After examining the coating of your current non-stick cookware, you might have realized that you’re in the market for a new pot or pan.
Since non-stick coatings have advanced in the last few years, you’ll want to bring your knowledge up to date before buying a new non-stick pan.
Below, we’ll share information on different types of non-stick coatings, followed by how you can spot indicators of quality, durability, and good performance to help you find the best non-stick pan.
Three Different Types of Non-Stick Coatings
There are three materials used to create a non-stick coating: fluoropolymer, silicone, and sol-gel “ceramic”:
Fluoropolymer gel is the granite-colored non-stick coating that we generally think of as Teflon. It consists of resin compounds (mainly PTFE) that are solid, non-toxic plastic polymers which are inherently non-stick.
Fluoropolymer remains a common choice for non-stick coatings because of its durability – it maintains non-stick qualities for longer that other options and is more resistant to wear.
Silicone coating can be applied to specially prepared metals by baking. While cheaper, this coating loses its non-stick properties the quickest. It’s generally only found on baking sheets and low-end non-stick pans.
Sol-gel “ceramic” coating is a hybrid material that offers the strength of silica and top-notch smoothness without requiring fluoropolymers. Sol-gel products aren’t really ceramic, but more a “ceramic-like” blend that incorporates a release agent in the coating to give a slippery texture.
Ceramic non-stick cookware offers good temperature resistance and is also notable for coming in a range of eye-catching colors.
But what’s even more attractive for consumers than a variety of shades is sol-gel’s promise of being “green” — or, at least, PFOA-free.
We’ll compare the attributes of Fluoropolymer and sol-gel ceramic coatings in just a moment. However, we feel it’s important to note that there’s a difference between PTFE (what’s in Teflon and other Fluoropolymers) and PFOA.
As we mentioned in our first article in this non-stick cookware series, almost all non-stick pans are PFOA free.
Yes, you should still look for the label, since the absence of a “PFOA-free” is likely an indicator of low-quality. That being said, don’t allow yourself to avoid a perfectly good product because its competition claims to be “greener.”
Are Ceramic Non-Stick Pans Better Than Traditional Teflon-Style Coatings?
Since your choice is likely between these two, here’s how Fluoropolymer and sol-gel cookware stack up against each other:
Ceramic vs. Teflon: Which Performs Better?
Ceramic (sol-gel) coatings have a better initial release than an average-quality Teflon (PTFE) coating. Basically, they’re going to feel more slippery at the start.
However, the non-stick property of sol-gel can degrade faster than conventional PTFE coatings. While a proper use and care play a significant role, if treated similarly, ceramic would lose its non-stick qualities sooner.
Not only will ceramic-like non-stick pans wear more quickly, but they are more prone to scratching, reducing their overall durability.
Which Is More Heat Resistant?
Conventional PTFE coatings begin to lose quality at 500°F. On the other hand, the release characteristics of sol-gel coatings begin to deteriorate by temperatures above 662°F while the coating itself will survive up to 842°F on the other hand.
While you should always check each cookware purchase for temperature maximums, ceramic-style non-stick products can clearly take more heat.
Are There Other Factors to Consider When Comparing Ceramic With PTFE Non-Stick Coatings?
While it’s not the most important, how a pan looks certainly ranks in its appeal. Since sol-gel can maintain color at higher temperatures and can be made in different colors like red, green, blue, and white, these ceramic pans can offer a pop of color to accent your kitchen’s decor.
On the other hand, traditional non-stick made with PTFE is generally available in black, gray, bronze and a metallic copper.
Additionally, sol-gel ceramic pans have a better resistance to staining compared with traditional PTFE coatings, mainly because of their tighter network of molecules.
Again, while it’s important to check the manufacturer’s specifications, typically sol-gel ceramic pots and pans do not need to be seasoned before first use like a traditional Teflon-style pan.
Bottom line in the comparison of sol-gel ceramic and PTFE non-stick cookware?
Since the majority of both PTFE and sol-gel non-stick pans meet EPA recommendations by delivering PTFE coatings in formulations free of PFOA, the choice to buy one over the other is a matter of preference – not safety.
How Can You Spot a Top-Quality Non-Stick Coating?
The quality of a non-stick coating affects how well it performs over time.
Any non-stick pan can give your omelet the slip for at least a week. But low-quality pans may only last a few months, while high-quality non-stick cookware can last up to five years.
Whether you decide on a PTFE or sol-gel product, the quality of a non-stick coating is defined by three factors:
- The quality of the coating itself (the formula)
- The number of layers
- The thickness of each layer
The blog Cooking for Engineers states that three layers are the minimum you should accept when shopping for a good quality pan, noting that some cookware brands offer up to seven.
And, remember, silicone coatings should be reserved for baking sheets since they’re far too delicate to withstand heavy stovetop use.
How the Coating Is Applied Matters
Non-stick finishes can be sprayed or rolled onto the metal pan. Orion Industries, professional applicators of Teflon, sol-gel, and other non-stick technologies, state that the best non-stick coatings are sprayed on and are absolutely smooth to the touch.
Other Factors That Affect the Durability of Your Non-Stick Cookware
So far you know that whether you choose PTFE or ceramic sol-gel is a matter of preference, but it’s important to look for three qualities in your non-stick pan:
- A brand that’s recognized for quality formulas
- Products with at least three layers of coating
- Coating that’s been applied with a spray-on method
There are just two more factors to consider before picking out your next non-stick piece – recognizing a quality pan. Here’s what you should look for:
1. The type of metal that’s used. Generally, a coating on a hard anodized aluminum pan will last longer than on a plain aluminum pan. And, a plain aluminum pan will last longer than an enamel-on-steel pan with the same coating.
