The 5 Best Non-Stick PansPublished on 03/29/2023 · 9 min readNot all non-stick pans are created equal! Kitchen Expert Jacob Lewis explains how to choose safe non-stick cookware, and lists his top 5 recommended non-stick pans.
If you enjoy eating eggs, then it’s helpful to make sure you enjoy cooking them, too. Nonstick pans are the fastest way to take away the fuss. Photo by Jacob Lewis
tl;dr If you’re shopping for the best nonstick cookware, the most important factor to consider is whether or not the product is built to fail, or built for life. This article explores the characteristics of PTFE and ceramic coatings.
Nonstick fry pans have become an essential tool for any home chef who wants to cook up a variety of delicious meals with ease. Nonstick cookware allows for easy food release and effortless cleanup—making it ideal for sliding a fried egg onto a breakfast plate, cooking pancakes, and making omelets. However, choosing the right nonstick fry pan can be daunting, as there are a variety of materials, coatings, and features to consider that may or might not be built to last. In this article, we'll take a closer look at what makes a good nonstick coating, the different materials used in nonstick cookware, what to do with old and worn-out nonstick pans, and how to care for your nonstick cookware to ensure it lasts for years to come.
What Makes an Effective Nonstick Coating?
The simple answer: durable, scratch-resistant (metal-utensil safe), and able to withstand high temperatures without flaking or releasing toxic fumes. While all cookware these days is PFOA-free, the most common nonstick coating used in cookware today is polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE)—commonly known as Teflon. However, PTFE has been linked to the release of harmful chemicals, such as perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFAS), which can be toxic when heated to high temperatures. As a result, many manufacturers now offer PFAS-free nonstick coatings, such as ceramic nonstick coatings. Though even these are up for further investigation.
Downsides of Nonstick Coatings
Despite their many benefits, nonstick coatings do have some downsides. Over time, most nonstick coatings will wear off or become scratched, reducing their effectiveness and potentially exposing you to nonstick particles in your meals. Additionally, this can lead to food sticking to the pan, which is frustrating and makes cleanup more difficult. Worst of all, even if the manufacturer says their product has a “limited lifetime warranty,” most will not back up their cookware when the nonstick coating begins to fail.
While there are certain manufacturers who offer a nonstick surface that is actually safe for use with metal utensils (mainly, Scanpan), many others falsely claim the same. In general, nonstick coatings remain delicate and easy to scratch. So to guarantee their longest lifespan, you should stay away from using them with metal utensils. Finally, high heat is one of the fastest ways to damage a nonstick coating—leading to destruction of the coating and the release of toxic fumes. Later in this article we’ll cover some methods to make sure your cookware lasts as long as possible.
Different Materials Used in Nonstick Cookware
Nonstick cookware can be made from a variety of core materials, including pressed aluminum (low-cost), hard-anodized aluminum (durable and lightweight), and stainless steel (most durable).
Hard-anodized aluminum is the most popular choice for nonstick pans due to its excellent heat conductivity, light weight, resistance to warping, and affordability. These pans are way more durable than pressed aluminum pans—making them a great option for home cooks who use their pans frequently.
Stainless steel nonstick pans still have an aluminum core and are another popular choice because they tend to be least prone to warping over time. Depending on the way the pan is constructed, stainless can offer similar, better, or worse heat conductivity than full-aluminum, and at a higher price.
Alternative, high-performing options that aren’t exactly the conventional nonstick are made with cast iron or carbon steel. Though for many home cooks, these materials are far less than ideal. That’s because these two options require seasoning, are not officially “nonstick”, and can be heavier than aluminum or stainless steel while requiring a bit more work to keep clean.
With all that said, let’s take a look at some of the best options on the market.
5 Expert-Recommended Nonstick Pans
The Anolon X 12-inch Hybrid Nonstick skillet is one of the best overall values: its heavy-grade hard-anodized aluminum construction blended with a stainless mesh in the cooking surface provides a rugged and unique cooking experience that keeps oils in the center of the pan—ensuring the best texture possible.
Induction-compatible, dishwasher safe, and ovenproof to 500℉, these pans are versatile and practical in any kitchen. Though one downside is that they tend to be heavier than similarly sized options—making them unwieldy for folks with mobility issues.
GreenPan frypans are a great overall value due to their durable stainless steel clad construction and ceramic non-stick coating that’s oven-safe up to 600℉. Their tri-ply design ensures even-heating, and their non-stick coating makes for easy clean up.
Overall, these pans have a simple and modern aesthetic in the kitchen. The wishbone handle makes sure that even under constant heat, the grip stays comfortable and isn’t too hot to handle.
However, this pan is a bit more expensive than similar options, and its ceramic coating requires a lot of special care to make sure it doesn’t chip. The lifetime warranty on this pan is better than nothing, but some folks report that it’s not as easy as you would think to get a chipped or failing nonstick coating covered by the warranty—so make sure you handle it as carefully as possible.
