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How to Care for Nonstick Pans

Nonstick pans are great cooking tools. Extend their life with these nonstick pan care tips and how to clean nonstick pans. Visit Save for more insights.

How to Care for Nonstick Pans

Nonstick pans can be one of the best tools both in professional kitchens and for home cooks. You can use them to cook everything from fish to pancakes. They’re great if you want to:

  • Wash pans easily
  • Cook using less oil
  • Avoid scratches on your cookware
  • Cook foods with less risk of burning them or having dishes like curries stick to the bottom

Nonstick pans are typically made of a material like steel or aluminum. Then, they’re coated with a nonporous chemical coating that creates a nonreactive and slick surface that's safe to cook on. This prevents food from sticking to the pan.

The coating also helps nonstick pans heat quickly, so you can use less cooking fuel. It also evenly distributes heat for more efficient meal preparation.

In order for nonstick pans to work effectively year after year, you’ll need to implement proper nonstick pan care. Once nonstick pans are damaged, it’s nearly impossible to get them back to good-as-new working condition.

There’s hope, though, for maintaining your nonstick pans with the right care each time you use, clean, and store them. Learn how to correctly clean nonstick pans each time to prolong their use and maintain this investment in your kitchen.

Tips for cooking with nonstick pans

The first tip for how to care for nonstick pans is to read the directions on the manufacturer’s label. It’s best to follow those, because each brand and design may be a little different or benefit from slightly different nonstick pan care.

Generally, you can safely cook with a nonstick pan by using the following tips.

  1. Rub a thin coating of oil, like vegetable oil, over the pan surface to protect and condition it before you heat it. While other cooking methods may call for the oil after the pan has heated up, you’ll want to add the oil to a nonstick pan before heating it so that it enhances the nonstick effects.
  2. Don’t preheat nonstick cooking pans for too long. When you can feel the heat by hovering your hand over the pan, or you see the oil start to sizzle, it’s ready. Start with a low to medium heat, as higher heat can compromise the pan surface.
  3. Avoid using a cooking spray of any kind, including nonstick cooking spray, because its ingredients can make the surface gummy and leave behind a residue that wears down a nonstick pan.
  4. Instead, choose oils with a high smoke point, like avocado or grapeseed oils, since they’re less likely to burn easily. While extra virgin olive oil is one the most popular types of oil to use, it has a low smoke point that makes it more susceptible to burning in a nonstick pan.
  5. Use non-metal utensils, like wood, plastic, silicone-coated, or nylon. Metal utensils can scratch the pan's surface, which decreases the effectiveness of the pan.
  6. Don’t place a nonstick cooking pan in the oven unless the manufacturer’s label says it’s OK to do so. If you need to cook a pan in the oven, it’s safer to use a cast-iron pan.

Again, default to the manufacturer’s recommendations for cooking with the nonstick pan. Remember you need less oil and heat to cook ingredients in a nonstick pan, so start with a lower temperature to protect your pan.

How to clean a nonstick pan

If you don’t care for or clean nonstick pans properly, they may get nicked or start to lose the protective surface that makes them so effective. With the right nonstick pan care, you can help them work for up to around five years, which protects your investment and helps you maintain a high quality for what you’re cooking.

To clean nonstick pans the right way, use these techniques.

  1. Wait for the nonstick pan to cool completely before you wash it. Use cold water when cleaning, but only after the pan has cooled down first.
  2. Use soft cleaning tools. Don’t use steel wool or the rough side of a sponge to scrub a nonstick pan. You likely won’t need to scrape food off a nonstick pan anyway, so use the soft side of a sponge, or use a dishrag.
  3. Choose regular dish detergent. Don’t use an abrasive cleaner full of harsh chemicals. Plain detergent works best.
  4. If you do have food that’s difficult to get off the pan, create a paste with baking soda and water and gently scrub it off with a soft sponge or rag. You can also add water and 1/2 cup of white vinegar to fill the pan partway, then heat it up. Remove the pan from the heat and let it cool, then clean the pan.
  5. Hand-wash your nonstick pan if you can, even if the manufacturer label says it’s OK to put in the dishwasher. Dishwasher detergent (or DIY dishwasher pods) and hot water can wear down the pan, so hand washing with regular dish detergent is a better choice.
  6. Protect the surfaces of nonstick pans by hanging them if possible, or by adding a layer of paper towels on top of the pan surfaces before stacking them. Stacking a nonstick pan can accidentally scratch the surface.

Again, carefully read the manufacturer’s label and default to its instructions for nonstick pan care. Generally, you want to be careful and gentle with both the cleaning techniques and cleaning materials you use.

Don’t store food in the pan in your fridge, or leave it in the sink soaking in soapy water. You’ll want to clean your pan as soon as you can after you use it, every time.

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