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Is Using Oil in Nonstick Pans or Bakeware A Bad Thing?

Do you need to put oil in a nonstick pan or bakeware? Or butter? Some manufacturers advise using a small amount of oil, others say no oil. What’s the best oil for non stick pans? Here I look at some of the myths and more about using oil in nonstick pans including bakeware.

Using Oil In Nonstick Cookware

Do you need to put oil in a nonstick pan? Theoretically, no. Most manufacturers will claim their product provides fat-free cooking. So I’ll start with some tips on that…

Important tips when Cooking with Nonstick – with no Oil

If you choose to cook without oil in these ‘no oil’ frying pans, you need to do two main things:

  • Preheat the pan
  • Cook one side until the proteins set before flipping

Pre-heating the pan before cooking: This will maximize the nonstick performance of the pan. To preheat the pan, place the pan on low or medium settings for a few minutes to heat it sufficiently before adding the food. Never overheat and don’t use very high heat with nonstick cookware as you risk warping the pan or damaging the surface.

Cooking one side until the proteins set: When cooking meats, eggs, or halloumi (or other protein foods) allow the food to cook slightly (like a minute or two – you’ll know because it easily comes away) before trying to flip or move the food around the pan. This is because food becomes less ‘sticky’ after the proteins coagulate (or set) from that bit of time given to the cooking process.

Tip: never use metal utensils on nonstick ware – see my article on how to care for ceramic nonstick cookware.

Tips On Cooking (With Oil Or Butter)

While all of the above is true, many recipes involve using oil in the cooking process. And…you may want to use oil or butter to add flavor.

So, to the bit about cooking with oil or butter…

Why use oil or butter? Apart from adding flavor, another main reason is that cooking with oil or butter helps heat the food and cook parts that aren’t in contact with the pan surface.

Cooking with oil helps with frying the food rather than burning it. And some people like to add butter to certain recipes for the flavor it adds.

Much less oil is required, however, when using nonstick pans than with other cookware, usually. Just modify the amount of oil stated in the recipe, starting with less and adding more if needed. I only ever use a smidgen!

What Oil to Use on Non Stick Pan

What oil to use on non stick pan? You can use most oils in a nonstick pan. Can you use vegetable oil with non stick cookware? Yes, vegetable oils such as olive oil and canola oil are popular choices when using nonstick cookware. Other popular ones are grapeseed oil, coconut oil, and sunflower oil.

The disclaimer here is to check the manufacturer’s instructions for the specifics regarding your appliance. You may want to do this for warranty reasons.

What’s not the best oil for non stick pans

There is much advice out there on avoiding cooking oil sprays. Why? The reason given is that the fine aerosols falling onto the pan form a polymer layer and over time this layer harms the nonstick performance.

Again, check the manufacturer’s instructions.

Can You Use Olive Oil On Ceramic Pans?

Olive oil is a source of bioavailable phenolic compounds that science tells us can protect us from chronic diseases. So it makes sense that people choose olive oil in cooking.

Best Olive Oil For Cooking

What is the best olive oil for cooking? Cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil is the best as a healthy choice to use in cooking as it is high in omega 9 fatty acids, which are good for your heart and reducing inflammation. Being cold pressed means chemicals are not used in the extraction process.

Some people, however, may choose extra light olive oil as the best because it has a neutral flavor.

Does Olive Oil Ruin Non Stick Pans?

Olive oil is considered a viable cooking option to use with nonstick pans. Whether it will ruin non stick pans or not? most likely relates to the heat settings when cooking.

More often I’ve seen olive oil recommended for use with nonstick pans. Some users claim that olive oil extends the life of a nonstick pan but warn to steer away from vegetable oils with soy that will lessen the nonstick life.

This is the thing…Using excessive heat with any oil can leave a varnish-like coating on the cookware and with nonstick cookware, such a coating would certainly reduce its performance.

How To Use Olive Oil With Non Stick Pan

In this regard, extra virgin olive oil is best used at low to medium heat settings. The smoking point is 331°F, so extra virgin olive oil is fine to use in the normal heating of nonstick pans of low-to-medium heat (never higher).

See the table below for the smoke point of other oils.

What is the smoke point of oils? The temperature at which the oil stops shimmering and starts smoking is the smoke point of that oil.

Using a minimal amount of oil is best with non stick cookware.

Again, you should always follow the manufacturer’s instructions. This will cover you for warranty claims. If it says specifically to avoid olive oil then it makes sense to not use olive oil when cooking. 

Knowing the Smoke Point Of Oils

It’s helpful to know the smoke point of oils you intend using so that you have the best choice for the cooking style needed and you also want to avoid harming the surface of your pans with deposits of black carbon or a varnish-like coating.

Burning or overheating of an oil ruins the goodness of the food you are cooking. The heating of oils above their smoke point also creates harmful free radicals.

So, it’s a good idea to get an overall view of the smoke point of oils that are used in cooking as this pertains to health as well as caring for your pans. The below is given as a guide only. The oils can vary from brands to brands.

table of cooking oils and their smoking points, using oil in nonstick pans

When frying with very high heat, which you can with cast-iron pans, for example, you need to look for oils with high smoke points.

About ‘Healthy Oils’

I mentioned the health benefits of olive oil earlier, but, coconut oil is also considered a healthy choice because of its polyphenolic properties that purportedly play a role in protecting us from inflammation and heart disease. 

While extra virgin olive oil and virgin coconut oil are considered healthy choices, you need to watch you are not using high heat settings, since their smoke points mean they are not suitable for this temperature range.

Greasing Nonstick Bakeware

Do you have to grease non stick baking pans? No, you don’t need to grease non stick baking pans. Basically, the same applies to nonstick bakeware as it does to nonstick cookware. That’s the whole reason for buying them, right!

However, check with the manufacturer’s directions. 

And, never use a knife to slice that loaf in the baking pan (always remove the cake or loaf from the pan before cutting). Using metal utensils like this will damage the surface and the nonstick performance of the pans. 

Final Thoughts

The main recommendation with nonstick pans is to avoid the nonstick sprays and stick with the low to medium heat settings. Non stick bakeware should not need greasing. If it does, it might be time to use baking paper to line it or look for a replacement. Check out my article on ceramic bakeware.

And, just to reiterate, follow the manufacturer’s instructions. 

Info Sources

  1. Anova Culinary Complete Guide To Cooking Oils And Smoke Points accessed 6 Jan 2020.
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