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Over time, teflon manages to become coated by polymerised oils, similarly to the intentional seasoning on an iron pan. This tends to make the pan just too sticky for such as fried eggs.

I have tried the usual suspects - nylon mesh pan scrubs, Barkeeper's Friend & similar, those little bricks of mica, bicarb. - and all work to some extent, but none get it right back to the original 'teflon'. The substrate is aluminium, so even though a heavy oven cleaner will work well, it also damages any areas with scratches.

With cheap pans ($£€ 25 or so) I usually throw them out once they get to this stage, but for the last few years I've had a really good, expensive one. I retired it to dry frying only & replaced it a while ago, but it turns out it's still actually better than a new cheap one after just a year.

So, I'm back to trying to get this one back to an as-new state on the inside (the outside I really don't care about).

Does anyone have any sure-fire method I've not yet tried? Good for aluminium, bad for organic polymers.

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  • 2
    Good question, I've been there myself.
    – GdD
    Mar 3 at 13:45
  • Sounds like my omelette (etc. etc.) pan. Ammonia will also attack the scratches, like oven cleaner; unfortunately most strongly alkaline solutions will
    – Chris H
    Mar 3 at 16:06
  • I was under the impression that you stop using teflon pans when they get scratched as it starts to flake off into your food.
    – Austin759
    Mar 4 at 5:22
  • Cheap pans flake, good ones don’t
    – unlisted
    Mar 4 at 6:19
  • I went in the other direction: my best non-stick pan is now seasoned, like cast iron, and has an entire black smooth layer. It's as non-stick as new. Granted, it's one of those ceramic coated, not teflon, so not sure if it applies here.
    – Luciano
    Mar 4 at 9:43
2

You cannot use physical methods (scratching), so you are only left with the chemical ones. And for this kind of gunk, the only thing I know to work is a strong enough base.

In the mildest cases, oven cleaner sprays might be sufficient. If not, somebody suggested ammonia in the comments, and then there is lye.

The big problem is that any base strong enough to clean this stuff will corrode aluminum too. If your pans are teflon on steel, go ahead and clean them. If they are aluminum pans, maybe you can try the oven cleaner as a last ditch effort, but you are risking the pan itself. Else, all you can do is continue use them as normal sticky pans.

The usual modus operandi is actually not to clean them somehow, but not to let the gunk happen. Just like you don't use metal on Termin, to prevent the failure mode of "scratched pan", you don't use techniques which produce gunk, to prevent the failure mode of "gummed up pan". This means that you have to avoid anything with small amounts of oil, and either use the pan without oil (at low temperatures though, or you'll burn the coating), or with lots of oil at moderate temperatures, or for wet cooking.

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  • can you please explain or link how is "lot of oil" more protective than "a little oil" ? Thank you ! Aug 2 at 15:48
  • @CiprianTomoiagă if you use too little oil, it will polymerize and gum up your pan. If you use enough, it will stay normal oil, which you can throw out and wash the pan.
    – rumtscho
    Aug 5 at 17:53
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Providing this as an answer even though it's not really what I was looking for.

I didn't want to go the harsh chemical route - I ruined a previous version of the same pan that way, so I just got down with the old 'elbow grease'.

I went through about half a block of mica foam, a lot of Barkeepers Friend & another 'Astonish' cleaner with orange oil, and after about 40 minutes' work I got it back to a state where I could slide an omelette around in it with just a gentle shake, didn't even need to run a spatula round the edge.
I'd call that good enough.

0

Here's a suggestion I haven't tried (but might). If there are only a few scratches, protect them with a dam made of flour/water paste*, heated gently to dry it. If there's only one burnt-grease region, build your dam round that.

On the dirty side of the dam, apply any corrosive cleaner you like. Some, meant for ovens, are quite gel-like anyway. The scratched side can be left dry so you can see if the cleaner leaks, or can be wetted to dilute it.

Of course, you may have scratches and burnt regions together - but you might not, in my experience, burning in thin-based non-stick pans happens towards the edges (not much stirring, but a wide flame is almost underneath), while scratches happen nearer the middle (where more action takes place).


*Assuming you don't want to use Blu Tack, plasticine, or Play Doh on Cookware; we use them in work for making similar barriers (non-food).

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According to this Reader's Digest 2/14/2020 Article, you should discard non-stick pans with significant scratches. The Teflon has been damaged and the chemicals can be flaking into your food. If there are scratches you are concerned that oven cleaner would get through, I would throw it away. Article Snipet Below.

From Reader's Digest article 2/14/2020

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    The scratches are not ’significant’ and the Teflon is not flaking. The pan is also not pre 2014
    – unlisted
    Mar 4 at 6:18

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