Wanting to keep your nonstick pans working and looking like new? Here I cover how to get the most out of your nonstick cookware, for longe. This is my full guide on how to use, care and store your nonstick pans.
Just like appliances, nonstick pans come with care instructions for that reason. It’s worth spending a few minutes reading these to get the best out of your product and to ensure your warranty remains valid.
If the instructions are somewhat hazy or perhaps you’ve mislaid them, you’ll find this guide helpful for what you need or for expanding on what you may already know.
Benefits of nonstick pans
You’ll enjoy using nonstick pans if you prefer less oil in your cooking. If you prefer to use a smidgen of oil, some are better than others, and I cover this in my article on using cooking oils for nonstick pans.
Using no or minimal amount of oil or butter is a healthy choice in the respect of dietary intake for weight loss or for other health-related matters such as lowering cholesterol.
Nonstick pans are easy to clean as well. Thus they are more user-friendly than some traditional cookware.
This equates to time-saving for the busy cook.
They are also light and easy to handle with a variety of sizes and styles on the market. I cover the benefits of ceramic nonstick in my guide to the best ceramic cookware sets.
Nonstick pan quality and price range
The quality and price range of nonstick pans vary because of the different processes and materials used in their manufacture. I cover some different ceramic types in the article I wrote reviewing popular ceramic nonstick pans.
You’ll pay more for those with advanced nonstick technology and hard anodizing, which tend to provide more durable interior and exterior surfaces.
Still, price is not always the best indicator of a pan’s life.
A better indicator is the degree of care you give these pans when using, cleaning and storing them. If you want your pans to look and perform well for longer, follow the basic care tips I’ve included below to fully enjoy this type of cookware.
Know that your nonstick pan will need replacing at some point. This is expected as all nonstick coatings wear away with use over time. The wearing, of course, depends on its use, the quality of the coating, and how well it’s been cared for.
Before first use!
On receiving your nonstick pan, and after removing all labels and packaging materials, give your pan a wash.
This will remove any manufacturing residue or dust collected in its journey from the factory to you.
Just hand wash the pan in a bit of warm, soapy water and then rinse and dry it with a soft cloth or paper towel.
Seasoning or conditioning nonstick pans
For ‘conditioning’, simply wipe the interior of the pan with a light coating of cooking oil. Note: Don’t use oil sprays for this. Then, heat over low to medium for about 3-4 minutes, wash and then dry. I give a step-by-step account in my review of the Vesuvio ceramic frying pan.
Non-stick sprays can buildup a layer and damage the nonstick performance of the ceramic cooking surface.
Similar to the seasoning of cast iron skillets, some nonstick pans benefit from an every-once-in-a-while ‘conditioning’ of the cooking surface.
GreenPan, however, claims there is “no need to season your pan!” My advice is to go with what the maker of your pan recommends.
Using nonstick cookware
There are a few different kinds of nonstick coating of cookware on the market. Some will have trademark names, such as Thermolon, used by GreenPan. Others may be infused with minerals, such as titanium or copper, for added scratch resistance and durability.
But broadly speaking, all nonstick coatings fall into two categories, Teflon and ceramic.
- Teflon contains polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), a fluoropolymer that is added to cookware as a coating to provide an anti-stick cooking surface. Older Teflon pans also had PFOA in the coating but this substance was found to correlate with various human health issues and is no longer used (since January 1, 2012).
- Ceramic nonstick is made from sand, processed and mixed in a polymer that is similarly applied to cookware for an anti-stick cooking surface. See my article covering how ceramic cookware is made for the finer details.
You’ll find that all nonstick pans benefit from the same basic care and by doing this you’ll get to enjoy their performance and looks for longer.
How to use, care and store your nonstick pans of both categories – the basics
- Never use heat settings higher than medium on your stovetop unless the pan is designed for it — and the manufacturer guarantees it. The latest designs in nonstick have this advanced technology that allows high heat use, up to 600 ºF. I wrote about this in my article on the ceramic nonstick pans that can handle high heat.
- Always select a matching burner size to avoid heat torching the sides and the handle of the pan.
- In most cases, using a small amount of oil or butter is fine as long as it is over low heat. See my article on using oil with nonstick ceramic cookware.
- Avoid non-stick sprays (and extra virgin olive oil, as per GreenPan advice — This is more of a concern when using high heat.)
- Store separately or with a protective layer.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil and oil sprays carbonize very quickly when the pan is heated and should be avoided when cooking with ceramic non-stick.GreenPan
Safety when cooking
When cooking, make sure the long handle of the pan is not sitting out over the front edge of the cooktop to avoid catching it on clothing. This is also about keeping it away from the straying hands of children.
