Most people don't know how to use nonstick cookware properly and end up with sticky, burned food.
Nonstick pans are great for cooking healthier meals because they're easy to clean and less likely to burn your food. But if you don't use them correctly, all that convenience goes out the window – let’s get right into the mistakes you should be avoiding.
10 Common Nonstick Pan Mistakes To Avoid
Here are 10 common mistakes people make with their nonstick pans along with easy solutions so you can start enjoying cooking with your non-stick pan.
1: Not letting the pan get hot enough before cooking
Nonstick pans require more heat than regular pans. If you don't preheat the pan, you'll just end up with sticky and burned food. Most nonstick pans have a high tolerance for heat, meaning they're able to reach extremely high temperatures. This is why you should never slide food into the pan like you would with regular cookware. Nonstick pans require gentle contact and low speed.
Pans that are too hot will melt the coating over time, so it's important to use your nonstick pan on a lower heat than you would with normal cookware. Keep in mind that the higher the heat, the faster the food will cook.
Pour a small amount of oil into your nonstick pan and let it get hot until you see little wisps of smoke rising from the oil. This means that the pan is ready for cooking.
2: Using metal utensils
Metal spatulas are hard on nonstick pans and can scratch or wear out the surface. Metal utensils also transfer heat to your food instead of to the pan so they'll make your food stick more easily.
If you're wondering how you're going to flip things without a metal spatula, try using just two fingers or even silicone tools. Silicone won't damage your pan or leave any residue on your food. Nonstick pans are expensive. Don't ruin them by using metal utensils.
3: Using an oil with a high smoke point for cooking
High-smoke-point oils are very likely to burn because they require so much heat to get hot in the first place. This is especially true of refined oils from semi-refined sources, including grapeseed and safflower oils. They don't have many nutrients left in them, so at best they're neutral on the flavor spectrum or just plain gross tasting.
If you don't have butter or coconut oil, use ghee instead as it has a lower smoke point than both butter and coconut oil. Ghee doesn't burn as easily either because it's an all-natural product.
4: Not using enough oil in the pan
Oil is needed for proper browning, and a nonstick pan needs more than a normal pan. When you only use a little oil in your nonstick fryer or skillets, they'll work less effectively at the nonstick surface, which is what you were paying for in the first place.
To get the best out of your nonstick pans,, make sure to use at least ¼ inch of oil. If possible, go up to ½ – 1 inch of oil so it doesn't swirl around too much while cooking. More oil will also mean better flavor by adding rich fats and nutrients back into the food.
5: Using nonstick spray for your cooking instead of oil
Nonstick sprays are a joke and should be avoided at all costs. These contain chemicals that will break down the surface of your pan, creating scratches and holes that make it difficult to cook in the future.
Additionally, nonstick sprays can coat your food instead of just being absorbed by it like real oils. There's nothing worse than biting into what looks like fried eggs but turns out to be a mouthful of chemicals.
6: Using the wrong kind of oil for frying or baking
The wrong kind of oils will ruin your food and make it stick.
For deep frying, you'll want to use something with a high smoke point, like coconut oil or ghee. Avoid refined oils because they're unstable at high temperatures.
If you're using your nonstick pan for baking, then butter is the best choice of oil – especially if it's organic French butter (made from fermented cream). Butter contains essential nutrients that need to be reintroduced into our diet thanks to deficiencies in modern farming practices.
There's no reason you couldn't fry up some vegetables in coconut oil instead of vegetable oil. Just make sure to choose an oil with a low smoke point and high amounts of ghee-like properties or consider using clarified butter.
The latest fad in cooking oils is avocado oil, which has a perfectly safe smoke point of 320 degrees Fahrenheit. Unfortunately, it also tastes foul – like you're drinking the liquid from a can of peas. You may have better luck with olive oil. This works great for low-heat cooking such as frying or baking but should never be used for high-heat pan-frying such as making French fries. Olive oil has the worst flavor profile out of all these choices so make sure to pair it with something that will balance its musky flavor. Experimenting is half the fun – especially if you’ve replaced your Teflon pans.
7: Cooking without using enough heat
If your nonstick pans aren't hot enough, food won't become brown; and if it doesn't turn brown, your food won't taste as good.
Similarly, not using enough heat means that more oil will be absorbed by the pan instead of coating the food. This is one thing you need to avoid when cooking with nonstick pans. The oil should be applied to a hot pan and then preheated before placing your food in there. If you place cold food on a hot pan without any oil whatsoever, it's going to stick like crazy. This is especially true for items such as fish fillets.
8: Not cleaning right away or ever
Cleaning nonstick pans isn't difficult. All you have to do is remember 2 simple rules:
(1) Never use soap.
(2) Always wash your pans right away instead of letting food sit on them.
If you leave food to sit overnight, it will become sticky and nearly impossible to get off with just water.
9: Letting your pans boil dry
Leaving a nonstick pan to boil dry will cause the surface of whatever you're cooking to stick. It'll also ruin your nonstick coating because the pan itself may warp or crack. When cleaning, bring water up just short of boiling and use very gentle motions with a sponge until all residue is gone.
10: Trying to put it in the dishwasher
While washing by hand is easier, some people will try putting their frying pans into the dishwasher. This creates two problems:
(1) Dishwashers aren't meant for nonstick cookware. Because they get so hot, the detergent can end up bonding with your pans and attaching itself to them – making things worse.
(2) The friction created by the anti-bacterial coating of dishwashing detergents can damage your nonstick pans. Not to mention the fact that harsh chemical fumes can be inhaled while you try to eat food prepared in such an environment.
If you have a glass top stove, then it's especially important not to put your nonstick cookware into the dishwasher because running them through such high heat and pressure can cause microscopic cracks which will let moisture in – causing rust to form. As if you didn't have enough reasons to avoid putting these in the dishwasher, remember that exposure to such high heat can cause your pans to warp over time as well.
Final thoughts on Common Nonstick Pan Mistakes
In conclusion, before you put that nonstick pan into the dishwasher, take a moment to consider what you're doing. Your pans may still look new now but by making the above mistakes, you're shortening their lifetime.
Keep these tips in mind and you'll be able to maximize your nonstick pans for years to come. Also if you’re interested in learning more about bad ideas when it comes to your food preparation, check out our article on Teflon and nonstick pans.