Every cook should have a good non-stick pan in their collection. Why? It’s easy to clean, food won’t stick to the surface and there’s less need for butter or oil. (And if you ever fry eggs, you know a non-stick surface is essential.) But with so many options, deciding what to buy can be a little (OK, a lot) overwhelming. We tapped a professional chef to find out everything you need to know about non-stick cookware, including what brands she cooks with and our own recommendations, so you can choose the best non-stick pans for your own kitchen.
What is non-stick cookware exactly?
With non-stick cookware, you can brown food without it sticking to the pan. Standard pots and pans require some type of cooking fat (like oil or butter) to prevent the food from gluing itself to the pan, but non-stick versions are coated with a slippery surface during manufacturing.
When you think of non-stick, you probably think of Teflon (PTFE or polytetrafluoroethylene if you’re fancy), a chemical that’s been the standard for non-stick cookware since the 1940s. But it’s not the only option: There are also ceramic-, enamel- and silicone-coated pans, as well as seasoned cast iron and anodized aluminum.
Are non-stick pans safe to cook with?
Recently, the FDA found that some of the chemicals used in manufacturing Teflon are toxic to the environment and our health. Those chemicals (specifically PFOAs) are being phased out, but make sure you read the label on the product before purchasing.
Modern non-stick cookware is safe when used correctly. It’s really important not to overheat a coated non-stick pan (like Teflon). When a Teflon pan is heated above about 500°F, the coating will begin to break down at a molecular level and release toxic particles and gases (some of them carcinogenic)—yikes.
Another thing to watch out for: If you accidentally scratch the coating, it can flake off into your food. If you remember to cook at low to medium heat and don’t use metal utensils, non-stick cookware is safe.
When should I use non-stick cookware?
According to Barbara Rich, culinary arts lead chef at the Institute of Culinary Education, you should absolutely reach for a non-stick pan when cooking eggs: “Use non-stick cookware 100 percent of the time when cooking eggs. At the Institute of Culinary Education, we use non-stick pans during our lessons on eggs.” Non-stick also great for cooking fish, she tells us, because of its delicate nature. And don’t forget about cheese, which is notorious for sticking and burning onto pans.
When should I not use non-stick?
Skip coated non-stick for high-heat cooking or transferring from the stove to the oven. “If you have cookware made with Teflon or that’s coated, I wouldn’t recommend putting it in the oven at all,” Rich tells us. Searing a steak on the stove and finishing it in the oven? Use stainless steel or cast iron for that. In fact, stainless steel cookware is generally a better choice for searing meats and cooking fatty foods or sauces that aren’t prone to sticking in the first place.
So you’re finally ready to make the non-stick investment?
These 11 brands make the best non-stick cookware on the market:
1. Scanpan 11-Inch Fry Pan
The One Professionals Use
“I love and use Scanpan all the time,” Rich tells us. That’s because the Danish cookware heats evenly, is relatively lightweight and is oven-safe up to 500°F. The CTX line has the look of stainless steel, but its interior features a food-safe ceramic finish for a slick surface that won’t leech chemicals into your food. You can also pick and choose pans as you please if you don’t want to commit to a whole set.
2. Caraway Home 10.5-Inch Fry Pan
The One That Looks Cute in Your Kitchen
Available in an array of trendy colors (sage! cream! “perracotta”!), these are non-stick pans for the millennial set. The nontoxic ceramic coating is oven-safe up to 650°F and holds onto heat, and you have the option to purchase a single pan or the entire set that includes magnetic pan racks and a lid holder for storage. How does it cook? “I’ve found I can just toss in a bunch of veggies and sauté them without even adding any oil,” says Jillian Quint, PureWow’s SVP of content.
3. Equal Parts Big Pan
The Direct-to-Consumer Do-It-All
We recently tested this new, direct-to-consumer line and were seriously impressed by the slippery surface. The high-sided, ten-inch Big Pan is a do-it-all skillet that heats up quickly and evenly, with thoughtful design elements like a heat-dissipating, easy-to-grip handle. It’s only oven-safe up to 450°F, but for quick searing on the stove, it’s a dream. The black finish is timeless yet modern; it works on gas, electric and induction burners; it’s nontoxic and it comes in eco-friendly packaging (a nice bonus).
4. All-Clad Hard Anodized Aluminum Non-Stick 8-Inch and 10-Inch Fry Pan Set
The Best Bang for Your Buck
The All-Clad brand is well loved among chefs and home cooks (hi, Ina Garten), and for good reason: Its skillets are durable and the quality is consistent. While these anodized non-stick pans are heavier than some options, they won’t chip, scratch or warp on you. (They’re also dishwasher-safe and oven-safe.) Not to mention, $60 for two high-end pans is pretty hard to come by—proof that you don’t have to spend a fortune on non-stick.
