If you are not really sure on how to buy non-stick cookware set for your home, checking for these factors can help you make a wise choice.
1. Type of Non-Stick Coating:
There are 2 major types of non-stick coatings on the non-stick cookware: PTFE and Ceramic or Sol-gel.
PTFE, also called as Teflon, is the most popular type of coating found in non-stick cookware. It is a synthetic coating that is capable of repelling water. Teflon coating is durable and provides an amazing non-stick performance.
Ceramic or Sol-gel:
It is not actually a ceramic coating. Instead, it’s a ceramic-like coating called as sol-gel (or solution-gel). Unlike PTFE, sol-gel coatings don’t use polyfluoroalkyl polymers l as they are silica-based.
Both these coatings work well to prevent food from sticking to the pan’s surface. However, Teflon coatings last longer than the ceramic coatings, provided that you are taking care of the pans as mentioned in the guidelines.
The material from which the skillet is made affects its durability. The most common metals used to make non-stick pans are cast iron, stainless steel, copper, and hard anodized aluminum.
Aluminum is considered as one of the most effective materials that conduct heat properly. If there is no coating or if has not gone through the hard anodization process, aluminum may act as a reactive metal. This means that the food that you are cooking might soak up a bit of this metal.
Thus, most manufacturers use hard-anodized aluminum where the aluminum is anodized using the oxidization process to make the cookware. This makes the pan light, durable, non-stick, and scratch-resistant.
As stainless steel can distribute heat evenly that is very important for healthy cooking, it is used widely by the manufacturers of non-stick cookware. Stainless steel is durable, offers good performance, and comes at an affordable price.
Try to look for cookware that uses aluminum as core and is covered by stainless steel clad. Even though these pans can be a bit expensive, the heat conducting properties are much better than the other stainless steel products that contain an aluminum disk attached at the bottom.
The cheapest options are the stainless steel pans with no aluminum component at all.
Cast iron is considered as most durable and the hardest metals. They are the heaviest too. They are so heavy that you might face a difficult time handling the pan. The amount of oil used for cooking is high here unless the pan is specially coated.
Copper is a high-end metal that provides excellent heat conducting properties. This means that the pans adjust to changes in heat quickly. They are expensive and need high maintenance at the same time.
Most of the copper pans these days are lined with stainless steel. Some older models are also coated with tin on the inside of the pan that offers some natural non-stick properties.
3. Number of Pieces:
Check the number of pans and pots that you are getting in the cookware set. As per our recommendation, you should have at least an 8-inch pan for quick and smaller tasks like making omelet, pancake, or stir frying veggies. The set should also have a 10-inch pan where you can cook dishes for a large family. Also, it should have a stockpot where you can cook sauces or pasta. Generally, you will get a 5-piece or 7-piece set. You can buy one according to your use.
4. Number of Non-Stick Layers:
Ideally, non-stick cookware should have at least three layers of the reinforced non-stick coating. It is always good to buy cookware with extra layers of the non-stick coating.
The cheapest way to put a non-stick layer over the pans is via a roller coating process. Thus, if you notice that the cooking surface of the pan is a bit rough or uneven, you can understand that it has either only a single or double layer of coating.
Non-stick cookware should have a smooth surface. Because of the higher number of layers, the durability of the pan increases too. A matte surface finish is considered better than the shiny finish.
5. Even Heat Distribution:
You should buy a non-stick pan that distributes the heat evenly across the cooking surface of the pan as it prevents the food from scorching and promotes healthy cooking.
It also increases the lifespan of the pan. Non-stick coatings break down faster when exposed to higher temperatures. Thus, particular hot spots on the cooking surface can shorten the lifespan of the pan.
We would suggest you to buy pans or skillets made using either cast or anodized aluminum as they are durable and are excellent heat conductors. They are inexpensive too.
Another material that provides an even heat distribution is stainless-steel tri-ply (where a layer of aluminum is sandwiched between two layers of stainless steel). Unlike aluminum pans, the pans made using tri-ply material can be used on induction cooktops as well.
However, these tri-ply non-stick pans are a bit expensive than the aluminum pans. There are some aluminum pans that come with bonded steel plates at the bottom. These are affordable options that work well and can be used on induction as well.
6. Compatibility with Induction:
Induction cooktops and hobs have become very popular in India.
If you are planning to move to induction in the future or if you already use it, make sure that the cookware set that you buy is induction ready or compatible.
Such cookware is generally made using cast iron or stainless steel. Or else, the cookware must at least contain some amount of iron or stainless steel in the form of additional steel disk or a special coating at the bottom surface of the pan (you will find such coating in some aluminum pans as well).
