It's your go-to kitchen tool—here's how to make it last. 
Credit: Photo: Jennifer Causey

For many home cooks, your nonstick pan is a kitchen essential for easy-cleanup, effortless meals. And while a good nonstick will last you five years at least, it not quite as long-lasting as the generational lifespan of cast-iron skillets and other hardware in your kitchen cabinets. We talked to recipe developers in our kitchens for professional advice on how to make yours last, and how to know when it's time to start looking for a replacement.   

When should I throw out my nonstick pan?

When it looks dull. 

If your pan loses its distinctive nonstick sheen, it’s probably run its course and is due for a replacement. Keep an eye out for gray patches in the bottom of the pan which is sign that the nonstick coating is thinning.

When food starts to stick.

The most obvious of indicators: If your food won’t budge from the surface, or if you find yourself using more and more oil as you're cooking, it’s a clear sign that the nonstick coating has worn off.

When you see deep scratches.

While minor wear and tear is normal, if there are obvious scratches and deep nicks in the surface of your pan, it’s probably time to ditch your nonstick for a new one to avoid flecks of the surface ending up in your food. 

How do I make my nonstick pan last?

Don’t put it in your dishwasher.

Even if the pan says it’s dishwasher safe, if you’re looking to make it last for as long as possible, opt to hand-wash. The high heat and harsh detergents of regular dishwashing can wreak havoc on the nonstick surface.

Don’t use cooking spray.

In cheaper nonstick pans, the propellants in cooking sprays (the aerosols themselves, not the oil) can break down the nonstick coating of your pan over repeated use. Instead of spritzing the surface, use a tiny splash of oil and swirl to coat—or leave it out all together. 

Don’t stack them with other pans in storage. 

When storing your nonstick pan, it’s better to hang them up or let it sit on a surface on its own. If you absolutely need to stack them, stick a rag in the pan before piling on others to prevent accidental scratches and dings in the surface.

Don’t use metal utensils.

Silicone and wooden utensils are the way to go when using a nonstick for minimal abrasion. Metal ones will, you guessed it, cause scratches and wear over time.

Don’t use over very high heat.

If you’re looking for a good sear, your nonstick should not be your go-to. Very high heat over a long period of time will cause the nonstick surface to break down and possibly leach into your food.

Don’t use harsh scrubbers.

When hand-washing your pan, never reach for steel wool or the rough side of your sponge. Use the soft side, or even a rag for less stubborn messes to clean the surface to prevent the breakdown of the nonstick coating.