5 Mistakes You Should Never Make with Nonstick Cookware

You’ve been warned.

Fried eggs in non-stick frying pan.
Photo: Getty Images

Whether you're still researching the best nonstick pans, have a brand-new set, or are just looking to make sure you are not making any nonstick cardinal errors, consider this list of no-no's your abridged encyclopedia for proper care. There is, of course, a lot more to caring for your nonstick cookware, but this is a good place to start. We're digging into both the little-known and widely understood facts about nonstick cookware, starting with the basics.

What Is Nonstick Cookware Made Of?

If someone mentions nonstick cookware, most often they're referring to cookware that's coated in polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE). Teflon is a brand-name version that you might be familiar with. That being said, there are a variety of other nonstick surfaces that cookware brands make use of. Ceramic cookware provides a similarly slick surface as PTFE products, allowing the cook to use less fat and oils. Cast iron that's been properly seasoned can prove to be a good alternative to nonstick cookware, especially when a recipe calls for cooking at high temperatures. That being said, many of the mistakes below do not pertain to cast iron, which is not nearly as nonstick as Teflon and ceramic-coated varieties. (Check out this list for your cast-iron mistakes). Now let's get to the good stuff.

Mistake #1: Putting Nonstick Cookware in the Dishwasher

When it comes to cleaning, handwashing is best. The good news? The nonstick surface should make it an easy-peasy process. Allow your pan time to cool to room temperature before cleaning. This will ensure it doesn't warp due to fluctuating temperatures. From there, use cool water and a sponge or soft-bristled brush prepped with a few drops of dish soap to wash away any stubborn food. As long as your nonstick pan is in good shape, this process should be as simple as a quick wipe and rinse.

Mistake #2: Using Abrasive Cleaners or Metal Utensils

It's tempting, but even if you promise you'll use the upmost care to not scratch the pan during use, metal utensils are a surefire way to do lasting damage to nonstick cookware because they can easily scratch the nonstick coating. Abrasive cleaners and stacking your pans can also scratch or chip the surface, so steer clear of those pitfalls as well. If stacking to store is your only option, place a dish towel between each pan for a protective layer.

Mistake #3: Shocking Temperature Shifts

Few materials do well when going from heat to cold or vice versa—nonstick cookware is no exception. As mentioned in our note above about washing by hand once the pan cools, the practice of allowing the pans to come to a new temperature gradually will help avoid warping. The same can be said if you're tempted to take your pan from the refrigerator to the stovetop. Truth be told, your pan shouldn't be in the fridge in the first place. Nonstick pans are not made for food storage—especially if we're talking about a big pot of marinara. Just as with cast-iron, prolonged exposure to acidic ingredients could wear down the surface.

Mistake #4: Dry Heating Your Pan

Don't allow your pan to heat up without food or liquid in it—and we're not talking just a swirl of oil. The pan could heat to an unsafe temperature in the span of a few minutes or less, so having something in the pan will help keep the temperature regulated, avoiding deterioration and fumes. While we're on the topic, allowing your nonstick cookware to get too hot—no matter what's in it—is also not advised. It's best to avoid heat levels that exceed the medium setting on your stovetop. High heat temperatures within the oven are definitely ill-advised as well. For items that need a good, flavorful crust, pull out your trusty cast-iron for the searing job.

Mistake #5: Using Cooking Sprays

What makes a super slick surface even more nonstick? Cooking spray, right? Wrong. Lecithin, an ingredient in the spray, is the nemesis of the nonstick coating and will adhere to it even when you don't want it to. An oil spritzing can do the trick if you just want a light dusting to give your nonstick pan an extra boost.

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