If it’s the one pan you actually use consistently, take care of it.
Have you ever tried to fry an egg in a pan that wasn’t nonstick? Let me just tell you—it’s not easy.
It’s not always the best pan for the job (say, if you’re searing a steak), but nonstick cookware—which is to say pans or pots coated in either Teflon, or sometimes ceramic—is so essential to the home cook because it makes cooking undeniably easier—and prevents food from getting ruined when they stick to the bottom of your pan.
However, because of the miraculous nonstick surface, these pans generally can’t be treated like the other cookware in your cabinets. In order to get your money’s worth and ensure the longevity of your pans, you’ve got to be conscious of what the nonstick no-goes are.
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Here are 6 common ways home cooks mishandle their nonstick pans, along with tips on how to avoid ruining your own.
Using sharp or metal utensils
Protecting the nonstick surface of your cookware should always be top priority. Avoid bringing knives, metal cooking utensils, or any other sharp-edged objects into contact with the nonstick surface of your pans. These tools can easily scratch and damage the nonstick coating—and as a result, impact the cookware’s ability to remain, well, non-sticky. It’s best to stick to using wooden, bamboo, or plastic utensils when cooking in/serving from nonstick pans, as these are unlikely to scratch the coating. After all, flecks of Teflon aren’t the most appetizing seasoning.
Using nonstick spray
Intuitively, you would assume that nonstick cooking spray and nonstick cookware pair perfectly with each other. Unfortunately, nonstick cooking sprays are more damaging than they are helpful. Aerosol nonstick cooking sprays create a sticky film on the surface of your pan that is difficult to remove over time. This continual build up creates a barrier between your food and the nonstick surface, preventing your cookware from actually being nonstick. The film is typically found on the sides of the pan where the cooking spray was not absorbed by the food or where the heat never reached a hot enough temperature to break down the spray. With that said, you’re best bet is to skip the spray and use cooking oil instead—it won’t take much.
Using harsh cleaning products
Under no circumstances should you ever use a steel wool or a very abrasive cleaning pad/brush on your nonstick cookware. Steel wool is literally tiny fragments of steel filaments that is used to scrub hard stuck-on grime; however, even if you think you’re nonstick pan needs a little extra elbow grease, between the chemicals in the cleaning solution and the steel, you are headed for disaster. Instead, try using a soft plastic bristle cleaning brush along with kosher salt to exfoliate the pan’s surface and release tough cooked-on food particles. When you are using a sponge, only use the soft side because the rougher side tends can leave unwanted scratches on your surface. I should mention, I’m only referencing hand-wash methods here because getting the most out of your nonstick pans means avoiding the dishwasher. While there are plenty of nonstick pans that are labeled dishwasher safe, continued contact with harsh cleaning detergent combined with the high heat will generally shorten the lifespan of your pan.
Cooking at high temperatures
Jacking up the heat under your nonstick speeds up the normal wear and tear process of your cookware. High heats can damage the nonstick surface, therefore, it’s a good idea to generally use low to medium heats when cooking with a nonstick pan. Also, you don’t want to pull your hot pan from the stove and immediately run it under cold water. We all love that hot sizzling sound the pan makes as soon as the water hits it, but the shock in temperature can lead to warping the shape of your pan (especially if you have a cheaper product).
When you take a peek inside many people’s cabinets, you are sure to find pots and pan stacked haphazardly on top of one another. This habit is a catastrophe in the works when it comes to storing your nonstick cookware. Other pans’ bottoms can damage the interior surface of your nonstick cookware when stacked on top. A simple solution to this is to layer a paper towel into the bottom of each pan to shield the interior surface.
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Saving food in your cookware
We all have that moment occasionally… after a night of cooking, you want to just leave the leftover food in the pan and throw the whole thing into the refrigerator so you can go straight to bed. Sadly, this is a no-go with nonstick pans; they’re seriously not meant to store food in. Doing so can change the flavor of your food (imparting an off-putting metallic flavor) and also contributes to the gradual breakdown of the surface of your pan. It may feel agonizing, but it’s always going to be worth taking that extra step to remove your food and store it in Tupperware before turning in for the night.