Every cook has an Achilles heel. For some of us, it’s our reluctance to use heavy cast-iron skillets. For others, it’s nonstick cookware; something about “nonstick” conjures images of tough-to-clean, easily scratched pans.
We reached out to Emily McFarren, Williams-Sonoma test kitchen cook and resident nonstick pan aficionado, to get her best cleaning tips.
1. Cool It Down
“Generally speaking,” says Emily, “I wait for it to cool down, then use warm soapy water, and that usually does the trick for me.” The concern with putting a hot pan directly into soap and water is that you can warp its surface, she says.
2. Wash by Hand
Certain brands, such as Scanpan, are fine with a post-sauté dunk in soapy water, then going into the dishwasher. More often than not, though, Emily says, it’s better to wash pans by hand. “Cleaning them by hand rather than in the dishwasher tends to eliminate residue and spots that will otherwise stay on there.”
3. Use Soft Sponges
Use soft sponges whenever possible. “I try to avoid steel wool or any super-abrasive scrubby thing, and I usually try to avoid the rough side of the sponge,” says Emily. “I don’t want to break up that surface.” (So avoid those green, scratchy surfaces.) Again, though, she notes, “With Scanpan, it’s a little more foolproof.” Though she still wouldn’t use steel wool on any nonstick surface, with Scanpan, “the coating is not really in danger of coming off.”
4. Boil Water
It’s so intuitive once you think about it: Boiling water in the pan on the stovetop will get most anything out. “One trick I really like is if something is really stuck on is to fill the pan with water and boil it, and that usually takes care of everything,” says Emily. She adds, “Some people will even add a little vinegar to that.”
5. Oil and Salt
Take advantage of the cleaning power of kitchen staples with this trick. When you’ve got food somehow stuck on your nonstick pan, “I like to heat up a little oil and salt and use a rubber spatula or wooden spoon to sort of scrape things off,” says Emily. “It’s one of my go-to tricks, rather than trying to scrub it off.”
In the market for a new nonstick pan yourself? We’ve got plenty to choose from, although Emily is Team Scanpan: “They’re oven-safe and so amazing, so you can get a really nice sear and finish in the oven. They’re dishwasher-safe, and the shapes are really nice.” Laughs Emily, “I cook with them at home and recommend them to everyone. The coating doesn’t really come up. They seem slightly less porous. You’re not really getting things stuck in there that won’t come off. They’re kind of a game-changer.”