food with ease. 
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We all know that there’s nothing worse than searing a chicken breast or frying an egg, then finding it stuck to the pan when you go to remove it. Enter, the nonstick frying pan. Not only do nonstick pans cut down on the oil needed to cook, but they’re also scratch resistant and won’t leave your food clinging to the pan. However, they’re not exactly known for being long-lasting. As a general rule, nonstick pans will only last for about five years. However, yours could last beyond that lifespan if you follow these tips and tricks from Colleen Weeden, senior brand manager of the Meredith Test Kitchen in Des Moines, Iowa and Leslie Reichert, a cleaning coach and the author of The Joy of Green Cleaning.

1. Skip the dishwasher

We know: It’s a bit of a hassle to wash by hand. But it’s worth the few extra seconds to have a beautiful, longer-lasting pan. 

“Read your manufacturer’s care instructions, as many nonstick pans are made from different materials,” Weeden says. “But I don’t think any pan should go in the dishwasher. They last much longer when cleaned by hand.”

The slippery coating that helps your seared salmon slide right out with ease can deteriorate quicker under the high heat and harsh conditions of the hands-off appliance.

“Even if your nonstick pan says ‘dishwasher-safe,’ hot temperatures and harsh detergents will break down the surface,” Reichert says.

2. Clean immediately with hot soapy water

The best way to clean a nonstick pan is by washing it immediately (without burning yourself on a hot pan, of course). “If you clean the pans right away, most debris will rinse right off,” Reichert says.

The nonstick quality that prevents most food from adhering will also keep the majority of debris from doing so — if you address it immediately. The longer a pan sits out, the easier it will be for food to really cling to it. 

“Use a gentle dish soap made to cut grease. Wash the entire inside and outside of the pan with soap, water, and a microfiber cloth,” Reichert adds.

3. Avoid abrasive and metal pads

Steel wool and even those slightly-less-strong plastic scouring pads can do a number on your pan’s nonstick coating, too.

“Scratchy pads are not good for them,” Weeden says, and Reichert suggests steering clear of stiff scrubbing brushes (such as those with soap dispenser handles and a scouring sponge brush). You shouldn’t need them if you follow the advice above.

“Avoid using anything metal on nonstick surfaces. I like using Skoy cloths and Skoy pads instead,” Reichert says.

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4. Remove cooked-on grime with baking soda

As an alternative to harsh household cleaners (like Comet) that contain corrosive acids, try an all-natural option.

“Mix baking soda with water or olive oil until it reaches the consistency of toothpaste. This works great as a green cleaning option and even works to remove burnt-on grease,” Reichert says.

5. Or try a “cleaning cocktail”

Cookware company Farberware recommends combatting cooked-on schmutz and stains with a “cleaning cocktail.” To do so, add ½ cup water and 1 ½ cups water to your nonstick pan. Then, cook the mixture over medium heat for 5-10 minutes to remove stuck-on food particles. Let the mixture cool naturally, then wash with warm, soapy water and a gentle sponge or brush. Rinse the pan and let it dry. 

6. Oil up

Similar to the Tin Man, your cooking tools improve with a little lubrication.

“You don’t need to season like cast iron, but a rub of oil before and after using a nonstick pan can help protect the surface,” Weeden says.

A teaspoon to half-tablespoon per dose should do the trick.

7. Dry thoroughly

After oiling your pan, dry it completely and store it safely. If you’re stacking the nonstick pan among others, layer a dry, clean washcloth, dish towel, or reusable paper towel between each to avoid scratching and surface damage.