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Whether you're a passionate foodie, a weekend chef, or a reluctant cook, the kitchenware you use goes a long way toward determining whether your efforts amount to a culinary catastrophe or a delicious dish. Owning a comprehensive set of nonstick cookware helps ensure that all your bases are covered with a healthy selection of pots, pans, and saucepans. And perhaps best of all, cleanup is a breeze when you own quality nonstick cookware. Nonstick technology continues to evolve, and the market offers countless options when it comes to nonstick cookware sets. If you’ve made the decision to buy a new set of nonstick cookware, how do you choose?
At BestReviews, we’re here to help. We created this shopping guide based on in-depth research and thorough product analysis of today’s nonstick cookware sets. We want to take the guesswork out of your shopping session so you can find a nonstick cookware set you’ll love. As a matter of course, we never accept free product samples from manufacturers as we conduct our research and create our shopping guides. We’re committed to providing honest, accurate reviews and recommendations that are completely free of bias.
If you already know what you're looking for and can't wait to get cooking, jump straight to our top five picks above to select your favorite. If you’d like to find out a little more about nonstick cookware sets before you commit to a purchase, read on.
When it comes to nonstick coating, there are a couple of basic options available: sol-gel “ceramic” cookware and cookware coated in polytetrafluoroethylene, or PTFE.
This type of nonstick cookware is quickly gaining popularity for its non-toxic and chemical-free construction. While this is a huge draw for many, sol-gel ceramic coated cookware isn't the most durable and should be handled with care.
By far the most prevalent nonstick coating, PTFE has been around for over 50 years and is considered by many to be the most durable. While PTFE coating provides excellent nonstick performance, health concerns related to its manufacturing process and the volatile nature of its chemical makeup when exposed to higher temperatures have led some consumers to seek other non-stick options.
Although most nonstick cookware sets are dishwasher safe, we recommend gently washing your pots and pans by hand to help extend the life of your cookware.
In addition to perfect pancakes and fuss-free cleaning, one of the biggest draws of nonstick cookware is that it allows us to cook healthier meals with little to no oil.
However, many have been left weary of all things nonstick following the discovery of the adverse effects linked to PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid), once used extensively in the manufacturing process of all nonstick coatings containing PTFE, including Teflon.
While PFOA has been eliminated from the manufacturing process, most still rely on the use of PTFE in the formulation of their nonstick coatings. Why is this a concern? Well, it all boils down to application. Being a non-reactive substance, PTFE is a common component used in the manufacture of a host of medical materials, including joint replacements, sutures, and even cosmetic surgery. According to toxicologists at the University of North Carolina (UNC), even if you were to ingest a flake scraped off the bottom of a pan, it would pass through the digestive system intact with no ill effects.
The UNC toxicology department tells us that it is only when PTFE is heated to temperatures exceeding 500°F that it poses a potential health risk. At these temperatures, cookware coated with substances containing PTFE may emit harmful fumes which have been shown to cause flu-like symptoms in humans.
When using a nonstick pan, it's better to use whole fats, such as butter or oil, than it is nonstick cooking spray. The reason: nonstick cooking spray will build up over time, creating a hard-to-remove residue.
So, is PTFE non-stick cookware safe? Toxicologists at UNC advise that as long as you remain mindful proper handling, PTFE cookware certainly can be used safely.
Never overheat nonstick cookware. When using nonstick cookware, it's essential to follow manufacturer instructions. The recommendation of low to moderate temperature settings is there for good reason. Always ensure temperatures are well below 500°F.
Do not heat an empty pot/pan. This could lead to the accelerated deterioration of the nonstick coating and the possible release of harmful fumes. It's always a good idea to have at least a little oil or butter in the pan when heating.
Throw out flaking nonstick cookware. Aside from potential chemical risks, flaking pots and pans can easily harbor bacteria and should be thrown away.
As you can see, when used correctly, nonstick cookware offers many benefits. Now let's take a look at what exactly makes a good nonstick cookware set.
If your nonstick cookware is showing signs of flaking or other visible damage, it's probably time to replace it.
There are a handful of key features to consider when selecting a quality nonstick cookware set.
As a rule of thumb, look for cookware that has a minimum of three layers of reinforced nonstick coating. The more, the better!
A sturdy option with a heavy base will ensure even heat distribution, in turn reducing the risk of damage to the nonstick surface.
Cookware with a thick base allows for more even heat distribution, thereby reducing the risk of overheating.
