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10 Ways You’re Shortening the Life of Your Nonstick Cookware

Wonder why your nonstick cookware doesn't last? Innocent mistakes can ruin your cookware—fast!

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Frying pan with a non-stick coating on yellow background. Cooking minimalism concept. Top viewVladimir Sukhachev/Getty Images

The benefits of nonstick pans

Nonstick pans are a must-have for every home chef. Not only are they easy to use and convenient, but they also promote a healthier lifestyle because you don’t need to use as much oil with them. This type of cookware also shortens your clean up time because there should be less stuck-on food.

As wonderful as they are, there’s just one problem: nonstick pans often need to be replaced because they lose their efficacy. Regardless of the quality of the pan itself or what you paid for it, all types of nonstick pans—whether they have ceramic, enamel, Teflon, or another type of coating—are sensitive to high heats. They also need to be cleaned in a very specific way. To help your nonstick cookware last as long as possible, avoid making the following mistakes. You’ll also want to know how to avoid shortening the life of your dishwasher.

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Not seasoning your pan before the first use

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It’s common knowledge that you should season your cast iron skillets before using them for the first time. However, some people assume that this rule doesn’t apply to nonstick pans, which isn’t the case. “As with most fine cookware, always season it before first use with oil or butter to avoid food from sticking,” says Daniel Winer, president and CEO of HexClad Cookware. “Once you’ve seasoned it during the first use, you don’t need to season your pans every time. This will help your pans to stay in good shape.” Viva Naturals Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil can withstand high heat.

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Cleaning your pans in the dishwasher

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When you’re done cooking a large meal, you may want to take shortcuts and clean your nonstick cookware in the dishwasher, but that’s a mistake. Culinary consultant Clare Langan says that generally speaking, you want to get in the habit of handwashing cookware. “Some cookware, particularly those with wood handles, can deteriorate in a dishwasher.” You’ll always want to check the manufacturer’s cleaning recommendations.

A gentle yet effective soap like Mrs. Meyers Clean Day Liquid Dish Soap thoroughly cleans pots and pans with the fresh, relaxing scent of lavender. Find out the most hygienic way to handwash your dishes.

 

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Cleaning with an abrasive sponge or tools

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Not only is it important to handwash your nonstick cookware, but you’ll also want to do it the right way. Contrary to popular belief, you shouldn’t immediately stick your pan in the sink and douse it with water the second you take it off the stove. “To clean nonstick cookware, let it cool first, then use soap and a non-abrasive sponge,” says Langan.

Scotch-Brite Scrub Dots Non-Scratch Scrub Sponge is ideal for cleaning nonstick pans. It has little scrubbing dots that make it easy to remove baked-on food debris, yet isn’t abrasive, so it will not cause damage to your pan. When it starts to look dirty, you’ll want to learn how to clean a sponge.

 

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You use cooking spray

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Using cooking spray might feel like a good idea or even a healthy choice, but according to Lisa Freedman, lifestyle director of Kitchn, it can damage nonstick cookware. “A lot of people use cooking spray with nonstick cookware, thinking that more is more. But over time, you’ll start to see a build-up of the spray that doesn’t burn off during cooking. It gets sticky and gross,” she says. She recommends using whole fats like oil and butter instead.

Avocado oil is ideal for all types of cookware because it has a very high smoke point. In addition to your sautés, use it in salads and marinades, too. It’s great for all sorts of things from cooking food to salad dressings and even marinades. Love avocados? This is what happens if you eat an avocado every day.

 

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You put nonstick cookware in the oven

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To be clear, it is safe in some instances to use nonstick cookware in the oven, however, that doesn’t mean you should do so without checking the manufacturer’s instructions. Jeff Malkasian of Viking Culinary explains that most nonstick cookware has a maximum temperature it can safely withstand for oven use, but most of us aren’t checking what it is before we do. “If you are finishing off your dish in the oven, make sure you know what it is first,” he says.

To prevent any accidental mistakes, it’s best to buy a set of nonstick cookware that can withstand high heat, such as Viking Hard Anodized Nonstick Nonstick Skillets. It’s safe to put these pans in the oven up to 450 degrees with the lid on or 500 degrees without. (Most recipes that home chefs make do not call for temperatures higher than 500 degrees.)

