In the world of cooking, there are many options. Pan shape, size and use varies widely, depending on what you're looking to do - but pan cooking surfaces also come in many different varieties. Nonstick pots and pans are popular because they need little to no oil when cooking to keep foods from sticking, they disperse heat evenly, and they make for extremely simple clean up - just a bit of soap and water. On the downside, nonstick pans are easier to scratch, and often have a shorter lifespan than non-coated surfaces.
While nonstick surfaces behave similarly when used in everyday cooking, there are different types of nonstick coatings. We did a bit of digging to get to the bottom of the different pan types, and what they have to offer.
There are two majors types of nonstick coating – silicone and Polytetrafluroethylene (PTFE).
Silicone and Silicone Polyester coatings are organic resins applied almost exclusively to bakeware, which doesn’t need to withstand the high cooking temperatures that stove-top cookware does. Silicone nonstick pans are designed to allow baked products with a high sugar content to release easily from the pan, and they are also dishwasher safe for easy cleaning. Because silicone is an inexpensive product, and silicone-coated bakeware can’t withstand a high heat, these types of pans are generally more cost effective.
PTFE is a polymer (a fluorocarbon) made up of carbon and fluorine. A well-known brand of PTFE is Teflon®. PTFE coated pans are found primarily in cookware designed for use on the stove top, as they can withstand a higher cooking temperature. PTFE is a solid, waxy compound that has a slippery texture which makes it the perfect coating for nonstick cookware. PTFE pans come in varying strengths, with varying degrees of durability and price.
- Single-layer PTFE is the least expensive form of non-stick cookware coating. The PTFE non-stick coating is sprayed onto a cooking surface in one even layer. Because only one layer is applied, these kinds of pans are prone to scratching and peeling and lack real durability, and are therefore less expensive.
- Double-layer PTFE pans are made in the same way that a single-layer pan is, except a double coating of the non-stick spray is applied, helping to create a more durable surface and better adhesion to the pan itself. These types of nonstick pans are more durable and less prone to scratching, which is reflected in a marginally higher price point.
- Multi-layer PTFE pans have three layers of nonstick coating, which makes them the most durable nonstick pans in this category. They also have the highest price point.
In addition to silicone and PTFE coated cookware, there are other nonstick alternatives available.
Ceramics Pans are now on the market, which are made with a metal base that has a thin ceramic coating baked onto it. While these pans don’t have any concerning chemicals in them, they aren’t very durable, and have been known to degrade quickly.
Cast Iron pans are also considered to be non-stick, if seasoned properly and regularly (post on this topic coming soon!). If you’ve got one of these around and you treat it right, it'll last a lifetime, and you never have to worry about their nonstick coating chipping or peeling, because it’s completely natural!
Lastly, Hard Anodized pans are also nonstick, and completely chemical-free. These types of pans are made with an aluminum base, which essentially gets submerged in a sulfuric acid bath that has low electrical charges running through it. This process results in a natural oxidation, creating an aluminum oxide surface. Then, the acid is cooled and electrical current increased, which causes the pan exterior to immediately anodize. An anodized pan is extremely strong, has a long lifespan, and because it is virtually non-porous, it resists sticking.
Nonstick coated pans (silicone, PTFE) have received a lot of scrutiny over the years, with much concern over their safety as an everyday cooking utensil. Studies have shown that nonstick pans are indeed safe, but unlike their other cooking counterparts (stainless steel and copper cookware, for example), they have a shortened lifespan. To maximize use of your nonstick pans, keep a few things in mind:
- Avoid using metal utensils – wood and plastic/silicon products are ideal
- Cook at moderate temperatures – cooking at too high of a temperature is when the integrity of the PTFE nonstick coating is compromised
- Always hand-wash nonstick products – avoid putting them in the dishwasher
- If you notice peeling/scratches, it’s time to place your pan
Do you have a preferred type of nonstick cookware?
Photo credit: Edibleligble