Nonstick cookware is a lifesaver - it keeps me from scrubbing my pots and pans for hours on end after dinner by making the cooking and cleaning processes super easy. But, much like anything else in life, your nonstick pots and pans must be cared for properly to keep the nonstick surface the same as when you first cooked with it.
There are a few dos and don'ts when it comes to these types of surfaces. You don't want to be using your cookware and come to find out that you have been caring for it in the wrong way. Sure, taking care of your cooking equipment seems fairly black and white, but in reality, there are a few things you need to know when it comes to taking care of your beloved nonstick pots and pans.
There are directions for cleaning and using a pan? Yes, and they are steps that shouldn't be ignored. Some nonstick pans must be rinsed, dried and rubbed with an oiled paper towel before use. Despite the fact that the pot or pan is nonstick, it often still needs some type of lubricant.
Additionally, some surfaces can use metal utensils while others recommend against it. Check out those instructions before your first cook with your new nonstick cookware. You will be glad you did, and your pan will benefit from your careful attention.
It may seem easier to just spritz a bit of cooking spray on your nonstick pan before use, but this may actually end up making your pots and pans sticky. In the areas where the heat doesn't burn the spray off - like the sides of a frying pan - it often leaves a residue. Over time, the left over spray that doesn't come off in the wash, will build up. Over time the build up will discolor and negate the nonstick surface.
However, if you have buildup on your cookware, all is not lost and you don't have to just throw out the pan. You can save the pan and make the nonstick surface almost as good as new.
You may want to cook your food faster by setting it on high heat, but this may not be so hot for your nonstick cookware. When the temperatures are too high, the nonstick coating may begin to crack, making the quality of your dish suffer. Higher heat will not help the food cook any faster or give you a better sear in the pan. It will simply leave food overcooked on the outside but undercooked internally. Cooking at high heat with cooking spray will also help create the dreaded build-up. Instead, use a lower heat to make the food come out much more evenly.
Most nonstick cookware is made for cooking over low to medium heat. With that being said, you should also avoid subjecting your pots and pans to extreme temperatures. If it's just coming off of a sizzling stove, you don't want to subject the cookware to cold water, which will cause the pan to warp. A warped pan keeps the heat from distributing correctly. Instead, let it cool for a few minutes before submerging in water.
Use care with metal utensils
Check your cookware's instruction manual when it comes to the best utensils to use with it. In many cases, the manufacturer recommends swapping out metal utensils for wood, rubber, silicone, nylon or plastic cooking tools. Metal utensils may easily scratch and ruin some types of nonstick surfaces that help make all of your dishes turn out so deliciously. Avoid cutting food inside the pan. Transfer the food onto a cutting board instead of slicing it up directly in the pan—this way, you'll avoid cutting into the nonstick surface right along with your food.
One thing to note about metal utensils: there are some nonstick surfaces—ceramic, titanium-ceramic, hard anodized, to name a few, that using metal utensils will not damage the surface. When in doubt, consult the manual.
If you have all of your pans stacked up in a cabinet, you may want to think about keeping your nonstick cookware elsewhere. You don't want that precious coating to be scratched by other heavy pans. If you have the means to hang them, this is the best way to go to protect them. Make sure there is plenty of space between the pans when hanging them to avoid further nicks and scratches. Alternatively, many types of pan protectors and spacers are available to protect the surface of your pans.