Buying Guide: Nonstick Cookware

Nonstick cookware is a most preferable tool of many home cooks and experts because it makes tremendously easy to deal with delicate jobs, like perfect flipped omelets or basic fried eggs that can slide out of the pan to your dish, as well as effortlessly sweep cleaning by kitchen towels.

Types of Nonstick Coat

Nonstick market is crowded with many different sizes, shapes, or even colors. Above all, the type of nonstick coat is the big deal to determine what ingredients to cook or what techniques to perform greatly in it. With a hint of Epicurious[1] and classic classifications of cookware materials, your options are:

1. Traditional Nonstick or Teflon

Traditional Nonstick PHOTO COURTESY OF T-FAL

The Good:
  • Totally nonstick. Slickest surface of all.
  • Best for eggs and fragile jobs.
  • Inexpensive.
  • Non-reactive
The Bad:
  • Fragile.
  • Short Lifetime, less than 3 years.
  • Low to medium heat.

The original nonstick or Teflon, trademarked by DuPont, was introduced to the market in the early 1960s and rapidly developed popular since then. However, after the rising of health conscious, Teflon pans became distrustful tools from containing possibly harmful chemicals, mostly are PTFE and PFOA.

The Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), or Teflon components makes it truly nonstick, can release harmful fumes when heating up over 500°F that can kill your pets or develop Teflon flu or polymer fume fever.

While the Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA, aka C8), used with PTFE manufacture to process certain fluoropolymer, can be harmful to environment, which is expected to be completely eliminated by 2015 from PFOA Stewardship Program.

Sounds like a monster, right? However, Teflon is still a most-used nonstick coat worldwide and safe under proper usage. Honestly, the big fact behind the favorable is: Teflon provides the slickest surface than other types of nonstick, which lets you effortlessly and beautifully make omelets, crepes, and fillets like a pro. Besides, the price is friendly enough for yearly replacement when the coat is scotched.

Interestingly, traditional nonstick these days has far improved. Some cookware has significantly tougher, more scratcher resistant and better heat resistant. Swiss Diamond, as an example, mixes diamond with Teflon to make noticeably strong coats that can resist up to 500°F, as well as PFOA-free.

2. Ceramic


The Good:
  • Very slick surface for Thermolon. Moderate slick for other types.
  • No PFOA, PTFE, lead, and cadmium.
  • Eco-friendlier.
  • Moderately tough surface.
  • Excellent heat conductivity.
The Bad:
  • Fragile, except Thermolon.
  • Easily lose nonstick surface.
  • Expensive.

Newly introduced, ceramic-coated cookware is concerned as a safer and eco-friendlier alternative after rising of health awareness because of free from PTFE, PFOA, lead and cadmium like some traditional tools.

A superior ceramic coat nowadays is Thermolon, used for GreenPan and some high-end brands, because it offers more scratch-resistance, long lifetime, efficient heat conductivity and high heat enduring, up to 500°F comparing to other nonstick ones that mostly under 400°F. Also, Scanpan CTQ and CTX offers infused titanium into ceramic coat for even more durable coat. These make Thermolon excellent not just delicate egg recipes since almost as slick as Teflon, but also searing and browning meats. However, many other ceramic coats, such as Ceramica by Cuisinart and Ti-Cerama by Gotham, are fragile, easier to lose nonstick finish or shorter lifetime.

Still, like other nonstick coats, ceramic coat will lose nonstick finish overtime. Following the instruction strictly as proper care (the golden rules of nonstick care above) and handwashing can significantly extend the nonstick lifetime.

3. Porcelain Enameled


The Good:
  • No PFOA, PTFE, lead, and cadmium.
  • Eco-friendlier.
  • Tough surface.
  • Affordable.
The Bad:
  • Not as slick as Teflon.
  • Take time to heat.
  • Easily to lose nonstick finish.

Porcelain-enamel coat, another eco-friendly non-Teflon type, is made of baked porcelain which turning out to glass finish. This type of coat provides smooth, glazy, and tough finish, which can last a lifetime with proper care. Still, though the surface is concerned as a nonstick, it doesn’t as slick as Teflon, or even ceramic Thermolon, and requires some oil or butter to cook perfectly. Also, we recommend following the instruction to longer preserve nonstick finish as this cookware tends to lose nonstick feature easier than others.