Never leave cookware unattended or without content for an extended period over a heated stove element. And never use high heat.
There are two main reasons not to use high heat with nonstick cookware. With ceramic nonstick, it’s about harming the performance of the nonstick surface. With PTFE pans, it is this issue, as well as the harm that can come from fumes released with high heat (see Nonstick Pans Safety below).
When you have finished cooking, immediately remove the pan from the heat and allow it to cool on a heat-resistant surface.
A Bakelite or silicone handle will be cool to touch but make sure the handle is away from high heat to avoid ruining the look and feel of the handle.
You can touch the handles to see how hot they are, but a good practice is to get into the habit of using potholders, as even the ‘cool to touch’ handles can get hot over an extended cooking session.
Today’s designs in nonstick pans are suitable for use on all cooktops, including electric, gas, glass-ceramic, and induction.
But, not all nonstick pans are induction compatible.
You can find out more about induction cookware in my article covering what to know about induction cooking.
Best food release
Nonstick pans are designed for easy release of food without the need for oil or butter added to the cooking. If you wish to add oil or butter, use low medium and avoid high heat.
Always start your cooking with a clean pan — one with no food or grease residue that will interfere with food release.
Other tips are to let food from the refrigerator sit for 10 minutes before cooking and preheat your pan for 2-3 minutes before adding the ingredients.
If you like to add salt for flavoring, do so after the liquid in the pan has reached boiling point.
Stovetop heat setting
The ideal cooking temperature for a standard nonstick pan on a cooktop is somewhere around 295 ºF (145 ºC). This is medium/low heat according to this heat chart.
You won’t find nonstick pan manufacturers recommending anything more than low to medium heat with nonstick cookware.
Even with the more advanced nonstick pans available today, high should be avoided.
As a general guide, you’ll know the temperature is too high if when you add a little butter it starts to burn.
Don’t worry, manufacturers supposedly design the pans to achieve the same frying results as traditional pans but with lower heat!
How do you know what’s low or medium heat when traditional cooktop heat controls have numbers rather than temperatures? The number of settings can differ, with some having 6, 9, or 14, but basically the settings cover the same heat range. My suggestion is to group the numbers into three heat categories. For example, if there are 9 settings, consider 1 to 3 low, 4 to 6 medium, and 7 to 9 high.
All cooktops work differently, so you’ll need to use, observe, adjust, and learn as you go. I suggest, if you are new to this concept, start with the low numbers first and add small increments until you find the required heat.
If you are cooking with gas, make sure the flames don’t reach up the sides of the pan.
Microwave Oven Use
As a general rule, nonstick pans are not suitable for microwave use.
The use of nonstick pans in the oven is limited by the parts and whether the pan has been anodized.
In general, bakelite handles and tempered glass lids are oven-safe to 350 ºF (about 180°C) and silicone parts to 400°F (200°C) for short periods. Overheating can discolor or warp the handles and high heat is not recommended for nonstick surfaces.
To know more about whether you can put that pan in the oven, see my article on how to know if your cookware is oven safe.
After cooking, always transfer the food to another container if you plan on storing the food for later use. Storing the food in the nonstick pan is not recommended.
The cooking surface may stain from the food or another possibility is that the coating may taint the food. Acidic foods, in particular, can harm the coating when left stored in the pan.
Cleaning your nonstick pan
Most nonstick pans are rated ‘dishwasher safe’ by their manufacturer, meaning they can be cleaned in an automatic dishwasher.
Still…I recommend hand washing of nonstick pans if you want them looking and working their best for longer.
You’ll also find that most manufacturers tend to recommend hand washing to lengthen the life of the pan’s appeal.
The concern with dishwashers is the possible harm from harsh detergents and dishwasher arms.
And, after you’ve run it through the dishwasher there’s a possibility your pan will need extra cleaning because of a mineral residue left over the pan. The minerals can come from the water or the detergents and are deposited during the dishwasher cycle.
You can simply remove these by wiping with a sponge dipped in lemon juice or vinegar, then wipe and dry as normal. A reconditioning of the pan is recommended.
But most of us want to avoid extra work and so it’s simpler to hand wash the pan, to begin with.
The nonstick pans are super easy to clean by hand, much like the solid ceramic cookware I also wrote about. Here is my step-by-step on how to clean your nonstick pan.
Never pour water into a hot pan! Grease will splatter over your cooktop and that means extra cleaning. But most importantly, the rapid change in temperature can warp your pan and may damage the nonstick coating.
Now that you’ve avoided thermal shock, proceed to hand washing your pan.
Step by step: How to clean your nonstick pan
2) Use only a soft sponge and a squirt of dishwashing liquid in warm water to remove food residue and fats.
