If you’re a first time cook, it may feel natural to pick up an off-the-shelf non-stick pan. But besides choosing brands that you are comfortable with, how much more do you know about non-stick pans? Have you ever considered the materials that make a pan non-stick? Are you aware that there are in fact, many choices to non-stick pan materials, such as ceramic? Why should you know the differences?
This is where we break it down for you - and we promise, we won’t have to go too cerebral about ceramic!
Let’s start with what a non-stick pan is
This may seem like a fairly basic topic, but it is actually one that many people do not have a full understanding of. Surprise!
Simply put, non-stick cookware is cookware that has a coating over the metal pan, which serves to keep food from sticking to the surface. Metal pans are porous, and that is why sticking occurs. The coating’s function is to fill the gaps and create a smooth surface that prevents sticking.
Non-stick cookware can typically handle higher heat without breaking down. How high of a temperature is that? This is where the differences of materials come into the conversation.
Let’s take a look at traditional cookware materials
Stainless steel is highly durable and can stand high heat and temperature shocks, but they are prone to getting scratched and having food sticking to it. Food almost always sticks in stainless steel pans and when it does, it becomes harder to clean. Stainless steel cookware can be pricier than other types of cookware too.
Cast iron is also very durable. It can withstand extremely high heat and is often used directly over the fire such as during camping or in the oven. While cast iron is a very sturdy material, it requires a lot of upkeep. It must be used frequently and seasoned multiple times before it builds up enough of a coating to keep food from sticking to it. It is also very heavy.
Teflon coated non-stick pans are the most widely used and widely accepted type of non-stick cookware. It is considered the original non-stick cookware, but it cannot withstand rigorous wear and tear. After frequent use, the non-stick coating can flake off. Once it does, rust can set in. Teflon also starts to deteriorate at 500 degrees Fahrenheit and will begin to give off toxic fumes.
Now let’s take a look at non-stick ceramic coating
First thing’s first - a ceramic coated pan is not a ceramic pan. The rest of the pan is made with your usual highly-durable metal material, which is coated in silicone. It is simply the cooking surface that is coated with ceramic which creates a safe non-stick barrier between the food and the pan.
How is non-stick ceramic coating better?
Pans with a ceramic coating tend to be more affordable, more durable, and have good heat retention compared to stainless steel and Teflon coated pans. They can easily withstand higher temperatures of 500 degrees Fahrenheit and above. They are also much easier to clean, scratch resistant, and are significantly more lightweight compared to cast iron.
Let’s put that in a checklist for you:
- Easy to clean
- Low maintenance
- Safer than Teflon
And there’s more
We are all looking for healthier ways to cook our food. Using less oil is one way to cut down on unhealthy fats in your diet. Pans with a non-stick ceramic coating are non-toxic and safe to use every day. You can use a medium sized sauté pan to cook your eggs and sausage for breakfast with easy cleanup. Just wipe it down with a clean paper towel.
Cooking with less oil, or without oil entirely, is a healthy alternative to heavily fried foods. Vegetables can be sautéed in a small amount of water instead of butter or oil. Pans with a non-stick coating promote healthy cooking because you don’t have to use a lot of oil to keep the food from sticking to the pan.
And a ceramic coated pan really does let you do all that.
Caring for non-stick cookware
While a non-stick pan makes cooking so easy for you, it does not mean you do not need to take care of it. Here’s how you can make sure your pan goes a long way:
Sauté pans with a non-stick coating will last a long time, as long as they are cared for properly. When it comes to caring for this type of cookware, being careful not to drop it or leave it to cook unattended will preserve its durability and non-stick surface.
- Gently hand wash the pan prior to the first use to remove dust.
- Lubricate the pan with a light coating of oil (1 Tbsp.) before storing.
- Although the pan can withstand a high temperature, it is not advisable to cook at temperatures above 500°F (medium-high to high heat). Be careful to avoid sudden changes in temperature, such as running a hot pan under cold water to cool it down.
- Always leave your pan to cool to room temperature before washing.
- Never leave your pan on the heat while it is empty. It will damage your pan and shorten its lifespan.
- Always use silicone, rubber, plastic, or wooden utensils to prevent scratches. Never use knives or metal utensils when cooking in a non-stick pan.
- Do not put non-stick cookware in the dishwasher. Never use anything abrasive on your pan, such as steel wool and chemical cleaners. If you have burnt something in the pan, add water to it and leave it to soak.
- Hang pans on a pot rack side by side instead of stacking them. Stacking can cause scratches on the nonstick surface.