OK, January 2021! If you’re anything like us, you may feel like you spent all of 2020 cooking. One of your New Year’s resolutions was to get a proper nonstick set of cookware, in part because darn it, you want to be using less fat when you cook. Great! Our test kitchen director, Belle English, can’t live without her nonstick, and it’s a wise thing to have in spades.
However, as you survey the landscape of cookery equipment, you’ll notice that there are almost too many options. (A great primer on everything from cast-iron to stainless steel to nonstick, right this way!) So here are the top five things to know about the differences between ceramic nonstick and “regular” nonstick, with props to our pals at The Kitchn for their excellent work on this topic. You can also check out this easy guide to the differences between the non-stick pans we offer at Williams Sonoma. Glorious, non-sticky omelettes and pancakes will be yours at last… once you choose the nonstick pan that is right for you.
1. PFOA Is (Largely) a Thing of the Past
We’d understand if nonstick generally still gives you the chills, as news about PFOAs and their ability to dizzy birds and other pets when heated too high made the news in the last decade. But nonstick is now PFOA-free. The finish on traditional nonstick, however, generally contains PTFE (or polytetrafluoroethylene, about which less is known).
2. Ceramic Pans Don’t Contain PTFE
Though we don’t yet know much about PTFEs, it’s worth noting that ceramic nonstick pans don’t contain them.
3. Proper Care Will Extend Pan Life
Ceramic nonstick (which, pro tip, is typically metal with a silicon finish!) tends to break down more easily and so has a shorter lifespan than regular nonstick, even though you can heat it over higher heat. So if you can, take care with it, and wash it by hand. Use a melamine sponge, which won’t scratch the interior surface. And while you’re at it, hand-wash that “regular” nonstick, too, which will keep it in better shape longer.
4. High-Heat Cooking is Best in Ceramic Non-Stick
Though they’re a dream to clean and they make for less-messy sauces and scrambles, nonstick pans may not be your first choice when you need to make a pan really hot. Ceramic non-stick can take higher heat than traditional non-stick, although high-heat cooking will increase the overall wear and tear on the pan more quickly than cooking over lower temperatures. Some regular non-stick pans mitigate their heat limitation by featuring a textured cooking surface that—even over medium heat—will encourage a nice sear on meats and veggies. Regular nonstick surfaces tend to break down around 500 degrees. Ceramic breaks down around 800. We’re talking stovetop temps, here; check the label obsessively if you want the pan to go right in the oven.
5. For Even Cooking, Choose Ceramic
Maybe you have a recipe that calls for even cooking over medium heat; break out your ceramic nonstick. Because of its aluminum body, it can get hotter and tends to heat more evenly than a traditional nonstick.