Nonstick cookware provides a healthier option because they require less oil to cook your food. However, this is only possible if one observes the proper care of this type of cookware. Improper care can damage the nonstick coating in your pots and pans, rendering them ineffective in their principal function. Unfortunately, many home cooks fail to recognize the fact that some practices can ruin a nonstick pan. Here are 10 of those bad practices:
Using Metal Cooking Utensils
The nonstick coating on your pan is not as tough as metal. Many manufacturers use polytetrafluoroethylene or PTFE compounds to coat the cooking surfaces of their pots and pans. We know this compound by the brand name “Teflon”. What you should know is that PTFE is a polymer, which is not as tough as metal itself.
As such, if you use any metal cooking utensils, you will scrape the synthetic polymer off the pan’s surface. You should never use metal tongs, spatulas, ladles, and whisks whenever you are cooking on a nonstick pan. The same is true when trying to cut up serving portions using a steel knife or a carving fork. It is best to remove the food from the nonstick pan using a silicone or rubber spatula before dividing it into serving sizes. Wooden utensils work fine on nonstick cookware, too.
Improper Storage of the Nonstick Cookware
Sometimes, when we are rushing things, we do not get to store our cookware in the proper way. Most of us stack pots and pans straight into the cupboard without taking time to consider whether the metallic surface of one pot is in contact with the nonstick surface of another. As we already know, anything that is metal can scrape into the nonstick polymer coating.
There are several ways you can store your nonstick cookware. One is to hang them in their respective hooks, complete with ample spacing in between cookware. This one-pan-one-hook approach can help prevent cookware from getting in contact with each other. If you are pressed for space, then you can nest or stack like pans and pots. It would also help if you can line the bottom of the pan with a towel before nesting another pan on top of it. There are also storage solutions that will allow you to organize your nonstick cookware in a safer manner.
Sudden Change in Pan Temperature
There are some home cooks who make the mistake of cleaning their nonstick pans immediately after taking it off the heat. It is okay if the cleaning only involves a quick wipe but if you are going to immerse it in lukewarm of cool water, then you run the risk of ruining the pan.
Sudden changes in temperature can lead to warping of the pan. If this occurs, the nonstick coating will buckle and will start to peel. You will then use the pan’s nonstick surface, making you want to use more oil than necessary. Warping can also affect the pan’s ability to distribute heat in an even manner. This can reduce cooking performance. Hence, whenever washing a nonstick pan, allow it cool down first.
Using Nonstick Cooking Spray
This may come as a surprise to many home cooks. After all, nonstick cooking spray is now very common, especially among people who are afraid of using conventional fat or oil. But there is a reason why you should never use cooking sprays on your nonstick pan. These cooking aids do not only contain oil; they also contain emulsifiers, anti-foaming agents, and propellants. These chemicals can accumulate on the surface of your nonstick pan. Over time, it will be very difficult to remove, rendering your cookware useless.
If you have to use cooking sprays, then make sure to use those that contain only oil. If you are not sure, half a teaspoon of olive oil or any other fat should help in your cooking process. Calorie-watchers can also use oil misters.
Cooking Highly Acidic Foods
You may think that cooking tomato- and citrus-based dishes in a nonstick pan is a good idea. It’s really not. You may not see the subtle changes that are occurring at the molecular level. Highly acidic foods have the tendency to disrupt the chemical structure of the synthetic fluoropolymer coating. Instead of a pan that will last many years, you will only be able to use them for a few years.
Acidic foods can accelerate the process of aging in nonstick-coated pots and pans. One of the very first signs you will notice from your cookware is the formation of blisters. This is an indication that acids are already breaking the chemical bonds of the polymer. If you have to cook acidic foods, it is best to do it in another type of cookware.
Cooking on High Heat
Nonstick pans and pots are not cast iron skillets that can handle extremely high heat. This can lead to blistering of the finish and lead to the accelerated wear of the pot or pan. This also leads to warping. We already know what this means – uneven heat distribution and reduced cooking performance. Smoking hot nonstick pans also releases harmful substances into the air. And if you have health problems, inhaling these substances can complicate matters.
It is also for this reason that chefs never use nonstick pans when searing meats or when cooking Chinese stir fry. These cooking methods require high heat. Your nonstick pan can only accommodate low to medium heat settings; unless, the manufacturer tells you otherwise. Better use cast iron skillets, Dutch ovens, or stainless-steel pans if you require scorching-hot cooking.
Adding Fat or Oil in a Hot Pan
The traditional way of sautéing or cooking with oil is to heat up the pan first before adding oil or fat. This shortens the time that the oil is in contact with the hot surface of the pan, limiting its breakdown. This way, you can put your ingredients almost immediately afterwards.
This is not the case with nonstick pans. Remember that this type of cookware is intended for low to medium heat cooking. Plus, they have a coating of synthetic polymer on their cooking surfaces. If you wait for it to warm up before adding oil, you are facilitating the release of toxic substances into the air. Adding oil or fat to a cold nonstick pan provides a layer of protection from such an event. Adding oil before the pan is warm also enhances the slick surface of the cookware.
Cleaning the Cookware with a Scouring Pad or Using Harsh Cleansers
As mentioned, metallic objects are not a nonstick pan’s best friend. Neither are very harsh chemicals. The reason is simple – the nonstick coating is not as tough as we’d hope it to be. It does not stand up to high heat and very abrasive objects and compounds. It is for this reason that you should never use a metal scouring pad on your nonstick cookware.
You should also stay away from cleansers that contain very harsh chemicals. These can also wear off the polymer coating on the pan. Soft sponges and plastic scourers are better. You can also soak these pans in warm water to make it a lot easier to clean. Remember to let the pan cool down completely first before you immerse it in water.
Cleaning Nonstick Pans in the Dishwasher
The kind of detergent that you use in your dishwasher is not also the friendliest solution for your nonstick pan. Many of these contain very harsh compounds that can hasten the wear of the nonstick coating. Over time, you will no longer be able to use the pan because its cooking surface is already badly damaged.
There are, however, manufacturers who make sure that their pots and pans are safe to clean in the dishwasher. While this may be the case, they often recommend a very specific cleaning solution to help maintain the integrity of the cookware. The best approach will still be to wash the cookware by hand.
Turning the Nonstick Pan into a Storage Solution
Some home cooks do not transfer their cooked meals into serving plates, bowls, and dishes. Instead, they serve them straight in the pan. As such, if there are leftovers, they also put the pan straight into the refrigerator. The acids present in certain foods can affect the polymer bonds. There are also some food ingredients that can stick to the surface if left for a long time. These can be more difficult to remove, prompting you to use more vigorous cleaning methods.
Whenever cooking your meals in a nonstick pan, always make sure to transfer them into serving dishes. Any leftover should also be transferred into food storage containers. This can help lengthen the lifespan of your nonstick cookware.
Nonstick cookware will not last forever. If you observe the proper way to care for these items, you can at least prolong their usable existence. Avoiding these 10 bad practices we shared with you can help extend the life of your nonstick pan.
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