Here’s What You Need to Know About Ceramic Nonstick Pans

updated Sep 3, 2022
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You’ve probably heard lots about ceramic nonstick pans — like claims that they’re healthier and better for the environment than regular nonstick pans. But don’t throw out all your old stuff just yet. The truth about ceramics is not so clear cut.

We’ve sorted out the hype from the facts to help you decide if this new-fangled nonstick is for you. Here’s what you need to know about ceramic nonstick cookware.

1. Ceramic nonstick pans are not ceramic.

They’re actually metal pans with a finish that uses silicon to prevent sticking. Like ceramicware, the coating is made of sand and has a slick, glossy surface, which is how it came to be called ceramic.

2. Claims that ceramic nonstick are “healthier” are kinda bogus.

These claims are based on the fact that ceramic nonstick pots and pans contains neither PTFE or PFOA. What are all these letters? See, the finish on traditional nonstick pans contains PTFE. Despite rumors to the contrary, there is no scientific evidence that it’s toxic.

PFOA was a substance used to manufacture PTFE. It ran off in the water during the manufacturing process and didn’t become part of the final nonstick product. The chemical in the runoff was linked with health problems for the people living in the area near the water supply and this caused confusion and a source of consumer fear. Since 2015, PFOA has been completely phased out and is no longer used at all in the process of making nonstick cookware.

3. Ceramic finishes can withstand a higher heat than traditional nonstick. But that doesn’t really matter.

Conventional nonsticks can be heated to upwards of 500°F before they begin to give off fumes, which can cause flu-like symptoms. However, unless you preheat an empty pan or sear a steak on a high setting it’s unlikely that you’ll ever get your nonstick pan surface that hot. Ceramic finishes won’t start to break down until they reach 800°F, but again, that’s pretty hard to reach. In general, though, neither type of pan should really be used over high heat, as it will diminish their nonstick properties.

4. They aren’t necessarily better for the environment.

You’ve probably heard that ceramic finishes are better for the environment (compared to regular nonstick) because they require less energy to manufacture. However according to one of the leading manufacturers of ceramic finishes in the United States, the process of coating a pan with a ceramic finish actually uses more energy than applying a more traditional finish.

5. They might not meet industry standards or regulations.

While traditional nonstick finishes meet FDA regulations for food contact, this is not necessarily true of ceramic finishes. What that means is you can’t be absolutely sure how a ceramic nonstick pan was manufactured or if it is indeed safe. Your best bet is to buy ceramic nonstick cookware from a reputable cookware manufacturer that’s more likely to insist its nonstick finish supplier meets standards.

6. They’re not miracle pans.

While they may look glossy, their sheen isn’t what makes a ceramic nonstick pan nonstick. While eggs may fall right out of a brand-new pan, over time you’ll find food is more and more likely to stick and cleanup to be more difficult. And actually, ceramic nonstick pans are less nonstick-y than regular nonstick ones.

7. You really should hand-wash them.

Regardless of what the use and care info says, you need to hand-wash ceramic nonstick pans if you want to preserve the nonstick properties of a ceramic finish.

8. It’s worth paying a little more for a name brand you trust.

The better the cookware, the longer the ceramic finish will continue to perform well. On pricier cookware more layers of finish are applied to improve its durability and its heavy weight protects the coating from heat.

The Bottom Line on Ceramic Nonstick Cookware

We know that there are many of you out there who are convinced that traditional nonstick cookware is unsafe regardless of what the experts say. If you can’t help but feel that one day you’ll hear that PTFE is harmful, but want the benefits of a nonstick finish, you can increase your comfort level by using ceramic nonstick cookware.

Just remember to keep it in good working order by avoiding the dishwasher and high heat. When you want to sear a sirloin, that’s when to bring out your cast iron skillet.

The Best Ceramic Nonstick Cookware