Buying Nonstick Cookware
Nonstick cookware is indispensable in your kitchen - but only when it stays nonstick. Here's what you need to know.
If you're watching your weight, good nonstick cookware is an essential item for your kitchen. You simply brush it with the lightest touch of oil; and you can fry, sauté, brown, or even stew all kinds of foods to perfection. You get the flavor but not the fat. And once you've finished cooking, you simply rinse and dry the cookware, and put it away.
However, not all nonstick coatings are created equal. If you want cookware that's going to last for years, here's what you need to know.
Nearly all good nonstick coatings are made with the basic ingredient PTFE, or polytetrafluoroethylene. This has excellent nonstick properties, but it's very soft and therefore scratches easily and has to be mixed with other materials to make it harder. The way it is blended makes a difference.
Firstly, it has to be blended with an ingredient that helps it stick to the cookware. Otherwise, being a nonstick material, it'll just come off. Cheap, nonstick cookware has just one layer of material, which is mixed with enough other ingredients to stick onto the steel or aluminum, and thus loses a lot of its non-stickiness in the process. This usually has to be rolled onto the steel before the pots and pans are formed.
Good cookware starts with a similar blend, which sticks to the pot but then adds extra layers where the proportions are changed. The second layer is formulated to stick to the first layer but has improved nonstick properties. The third layer is enhanced even more, so that it sticks to the second layer, and has even better nonstick properties.
Three layers are the minimum for good, long-lasting, nonstick cookware. The very best nonstick cookware in the world has seven layers.
How can you tell, without being an expert, how good the nonstick coating is in the cookware you plan to buy? It's very simple. Just rub your fingers back and forth along the surface. If you feel tiny ridges, put it back on the shelf. Those ridges indicate that the manufacturer rolled on the coating, so there's probably one layer. A good nonstick finish is absolutely smooth because it's been sprayed in the correct sequence and properly cured.
PTFE-based nonstick coatings are always matte. You will notice on some bakeware that the nonstick coating is shiny. This means it has been coated with a silicone. This is great for bakeware, but it reacts badly with animal fats. So don't bake a meat loaf in your shiny nonstick loaf pan! Look for a good matte finish on a meat loaf or roasting pan.
Even with three layers of nonstick, carefully formulated to last, your pans will scratch if you treat them badly. So use nylon or wooden cooking spoons and spatulas to make the most of your investment.
And then reap the benefits of healthier eating and easier cleaning!