Better yet, cooking in the oven means not needing to clean your stovetop, but if you find the front of your oven getting dirty, you’ll want to learn how to clean the glass oven door.

 

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You use metal cooking tools

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Using a metal spatula with nonstick cookware is a major no-no, shares Ligia Lugo, culinary expert and co-founder of The Daring Kitchen. “The nonstick coating on your pan, known as Teflon, is not as hard as metal and can get damaged very easily if you use metal tongs, forks, spoons, spatulas, etc. in the cooking process,” she says. “To avoid ruining your expensive cookware you should avoid using metal utensils at all costs and swap them out for wooden or high-heat silicone ones.”

Wooden ones have a similar feel to metal ones; the Zhouyue Wooden Kitchen Cooking Utensils Set is an excellent value and comes with five different spoons and spatulas. Wondering what else you need in the kitchen? This list of essential cooking tools has you covered.

 

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You’re storing your plans incorrectly

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“When organizing your cabinets avoid placing the pans in one another so that the bottom of one pan is in contact with the nonstick coating of another pan,” advises Stuysonnie Lam of Tuxton Home. “The metal exterior of a pan can damage the polymer coating and ruin it.” a better idea is to hang your pans from a pot rack or hooks.

The SimpleHouseware Kitchen Cabinet Pantry Pan and Pot Lid Organizer Rack Holder provides an easy solution. It holds up to five pans and can fit in most cabinets. It’s also faster to find the pan you’re looking for this way than when it is stored on a rack. If your shelves are a mess, you’ll want to learn how to declutter your kitchen pantry.

 

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You cook very acidic foods

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“Acidic foods, such as fish and some processed foods, can disrupt the fluoropolymer coating of nonstick pans,” Lugo says, which in turn shortens the life of your nonstick pans. “Noticeable signs of damage are the formation of blisters on the coating of the pan.”

She recommends using another type of cookware when making acidic foods. Cast iron pans such as the Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Signature Iron Handle Skillet is a very high-quality pan that’s ideal for cooking all types of foods. It will last for years with proper care. Learn about some more types of cast-iron cookware you can use, too.

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You cook the wrong foods

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While you can cook lots of dishes in a nonstick pan, it isn’t ideal for everything. Jake Kalick founder of Made In cookware cautions against searing vegetables or proteins in a nonstick pan. “If you’re looking to sear chicken, steak, or get a char on vegetables you’re much better off using a pan with a stainless cooking surface,” he says. “A nonstick coating creates somewhat of a steaming effect which prevents your food from browning.”

Purchase a stainless steel frying pan such as the Made In Stainless Clad Frying Pan for cooking those types of food. You will need to add oil, but you’ll save your nonstick pans. Find out how you may be inadvertently shortening the life of your home appliances.

 

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You cook your food at the wrong temperature for your nonstick pan

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Most nonstick pans aren’t meant for high heat cooking. “Extremely high temperatures can lead to warping, blistering of the finish, and shorter life in general,” says Lam. But if you like cooking certain foods at a high temperature, that doesn’t mean you have to forgo nonstick cookware altogether. You just have to choose the right type. Avoid Teflon coated pans, which can be very dangerous to use at high heat or if scratched. Instead, opt for enamel, porcelain, or ceramic-coated stainless steel pans such as Tuxton Home’s Concentrix 2 Piece Stainless Steel Non-Stick Cookware Set. These pans can be used at temperatures up to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Find out the safest internal temperature for chicken.

 

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You’re using your nonstick pan in the broiler

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Broilers are great for certain dishes like steak, chicken, and pork chops. But make sure you aren’t using your nonstick cookware in the broiler because it can reach up to 500 degrees, which is way too hot for even the most oven-friendly nonstick pans.

Instead, cook in a Le Creuset Stoneware Rectangular Dish. It’s meant to be used in the broiler as well as for baking. Next, read on to find out the 18 kitchen gadgets that are a waste of money.

Amanda Lauren
A self-proclaimed "Jackie of All Trades. Marilyn of None," Amanda Lauren does everything including writing about anything lifestyle related for a number of websites as well as her blog, It's Amanda Lauren. Anything but lazy, she also has a podcast called Things We're Too Lazy To Blog About. When she isn't in front of her MacBook, she can be found on stage doing standup and sketch comedy or hosting red carpet events. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and their two dogs, Lulu and Milo.