The Major Mistake You're Making With Your Nonstick Cookware

You'll be shocked at how much longer your beloved nonstick pan will last once you break this bad habit.

cooking with non stick pans without damaging them
Photo: Getty Images

Nonstick pots and pans have made cooking foods that are prone to sticking—like omelets, pancakes, seafood, and sticky rice—ungodly easy. Their coating lets you stir fry, sear, or sauté without worry that you'll be unable to dislodge a scallop or scrambled egg from the surface if you didn't use enough oil. The best nonstick pans, like T-Fal's Professional Nonstick Cookware Set—also one of our favorite induction cookware sets—can actually cook foods without using any butter or oil at all.

If you're reading this and thinking, "yeah, right—my nonstick pan could only keep foods from sticking for the first week," we know why. It's called nonstick cooking spray, and it can wreak havoc on your nonstick cookware. Here's why you should never use it and what you can do instead to protect your prized pots and pans.

Don't Use Cooking Spray

Using cooking spray (PAM is the most popular) is a surefire way to ruin your skillet's nonstick coating. These products—essentially cooking oil in a can—are meant to make your pan's surface nicely lubricated, but the problem is that oil isn't the only ingredient. Cooking sprays also contain lecithin, which is an emulsifier; dimethyl silicone, which is an anti-foaming agent; and a propellant such as propane or butane.

Over time, the lecithin in the nonstick spray will cook onto the surface of your pan, build up, and become nearly impossible to remove. The result? See you later, skillet. The coating gets completely degraded from the spray and will no longer act as a nonstick surface.

Cookware manufacturers agree. According to Anolon, "The use of cooking sprays is not recommended for use on non-stick cookware as cooking sprays burn at lower temperatures and will damage the non-stick coating of your product. An invisible buildup will impair the nonstick release system causing food to stick."

What to Use Instead

If you love cooking sprays because they can disperse a very sparse amount of oil over the surface of your pan, you can DIY a thin fat coating on your skillet instead. First, dip a paper towel or clean kitchen towel into your favorite cooking oil. Next, wipe the interior of your pan before cooking. Problem solved!

Using pure ingredients like olive oil will prevent any unnecessary build-up. Also, the oil won't damage the nonstick coating by burning prematurely. Once you put down the cooking spray, you'll be shocked at how much longer your nonstick pan will perform just as well as it did when you fished it out of the box.

Nonstick Cookware Best Practices

Here are a few helpful tips for cooking with nonstick pots and pans. Follow these rules, and your cookware will sing for a long time:

  • Never preheat. Heating an empty nonstick pan will make it too hot, damaging the surface and its nonstick properties.
  • Don’t cook over high heat. Unless the product manual says otherwise, nonstick pans are generally not made to be used over a burner that’s cranked up above medium heat. If you want to sear or fry, use stainless steel or cast iron pans instead.
  • Don’t scrub with an abrasive sponge or cleaning pad. You scrap off the nonstick finish bit by bit every time you do.
  • Don’t get your knife (or other sharp or metal utensils) anywhere near them. Little cuts on the pan’s surface translate into peeling and sticking. Wooden and silicone utensils are a nonstick pan’s best friends. Also, always transfer foods to a cutting board before you get at them with a knife.
Was this page helpful?
Related Articles