5 Ways to Extend the Life of Your Nonstick Cookware

Nonstick cookware is pretty much all about the nonstick surface, right? Once the surface is messed up, the whole thing is pretty messed up. Food starts sticking to it, you start to wonder if you are eating bits of the black coating, etc. Truth is, it’s life span is really about five years. So, how do  we keep that surface as nice and clean as possible for as long as possible? Well, there are a couple of things you can do. Here are a few pointers. 

1. Don't get nuts with the heat

The nonstick surface can’t really take much very high heat. It is possible that the surface can deteriorate or even give off fumes that can affect you. It’s even got a name - "polymer fume fever". These are flu-like symptoms that are relatively quickly reversed. It doesn't happen too often, but it can happen. Chemours (the makers of Teflon™ nonstick coatings) notes that it will not begin to deteriorate until the temperature of the cookware reaches about 500°F. So keep it on low or medium heat just in case.

And that means no oven either. For one thing most handles can’t, well handle the heat of an oven. (LOL Get it?) Most handles are simply not made to survive the heat of the oven. If your recipe calls for some oven time either cover the handle completely with foil or consider going cast iron. You’re probably better off just avoiding the nonstick in the oven altogether.

2. Dishwasher-safe? Kinda.

Yes, I know your cookware usually says you can. But really, don’t. It’s so much better to hand-wash them and let them dry. Dishwasher detergents are a little too harsh. The banging around in the dishwasher that can happen can damage the surface. Too much high heat and harsh detergents aren't good either.

Clean them in the sink with the least scratchy material you can use that still works to remove the food residue. Avoid the harsh abrasives and the steel scouring pads. If you need more cleaning try boiling water with some vinegar in the pan, then wash it.

Oh, and never hit the hot pan with cold water. Let the pan cool down before you wash it. If you don;t, the pan will warp and no longer sit evenly on your burner. (I know that's not a nonstick surface issue - but it's a good reminder anyway.)

3. No metal-heads allowed

This is a pretty easy one. There are so many plastic, silicone, and wood utensils flowing around that you don’t need to use those hard metal tools. Metal can and will scratch that nonstick surface and before you know it stuff will be sticking to it. Just avoid the metal, ok? And nothing sharp. Same reason.

4. You gotta keep ‘em separated

If you’re like me you like to stack our pans to save space. But that can be one of those things that scratches the surface. If you want to stack ‘em, just place some sort of protective material between them. Try felt, cloth, dishtowels, or even cardboard. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy-schmancy. Just keep ‘em apart.

If it works with your kitchen decor, hanging pot and pan racks can be a great idea as well. And in the right kitchen they can really look good and keep those pots and pans handy while you’re cooking. 

5. Wipe it, don’t spray it

OK, this one you may not have thought about. Sorry to tell you but that cooking spray could be gunking up your pans. What happens is that the spray (especially along the pan’s edges) starts to build up and get sticky and really, really hard to remove. Think of it like using starch when laundering shirts over and over. After a while it gets pretty stiff and hard to ever remove from the fabric. The cooking spray gunk builds up and becomes nearly impossible to get rid of.

The best thing to do is to wipe the cool pan surface with some oil or butter before you cook. That works better than dumping in the oil (which often gets soaked up by the food). This wiping protects the surface and keeps it nonstick...without adding a bunch of fat to your food. That little swipe of fat is all you really need on a nonstick surface.

Now I can’t promise that your nonstick cookware will last forever. (Actually, I can promise that it won’t.) But if you follow some of these tips the nonstick properties should stay healthy longer. Why not protect your investment?

Since we're talking kitchen tools, if you liked this post, you may also want to check these out:
- Is It Time For a Knife Upgrade?
- Meet The Mezzaluna
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