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Non-Stick Pans

Non-Stick Pans are pans whose inside surfaces have been coated with a permanent non-stick substance, and are sold as such. There are many different brands; you can get both stove-top and electric ones. The American cook, Julia Child, switched from cast-iron to non-stick pans when good non-stick pans became available on the market.

They are particularly useful for crepes, scrambled eggs, pot stickers, potato pancakes, and omelets, and useful in general for those controlling fat intake, as they allow cooking with no or little fat or oil.

However, food won't brown as well in non-stick pans, and you can't deglaze a non-stick pan. [1]

Older non-stick finishes weren't as good as they are now. They were thin, and scratched as soon as you looked at them. Now, the big remaining cautions are that no metal utensils should be used in the pans, no high heat can be used and with some, no sticking them in the dishwasher. They can also get scratched from stacking, and frying in them meat with bones in it.

Still, even with care, non-stick coating doesn't last forever -- these aren't pans you'll be handing down to your grandchildren; they will start to stick towards the end and will end up in landfill at some point. You can get non-stick pans resurfaced, but it's expensive. The pan in question would have to have cost a lot to start with to make it worth while.

[1] The bits of carmelized food that stick to a pan are called "fonds" in French. Deglazing dissolves them and produces a wonderful pan juice in doing so. But sadly, the "fonds" just never happens in non-stick cookware.

Cooking Tips

Never use metal tools when cooking in non-stick. Never clean with steel wool scouring pads or scouring powder.

Oil in non-stick pans heated to a high temperature can leave a residue on the pans. Some cooking sprays can also leave a residue that builds up. To remove such residue, fill pan with water and a bit of vinegar, boil a bit, then wash with soapy water, and a plastic scrub pad.


There are two urban myths around health and non-stick coatings. One is that the fumes from it are dangerous and can kill birds; the second is that scratched non-stick pans are poisonous.

If overheated, fumes released from the non-stick coating can make people sick. When the pan starts hitting 554 F (290 C), fine particles coming off can get in your lungs, and at 680 F (360C), toxic gases as well. The symptoms have been dubbed the "Teflon Flu".

Household pet birds in the kitchen can be killed by low levels of the fumes. But then, many cooking fumes can also injure birds, not just non-stick fumes -- and that's if the bird doesn't get steamed to death first by flying over a pot of boiling water. The rule of thumb, even you don't own a single piece of non-stick cookware, should always be to move your pet bird out of the kitchen before doing any kind of cooking, in any kind of pan.

But then, the pans aren't manufactured to be heated that high, anyway. DuPont says "Cookware with Teflon® non-stick coatings has a recommended maximum use temperature of 500°F (260°C)" (Retrieved 15 July 2006 from http://www.teflon.com.)

The second myth, however, that scratched non-stick pans are poisonous, may be just that. "Abrasive scouring pads or cleansers should not be used to clean them. Even so, Tom Brown, an official in FDA's food additives section, notes that while non-stick pans do abrade with hard use and particles may chip off, these particles would pass unchanged through your body and pose no health hazard." -- Blumenthal, Dale. Is That Newfangled Cookware Safe?. US Food and Drug Administration. FDA Consumer Magazine. October 1990.

Some say the manufacture of the non-stick coatings is bad for the environment. Others counter that non-stick is actually better for the environment: because food doesn't stick, creating a tough clean-up chore, lots of energy and water is saved in the clean-up.

History Notes

Teflon is a brand name of non-stick cookware, not the name of a coating. The non-stick chemical that Teflon uses in its non-stick coating (called "perfluorocarbon resin") is PTFE -- polytetrafluoroethylene. It stems from the invention of fluoropolymers by DuPont in 1938. PTFE is still mixed up by DuPont in Parkersburg, West Virginia.

PFTE was approved for cookware use in 1960 by the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA).


Tugend, Alina. How Not to Wreck a Nonstick Pan. New York: New York Times. 17 December 2010.

See also:


Aebleskiver Pans; Appachatti Pans; Appakarai Pans; Broiling Pans; Cast Iron; Chafing Dish; Crêpe Pans; Electric Frying Pans; French Roasting Pans; Frying Pans; Kanom Krok Pans; Meatloaf Pans; Non-Reactive Pans; Non-Stick Pans; Omelet Pans; Paella Pans; Pans; Quiche Pans; Roasting Pans; Sauté Pans; Self-Basting Roasters; Spiders; Wok

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Also called:

Sauteuse à revêtement anti-adhésif (French)


Oulton, Randal. "Non-Stick Pans." CooksInfo.com. Published 29 May 2005; revised 08 December 2010. Web. Accessed 05/26/2018. <http://www.cooksinfo.com/non-stick-pans>.

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