The last thing you want to do after cooking an extravagant meal is stand over the sink scrubbing off all the food that stuck to the pans. Those leftover remnants of lasagna can be a lot tougher than they look.
Thankfully, there’s a way to make cleanup a breeze and, no, you don’t have to douse the pan with cooking spray: Nonstick cookware. These dishes let you fry, sauté, and bake your food with less mess and fat. So you’ll spend less time scrubbing and more time enjoying the activities you’d much rather be doing.
Ever wonder how this magical nonstick surface allows any meal to just slide right off the pan and onto the plate? Well, actually, it was an accident. Back in 1938, Ohio-born scientist Roy Plunkett was searching for a less toxic chemical to use as a new refrigerant and created a mixture meant to produce tetrafluoroethylene gas. He left it to sit overnight.
The next day, Plunkett found a white, waxy substance in place of the gas. This substance was polytetrafluoroethylene, also known as PTFE. A French engineer, Marc Gregoire, later found a way to bond the PTFE to aluminum, creating the first piece of nonstick cookware. Isn’t science wonderful?
In the recent years, there have been concerns about the chemical make-up of nonstick cookware, specifically the presence of PFOA and PTFE. Manufacturers have responded by creating nonstick coatings and cookware that adhere to a more stringent set of guidelines. And the cookware is a far cry from the early nonstick cookware that our mothers used.
The coating used in ceramic nonstick cookware use a mineral-based coating. The inorganic nature of this type of nonstick coating make it outstandingly durable, environmentally-friendly, and safe for contact with food at higher temperatures. The traditional nonstick coatings were organic in nature and weren't as durable, which led to them to crack, peel and become unstable under high temperature.
Hard-anodized cookware is made from electrochemically-hardened aluminum, and are best known for durability and long lifespan. Cookware made from hard-anodized aluminum resist to scratching, warping, and corrosion. Additionally, they are known for having even heat distribution, which make them highly reliable. The manufacturing process leaves the cookware non-porous, which makes it technically only stick resistant but most find the nonstick properties to be acceptable. Some manufacturers add an additional coating to make it completely nonstick.
I love my nonstick cookware, but there are a few things you can do to get the very best performance out of your cookware:
If you want the best possible nonstick cookware for whipping up meals, here are some things to keep in mind as you shop:
Heat conductivity: Nonstick cookware often has an aluminum base for the best heat conductivity. If you have an electric stove, a pan with a flat aluminum bottom will heat more evenly. If you use a gas stove, however, you may want to look for stainless steel pans with aluminum cores.
Oven-safe handles: Some recipes call for dishes to start on the stove and finish in the oven. Therefore, you should look for a handle that’s oven safe.
Durability: If you know you’re going to be tough on your cookware, look for a nonstick pan that will stand the test of time. Search for a brand that places heavy emphasis on durability.
Consider a set: If you know you’ll be using all the pieces on a regular basis, a set is a great investment. If you don’t, buy individual pieces. Otherwise, you’ll just have pans taking up unnecessary space in your cabinets.