Tips For Taking Better Care Of Your Nonstick Cookware

I'll admit I was clueless about nonstick cookware. I bought a brand new nonstick skillet, with the intention of making eggs, and after a few months I found the eggs were already sticking to the surface of the pan. I had always sprayed it with a short blast of cooking spray and cooked at moderate heat: What gives? Oh, cooking spray is pretty much the worst lubricant for nonstick pans? It was news to me.

First of all, if you're like me, you may need to start by cleaning and attempting to repair the damage you (unknowingly!) caused. Using cooking sprays can result in a residue build up on the cookware, which causes food to cook unevenly and counteract the nonstick nature of the pan.

Clean and Repair:

  • All-Clad recommends using a paste of equal parts baking soda and water to gently scrub the pan, using a non-metallic sponge or brush. Don't forget the sides and other areas where oil residue can build up. Rinse well and dry.

  • Repair the surface by pouring a small amount of vegetable oil in the pan, rubbing it into the pan and wipe off any excess with a paper towel.

  • Do not put the pan in the dishwasher. I know some claim to be dishwasher-safe, but the high heat and strong dish washing detergents weather a pan far quicker than elbow grease alone.

Promise to Treat it Better:

  • Banish cooking sprays, unless you want to frequently scrub the pan free of the residue that builds up in areas where the spray doesn't cook off (think sticky sides of the pan that just won't come clean with soap and water). Alternatively, try an oil mister you can refill with the oil of your choice and avoid the additives in traditional sprays which cause build up (soy lecithin, for one).

  • Pour a small amount of fat — oil, butter, etc. — on a cold pan before you use it and distribute it well. The idea is to bolster the non stick surface by adding a layer of fat. If this is added too late, say after the pan is very hot, it will be more likely to soak directly into the food than aid the nonstick surface.

  • Use only wooden or plastic utensils that won't scratch the surface. Stop sneaking in that metal spoon because all your other utensils are in the dishwasher and you're in a rush (guilty).

  • Season the pan periodically to keep the surface performing at its best.
  • The average life span of a nonstick pan is around five years. I've had some high quality nonstick pans longer than that, but I also don't use them as frequently as other pans in my kitchen. You'll know your nonstick pan is on its last days if the surface becomes pitted or starts to peel.

(Image credits: Emma Christensen)