5. Lodge 10.25-Inch Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet
The Oldie but Goodie
You wouldn’t normally think of cast iron as non-stick, would you? It’s actually a great non-stick option, as long as it’s seasoned properly. “Cast iron is the most classic, and as long as you’re willing to be patient and get it seasoned, it works really well,” Rich advises. “You can buy ‘pre-seasoned’ cast iron, but you’ll still need to bring it home and wash it, after which it can’t hurt to re-season.” Luckily, it is also inexpensive and will last you pretty much forever, provided you take care of it. It holds heat and can withstand high temperatures like no other. It wouldn’t be our top choice for cooking eggs…but if durability and versatility are your priority, you can’t go wrong.
6. Our Place Always Pan
The Constant Bestseller
We’ve said it once and we’ll say it again: We love this pan. (Judging by the multiple restocks, we’re not the only ones.) Our Place’s one and only skillet does the work of an eight-piece cookware set and comes with both a nesting steamer basket and wooden spatula that rests on the pan’s handle. Sure, it’s adorable (and comes in five pretty colors), but it’s also dishwasher-safe and compatible with all cooktops, and the brand is BIPOC- and women-owned. It strikes the ideal balance between aesthetics, quality and versatility (and will actually fit in your kitchen cabinets).
7. GreenPan Padova Ceramic 8-Inch & 10-Inch Frypan Set
The Original Non-Toxic Non-Stick
GreenPan is one of the OGs of non-toxic, nonstick cookware. The Belgium-based brand uses a silicon-based coating called Thermolon, which is slippery and scratch resistant, but doesn’t run the risk of releasing toxins into your food—even if you accidentally overheat the pan. (It can withstand temperatures up to 850°F.) While there’s no shortage of styles, sizes and colors to choose from, we have a soft spot for the GreenPan Padova two-piece set, which includes versatile 10- and 12-inch skillets in a baby blue color.
8. HexClad Hybrid Non-Stick Cookware 12-Inch Frying Pan
The High-Tech Brand
If you’ve ever been caught red-handed scraping at a non-stick pan with a metal spatula (yikes!), HexClad has your name all over it. The commercial-grade cookware is etched with a hexagonal pattern that is not only suuuper non-stick, but scratch-resistant and metal-utensil safe to a T. (During a demo in the PureWow office, a HexClad rep actually took an electric hand mixer and put it on high, grinding it into the pan. No marks, swear!) The line earns bonus points for being dishwasher safe.
9. Material The Coated Pan
The Sustainable Skillet
According to the brand, this non-stick skillet is as smooth as silken tofu—delicious. Rather than Teflon or ceramic, the 10.5-inch pan (which is coated in an attractive emerald hue) is made of a stainless-steel alloy built around a core of copper and infused with a fume-free coating (that Material says lasted up to 37 times longer than ceramic in extensive product testing. It’s induction-, oven- and dishwasher-friendly, and that copper core means it conducts heat evenly across the surface of the pan.
10. Made In Stainless Steel 12-Inch Non Stick Frying Pan
The Durable Option
Made In’s non-stick frying pan isn’t just slippery, it’s also extremely durable. According to the brand, the triple-cured Made Slick surface will last ten times longer than other non-stick surfaces and thirty times longer than ceramic non-stick surfaces. It’s non-toxic and available in an eight-, ten- or twelve-inch size (in a pretty blue or graphite color), and can withstand oven temperatures up to 500°F. The only caveat? It can’t be cleaned in a dishwasher (but wiping out the smooth surface is easy).
11. OXO Good Grips 12-Inch Non-Stick Frying Pan with Lid
The Affordable One
If you’re not in the market for bells and whistles but still want a pan that’s functional and durable, the OXO non-stick skillet is that pan. It’s lightweight yet sturdy, and if you follow the non-stick rules (no metal utensils!), its coating will last. You would think the grippy handle means it’s not oven-friendly, but it’s actually heatproof up to 390°F. It is handwash only, and it won’t work on an induction stovetop, but with a palatable $50 price tag, you can’t go wrong.
How to Take Care of Your Non-Stick Cookware:
To keep your coated non-stick pans looking brand-new, hand washing is the way to go. Because it wipes clean like nobody’s business, you probably won’t need the dishwasher anyway. Use soapy water and a nonabrasive sponge to maintain the coating, and line the inside with paper towels if you plan to stack during storage.
When cooking with non-stick pans, keep in mind that the coating is prone to scratches. “It’s important to use non-scratching utensils like rubber spatulas or wooden spoons when cooking on non-stick cookware,” Rich recommends. “Don’t mix anything with a fork or metal utensil.” Don’t put it in the oven or preheat it, either. And don’t use non-stick cooking spray: It can bond to the surface when it heats up, leaving a sticky residue you won’t be able to wipe off (and rendering that once slick coating pretty much useless).
The Bottom Line When Choosing Non-Stick Cookware:
When buying non-stick cookware, “you need to think about what you’ll use it for,” Rich tells us. “In this day and age, the ones that are coated or Teflon are the least sensible to purchase because you may damage it by using a sponge that’s too abrasive or a metal utensil like a fork or tongs.” She prefers ceramic or seasoned cast iron. “When you’re looking for ceramic, look for ones that are not coated,” she says. “The coating is generally painted on, and that’s when you want to be careful because it can get scratched.”
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