When Peter and I moved in together, I lost the coin toss and inherited his metal cookware. I had only used nonstick before and felt doubtful that I would like this new direction. After a while, I came to like the metal pans, although kept a handful of nonstick staples that I pull out from time to time (I personally love GreenPans). Along the way I learned some helpful tricks and now feel confident with both.
Nonstick or Metal – when to use each: We have a set of metal sauce pans and fry pans that I use for most things, plus two additional nonstick frying pans. Here’s how I decide which ones to use:
- Use nonstick for delicate or liquidy foods like eggs, fish, or pancakes. I find it’s easier to keep these delicate foods intact using nonstick.
- If boiling water to cook pasta, steam veges, etc., use metal. There is no need for the nonstick properties when your food is floating in water. Stirring frequently will keep anything from sticking to the bottom.
- When you want food to sear until browned, use metal. Nonstick pans are famous for not adequately browning food. It will get cooked on nonstick, but it likely won’t look as nice.
- If a recipe calls for deglazing a pan (where you add water or other liquid to a hot pan to boil off the cooked-on bits), metal is definitely better.
Tips for using nonstick cookware:
- Never use metal utensils with nonstick, including wire whisks. Instead opt for silicone or wooden implements, which won’t chip the surface the way metal can.
- Never preheat an empty nonstick pan. Depending on the type of coating, it can eek noxious fumes if heated alone. Instead, add your oil first and keep the heat medium-low.
- When cleaning nonstick pans, never use abrasive cleaners or steel wool; it will remove the nonstick surface.
- Make sure not to store nonstick pots and pans with the nonstick surface touching other metal (this includes nesting multiple nonstick pans together). The nonstick coating will begin to wear off.
Tips for using metal cookware:
- Start by preheating your frying pan with some oil – any variety of oil should work, and you can also use spray oil like Pam. You shouldn’t need a lot of oil; 1 tablespoon for a large skillet will do. Swirl the oil so it coats the entire surface. Wait to add food until you can feel the heat 3-5 inches above the pan surface. This usually takes 3-5 minutes over medium-high heat.
- If your food is sticking, turn down the heat. When food starts to stick on metal pans, you might be inclined to add oil, but often the problem is heat that’s too high. If you preheated your pan with oil (see above), that should create a nonstick effect, and you should not need to add more.
- When looking for a metal frying pan, choose one with a heavy bottom. The lighter weight, thinner materials will not spread heat as evenly making it easier to burn food.
Do you use nonstick or metal pans? Give us your tips in the comments below!