To check this, try sticking a magnet to the bottom of the pan. If the magnet sticks, you can buy the pan and is compatible with induction.
7. Oven Safe:
Even though most users buy non-stick cookware sets to be used on stovetop or induction, having pans that can be used in the oven can be an amazing additional feature too.
The cookware that is oven safe allows you to cook a wide range of dishes and gives you the flexibility to move the pan from the stovetop to the oven and keep the food warm until the time you eat.
Most of such cookware can be used at a temperature of 350 degrees Fahrenheit and more.
Pans with plastic or wooden handles might not be safe to be used in the oven. Instead, look for metal handles.
8. Dishwasher Safe:
The cookware that is dishwasher safe saves your time and effort. You can simply put it in the dishwasher rather than scrubbing by yourself.
You should note that not all non-stick pans are dishwasher safe. The heat generated during the drying cycle in the dishwasher can affect the coating of the pan. This, in turn, makes it lose the non-stick properties of the pan over time.
So, if you use the dishwasher to wash the dishes, try and invest in a pan that is dishwasher safe. This way, you can conveniently put the pan in the machine rather than washing by yourself. However, you might not claim the warranty in such scenarios. You can check with the manufacturer regarding this.
One factor that many users fail to check is how comfortable are you while holding or handling the pan. Cookware should be comfortable to hold and you must have good control over it while cooking.
Some pans come with handles that are cold to touch even when the pan is hot so that you can cook comfortably without getting any burns. For some pans, you might have to use potholders to remove them from the stovetop. The handles on the non-stick skillets are made using following materials:
Stainless Steel Handles:
These are the most common types of handles. You can use such pans even in the oven at 500 degrees Fahrenheit as well. However, you must use potholders to handle these pans.
Some handles come with rubber or plastic guards that can be removed while you are using the pan in the oven. In some cases, you can remove the entire handle.
The cookware that comes with a silicone handle is quite versatile to use. You can use it on the stovetop as well as an oven (up to 350 degrees Fahrenheit). They are cold to touch while you use the pan on the stove. But, for ovens, you might have to use a potholder.
Wood handles are cold to touch and can be removed from the stovetop easily, without burning your hands. However, you cannot use pans with wooden handles in the oven.
Look for handles that are solidly attached to the pan (as it can be difficult to clean the rivets than welding).
For easy handling and balancing, you can check for helper handles as well (it is an extra handle fixed on the opposite side of the main handle).
10. Weight and Size:
This is a tricky part that you must decide on the basis of your comfort. Heavier pans provide an evenly heated surface making it easier to make healthy and evenly cooked food. But, they can be difficult to handle as well as clean.
Lighter pans, on the other side, do not have an evenly heated even cooking surface and are convenient to use.
You can choose a mid-weight pan as they provide decent performance.
However, if weight is not an issue for you, we would suggest you to go with a heavier model. Even though they are a bit costly, they are most durable at the same time.
To make it easier to store these pans efficiently, look for sets where the pans can be placed neatly within each other. It helps in saving space as well.
11. Flat Surface:
A non-stick pan must have a flat cooking surface. Due to an uneven surface, the oil or butter will slide automatically to the lowest point to the pan, providing an uneven coverage.
Even with a convex surface, it becomes a bit difficult to cook certain foods for example, you cannot flip omelet properly without using a spatula.
Similar to traditional skillets, the non-stick pans also come with flared sides to offer the best performance. The wide shape of the pan enables quick-cooking and you can even flip the food without using a spatula.
Even while using a spatula, because of the wide flare, there is enough room for the food to be spread evenly. Flared sides of the pans promote evaporation too that is very helpful in developing a golden crust at the bottom of certain food items.
A pan should have a well-balanced handle and body so that it is stable and sits flat on the stovetop or induction cooktop. It becomes even more important while cooking on induction or ceramic cooktop as it requires full contact of the pan with the burner.
Well-balanced pans make cooking easier. But, along with a proper balance, the handles of the pan must not be uncomfortable to hold or angled in an awkward manner.
Pans with a bent lip make it easier to pour the liquids off the pan with minimal dripping.
14. Smooth Finish:
You must buy non-stick pans that offer a smooth finish. Pans with sprayed finishes are very smooth to touch. But rolled on non-stick finishes might not be that smooth and are not as durable as sprayed finishes.
Thus, before buying the pan, ensure that it has a smooth and durable finish that can stand higher temperatures and pressure.
The lid of the pan should fit properly. Also, it should be easy to put on and remove the lid from the pan. Most of the pans come with glass lids as it is easier to check the progress of cooking without really opening the lid.
