When you're shopping for cookware, whether you plan to stock your kitchen for the first time or buy something for a specific dish, the goals are efficiency and longevity. You need to buy the right equipment for the right job and make a concerted effort to use the tool the way it is intended. Therefore when shopping for a frying pan, should you buy a nonstick or stainless steel pan? If you're a regular cook, the short answer is that you need both.
Knowledge of Nonstick Pans
The core of a nonstick pan is usually made of aluminum and then coated with a nonstick material (PFOA-free Teflon or ceramic). A light, weightless pan might look ideal, but when choosing any pot or pan, you need a thicker, heavier bottom to distribute the heat evenly. Ideally the nonstick pan is oven proof and has an oven friendly coated handle. It's not necessary, but it comes in handy when you want to make baked egg dishes like omelettes. If you do get an oven-safe pan, you'll want to check how much heat the pan can handle. Exceeding this number could damage the pan and the food being cooked.
When To Use Nonstick Pans
Now that you know how to buy nonstick pans, let's talk about how you'll use them and take care of them. For starters, calorie reduction is the name of the game for the reasons above. Nonstick pans are able to do what they do because of their nonstick coating, and nonstick coatings can be affected by overheating. Stick to more delicate foods such as eggs, crepes, pancakes, and very delicate fish, which can be cooked on medium and low heat. Never sear in a nonstick pan. Searing requires high heat, and nonstick pans cannot be used with high heat. Also, you want to avoid acidic foods (like ketchup or wine) and nonstick cooking sprays. Acids can wear away the coating, and nonstick sprays can create residues that are hard to remove. Use oil or butter instead of nonstick spray. Next, a life rule worth repeating: Use wood, silicone, or rubber utensils on nonstick pans. And don't put nonstick pans in the dishwasher - they can't handle the heat of the dishwasher, even if the label tells you they can. The combination of heat and water is horrible for metals and, in this case, will destroy your coating.
Lastly, I think it's important to remember to try as much as you can and never go over medium heat, or always remember to use certain utensils and avoid certain foods. Sometimes the nonstick is the only pan that is clean, sometimes all rubber spatulas are in the dishwasher, and sometimes you forget that you can't add a can of tomato sauce. Even with our best efforts, the coating on these pans will wear off. This is not anyone's failure, it is reality. If the food starts to stick, you can't stick with this nonstick pan any more. This pan has a quality that makes it worth your kitchen space. Once this quality doesn't work, it needs to be replaced. Don't scrape scrambled eggs with a wooden spoon for the next few years.
To Be Continued…