Question #1: What do you want to use it for?
Non-stick pans are often used as a multipurpose pan for everything going on the stove. I’d like to try and convince you that they are a great addition to any “quiver” of fry pans, but shouldn’t be your only one.
Non-stick pans are ideal for eggs, vegetables, fish, sauces; foods that can be “sticky”, that you can cook on low to mid heat. They’re great everyday pans for that purpose, and stay great as long as you treat them right. See the box on the right for some tips to keep your pan happy longer!
If you want the food to “brown”, non-stick is not the way to go; you’d be happier with stainless steel or cast iron. Most meats, mushrooms, onions and the like need a higher heat to get that browning (the “fond” – where all the flavour is!), and that higher heat can damage the non-stick surface. Once you start using a non-stick pan for browning, it will progressively lose its non-stick properties.
Question #2: What kinds of oil do you cook with?
Oils with a lower smoking point (like olive oil) shouldn’t go above that smoking point, so make sure you’re really watching your heat. Olive oil starts to break down between 365-420 degrees farenheit, easily reached at medium heats. If they get heated past this point, they can leave a residue on your pan that can be difficult to clean and can cause sticking.
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- DON’T use high heats with any coated pan. A good pan will conduct a surprising amount of heat, so cut back on your electric bills and use medium high heat at most. Overheating the pan will deteriorate the finish and shorten its lifespan.
- Protect the coating by layering your fry pans with a tea towel or other divider to prevent knicks and scratches.
- Use wooden, silicone or nylon cooking utensils to prevent scratches on the delicate surface. The sturdier brands can survive metal utensils if your teenage son cooks with it, but it’s still not a great idea.
- Hand wash your pans. They may be dishwasher safe, but mild dish soap and a non-abrasive scrubby will be much gentler on the finish, and only takes a minute.
- Have a “quiver” of fry pans. Similar to any tool, having the right tool for the job makes life much more pleasant. Trying to use one tool for every job will lead to disappointment. Non-stick pans are ideal for “sticky”, delicate foods that can be cooked at low-medium heat.