16. Rim Design:
Even though rim design does not have much to do with the non-stick quality of the skillet, it can be helpful in improving your cooking experience.
Cleaning a non-stick pan is much easier than cleaning other types of pan at any time.
However, before buying a pan, go through the cleaning instructions offered by the manufacturer so that you have an idea of the quality of the pan. Even if it says that it is not dishwasher safe, it should be at least easy to clean when compared to other types of cookware.
You can easily find decent non-stick cookware set within a price range of Rs. 2,000 – Rs. 5,000. The number of layers of coating (and the formula used) has a direct impact on the price of the cookware set.
The expensive sets mostly use branded or patented coating to improve the non-stick capabilities of the pan.
Most of the manufacturers offer a warranty of at least 1 to 2 years, as long as you have not exposed the pan to unusual conditions.
For the warranty to be valid, you must follow the instructions offered by the manufacturer.
Go through the manual instruction of the pan thoroughly before using it as certain activities like using a non-stick cooking spray or putting the pan in the dishwasher can void the warranty right away.
Is PTFE Non-Stick Cookware Safe to Use?
Many people believe that non-stick cookware is not safe to use as it can emit toxic chemicals.
PTFE i.e. Polytetrafluoroethylene, also known as Teflon is being used since the 1940s. Another chemical that is used while making Teflon is PFOA (Perfluorooctanoic Acid).
The biggest question that is raised here is whether PFOA is harmful to human health or not?
Since the chemical burns off completely during the manufacturing process, there is no data that shows that cooking in Teflon-coated pan is harmful in any way.
As long as they are used properly, the non-stick coated pans are safe to use.
Some pointers that you must avoid doing are: never preheat an empty pan, avoid heating it over 500 degrees Fahrenheit, and use it in properly ventilated kitchen or space.
Apart from this, avoid performing high-heat processes like broiling or searing in non-stick coated pans.
Tips To Take Care While Using Non-Stick Cookware:
Following these tips can help in maintaining and increasing the durability of the non-stick pans:
- The non-stick cooking sprays are not compatible with the non-stick pans. Instead, they create a build-up on the cooking surface of the pan that is almost impossible to remove. Thus, never use a non-stick cooking spray while cooking. If you need fat, you can use oil or butter in minimal quantities.
- Don’t put the flame in high heat while using a non-stick pan. Even though some pans can be used in high heat flame, it is recommended to use non-stick pans over low or medium heat. This prevents the pan from releasing any harmful chemicals or odor.
- Never heat an empty non-stick pan. Doing so can damage the pan and release a nasty odor.
- Don’t use mashers, sharp knives, or beaters while cooking on non-stick pans as they can scratch the interior coating.
How To Clean Non-Stick Cookware Properly?
Using warm water with a mild dish detergent is the best way to clean non-stick pans.
First, remove every bit of food that is stuck to the surface of the pan. To remove it properly, soak the pan in warm water and detergent solution for around an hour. Now, wipe the pan using a soft cloth or sponge.
Never use metal scrubbers or steel wool pads with soap to clean pan as it can lead to corrosion over the non-stick finish.
Even if the brand suggests that the cookware is dishwasher safe, it is always better to wash it manually. Because of the harsh soap, high temperature, and pressure inside the dishwasher, the coating of the pan can get damaged.
Other than Teflon, what is the best non-stick pan?
You can look for a Sol-Gel Ceramic pan as well.
Sol-Gel ceramic is a relatively new type of cookware that is made without using any toxic chemical. It works wells but is not as durable as Teflon pans. You will have to handle it very carefully.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Ans: Well, it depends on the type of cookware you are using. Make sure that the cookware is chemical-free and can be used in any kind of cooking instruments such as gas or induction.
Ans: You will realize it easily as your non-stick cookware wouldn’t cook and take longer hours like 1-2 to boil even. It can also burn your vegetables in case you don’t pay attention to it. Well, we suggest you buy the one with some guarantee because they can stay for many years with you without any complaints.
Ans: Well, it depends on cookware to cookware as some are dishwasher friendly, some are not. We would recommend to not wash it in the dishwasher as it can hinder the quality of the coating. Also, there are certain products which are dishwasher safe, you can buy those.
Ans: Aluminium cookware, in general, is considered hazardous due to its high acidic reactions. But the same is not the case with non-stick aluminum cookware.
Non-stick aluminum cookware is good as you can get your food cooked within minutes, you will require less-oil for operation and you can get the heat distributed evenly. But make sure that the coating is either three or more layers as it will protect the aluminum from coming in direct contact with the food (as we said earlier if it comes in direct contact with acidic food, it reacts).