How to Care for Nonstick Pans (and 5 Ways to Make Them Last Longer)
We can't promise your nonstick pans will last forever, but following these tips will add years to their life. Here's how to care for your nonstick pans so they're always ready when you want to whip up an omelet or sauté some veggies.
You want your nonstick pans to last, so it's important to take good care of them. Although you should always read the manufacturer's instructions (they'll have specific care instructions, which can differ between brands), we compiled a few general tips to keep your nonstick pans in tip-top shape. Keep them in mind while you're sautéeing at the stove or frying away and your pans will last for years.
Wash and Season It First
Before using any brand-new nonstick pan, make sure you wash it in hot, soapy water then thoroughly dry it. This'll remove any residue from the packaging. Before using your pan for the first time, you have to season it. Seasoning isn't only for cast-iron pans. Seasoning nonstick cookware evens out any imperfections or pores in the coating, and it'll help your pan last longer. You can season nonstick cookware by lightly rubbing cooking oil over the surface, then heating the pan on the stove over medium heat for 2 or 3 minutes. Once it cools down, gently wash it again in warm water with mild dish soap, rinse it, and dry.
Use the Right Cooking Utensils
Today's nonstick pans are more durable than those of the past, but you should still treat them a gently. Never cut foods with a knife in a nonstick pan (or bakeware), and be careful not to stab or scrape the nonstick surface with any sharp point. Nonstick pans have definitely gotten stronger through the years, but it's still possible to chip the coating if you're not careful. However, you don't have to avoid metal utensils completely. Metal spatulas can be OK, for example, as long as they don't have sharp edges. If you want to err on the side of caution, wooden spoons and silicone utensils should always be safe to use and shouldn't have any sharp edges.
Don't Overheat Them
You can help the nonstick coating last longer by sticking to low and medium heat when you're cooking. High heat can damage the coating over time, and at extremely high temperatures (usually around 600°F) Teflon, a popular brand of nonstick coating, can release potentially dangerous fumes. (Reaching that level of heat on your stovetop is pretty unlikely.) Don't heat an empty pan; it should always have oil, water, or food in it before you turn on the burner. This will help the nonstick coating last longer and has the added benefit of serving as a temperature gauge. (Most oils start to smoke at 400°F or higher, so you can guarantee you're cooking at a safe temperature for nonstick coatings by having some in your pan.)
Take the Time to Handwash
Although it's true that a lot of nonstick pans are dishwasher-safe, you'll have the best results over time if you handwash them. Usually a quick scrub with dish soap and a rinse is enough to clean up your nonstick pans, but if they end up with grease or food residue stuck on the surface, you'll need some elbow grease. If warm water and dish soap don't do the trick, make a cleaning solution of 3 tablespoons of bleach, 1 tablespoon of liquid dish detergent, and 1 cup of water. Use the solution on the nonstick surface with a soft sponge or a nonabrasive scrubbing pad, then re-season your pan with a swipe of cooking oil.
Don't Use Nonstick Spray
It might come as a surprise, but nonstick cooking spray can actually make food stick. Cooking sprays burn at a lower temperature than the nonstick coating, so they can end up damaging your pans. They also create a residue that builds up over time and ruins the nonstick surface. Sticking to some oil or butter to help with browning avoids potentially wrecking your nonstick pans.
Is Nonstick Cookware Safe?
Through the years, there's been debate about whether nonstick pans are safe to use. The concern is that the coatings use per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which help seal your pan against oil and grease, making it nonstick. PFAS can contaminate groundwater and soil and can also accumulate in the human body over time, causing health problems like cancers, infertility, high cholesterol, and thyroid disease. The FDA released findings from recent testing that found high levels of PFAS in common grocery store items like meat and seafood. However, it's more likely that the high levels were caused by contaminated water, soil, and fertilizer as opposed to using nonstick cookware. Still, it's important to follow the right use and care instructions for your nonstick pans, particularly not overheating them, so the coating remains intact.