A guide to using, cleaning, and storing this popular type of cookware.

By Michelle Preli
June 25, 2020
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Do you love nonstick pots and pans for their ease of use? If so, you're not alone. Many home chefs appreciate this type of cookware. After all, there's nothing better when it comes to cooking delicate fish like Dover Sole or making a French omelet. Following a few key guidelines will keep your nonstick cookware in top shape. Plus, proper care will lengthen the life of the pan. Here's how to treat them right.

Tips for Cooking with Care

Nonstick coatings tend to break down over very high heat. For this reason, never preheat an empty pan. Rub a little oil into the cold pan before you heat it, but do not use cooking spray with nonstick cookware because it builds up over time and eventually makes the pan prone to sticking.

Be sure to follow the recommended temperature guidance for nonstick surfaces, using on low or medium heat only. Avoid using nonstick pans for high heat cooking like searing meat. For non-stick coatings such as Teflon, that means cooking with temperatures that do not exceed 500°F. At those high temperatures, the coating can start to break down, releasing gasses into the air that could cause temporary flu-like symptoms. According to the American Cancer Society, most non-stick cookware should not go in the oven. Use wooden or heat-resistant plastic utensils to prevent scratching the surface and avoid anything that may scratch the surface such as metal utensils.

Wash Gently

Let the pan cool before washing. "Submerging a hot pan in cold water or even running cool water over hot nonstick cookware can warp a pan, creating an uneven, wonky surface that will heat unevenly," note the experts at Williams Sonoma. Wash nonstick pans by hand after every use using lukewarm water rather than hot water. And be sure to take a gentle approach to cleaning: Instead of steel wool or scouring pads, opt for a sponge or soft cloth. For any lingering food, soak the pan in soapy water but be sure to avoid harsh detergents because they can also harm the coating. A natural alternative is a baking soda and water solution that can help remove residue.

Do not wash your nonstick pans in the dishwasher as doing so can break down the coating. Technically many nonstick pans are dishwasher safe, but pros recommend hand washing with warm soapy water. Then towel dry or place in a dish rack.

Storage

Stacking pans on top of one another can scratch their nonstick surfaces, as can placing another kind of pan on top of a nonstick pan. Sandwiching paper towel, paper plates, or dish towels in between pans for storage will protect their coating.

Replace When Necessary

Nonstick cookware does not last as long as cast iron or other materials. If the coating is chipped, flaked, or any way compromised, it's time to replace the pan.

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