Non-stick pans are a must-have for every home chef. Not only are they easy to use, but they also promote a healthier lifestyle because you don’t need to use as much oil with them. This type of cookware also shortens your clean up time because there should be less stuck-on food.
As wonderful as they are, there’s just one problem: non-stick pans often need to be replaced because they lose their efficacy. Regardless of the quality of the pan itself or what you paid for it, all types of non-stick pans – whether they have ceramic, enamel, Teflon, or another type of coating – are sensitive to high heats. They also need to be cleaned in a very specific way. To help your non-stick cookware last as long as possible, avoid making the following mistakes.
It’s common knowledge that you should season your cast iron skillets with cooking oil before using them for the first time. However, some people assume that this rule doesn’t apply to non-stick pans, which isn’t the case. “As with most fine cookware, always season it before first use with oil or butter to avoid food from sticking,” says Daniel Winer, CEO of HexClad Cookware. “Once you’ve seasoned it during the first use, you don’t need to season your pans every time. This will help your pans to stay in good shape.”
When you’re done cooking a large meal, you may want to take shortcuts and clean your non-stick cookware in the dishwasher, but that’s a mistake. Culinary consultant Clare Langan says that generally speaking, you want to get in the habit of handwashing cookware. “Some cookware, particularly those with wooden handles, can deteriorate in a dishwasher.” You’ll always want to check the manufacturer’s cleaning recommendations. A gentle yet effective detergent thoroughly cleans pots and pans.
Not only is it important to handwash your non-stick cookware, but you’ll also want to do it the right way. Contrary to popular belief, you shouldn’t immediately stick your pan in the sink and douse it with water the second you take it off the stove. “To clean non-stick cookware, let it cool first, then use soap and a non-abrasive sponge,” says Langan.
Using cooking spray might feel like a good idea or even a healthy choice, but according to lifestyle director Lisa Freedman, it can damage non-stick cookware. “A lot of people use cooking spray with non-stick cookware thinking that less is more. But over time, you’ll start to see a build-up of the spray that doesn’t burn off during cooking. It gets sticky and gross,” she says. She recommends using whole fats like oil and butter instead.
To be clear, it is safe in some instances to use non-stick cookware in the oven, however, that doesn’t mean you should do so without checking the manufacturer’s instructions. Jeff Malkasian of Viking Culinary explains that most non-stick cookware has a maximum temperature it can safely withstand for oven use, but most of us aren’t checking what it is before we do. “If you are finishing off your dish in the oven, make sure you know what temperature it can handle first,” he says.
To prevent any accidental mistakes, it’s best to buy a set of non-stick cookware that can withstand high heat.
Using a metal spatula with non-stick cookware is a major no-no, says culinary expert Ligia Lugo. “The non-stick coating on your pan, known as Teflon, is not as hard as metal and can get damaged very easily if you use metal tongs, forks, spoons, spatulas, etc. in the cooking process,” she says. “To avoid ruining your expensive cookware, avoid using metal utensils at all costs and swap them out for wooden or high-heat silicone ones.”
When organising your cupboards and drawers avoid placing the pans in one another so that the bottom of one pan is in contact with the non-stick coating of another pan. The metal exterior of a pan can damage the polymer coating and ruin it. A better idea is to hang your pans from a pot rack or hooks, or place a face washer or other small cloth between each pan.
“Acidic foods, such as fish and some processed foods, can disrupt the fluoropolymer coating of non-stick pans,” Lugo says, which shortens the life of your non-stick pans. “Noticeable signs of damage are the formation of blisters on the coating of the pan.” She recommends using another type of cookware when making acidic foods. Cast iron pans are ideal and will last for years with proper care.
While you can cook lots of dishes in a non-stick pan, it isn’t ideal for everything. Jake Kalick cautions against searing vegetables or proteins in a non-stick pan. “If you’re looking to sear chicken, steak or get a char on vegetables you’re much better off using a pan with a stainless cooking surface,” he says. “A non-stick coating creates somewhat of a steaming effect which prevents your food from browning.”
Purchase a stainless-steel frying pan for searing. You will need to add oil, but you’ll save your non-stick pans.
Most non-stick pans aren’t meant for high heat cooking. “Extremely high temperatures can lead to warping, blistering of the finish, and shorter life in general,” says Lam. But if you like cooking certain foods at a high temperature, that doesn’t mean you have to forgo non-stick cookware altogether. You just have to choose the right type. Avoid Teflon coated pans, which can be very dangerous to use at high heat or if scratched. Instead, opt for enamel, porcelain or ceramic-coated stainless steel pans, which can be used at temperatures up to 180 degrees Celsius.
An oven grill is great for certain dishes like steak, chicken and pork chops. But make sure you aren’t using your non-stick cookware under the grill because it can reach up to 260 degrees Celsius, which is way too hot for even the most oven-friendly non-stick pans.
This article originally appeared on Reader’s Digest.