Hard anodized aluminum is generally your best bet, as nonstick coating tends to last longer on this material.
Nonstick finishes are either rolled on or sprayed. When nonstick finishes are rolled on, cookware materials are passed between two rollers (one of which applies the coating) before being shaped into the final product. The surface is often left with irregularities caused by the pressure from the rollers, resulting in a less-durable finish. A quality finish is smooth to the touch. This is almost always the result of the finish being sprayed on.
Avoid stacking your nonstick pots and pans on top of one another, as this could lead to scratches and scrapes in the coating.
Determining how many pieces you need – and which pieces you'd like to have more of – is a good place to start. If you use pans more often than pots, you'll naturally seek out an option with a selection of pans in varying sizes. Some nonstick cookware sets also come with appropriate nonstick cooking utensils. These utensils are helpful in extending the life of your nonstick coating.
Pots and pans with deep sides with a straight rim work well for tossing ingredients. If you plan to make a lot of sauces, you'll find a slightly rolled rim pours well.
Glass lids will allow you to see what's happening and monitor moisture levels without lifting the lid and letting steam escape. However, they do add weight and could break if dropped.
When shopping for a nonstick cookware set, consider how many pieces you need and which ones you'll be using frequently.
Is a cool-touch handle important to you, or would prefer an option that's capable of easily transitioning to the oven? While wood and silicone-coated handles remain cool enough to touch, metal handles are oven-safe and offer more versatility.
Wood handles are cool enough to handle, but they are not oven-safe.
Silicone handles with phenolic parts are oven-safe at temperatures up to 350°F and provide cool-touch handling when used on the stove top. However, with oven use, the handles may become hotter.
Stainless steel handles are oven-safe up to 500°F, but they require protective handling for both stove top and oven use.
A thick base and multiple layers of nonstick coating will ensure that your cookware delivers quality performance for as long as possible. Materials such as hard anodized aluminum are generally more durable than others and hold nonstick coating well.
When cooking, always use silicone, wood, or plastic utensils to avoid damaging the nonstick coating.
Unless the nonstick cookware set consists of only a few pieces or happens to be on sale, products at this price point probably won't last very long. Moreover, manufacturing methods and materials may be suspect. In general, we advise consumers to spend a little more for quality and overall peace of mind.
There are a few decent options within this price range. While you could reasonably purchase a quality nonstick cookware set for just under $100, you would likely need to add a few more pieces down the line.
This price point offers a variety of quality cookware sets, ranging from a few excellent pieces to a comprehensive set that includes utensils.
A non-stick cookware might not be the best simply because it is the costliest; look at the materials used in it to see if it is safe as well.
Empty pans will overheat much faster. We recommend using a touch of butter, oil, or even water to coat your nonstick surface prior to heating.
Never heat your nonstick cookware to temperatures exceeding 500°F. This will not only cause your nonstick coating to deteriorate faster, but it can also release toxic fumes.
Always cook over low to medium heat when using nonstick cookware. Temperatures exceeding 500°F can severely degrade the nonstick coating, causing the release of toxic fumes.
Over time, nonstick cooking spray will build up on the surface of your pots and pans, leaving behind a sticky residue that's incredibly difficult to clean. To extend the life of your nonstick cookware, we recommend using a little bit of oil or butter instead.
Avoid using utensils made of materials like metal that could scrape or scratch your cookware’s surface. Using the appropriate utensils will help protect the surface of the cookware, thereby extending its life. Utensils made of wood, silicone, or plastic are all good options.
Q. What types of foods cook best in nonstick cookware?
A. Nonstick cookware lends itself to a wide variety of recipes. In particular, delicate foods such as eggs and fish benefit greatly from being prepared on a nonstick surface.
Q. Is there anything I can't prepare using nonstick cookware?
A. Certain dishes that require high heat shouldn't be prepared in a nonstick pan. Browning and searing are cooking chores best left for stainless steel or cast iron cookware.
Q. Is nonstick cookware dishwasher safe?
A. While many nonstick cookware sets are dishwasher safe, harsh chemicals and extreme heat can significantly reduce the durability of the coating. To extend the life of your cookware set, we recommend hand-washing each piece with warm soapy water and a non-abrasive cleaning material.
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At BestReviews, we purchase every product we review with our own funds. We never accept anything from product manufacturers. Our goal is to be 100% objective in our analysis, and we do not want to run the risk of being swayed by products provided at no cost.