How to Clean and Care For Non-Stick Cookware

Published on 04/08/2024 · 7 min readExtend the life of your non-stick cookware with our cleaning and care tips, ensuring lasting performance and effortless food release in every use!
Charlene F, Kitchen Expert
By Kitchen Expert Charlene F

Photo by v74

TL;DR: Taking care of your nonstick cookware is a bit of an art. While they’re easy to cook with, they’re a bit more troublesome when it comes to maintenance and care. To ensure the longevity of your non-stick cookware avoid overheating; let pans cool before washing; clean with warm, soapy water using soft sponges; and avoid the dishwasher to protect the coating. The correct utensils and storage also help to prevent scratches.

Hands up — who else swears by their non-stick cookware? I love my non-stick pans for how easy they are to cook with (plus the minimal fat needed) and their relatively easy cleaning requirements. Unfortunately, when I got my first few pans I ruined them through rookie mistakes: using the wrong utensils, scrubbing them with an abrasive sponge, and stacking them incorrectly.

Thankfully, through my slip-ups, I’ve learned how to better maintain and use my non-stick cookware so they last and keep on producing those perfect pancakes and omelets I never tire of eating. Here’s a quick guide on how to clean and care for your non-stick cookware so you won’t have to keep replacing them.

What You Should Know About Nonstick Pans

The chemicals used to create the nonstick coating on pots and pans are often made from polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), which are known for giving that slick, smooth surface. However, this surface demands a gentle touch and mindful care, for the protective coating degrades if overheated or scratched.

Ceramic-coated cookware is an alternative and offers a safer option that is considered healthier. Its non-metallic film coating stands up well to high temperatures (sometimes up to 600°F), allowing for more versatile cooking, but can still be susceptible to chipping if mishandled.

All in all, when a non-stick layer is compromised, it causes a change in the effectiveness of the protective coating. Additionally, potentially more force is required while cooking to release food that should naturally slide off, which can introduce scratches or flaking, affecting the overall non-stick properties.

Are you putting together your dream kitchen or just looking to invest in some top kitchen utensils that’ll last you for a bit? Reach out to any of the Curated Kitchen Experts. We will make sure you have everything you need to create some magic in your kitchen!

How to Care for Non-Stick Pans

Photo by Ratchanee Sawasdijira

Maintaining nonstick pans sometimes requires more than just soap and water. It’s important to know how to preserve their delicate surfaces (using moderate cooking temperatures and non-metal utensils), fix minor scratches, and store them properly.

General Maintenance

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  • Never skip reading the manufacturer’s instructions, as each type of coating may have specific care requirements and temperature limits.
  • Regularly check the condition of your pans, looking out for any signs of wear or damage.
  • It's also essential to avoid overheating. Non-stick pans are typically not intended for high-heat cooking, as excessive temperatures can break down the coating, releasing potentially harmful fumes and reducing the pan’s effectiveness.

After Each Use

  • Resist the urge after cooking to immediately cool your hot pan in the sink by running cold water over it. Sudden temperature changes can warp the pan, affecting its shape and overall cooking performance. Instead, let it cool down, and then wash the cookware by hand with warm, soapy water and a soft sponge or cloth.
  • If cooking a meal with tomatoes or lemon juice, clean after using. Leaving the cookware overnight will allow the acid to eat into the nonstick coating.
  • Despite some pans being marketed as dishwasher safe, the harsh chemicals and high heat in a dishwasher can degrade the non-stick coating over time.
  • Rinse thoroughly to prevent water spots, which can cause mineral buildup.

Guarding Against Scratches

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  • Never skip reading the manufacturer’s instructions, as each type of coating may have specific care requirements and temperature limits.
  • Regularly check the condition of your pans, looking out for any signs of wear or damage.
  • It's also essential to avoid overheating. Non-stick pans are typically not intended for high-heat cooking, as excessive temperatures can break down the coating, releasing potentially harmful fumes and reducing the pan’s effectiveness.

After Each Use

  • Resist the urge after cooking to immediately cool your hot pan in the sink by running cold water over it. Sudden temperature changes can warp the pan, affecting its shape and overall cooking performance. Instead, let it cool down, and then wash the cookware by hand with warm, soapy water and a soft sponge or cloth.
  • If cooking a meal with tomatoes or lemon juice, clean after using. Leaving the cookware overnight will allow the acid to eat into the nonstick coating.
  • Despite some pans being marketed as dishwasher safe, the harsh chemicals and high heat in a dishwasher can degrade the non-stick coating over time.
  • Rinse thoroughly to prevent water spots, which can cause mineral buildup.

Guarding Against Scratches

  • The surface of non-stick cookware is easily scratched, which compromises its effectiveness and overall safety. Hence you should always use wooden, silicone, or plastic utensils with nonstick cookware.
  • Avoid cutting food directly in the pan, and never use abrasive cleaning tools like steel wool or scouring pads. When cooking, stir gently and avoid using any metal utensils so you can significantly reduce the risk of scratching.
  • If you have stubborn stuck-on residue, use a wood or silicone spatula to release it. If you still need help, boil the pan with a mixture of baking soda and vinegar (2 tablespoons of each) with enough water to cover the bottom of the pan to aid the process.

If you have any questions about how to care for your nonstick pots and pans, reach out to any of the Curated Kitchen Experts for help. They can advise you on how to keep your nonstick cookware in top condition.

How to Fix Minor Scratches

  • While deep scratches often signify it's time for a new pan, minor scratches can sometimes be smoothed over to extend the life of your cookware.
  • One home remedy involves rubbing a small amount of vegetable oil into the scratch and heating the pan slightly to allow the oil to set. This method won't repair the damage but may help improve the non-stick performance, but note that this is a temporary solution.
  • If the coating continues to flake or you can see the metal underneath the coating, the pan should be replaced immediately.

How to Cook With Non-Stick Pans

  • Low/medium heat is your best friend when it comes to non-stick cookware.
  • Using extremely high temperatures may compromise the nonstick coating and release potentially dangerous fumes.
  • To protect your nonstick pan, don't heat it while empty. There should always be oil, water, or food in the pan before turning on the burner. This will help the nonstick coating last longer and has the added benefit of serving as a temperature gauge.

How to Store Correctly

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  • We would all love to hang our cookware for show, but that’s not always a realistic scenario. Avoid stacking pans directly on top of each other, as this can lead to scratches and wear.
  • If space constraints require stacking, place a soft cloth, paper towel, or pan protector between each pan to shield the surfaces from direct contact.

Bonus Care Tips

  • Avoid nonstick cooking sprays that can leave a residue and degrade the nonstick surface.
  • Most oils start to smoke at 400°F or higher, so this can be a gauge that you're cooking at a safe temperature for nonstick coatings.

All these methods can help to clean and care for your non-stick cookware and hopefully extend the life of your pan so that investing in a set of high-quality non-stick cookware turns out to be a more cost-effective solution, as you won’t be replacing them as regularly, and only buy new ones when they show signs of severe wear or damage.

If you have any questions about what type of non-stick cookware you might need for your kitchen, start a chat with a Curated Kitchen Expert, who’ll be more than happy to help you find what you need.

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