Nonstick technology was introduced to the cookware industry in the early 1960s. Since then, major advances made in quality have contributed to nonstick’s becoming a kitchenware essential. Today, it appears on a wide range of kitchenware products from bakeware to waffle irons, to gadgets to cookware. However, while we all understand the basic premise behind nonstick, what remains a mystery to many is how to distinguish one nonstick brand from another.
What is the life expectancy of nonstick cookware?
While early nonstick coatings brought hope to the home cook desiring easy cleanup, those coatings often wore off the cookware’s surface or were easily scratched, thereby necessitating frequent replacement.
However, significant improvements, including better surface preparation methods, as well as production processes to strengthen the adhesion between the cookware surface and the nonstick coating have been made to nonstick coatings, making the cookware last longer.
Different grades of nonstick coatings range from one-coat systems to more advanced multicoat systems with added ceramics or other materials in the nonstick base. The multicoat systems’ additional materials create stronger, more durable nonstick coatings.
A one-coat system is a less expensive application method used mainly for mass-market items. In a one coat system, the nonstick material is applied to a raw metal surface or one prepared by grit blasting and/or arc spraying.
Mid-range two-coat systems utilize a primer coat covered by a finish coat, which is applied to and then baked onto the prepared surface. The primer coat provides added adhesion.
Three-coat systems are even more durable, incorporating a primer coat, an intermediate coat, and a finish coat. Three-coat nonstick is generally used on better-grade pans because they are more expensive to produce; the nonstick provides increased corrosion resistance, durability, and depth.
Besides these nonstick coatings, other systems add proprietary polymers or metals, such as ceramic titanium, to the coating. Such additives provide a greater backbone to the nonstick coating, thereby inhibiting deterioration and helping it adhere to the substrate.
As a rule of thumb, the higher the price, the better the quality, the better the performance, and the better the longevity. If you follow the manufacturer’s suggested care instructions, the nonstick coating should last as long as you own your pan.
Can you cook at any temperature when using nonstick cookware?
The weak link in a nonstick coating is the PTFE polymers within the nonstick layers. PTFE begins decomposing at around 770 F. Overheating, or cooking a nonstick pan dry is a sure way to destroy the nonstick surface. In addition, most cooking oils self-ignite around 425 F – another good reason not to overheat a nonstick pan.
Normal cooking and frying temperatures do not exceed 375 F. The best advice is to use low to medium, or medium-high heat when frying or sauteing, and to not leave the pan unattended while it is on the burner. High heat is safe for boiling water for pasta, cooking vegetables, and making stocks and sauces.
Low heat, medium heat, high heat – can nonstick cookware go in the oven?
As technology improves, the performance of nonstick cookware does also. Most nonstick cookware brands are safe in temperatures up to 375 F and a few as high as 450 F. Now, one nonstick brand on the market is oven safe to 500 F, an important feature for home and professional cooks alike as it helps when finishing off omelets in the oven, or even baking cookies in a fry pan.
How should I care for nonstick cookware?
Traditionally, it has been recommended that only wooden or plastic utensils be used on nonstick cookware, regardless of how durable the nonstick coating because metal utensils can scratch or harm many nonstick coatings. But today, according to the manufacturers, some nonstick cookware surfaces can withstand metal utensils. Nonstick technology has reached the point at which special instructions on how to prepare, maintain, or clean your nonstick cookware are no longer required. Additionally, continuous technical research and breakthroughs have resulted in some of the top nonstick brands being rendered dishwasher safe. It is best to check with the manufacturers’ suggested care instructions.