This article will cover all of the non stick cookware types as well as discuss more traditional cookware and how to make them more non stick. We’ll also tell you the best non stick cookware based on our research and why we picked it. Non stick pans are ideal for beginner cooks because they make cooking a little more forgiving and cleanup easier. There are some downsides to non stick though. Some times you just shouldn’t use a non stick pan. Ultimately we concluded that Teflon coated non stick pans are still the best choice if you must have a non stick pan. We have concerns about ceramic coated non stick. Carbon steel cookware is a great alternative to Teflon if you can handle a little more care required to maintain it. Continue reading to learn all about non stick cookware and great alternatives when non stick isn’t the right choice.
In our quest to find the best non stick cookware we obviously have to start with Teflon coated cookware. DuPont is the company that invented Teflon. The actual name is polytetrafluoroethylene or PTFE for short. Teflon is the brand name DuPont used for PTFE. This super slippery coating was accidentally discovered in 1938. A DuPont employee named Roy Plunkett was attempting to develop a new refrigerant. As part of the process something was clogging a pressure bottle before it emptied and that turned out to be the new PTFE substance.
Teflon coated cookware is was first introduced to the public in 1954 from the Tefal company. The Tefal company was created specifically for producing and selling Teflon coated aluminum pans. The name of the company is actually a combination of the brand name Teflon and aluminum. It didn’t take long for Teflon non stick cookware to become very popular with home cooks.
Teflon is obviously great for its non stick properties but it does have limitations and concerns. Probably the biggest of those concerns is the health concerns with the PTFE chemical. At temperatures above 500 degrees Teflon gives off fumes that can cause flu like symptoms in humans and is deadly to birds. This is obviously quite concerning. At lower temperatures it is stable and perfectly safe. Most cooking is done in the safe range but it is easily possible to exceed the appropriate temperature in some cases.
While the health issue is the biggest concern associated with Teflon coated cookware, there are some other downsides. The coating will wear over time, especially if metal utensils are used with the pan. Abrasions will form and the coating will begin to peel away. This will eventually happen over time even with the greatest of care. To extend the life of your Teflon coated cookware be sure to use silicone utensils or wooden utensils.
Another issue for some people is that Teflon coated cookware is not dishwasher safe. Dishwashers can be harsh on the coating and cause it to prematurely peel. Some cookware manufacturers sell their Teflon cookware as dishwasher safe but ultimately it shortens the lifespan of the coating.
The last concern is useful lifespan. The typical lifespan of Teflon cookware is only a few years. Don’t expect a lifetime warranty for these products. They have a short life span. The coating just can’t stand the test of time.
While there are some serious concerns with Teflon coated cookware it is still a very viable choice. Professional chefs typically don’t use Teflon because it just can’t handle the abuse well but for moderate home cooks it’s a convenient cookware to have if well cared for and not exposed to excessive heat.
As a reaction to consumer concerns over Teflon coated cookware, ceramic coated non stick cookware was born. Ceramic cookware performs extremely well and doesn’t have the health concerns associated with Teflon. For these reasons there has been a lot of interest around this new non stick cookware. Some new brands have popped up specifically to fill this product niche with names promoting the healthy or green aspect of the cookware. It does still have all of other downsides of Teflon coated non stick cookware however. Most of those are not deal breakers for the average home cook. The biggest concern we found in our research is the typical lifespan of the non stick surface. Teflon performs very well for years while customers are reporting that ceramic coated non stick cookware begins loosing its non stick properties after only months. We found this to be true whether the cookware in question was low priced or extremely expensive. There were plenty of reviews that were glowing about ceramic coated cookware’s ability to perform excellently but the trend of seeing negative reviews from real customers that had used their cookware for more than 6 months being disappointed was very telling to us. We’re concerned most of the positive reviews may have different viewpoints after owning their cookware for several months longer. It’s our hope that durability of the non stick coating will improve.
Cast iron cookware is sometimes referred to as the natural non stick cookware. Cast iron can become non stick with use over time due to the build up of natural fat polymerization on the surface of the cast iron. You don’t have to wait for this to happen though. Most people season their cast iron cookware so they will immediately have a great non stick surface to work with. You aren’t going to get the same level of non stick performance from cast iron as you will from Teflon or ceramic coatings but it will be quite impressive if seasoned properly.
To season cast iron cookware, apply a thin coating of an oil and add high heat until it smokes and leaves the polymerized fat coating. Flaxseed oil is considered the best oil for this process and gives the best and most durable non stick coating. A great way of achieving the high temperatures necessary is to set your oven to 500 degrees with the cast iron primed with oil inside and allow it to heat with the oven and burn off the oil. Turn off the oven and allow the pan to cool down inside along with the oven.
Caring for cast iron is a little different. Avoid soap and limit water when cleaning. It’s best to reapply heat to evaporate any remaining water. If it needs a good scrubbing then salt is the suggested abrasive along with a kitchen rag. Apply a coating of an oil to help protect the seasoned surface before storing away.
Almost anything can be cooked in cast iron and it can handle almost any temperature. Highly acidic foods can break down the non stick surface but if you find the surface is loosing its non stick properties you can simply reseason it. Cast iron retains heat very well. It also cooks very evenly. This isn’t true for some cookware which can have hot spots. The main downside for cast iron aside from the more involved care is the weight. This cookware is extremely heavy and can be unwieldy for some to use.
When searching for non stick cookware, stainless steel isn’t going to be it. Stainless steel cookware is very popular cookware due to its easy care and versatility but it is not non stick. It can become slightly non stick with seasoning. Usually the way cooks deal with preventing sticking is by cooking with oil or butter. This leads to less healthy foods which is one of the reasons non stick cookware is popular with more health conscious cooks.
Stainless steel also does a poor job of transferring heat for even cooking. This is typically solved by layering stainless steel with an aluminum core. Aluminum is an excellent heat conductor but not very durable since it is a very soft metal. This process produces a durable cookware that cooks evenly. All Clad made their name by cladding aluminum cookware with stainless steel and they produce some of the best stainless steel cookware you can buy today.
At the end of our quest to find the best non stick cookware we arrive at carbon steel. Carbon steel cookware is a bit lesser known. It shares a lot of the same properties as cast iron. It can be seasoned for a good non stick surface and it requires similar maintenance. The seasoned surface will also break down with highly acidic foods.
Carbon steel is much lighter than cast iron which can be a big benefit for some. It doesn’t cook as evenly as cast iron nor does it retain heat as well but it does cook reasonably evenly that most cooks don’t have serious complaints.
Ultimately it’s difficult to claim one cookware as the best non stick. What is the best choice for non stick cookware in our opinion? Teflon coated cookware is the best in our eyes if you steer very clear of high temperatures. Ceramic hasn’t proven itself over the long haul yet. Our runner up selection is the carbon steel cookware. It requires a bit more effort but if the health issues around Teflon put you off enough to avoid it all together then carbon steel is the best performing alternative without having to deal with the added weight of cast iron. Hopefully this article has provided you with enough insight that you feel confident in making an informed decision that best fits your needs and desires. Good luck and happy cooking.
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