So what should you do before your first use? Give your new pan a quick wash with soap, water, and a gentle sponge, Chayanin Pornsriniyom, chef-instructor of plant-based culinary arts at the ICE, tells SELF. This will help remove any potential contaminants or debris from processing and packaging.
How should you cook with a nonstick pan?
According to Pornsriniyom, there are just a couple of special things you need to keep in mind when cooking to preserve that nonstick surface.
Perhaps most importantly, avoid using metal tools of any kind—whether that’s a steel spatula for flipping meat or steel wool for scrubbing up afterward—and instead stick with rubber or silicone utensils and soft sponges and washing pads, Pornsriniyom says. This is vital because metal can scratch and remove the layer of Teflon. As a result, food will be more likely to stick, and you may inadvertently consume some of the nonstick Teflon compound as it flakes off. (Research remains inconclusive on the potential health implications of PTFEs in cookware, and the US Food and Drug Administration still authorizes these pans for safe use. Keep on reading to find out when it’s a good idea to toss your pan and buy a new one.)
While you likely won’t need oil in the pan to prevent your food from sticking, that doesn’t mean you should skip the oil when cooking, says Handal. Using oil can still benefit the flavor and texture of whatever you’re cooking.
“Oils and fats add flavor to food, and also act as heat transfer agents that allow food to brown and cook without scorching,” he explains. “They allow the heat of the pan to transfer to food in an efficient manner.” Using a nonstick pan without oil of any kind, although possible, may make the cooking process take longer and lead to food that’s unevenly cooked.
Finally, for nonstick pan care, medium or medium-high heat is going to be your friend here: Avoid extreme overheating with your nonstick pan. You don’t want to use temperatures higher than 500 degrees Fahrenheit, Pornsriniyom says. That’s because it can cause the release of gasses and chemicals which can degrade a pan’s nonstick qualities, Handal says. In rare cases, this can be harmful.
“This may cause temporary illness in humans, sometimes referred to as polymer fume fever,” Handal says.
But this high temp isn’t usually an issue, because most stovetop cooking at home doesn’t exceed this temperature in the first place, says Pornsriniyom. Many residential stovetops and ovens often only reach 500 degrees at the highest setting, and food cooked on stovetops generally doesn’t exceed 350 degrees or so.
What destroys a nonstick pan?
There are three main things that can destroy a nonstick pan’s coating: the metal utensils and high heat that we mentioned above, and improper storage.
Improper storage can harm the nonstick coating, which can cause scratching and make it less effective. For example, if your nonstick pan is stored among other cooking tools (such as cast iron, stainless steel, and even meal prep essentials like glass food storage containers) it may get scratched up in the process, says Pornsriniyom.