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I have an old set of nonstick aluminum pans that have gained scratches and lost their non-stick coating over the past several years.
There's nothing physically wrong with them except for those few microns of Teflon that are flaking off.

I'm wondering if I can scrub off the non-stick coating and season the pan as I do my cast iron skillet (coat with oil, then apply high heat in the oven).

I'd need to remove the handle when seasoning it, but that shouldn't be a problem as they're attached with screws, not rivets.

I've found some opinions in a quick Google search (1, 2) but nothing very convincing or thorough.

So - can I get that beautiful dark glossy patina on my aluminum pan, or is it destined to be a food magnet?

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4 Answers 4

Wow, I am going to say no. I haven't research it that mush but my guess is it is a bad idea. Aluminum pans are cheap, I would just pick up a new one.

But to really answer your question. I don't really think you will be able to season an aluminum pan. I have a couple that I saute and pan fry with all the time that, even if I wasn't trying to intentionally season them they should have developed some sort of coating like a cast iron pan or carbon steel wok would do naturally over time.

It is possible that I just wash it to aggressively after use. I would say the only way to really know for sure would be to give it a try. But I wouldn't mess with the non-stick pan. Just buy a new aluminum pan.

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Agree, I wouldn't do this. Teflon coatings are toxic, the recommended advice I've read is to NOT use scratched nonstick pans. Bin them and buy new. In addition the aluminium itself is toxic. You don't want to be scratching into the aluminium. Even non-nonstick aluminium pans have a coating on them that is incredibly hard, to prevent the aluminium from getting into your food. –  Rincewind42 Jul 14 '11 at 5:43
    
Yeah I didn't really wan to get to much into the ins and outs about the non-stick coating since that isn't really what the question is. Which is why I left it just saying it was a bad idea. But you are totally right. And to much aluminum is toxic and aluminium is reactive, which is why most people prefer stainless steel with an aluminum or copper core. –  jeffwllms Jul 14 '11 at 15:13
    
I used to have a set of non-nonstick aluminium pans. They had been anodized and have a dark grey colour on them. Srubbing with a steel scouring pad couldn't scratch that coating. Without that I would never use aluminium for cooking. –  Rincewind42 Jul 15 '11 at 2:24
    
@Rincewind42: Under standard use, aluminum pans do not pose a health risk. Aluminum will quickly form a protective oxide layer in air, which protects the metal and prevents food from absorbing aluminum. Hard anodization merely creates a thicker version of this layer. Now, I wouldn't leave an acidic food in an aluminum pot long-term, and I wouldn't scrub it with steel wool and then cook in it without washing. However, you don't have anything to fear from "bare" aluminum. –  BobMcGee Jul 15 '11 at 5:11
    
Also, Teflon (PTFE) is not toxic unless abused by being heated to temperatures on the order of 550 F when it breaks down in to toxic vapors. At normal temperatures, the fluorine binds the molecules so tightly that it is practically non-reactive, which is the same reason it is so slippery. This makes it non-toxic as well. –  SAJ14SAJ Nov 28 '13 at 3:28

I've never heard of seasoning aluminum, but a casual search turned up similar suggestions that it's do-able. On the other hand, it is quite easy to cook in bare aluminum, and I find it easier to scrub of stuff that's seriously burned on, compared to stainless. Restaurants particularly like aluminum cookware because it's dirt cheap and conducts heat extremely well.

Personally, I don't think it's worth the hassle of scrubbing off all the nonstick layer. For something as fragile as a teflon coating, it proves remarkably difficult to fully expunge all traces of the nonstick coating, and the layers that help it adhere to the metal. Let us not forget that these layers contain toxic PFOA, so you'll want to get every last trace gone.

Seems like a bad use of time, when you can buy a brand new, NSF-certified aluminum pan for under $20.

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I don't really have any problems cleaning the stainless at the cooking school. And most our guest chefs prefer cooking on our all-clads over their aluminum pans if they use aluminum. The choice for aluminum is all about cost and the way pans are treated in a restaurant it would strictly be to expensive. Stainless steel is a poor conductor but I haven't seen any all stainless steel pans out there anymore. They all seem to have a core of aluminum/copper. But if you are shopping for pans and your choice is aluminum or stainless with no core, then yes definitely go aluminum. –  jeffwllms Jul 14 '11 at 15:20
    
It may be something specific to how we handle our stainless pans, or the kind of pans our restaurant bought (crappy Vollrath aluminum-disk bottom), but the aluminum is easier to scrub off when absolutely scorched. You can literally scrub the surface of the metal off with a vigorous application of steel wool, taking the gunk with it. The stainless tends to retain a darkened patina that scrubbing won't banish. I agree that clad cookware is of a better quality than aluminum, and it doesn't warp and dent like aluminum. It also costs an arm and a leg. –  BobMcGee Jul 14 '11 at 15:50
    
Ahh I have used those Vollrath, they do suck. And yes with the aluminum since it is soft you can scrub then to were you actually are removing the metal. That is a no go with stainless. So i know what your talking about. High heat can discolor stainless, but that is what barkeepers friend is for :) –  jeffwllms Jul 14 '11 at 16:40
    
Yeah, my clad pans at home don't have the problems the ones at work do, and they're just Cusinart Multiclad, not expensive All-Clad. Barkeeper's Friend is indeed miraculous stuff, especially when combined with polished (not brushed) metal interiors. –  BobMcGee Jul 14 '11 at 16:48

Give it a try--Don't bother taking the teflon off; just coat with oil and season like you would cast iron. The polymerized oil should form a coating over both the intact teflon and the scratches. Then the trick would be to treat the pan in the future like a cast iron pan when it comes to cleaning; don't overscrub it, simply loosen any stuck food with water and a spatula, then wipe clean and dry, reseasoning whenever the coating appears to get any gaps in it.

I happen to love some of my old scratched Teflon pans, mainly because of the even heat distribution of the aluminum material.

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Obviously if you scrub a softer metal(aluminum) with a harder metal (stainless steel scrubber) then the softer metal will scrub off. –  batever Nov 28 '13 at 3:31
    
The main problem with this answer is that the Teflon will outgas when it is heated, which is a critical step in the polymerization/seasoning of the oiled pan. I want to avoid this at all costs. –  mskfisher Dec 17 '13 at 17:27

There do exist cast aluminum pans which you season as you would cast iron. However, the casting process leaves a rough surface, which gives extra surface area for the seasoning to stick to.

I would suspect that if you were to try scrubbing the pans clean, they would be significantly smoother than a cast surface, and the seasoning wouldn't stick as well.

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