If you're like most of us, you're tired of throwing away money on no-good nonstick pans. Use my buying guide below to help you choose the best nonstick frying pan for your money.
What Is Nonstick Good For?
Nonstick pans are good for two things. Those things are:
- Foods that are traditionally sticky or likely to stick when cooking.
- Foods that need to cook on low or medium heat
- Meals that need to be cooked on high heat are not the best match for any nonstick pan. The high heat has a tendency to break down the nonstick coating quicker.
I have done a few nonstick pan reviews already and they will give you an idea of a few things you should look for when you're investing in a new one. A couple of reviews to check out are:
Eight things to consider when choosing the best nonstick pan
- Quality Of Construction
- Shape of the pan
- Ease Of Use
- Ease Of Cleaning
- Type of Nonstick Coating
- Induction compatible
- Oven Safe
1. Quality Of Construction
Quality of construction is critical when choosing a good nonstick frying pan. Pans that are thin and have handles that are not securely attached are not going to be durable. What's the point in investing in a nonstick pan if it's not going to last?
One of the most important things to consider when selecting a nonstick pan is what it's made out of and what ply it is. The more layers there are to pan, the less likely it is to warp, have a hot spot, or lose its nonstick layer.
Most pans offer two different ply options. Those are:
- 3 Ply
- 5 Ply
1a. What is 3 Ply Vs. 5 Ply And Does It Make A Difference?
The difference in 3 ply and 5 ply is the amount of layers your nonstick pan has. A majority of the best nonstick pans on the market are either 3 ply or 5 ply. The main difference is how many layers of aluminum core they contain. The more the layers, the more even the heat distribution.
- Stainless steel
- Aluminum alloy core x3
- Stainless steel
1b. Does It Feel Solid?
As I mentioned earlier, when choosing a nonstick frying pan, ensure it is either 3 ply or 5 ply. Anything less than this is going to be flimsy, have hotspots, and will have a nonstick layer that will wear off easily.
A nice nonstick skillet should have a little bit of weight to it but not be too heavy to lift easily.
1c. How Sturdy Are The Handles? Do They Have Flat Rivets?
A handle that is secured well is an important safety point to evaluate when choosing a good nonstick frying pan. If the handle is not secured well or properly, it will loosen over time and can make the pan dangerous to cook in.
Another thing to consider is if the handle is secure with flat rivets. Rivets that are not flat are more difficult to clean and can cause food particles to get stick inside of the handle. This creates an environment for bacteria to grow.
1d. Does The NonStick Coating Look Like It Will Come Off Easily?
If you have any experience with nonstick pans at all, you should know what good looks like. If you're just starting out building your kitchen accessories, here are some things you should look for:
- A patterned or hexagon outer layer
- Something that is stainless steel and texture free
- Avoid solid black nonstick layers that easily peel or chip
1e. Does It Heat Evenly?
Have you ever cooked hamburger patties, eggs, or anything else in your "nonstick" pan and had to keep moving it around because one part of the pan cooked way faster than the rest of the pan you were using?
Skip the headache or a cheap pan and buy a high quality 5 ply pan that doesn't have any hot spots. Your nonstick pan should cook everything evenly and make cooking as easy as flipping the food your cooking and walking away.
2. What Shape Is The Frying Pan?
There are a few things you need to consider when you look at the overall shape of the pan. They are:
- How sloped are the sides
- Are the sides Deep?
2a. How Sloped Are The Sides?
The slope of the sides of the pan are critical if you're cooking liquids or stir fries. There's nothing more infuriating than cooking one of your favorite dishes and making a mess out of your stove top or induction burner.
If your pan has low sloping sides, this is almost guaranteed to happen. If you're just sautéing meats or veggies, a low slow pan is adequate. However, if you're cooking a large meal or reducing large quantities of liquids, a low sloped side will not cut it.
2b. Are The Sides Deep?
Sloping isn't the only thing you should be concerned with when it comes to the sides of your pans. Not only is a low slope not ideal, but a short pan edge is equally as bad.
If you're just cooking for one or two people or don't cook entire meals on your stovetop, this may not be an issue for you. But for most home cooks, this is something that should be considered.
3. Ease Of Use
Some days the idea of cooking can be a hassle enough in itself. Finding the perfect easy to use nonstick frying pan is the only logical solution to make cooking less of a chore for those busy days.
Look for pans that are dishwasher and oven safe, as well ones that can tolerate metal utensils. Oven-safe knobs and induction stovetop compatibility also help make your nonstick frying pan that much more versatile.
3a. Do The Handles Stay Cool When Heated?
It is natural instinct to grab the handle of a skillet when you are using it to cook. If you purchases a skillet with a handle that stays cool, you're likely to burn yourself.
Even if you're extremely careful not to grab the handle, you will always have to use an oven mitt or a potholder to cook with. While it's not unheard of, it is terribly inconvenient.
Save yourself the inconvenience of that extra step and choose a nonstick frying pan with handles that stay cool when the pan is heated.
3b. How Easy Is It To Lift?