The Le Creuset Toughened Nonstick Pro Deep Fry Pan is one of the most durable nonstick fry pans on the market—next to Scanpan. Backed with a 90-day love-it-or-hate-it guarantee, this pan also features one of the best lifetime warranties on the market.
The pan is also induction safe and ovenproof to 500℉—making it versatile for use on all cooktops. The three-layer nonstick coating is metal-utensil safe (although I don’t recommend it), and its hard-anodized aluminum construction promotes even heat distribution.
While the high-quality construction and lifetime warranty can come with a higher price tag than other nonsticks on the market, these pans stand out for their simple aesthetics that are meant to hang around the kitchen for a long time.
Scanpan HAPTIQ pans are a great overall value: they offer the most durable non-stick surface on the market, can withstand high temperatures, and include a legendary lifetime warranty.
The ergonomic handle provides a comfortable grip, and the pan is dishwasher safe for easy cleanup. Their nonstick coating—a blend of ceramic and titanium—is oven safe to 500℉, and is one of the only nonstick options that is truly safe to use with metal utensils.
Made by hand in Denmark from recycled aluminum, these pans stand out as leaders for better nonstick cookware. The downside? They are among the most expensive of all the options listed—but they’re cheaper in the long run!
Viking Culinary skillets are an overall decent value due to their construction, even-heating capabilities, ability to be used on induction cooktops, and oven proofing to 500℉. The pan is dishwasher safe with a comfortable, stay-cool handle for easy use. Plus, it offers a limited lifetime warranty.
The Quantanium nonstick coating is infused with titanium to ensure maximum durability and is metal-utensil safe—although the company does still recommend using soft-tipped utensils for maximum lifespan (one of the only manufacturers to openly recommend soft-tipped utensils.)
Despite these pans weighing more than most comparable options, its ergonomic handles are shaped to give the vessel a lower center of gravity—making it easier to control.
How to Properly Care for Nonstick Cookware
To ensure your nonstick cookware lasts as long as possible, it's important to care for it properly. Here are seven quick tips to keep your cookware in its best possible state:
1. Avoid using metal utensils, as they can scratch the pan. Even if a manufacturer says it’s safe to do so, it’s always better not to. That goes for the Le Creuset and Scanpan options listed above; even though they can handle it, it’s simply better not to risk it.
2. Use a paper towel or soft sponge to clean the nonstick surface, and avoid using abrasive sponges or scouring pads that can scratch the surface. Above all, never use steel wool or chainmail scrubbers, as they will permanently damage the cookware and possibly void your warranty.
3. Hand-wash your nonstick cookware with warm, soapy water, and avoid putting it in the dishwasher. The harsh detergents and high heat in the dishwasher can damage the nonstick coating over time, and the chance of your cookware bonking into other objects goes up quite a bit when inside a dishwasher.
4. Consider storing your nonstick cookware by stacking it with soft protectors between each piece to prevent scratches. Paper towels or old rags work great for this, but some companies make silicone pads to place between.
5. When cooking with your nonstick pan, use a low to medium heat setting to prevent damage to its coating. Also, never heat an empty nonstick pan, as this can cause the surface to overheat and potentially release toxic fumes. Overheating your pans is the quickest way to not only ruin the nonstick coating, but also to potentially warp the material.
6. Further, never put a hot pan under cold water. This is called “shocking” the cookware, and it’s a surefire way to warp the cookware and void your warranty. This goes for cookware of any kind; the best practice is to let it sit on the stovetop until it has cooled to room temperature.
7. Never use nonstick cooking sprays. Butter and regular vegetable oils are best. The propellants in nonstick sprays have been proven to bond to a pan’s nonstick coatings like glue; not only will they ruin your cookware, but will void your warranty.
What to Do With Old or Worn-Out Nonstick Cookware
If your nonstick cookware has become worn out, it's time for a replacement. Scratched or damaged nonstick coatings can be a health hazard, as they can potentially release toxic fumes or chemicals into your food.
While some manufacturers offer lifetime warranties—or claim to use fewer and safer chemicals—there are just too many unknowns, and not all warranties are equal. Scanpan and Le Creuset typically stand by their products, but you might be on the hook to pay for shipping to the warranty dept. So, be sure to check with the manufacturer before disposing of your old pan.
The safest way to do so is to check with your local recycling center to see if they accept nonstick cookware. Alternatively, some manufacturers offer “take-back” programs for their nonstick cookware.
Chat With a Real Expert
Increasingly, many home cooks are looking past nonsticks, and towards “healthier” options like cast-iron or stainless. If you’re looking to outfit your kitchen, and would like some help narrowing down the right cookware for your needs, reach out to a Curated Kitchen Expert, like me! We offer free, customized advice, and would love to help you find the perfect pan for your home.