Keep your non stick pans slick with proper care and cleaning.
The magic of non stick pans as a versatile kitchen tool is undeniable. Sunny side up eggs slide onto a plate with ease, flipping delicate fish filets (and keeping them intact) is a breeze, and even the gooiest overflow from a grilled cheese sandwich won’t create much of a hassle.
But unfortunately the magic of non stick wears off with time, use, and cleaning. After a few years, that previously slick surface may start catching more food debris, or you might notice the coating chipping or staining.
The typical non stick pan will have its best days in the first two to three years of use, but its exact lifespan is dependent on the pan’s quality and materials—and how well you take care of it. Let’s get into it.
Not all non stick pans are created equal, so they can range in length of life. While most non stick pans last an average of two to three years, pans of a poorer quality may yield fewer uses before the non stick coating wears off. Alternately, higher quality pans may last longer than three years with the right care.
Some non stick pans are made with a PTFE coating, while others consist of a silicone-based coating on top of ceramic that burns off with every use. Ceramic non stick cookware has many benefits for your cooking, but the coating typically wears away faster than other non stick options.
Proper care and maintenance, storage, and cleaning will elongate the lifespan of your non stick pans. When purchasing a new pan, read the accompanying user’s guide for important information like whether the pan is oven safe and what temperature it can safely reach.
As your non stick pans age, they will start to show signs of use like scratching, peeling, warping, and food sticking much more quickly than when you first bought them. So when is it just a slight inconvenience and when should you toss your pans?
If food is sticking to a non stick surface, that surface is no longer non stick. It can happen to any pan with time, but it’s most common to see in ceramic pans coated in a microscopic silicone layer called Sol-Gel, which is a self-sacrificing coating—meaning that every time the pan is used, the coating releases a little at a time to keep food from sticking.
When a Sol-Gel-coated pan starts showing signs of sticking, that means the silicone layer has been fully used up. Pans with non stick coatings besides ceramic may last longer, and minor sticking issues can often be resolved by heating the pan before coating it in a small amount of oil to “seal” it—much like the process of seasoning a skillet.
Because non stick coating by itself doesn’t rust, if you spot rust on a non stick pan that means its coating has worn away to expose the metal beneath. If the coating has worn away to that degree, it's best to replace the pan.
From time to time, non stick pans will acquire superficial scratches that don’t go away with cleaning. When these scratches expose the metal underneath the non stick surface, it may be time to replace the pan. Superficial scratches just in the coating often don’t affect performance, but deep scratches on the pan’s surface means it's time to go– especially if it’s a Teflon pan made before 2013.
All pans will undergo some discoloration with use—all it means you’re seasoning your food and enjoying well-made meals. But if the pan begins to be deeply discolored and the discoloration doesn’t lighten with a wash, the non stick surface is likely compromised and a replacement may be in order.
If you notice the non stick coating peeling off of the pan, it’s definitely time to start shopping for a new one. Since 2013, non stick coating has been made without the use of a potentially harmful chemical called PFOA, so it’s unlikely that ingesting a peeling non stick coating will cause any harm to your body. However, that indicates the coating isn’t coming back and the pan is no longer doing its job.
There are a few causes of warping in non stick pans, but the main culprit is taking your pan from hot to cold too quickly. Avoid immediately rinsing a pan off of the stove, as the drastic change in temperature will cause the pan’s expanded molecules to seize under the cold– changing the shape of the pan. If your pan is cheaply made or has a base metal that is on the softer side like aluminum or copper, warping might be more prevalent.
If your pan is warped to the point of not cooking evenly or safely, treat yourself to a new non stick pan.
Properly caring for non stick pans will not only help preserve their unique coating, it will ensure that they last for meal after meal.
Use the Correct Utensils
Think of the non stick coating on your pan like the enamel on your teeth—it’s soft, impermanent, and you want to avoid scraping it off at all costs. One thing that is sure to damage the delicate coating is metal utensils, which is why it’s important to avoid cooking with stainless steel or other metals in non stick cookware, and instead opt for softer materials like wood or silicone.
And don’t cut food up directly in that non stick pan—move your meal to a cutting board to keep the non stick coating in place to do its job.
Mind the Heat
Non stick pans can vary in the amount of heat they are capable of withstanding before disturbing the coating. Make the most of your pan by reading about its heating limitations before putting it to use. Some pans are not oven safe or require cooking food on a medium-low temperature. Made In Non Stick pans are safe in temperatures up to 500F, even in the oven. Adhering to your specific pan’s heat guidelines will help you keep your pan in tiptop shape.
Wash Gently and Thoroughly
The longevity of your non stick pan can also depend on your cleaning habits. While many modern pots and pans are technically dishwasher-safe, hand washing your non stick pans with a soft sponge or soft-bristled brush will grant you many more uses. Avoid steel wool or abrasive cleaners, as these will scratch the non stick surface of your pan. It’s also important to clean non stick pans after every use; removing food residue shortly after cooking when your pan has cooled will help to maintain those non stick properties.
Unfortunately for small space dwellers, non stick pans are not conducive to stacked storage. If you are able to make use of hanging storage, this will ensure that your pan’s surface isn’t scratched while not in use.
If you must store your non stick pan in a cabinet or stacked with other pans, place a napkin or a kitchen towel on the non stick surface to protect it from bumps and unwanted markings. Never store food in your non stick pan—this could lead to the coating quickly degrading. Instead, store leftovers in a dedicated container.
Opt for High-Quality
It might seem like a splurge to buy a higher-cost non stick pan, but this is really a case of you get what you pay for. In the long run, a higher-quality pan like Made In’s 5-ply Stainless Clad Non Stick Pans will last for more meals, spread heat more evenly for better results, and give you a better bang for your buck.
The proper care and keeping of your non stick pans will guarantee use after use with this wonderful kitchen tool, as will starting with the best quality pan you can find. Get cooking with our Non Stick Pans, available in a range of sizes for all your non stick needs.
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