So you have some hand mobility issues? You're not a body builder? No problem if you grab the right pan. Not every pan is as heavy as a cast iron pan.
Just because a pan boasts that it has 5 layers doesn't mean that it's heavy. Grab something with aluminum layers to ensure your pan is light and easy to use.
4. Ease of Cleaning
One of the biggest concerns I have with nonstick pans is if they are dishwasher safe. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen cooking, so they last thing I want to do is hand wash dishes after I spend hours cooking.
Not all nonstick pans are dishwasher safe. Many of them can barely be scoured. The newer nonstick coatings are a lot more durable than teflon (and a lot safer) but cast enamel and hard anodized aluminum also make great nonstick surfaces.
If a pan isn't dishwasher safe, I have a hard time giving it a high rating.
5. What Is The Nonstick Coating Made Of?
When it comes to choosing a nonstick pan coating there are a few different nonstick coatings to choose from. They are:
- PTFE (Teflon)
- Superhydrophobic Coating
- Silicone Coating
- Enameled Cast Iron
5a. Is It PFOA and PTFE Free?
You may be asking yourself "What is PFOA? What is PTFE?". PFOA is an acronym for Perfluorooctanoic Acid. PTFE is an acronym for polytetrafluoroethylene. Also known as Teflon.
Why do I want PFOA and PTFE free?
Teflon has come against some scrutiny in the last few years because it is made of molecules that can be come unstable at very high temperatures. Whey become unstable, they have been known to be released toxic chemicals in to the air.
This only happens at EXTREMELY high temperatures. As long as you're not heating your pans above 570F, this should not be an issue for you.
5b. Other Coatings That Can Function As Nonstick
Other pans that aren't classified as nonstick can still be used as nonstick under the right circumstances. These are:
- Stainless Steel- Stainless Steel can be used as a nonstick frying pan if you wait for the pan to get very hot and then add oil or butter. Ensure the oil is heated thoroughly before beginning to add food.
- Cast Iron- Cast iron can be one of the best pans to cook in, but it needs to have a patina before it is effectively nonstick. This can take time. Also, you can't wash it in the dishwasher or detergent without ruining the patina. This can be a limitation on how often you can use it.
5c. Can You Use Metal Utensils In It?
You know that feeling of panic when you can't find your favorite silicone spatula or tongs? It's always great to find that perfect pan that can hold up to the use of a metal whisk or even *GASP* a fork in a pinch.
No one is perfect an no one likes doing dishes. Find yourself a pan that can withstand an occasional oversight and is safe to use metal on.
6. Can You Use It With An Induction Cooktop?
While induction cooktops are not as popular as gas ranges, they are increasing in popularity because of how much quicker and evenly they heat. Unfortunately, not all skillets are compatible with induction cooktops.
Many nonstick skillets will list on the packaging if they are compatible with induction cooktops. If you're unsure if your favorite skillet is compatible, there is a quick trick to test it. Simply place a magnet on the bottom. If the magnet sticks to the skillet, it is compatible with the induction cooktop. When you place the magnet against it and it doesn't, you may need to find a new nonstick pan.
If you need more help choosing a new pan, here's a list of the best induction cookware to help you find the perfect new one.
7. Is It Oven Safe? To What Temperature?
Most nonstick frying pans will have a marking on the bottom to notate if they are oven-safe or not. Even pans that claim to be oven safe aren't safe for all temperatures. Most of them vary between 350F and 500F.
Also note that a nonstick frying pan may be oven safe but the knobs and handles may not withstand higher temperatures. Be sure to check the manufacturers description for oven safety of the lids before you lose a precious lid.
When it comes to price, when choosing a nonstick pan there are three different things to take into consideration. Those things are:
- Price Vs. Value
- Does it come with a lid
- Does it come in a set
8a. Price Vs. Value
As I mentioned before, just because something comes with a fancy name attached doesn't mean it's the best pan for the price. And just because something is twice as affordable as the more expensive brand doesn't mean it's going to save you any money in the future.
Make sure you take all of the information I listed earlier in the article to make the best decision on which pan is is right for you.
8b. Does It Come With A Lid?
When you're choosing a nonstick frying pan, you may or may not be concerned if it has a lid or not. I'm here to tell you that you should always opt for a pan with a lid if it is an option. Here are a few reasons why:
- No splashing or sputtering when simmering or braising
- Good for even heating and cooking
- Covering food when baking in your skillet
You can always purchase a universal lid like this one for the size of your favorite pan, but they tend not to seal as well as one that is sold with the pan. If you're going to have to buy a lid for the pan, factor that into the cost/value equation.
8c. Does It Come In A Set?
No matter what you do, the nonstick coating will eventually wear off of your favorite nonstick pan. For that reason, you're best suited to buy individual pans and not a pan in a set. This way you can replace the pans as needed without being concerned about finding one that matches your existing pans.
If you found this article on how to choose a nonstick frying pan helpful, make sure you share it on Facebook and Pinterest so your friends can pick the right nonstick pan for their kitchen too.