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Over the course of the last 4 years I think I seem to have been working my way through non-stick pans at a ridiculous rate, I think I'm on my 3rd frying pan and 4th wok - or something of that nature.

Admittedly the first couple I had were very cheap, and I've been steadly buying what appear to be better quality. However, for the coating to become damaged so quickly I must be doing something wrong.

I'm not using sharp or metallic objects when cooking with them, nor to I stick them in the sink with said sharp objects when clearning.
I've recently learnt that "over-heating" them can damage the coating, but is this true?

But, what other advice can you offer to help extend the life of my non-stick cookware?

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Heat will definitely destroy teflon. Teflon is basically a plastic coating. Have you considered cast iron? – derobert Jul 21 '10 at 8:35

5 Answers 5

up vote 14 down vote accepted

I'm still happily using a non-stick frying pan that I've had for almost 4 years.

I only use Teflon utensils.

I never use harsh abrasives.

After cooking, I fill it with boiling water, let it soak for a while and then wipe out with paper towels. Most of the time I just give it a quick rinse and it's ready for the next time.

And buy quality - "Quality is remembered long after the price is forgotten".

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I'm getting the hang of the quality statement, but unfortunatly it took me several years of cheap equipment to make me start realising the difference it can make. – DMA57361 Jul 21 '10 at 10:14
How can you tell if something is "quality" with respect to its non-stick coating? – intuited Jan 8 '11 at 19:15

How are you storing your teflon pans? People are often super-careful when using or cleaning their pans, but then store them in stacks, with the base of the pan above in contact with the teflon! When storing teflon cookware, if you have to stack, put a bit of cardboard (e.g. the packaging from when you bought it) between each item. I can guarantee this will increase their life.

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@Jean A good point, but isn't a problem for me - my frying pan & wok are the only two non-stick pans I've got, and they are stored independently on top of my cupboards for that very reason. – DMA57361 Jul 21 '10 at 10:13

One thing that was drilled into me was that you never pre-heat an empty non-stick pan -- the issue being that there's nothing in there to regulate the temperature or to warn you when it's overheating.

I always toss a litle oil in the pan before pre-heating it. If nothing else, I have a warning when I hit the smoke point of the oil, but I've typically tossed in whatever I'm cooking well before it gets that hot.

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As said I'd only recently heard that overheating was a problem. From the answers here so far that does seem to be correct. I'm much more cautious than I used to be in this respect, but I reckon it probably contributed to the death of at least one of my previous woks... – DMA57361 Jul 21 '10 at 10:19
@DMA57361: Well-seasoned cast iron (or I imagine steel) is relatively nonstick and almost completely immune to overheating. Consider replacing your wok with one that isn't teflon coated. – derobert Jul 21 '10 at 22:31
@derobert - what do you define as "well seasonsed" cast iron? – DMA57361 Jul 22 '10 at 8:33
@DMA57361: Something like the recommendations in… should produce well-seasoned cast iron. – derobert Jul 22 '10 at 12:08
I've switched to a cast-iron (they call it Chinese style here, but don't know whether that's true) myself a few year back, and it helped a lot. Season it well, for sure, and change your cooking technique to match. Additional advantage is that you don't need as large a (or custom) gas flame underneath your work if you pre-heat it well. Don't overfill either, but that's more about cooking result than damage. – Tobias Op Den Brouw Jul 24 '10 at 19:33

This will depend on the type of non-stick surface. In my experience, anodised cookware will last a lot better than teflon coated cookware.

There are some sensible tips to prolonging the life of all non-stick cookware though; such as waiting until the pan is at room temperature (or at least no hotter than the washing water). I've also found the hard way that you should not ever heat a pan that isn't perfectly clean, as any thin films of oil can burn and affect the surface - if frying, oil the meat, and not the pan.

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And with 'isn't perfectly clean' - that goes for the outside as well. – Tobias Op Den Brouw Jul 24 '10 at 19:29

I had the same problem. I switched to stainless steel pans. I make a non-stick layer by heating some oil in it and cleaning it with salt and paper. Then the pan is ready for use. One advantage is that I can use any ustensils without risk. Some people only clean this kind of pan with salt and paper, so that the non stick layer gets stronger after every use.

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