3) Using the soft sponge carefully clean the areas around the rivets, where grime can accumulate.
4) Once all food residue has been removed and the pan is clean, rinse the pan and dry it with a soft towel.
Cleaning pans that don’t fit in the sink
If your pan does not fit in your sink, wash it on the bench beside the sink. Place a towel or mat under the pan and then add some dishwashing water to the pan and use a sponge to clean it. Then rinse and dry as normal.
Stubborn cleaning problems
You may feel the urge, but DO NOT use steel wool or other course scrubbing pads or powders. Always keep knives, forks, and other sharp items away.
When trying to remove burned-on food and stains, always use a non-abrasive sponge.
This video offers a safe solution you could try for stubborn residue:
How to store nonstick pans
In storing nonstick pans the problem you want to avoid is the chipping of the pan. Both the interior and exterior surfaces of the pan can suffer without care.
This issue not only affects nonstick pans, but also enamel, porcelain, and 100% ceramic types. The good news is that by following some simple measures, you can alleviate this concern.
The main thing is to NOT stack your pans, at least, not without protection.
The best approach is to store your nonstick pans separately. That is, lay the pans out along the shelf. (It’s a good idea to line your shelves with shelving paper as well.) Of course, this works if you have space.
If you don’t have space, the alternative is to stack them, but with protectors placed in between the pans.
A cheap way to do this is to place paper napkins or towels between the pans. A better option is to use the specially made pan protectors that you can get online or at the market.
You can get pan protectors pretty cheaply at Amazon. An example is Ecoware’s set of six — See details.
What utensils to use on nonstick pans
Use only non-scratch utensils with your nonstick pan. Silicone, nylon, plastic, bamboo, and wooden utensils fall into this category. This is best practice as metal utensils will eventually mark the surface.
Modern designs, such as those I cover in my GreenPan review, feature upgraded technology making the cooking surface metal-utensil-safe.
But even with this new advancement, manufacturers still advise customers that the cookware will last longer with the use of non-metal utensils.
Do not use sharp knives on a nonstick pan. Never cut or chop food with a metal utensil while it is in the nonstick pan as this will mark the cooking surface.
It is worth noting that fine surface marks and abrasions are normal. These are especially noticeable on the white ceramic nonstick surface. They will not affect the nonstick coating’s performance.
You can buy BPA-free utensils that won’t harm the surface — there is a variety available at Amazon. One includes this set of eco-friendly bamboo cooking utensils — See details.
Nonstick coating safety
All cookware sold in the US must meet strict standards. The US FDA has standards restricting lead and cadmium levels in cookware.
The California Proposition 65 standards have the most stringent laws to cover consumers. Any food containing vessels with toxic substances exceeding certain limits, particularly 0.1 ppm for lead and 0.049 ppm for cadmium, cannot be sold without a warning label.
What is safer ceramic or Teflon nonstick? Both are considered safe for humans since the removal of the harmful PFOA from Teflon pan design. Using Teflon pans over high heat has safety issues however, with fumes to birds and being linked to flu-like symptoms in humans.
If you have pet birds, you should be aware of the bird safety tips when using Teflon coating pans.
Bird safety tips when using PTFE nonstick
- Keep birds out of the kitchen and away from kitchen exhaust fumes
- By no means, leave heated nonstick cookware unattended
- Don’t preheat your nonstick pan on high heat
- Make sure the kitchen is ventilated when cooking – turn on the exhaust fan or open a window
You’d want to keep your birds well away from the kitchen and the exhaust vents.
…birds have extremely sensitive respiratory systems, bird owners must take precautions to protect them.DuPont, www.chemours.com, accessed Sept 2019
Keeping your nonstick pan like new
As I already mentioned, the two main things to extend the life of your nonstick pan is hand washing and avoiding high heat use. These will increase the longevity of your nonstick pan’s surface.
If you have some concerns or are not sure of how to use, care or storage of your pan, you can always contact the manufacturer. You generally can find their contact details online. If you found the product at Amazon, you can ask questions about the product before and after you buy, a feature of shopping with Amazon.
New life for your pan
If the nonstick coating of your pan has worn away, it’s time to move it on. Of course, you can continue to use the pan without the nonstick feature as long as you are not concerned about your food being in contact with the exposed aluminum. My article on the healthiest cookware materials covers the concerns with aluminum cookware.
You may look to recycle your pan. I cover how in this article on recycling old pots and pans.
Nonstick cookware is considered dishwasher-safe for quick and easy cleaning, but I recommend hand washing for long-term care of your cookware.
Most important! Use utensils that won’t harm the surface and don’t stack your pans without protection.