Moreover, it takes time to reach to good cooking temperature and most of them work well with low-to-medium heat at under 350°F. By comparison, porcelain-enamel cookware is more affordable than other non-Teflon coats as you can find easily a $20 skillet for chemical-free morning treats.

4. Cast Iron

Uncoated cast iron can be considered as natural nonstick after times of usage. However, it’s not really a true nonstick finish because you’ll have to use some oil and well seasoning. Still, this type of cookware is a good choice for using Teflon-free pans if you have tight budget and don’t mind to regularly maintain for prevent rust.

What Nonstick Coat is to Choose?

Ultimately, the nonstick that’s right for you seriously depends on your cooking habits. You might have to ask yourselves these questions:

  • What recipes will you cook the most?
  • Are you going to it over 500°F?
  • How ‘slick’ of the nonstick surface do you expect?
  • How much do you care for health issues?
  • What kind of cooktop do you have?
  • How much will you pay?

Your cooking habits is the most important clue. As known, the big downside of Teflon is: it can possibly cause toxic fumes when reach 500°F. If your certain recipes are eggs and fish fillets, which need to cook on very slick surface below 500°F, you can have peace of mind picking a Teflon skillet and enjoy truly nonstick finish, without worrying about PTFE or chemical issues.

However, if you plan to make steak, sear proteins, or use in the oven, choosing a high heat-resistant pan, such as a good ceramic one like Scanpan CTQ or tough traditional coat like Swiss Diamond, is more pleasurable.

But if you just give a chance to try with a non-toxic tool, the porcelain-enameled cookware is good to go, in much cheaper way.

Cost to Pay

Nonstick cookware comes with variety price, from under $100 to almost $1,000 for a 10-piece set. The main difference is from types of coats and construction. Obviously, the higher scratches-resistance and heat-endurance, the more price. Of all categories, patent ceramic-coated cookware comes the most expensive, as well as the tough Teflon-coated ones.

Like other cookware, the body construction is matter to the cost, too. The more heat conductive layers, the more cost to pay as massively effecting to cooking performance.

Know Before You Go:

For nonstick cookware, the coat plays the biggest key. To lengthen the life of your nonstick tools, follow these golden rules strictly:
  • No Overheat (Over 500°F). Nonstick coats begin to degrade around 500°F. Cook low-to-medium heat is recommended to avoid damage.

  • No Cooking Spray. Cooking spray will cause buildup overtime and make your pan more prone to stick. For more flawlessly nonstick, use or season a little amount of vegetable oil or butter when it’s cold, instead.

  • No Metal Utensils. Metal tools are prohibited, though the manufacturer allows to use them. Whatever, metal can scratch the coating off, and fall into your food. For the safer way, use plastic, silicone, or wooden tools, instead.

  • No Abrasive Rub and Clean. Clean your nonstick cookware with soft sponges and mild detergents. Netted sponges and non-scratch pads are suggested. Do not use heavy-duty or steel scrubbers to preserve the nonstick surface.

  • No Quick Temperature Change. Sudden temperature change can damage the coat and quickly lose nonstick finish. So, don’t run hot pans under cold water or suddenly wash them while they’re still hot. Let the pans cool down before cleaning.

  • No Dishwasher Machine. Even allowed by manufacturer, you shouldn’t put the nonstick cookware in the dishwasher to prolong the lifetime. These ‘dishwasher-safe’ nonstick cookware might be safely washed in dishwasher occasionally, but should be regularly hand-washed. Also, the nonstick tools are easy to clean.

  • Right Storage. Hang your nonstick cookware when storing, to prevent the coat from scratching. If you need to stack it, protect the coat by putting a dish rag or paper towel.

  • Discard when the coat is damage. Eventually, the nonstick coat will come off or damage. For the safe of use, discard and buy a new one.

  1. Anna Stockwell, How to Shop for a Nonstick Skillet, Epicurious, Feb 20, 2015.

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