The Hard Facts About Nonstick Pans
For the longest time I thought I was doing something wrong because my nonstick skillets wouldn't last more than a few years. I even bought high dollar cookware, but their lifetimes were barely better than the cheap pans.
Finally, I switched to hard anodized skillets. I generally got a couple more years out of them.
Still, considering the cost you'd think cookware should last a lifetime. Only my cast iron skillets will outlive me by generations.
I decided to do some serious research before I forked over any more dough to this folly. Imagine my surprise when experts claim that the nonstick cookware is NOT designed to last more than five years.
I wasn't happy about the answer but at least I felt a little better about myself. I was sure I was somehow responsible for their early demise.
Nonstick aluminum pans are my least favorite. There are some studies that suggest cooking on aluminum will elevate your risk for Alzheimer's. For this reason I 'stick' to hard anodized steel skillets, and won't recommend aluminum.
I'm very fond of porcelain clad cast iron, but those are pretty pricey. I've only ever bought one, a Dutch Oven that I use for my soups and stews.
Like regular cast iron, they're heavy, so it's not my first choice for everyday cooking. Now if you're looking for something to stick in the oven or heat for many hours, this is a great pot.
Hard Anodized is my skillet of choice for every day cooking. From omelettes to stir frys, it's light enough to pick up with one hand, with a coating thick enough to keep food from sticking. But mind the warning from the experts, none of these nonstick skillets last longer than five years without becoming pockmarked. High heat is the nemesis to nonstick pans.
For my money, I prefer Calphalon, though I have bought Cuisinart with near equal satisfaction. They're heavy enough to withstand some punishment, and it comes in several price points depending on your preference. I generally choose the mid-range.
Stainless steel is not nonstick, but I thought I'd mention it because that's what Greg bought for himself when we lived in separate houses. You have to make sure it's well oiled, but what I like best about steel is that it cleans exceptionally well. I think it cooks beautifully too, but my choice is still nonstick even if I have to replace them every five years. It's good for higher heat needs too.
When we combined houses, I kept the large skillet and a couple of sauce pans.
By the way, the best steel cookware I ever used was All-Clad. It wasn't mine, but I cooked on it once and could definitely tell the difference in quality.
Finally, I want to mention cast iron. Heavy and cumbersome, but if you season it right it will outlast your children's children. A cast iron skillet is phenomenal for steaks or anything else that requires high heat. You can bake with it too. Greg has made the best pizza using the lowly cast iron skillet.
Note: This is the one piece of cookware that I wouldn't hesitate to buy at a garage sale or thrift store. They could be grungy and ugly, but some elbow grease with a wire brush and proper seasoning, and that pan becomes good as new.
Tips for keeping your nonstick pans from dying an early death.
• Try not to use metal cooking implements. Choose wood or silicone spatulas and spoons.
• Use oil or butter rather than cooking spray. I learned the hard way that prolonged use of cooking spray will create a buildup that's impossible to remove.
• If you must use aluminum rather than steel, remember that highly acidic foods react to aluminum and copper. It'll give your food a metallic off-taste.
• Wash them by hand but don't let them sit in water. It's a bone I pick with Greg because he likes to let cookware sit in water to soften dried-on foods. As soon as it's cool enough to touch, I prefer to wash the skillet, towel it dry and let it finish drying on the stove.
As a present to myself this year, I retired my old pans and bought new ones.
How long do you keep a skillet?