5 Signs It's Time To Replace Your Cookware

Plus, how to make it last longer.

Stainless Steel Cookware on Stove
Photo: Getty Images

My mother is a trained chef and has passed down to me quite a few pots and pans over the last decade. Some of them have lasted me years, while others were clearly past their prime and needed to be replaced. Sometimes, it's really hard to tell whether a piece of cookware needs to be dumped, or really just needs a good scrubbing. Below, we've asked two experts for their input on how long cookware should actually last, signs that a piece of cookware needs to be replaced, and how to make your cookware last longer, too.

How Long Should Your Cookware Last?

For a home cook, a decent set of cookware should last between five and ten years, depending on the frequency of cooking. "The best type of material to use in general is stainless steel, with the exception of using non-stick for omelets," explains Scott Clarke, a chef and owner of Blue Monkey Catering.

While all stainless multi-clad products can last a significantly long time, Mary Rodgers, Director of Marketing Communications at Cuisinart, recommends checking manufacturer warranties on your cookware product, as many reliable brands provide long-term warranties.

Signs That a Piece of Cookware Needs To Be Replaced

  1. A tarnished or scorched bottom of the pan that can no longer be cleaned.
    "This impacts the ability to get the pan completely clean and compromises the quality of the food that you are producing," explains Clarke.
  2. Visible scratch marks or chipping on the cookware.
    "Other than stainless steel surfaces and exteriors, cookware with visible scratch marks should not be reused, as bits of the cookware can end up in food," explains Rodgers. "This is unsafe and ultimately an indicator of the tool's quality or age. Chipped enamel on cast iron can also lead to rusting."
  3. A greasy appearance that doesn't go away.
    "Cookware can develop a film or greasy appearance that can not be cleaned after multiple attempts," explains Clarke. "This will impact the quality, consistency, and taste of the finished food product."
  4. Loose or rusty handles.
    "Make sure to be aware of the handles of your cookware as well," suggests Rodgers. "Damaged or rusty handles are another indicator that your tools might be too old and need to be replaced. Look for cookware with riveted handles that will not loosen easily."
  5. When your cookware is warping.
    "Using cookware with buckling or dents can result in the pot or pan not heating properly due to inconsistencies in the surface area," explains Clarke. "This will also affect the final food product—after a pan is used for a long time, it can develop 'hot spots,' which can quickly result in burning or scorching."

How To Make Cookware Last Longer

First of all, you want to always follow the manufacturer-recommended cleaning and maintenance instructions to get the most out of your cookware product. "You want to hand wash your cookware," explains Rodgers. "High heat from a dishwasher can damage the material on some types of cookware. Never place aluminum cookware in a dishwasher unless it is designated as dishwasher safe—use soap and water, and hand dry with a towel."

You also want to make sure that you're storing your cookware properly to prevent scratches and nicks. "I suggest placing cardboard, paper towels, dish towels, or pot holders between the pots and pans when storing them," says Clarke.

Rodgers suggests acquiring silicone protection pads to place between cookware pieces for proper storing. "Look for stackable cookware that is designed so that the surfaces of each pan and handles do not touch," she says.

Make sure to use the right tools when cooking food in your cookware. "Using wooden spoons, paddles or plastic coated utensils will prevent scraping the bottom of the cookware," suggests Clarke.

Additionally, when it comes to cast-iron cookware, you want to make sure you're caring for it properly, too. "Any cast-iron cookware should be well seasoned and heat treated before use—this is done by rubbing salt and oil into the pan prior to cooking," explains Clarke. "A cast-iron pan should never be washed in soap to preserve the quality and integrity of the pan. A well-preserved cast-iron pan can be passed down through generations."

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