How to clean and care for nonstick cookware

Here's how to make your pots and pans last.

Credit: Getty / zeljkosantrac
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What You Need:

  • Soft sponge
  • Dish soap
  • Kosher salt
  • Baking soda
  • Vegetable oil
  • Paper towel

Time Needed:

5-20 minutes

Difficulty:

Easy

Anyone who’s ever struggled to scrub scrambled egg gunk off a stainless-steel pan knows nonstick cookware can be a godsend. Whether that nonstick coating is ceramic or Teflon, it’s sure to make cleanup easier....as long as you clean up correctly, that is.

Nonstick coatings can be fragile, and if you’re too rough with your cleaning, cooking, or storage, you can ruin them for good. At best, this could mean your ceramic pan loses some of its non-stickiness; at worst, you could end up with toxic Teflon flaking into your food.

So listen up: If you’re using nonstick pans, you should know how to clean and care for them. Here’s what we recommend.

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1. Gently wash the cookware by hand

It may seem obvious, but once you’ve used your cookware, your first line of defense against ordinary food deposits is good ol’ dish soap and water.

Sponge with water
Credit: Reviewed.com / Kyle Looney

Your first line of defense against ordinary food deposits is an ordinary sponge loaded up with soap and water.

Because nonstick coating requires a gentle hand, you’ll want to make sure you use a soft sponge—nothing harsh or overly abrasive. If you’re having trouble getting rid of tougher stains, you can give the pan a good soak in warm, soapy water. Just steer clear of the dishwasher. Your nonstick cookware can’t handle the heat.

2. Use kosher salt on baked-on bits

If soap and warm water weren’t enough to tackle all the cooked-on bits in your pan, lightly sprinkle trouble spots with salt, then add a splash of water. Gently scrub the spot with your sponge, and the abrasive texture of the salt will help loosen the residue—without damaging the nonstick finish. Just don't scrub too hard!

3. Break out the baking soda

Scrubbing nonstick pan
Credit: Reviewed.com / Kyle Looney

If you can't get the pan clean using an ordinary soapy sponge, you may have to try washing with baking soda.

Baking soda is truly one of the home’s most versatile tools. Not only does it do a great job leavening your baked goods, but it also makes an excellent cleaning agent.

It comes in particularly handy when you’re fighting resilient, burnt-on food on a nonstick pan. If soap, water, and gentle scrubbing won’t do the trick, there’s no need to risk ruining your pan with an abrasive sponge. Baking soda to the rescue!

Make a paste out of one part baking soda and one part water, then dab it onto the dirty areas of the pan. Let it stand for 15 minutes, then rinse it away and dry the pan. The unwanted food bits should easily wash away.

4. Season your cookware

It’s common knowledge that you’re supposed to season your cast iron skillet—essentially, build up a protective layer of polymerized oil on its surface. This keeps it smooth, reducing its stickiness and preventing it from rusting. But did you know that you should also season your nonstick cookware?

Yep, it's true. Many nonstick pans even say so, right on the label.

Use vegetable oil to lightly season your pan and protect the nonstick coating.

If your nonstick cookware is ceramic, you can skip this step. Otherwise, simply coat the pan with a teaspoon of vegetable oil after it’s washed and dried. Wipe the oil off with a clean paper towel and then store your pan as usual. It's that easy!

5. Store carefully, use carefully

Take care during cleaning is important, but it's only one part of the equation. If you want your nonstick cookware to last, you should also be careful not to damage the surface when you’re cooking and storing it.

Take care not to scratch or gouge your nonstick cookware.

When you’re cooking, use wooden spoons or soft silicone spatulas rather than metal utensils. You’d be surprised how easy it is to scratch a pan with a metal spoon.

When it comes time to put nonstick cookware away, don’t stack pots and pans carelessly on top of each other. The bottom of one pan can scratch the top of another. Instead, place a napkin or paper towel between each pot or pan before stacking them.

How to make your nonstick pan last longer

How to maintain nonstick cookware
Credit: Tramontina

If you take care of your nonstick pans properly, they can last for years.

If you treat your nonstick cookware kindly, it will likely last several years. Cleaning it with the steps above will help ensure longevity, but there are a few other ways to further prolong its life.

  • Use wooden or plastic utensils. Don't use metal on your nonstick pan—these tools will scratch the surface and cause significant wear and tear.
  • Don’t drastically alter cooking temperatures. Nonstick pans can warp under extreme temperature shifts, so try not to add cold liquid to a hot pan or place a cool pan directly into a heated oven.
  • Don’t cook higher than 500℉. After this point, the chemical used to create the nonstick coating becomes unstable, which may ruin your pan and potentially your meal.
  • Preheat with oil or butter. The beauty of nonstick cookware is that you don’t need that extra layer to create a nonstick surface, but adding it regardless is a good way to further protect the pan’s coating. Think of it as a buffer layer.

Finally, it’s important to recognize when it’s time to toss and replace your nonstick pans. When you notice your nonstick pan is getting harder to clean, flakes are suddenly appearing, or food is clinging to the surface during cooking, it’s time to give it up.

Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.

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Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
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