2. The thickness of the pan. The thicker the pan, the better the heat distribution and protection of the non-stick surface.
The type and thickness of metal used in a pan’s construction make a noticeable difference in how long a non-stick product lasts.
But there’s another reason to reach for a thick-bottomed pan – they’re much less likely to exceed maximum temperatures in the blink of an eye.
A Note About Different Stovetop Types
Gas, electric coil, and smooth electric ranges can all use either aluminum or enamel-on-steel non-stick pans without a problem.
However, induction cooktops work by creating an oscillating magnetic field that requires a non-stick pan with an iron plate attached to the bottom.
This magnetic metal induces an electric current into the pot, which then creates heat. Without it, your non-stick will remain cool to the touch.
When shopping, look for pots and pans that say “induction ready.” Even then, experts suggest purchasing your non-stick pieces one at a time to check that the magnetic base is appropriately wide, and doesn’t leave the sides of your pan cold.
Comparing Top Non-Stick Cookware Brands
Because non-stick pans don’t have a particularly long lifespan, the Kitchn’s experts suggest capping your budget at $60 for each piece.
1. OXO Good Grips Non-Stick Open Frypan
“This pan came slick and stayed that way,” report Cook’s Illustrated reviewers. The journal picked the OXO Good Grips pan as their all-around winner because it maintained a smooth, slippery finish even after frying 50 eggs in a row.
Also remarked on was this pans gently flared sides, which provide easy access to the open cooking space, making loading and unloading items a cinch.
Finally, the stay-cool handle ensures that no potholders are needed to avoid burnt hands.
- Brand/ Model/ Size - OXO Good Grips Non-Stick 8"/ 10"/ 12"
- Cost - 8" for $19.95, 10" for $40.00, 12" for $59.99 (Amazon)
- Layers of Coating - 3
- Maximum Temperature - 390°F
- Material - Hard-anodized aluminum
2. Tramontina Professional Nonstick Restaurant Fry Pan
Rated the best in the non-stick class by The Sweet Home, this Tramontina pan also features a flared lip for easy access to your ingredients.
The handle is triple-riveted for security and features a removable, red silicone grip to keep fingers cool.
- Brand/ Model/ Size - Tramontina 80114/535DS Professional Nonstick 8"/ 10"/ 14"
- Cost - 8" for $24.95, 10" for $34.94, 14" for $46.03 (Amazon)
- Layers of Coating - 3
- Maximum Temperature - 400°F
- Material - Commercial-grade aluminum
3. T-Fal Professional Non-Stick Fry Pan
A runner-up at Cook’s Illustrated, the T-Fal Professional Non-Stick Fry Pan is available at a fair price of $26.89 for a 12.5" pan.
While it’s said to cook food well, release eggs without a snag, offer durability, and feel light and comfortable in the hand, the reviewers did note one problem with T-Fal’s design.
Apparently its surface domed slightly, so oil and egg yolks pooled around the pan edges.
If you rarely cook breakfast foods, it’s likely that pooling isn’t an issue. However, for egg and pancake connoisseurs, this domed design might prove to be a fatal flaw.
- Brand/ Model/ Size - T-Fal E93808 Professional Non-Stick Fry Pan 8"/ 10.5"/ 12.5"
- Cost - 8" for $17.36, 10.5" for $25.79, 12.5" for $26.89 (Amazon)
- Layers of Coating - 5
- Maximum Temperature - 400°F
- Material - Aluminum with stainless steel base
4. Scanpan Classic 8-Inch Fry Pan
During our research for this article, we came across multiple comments that mentioned the durability of Scanpan. Additionally, Scanpan currently holds a 4.5/ 5-star rating on Amazon as averaged from over 400 reviews.
That’s likely because, unlike many other non-stick pans, Scanpan fires a ceramic and titanium mixture into the pan’s material — meaning that there’s no “coating” to flake off.
However, Scanpan is on the pricier side, and we had to stick with the 8" model to stay within our stated budget. It’s also worth noting that, while Scanpan claims to be non-stick for life, reviewers say the coating starts to lose its slip after about five years.
- Brand/ Model/ Size - Scanpan Classic 8-Inch Fry Pan
- Cost - 8" for $59.95 (available up to 14”)
- Layers of Coating - Baked into pan
- Maximum Temperature - 500˚F
- Material - Ceramic titanium
|OXO Good Grips||PTFE||8", 10", 12"||$19.95-59.99||3||390°F||Hard-anodized aluminum|
|Tramontina 80114/535DS||PTFE||8", 10", 14"||$24.95-46.03||3||400°F||Commercial-grade aluminum|
|T-Fal E93808||PTFE||8", 10.5", 12.5"||$17.36-26.89||5||400°F||Aluminum w/ stainless steel base|
It’s worth noting that, while many ceramic non-stick pans remain popular purchases on Amazon, we weren’t able to locate many expert reviews.
Cook’s Illustrated does rave about two ceramic interior non-stick pans. But, with price points between $110-120, we felt that they were too far outside of the recommended budget to be included in our suggested products.
Additionally, HighYa has researched multiple non-stick products by both popular and one-off As Seen On TV brands such as Gotham Steel, Red Copper, and Copper Chef, we disqualified them from the overview of suggested products due to less-than-stellar average ratings by HighYa readers.
Which Non-Stick Pan Is Right for You?
Out of the four brands and nine different pan sizes listed above, we’re inclined to suggest that those looking for a smaller pan would find the best value in purchasing the OXO Good Grips 8" pan for $19.95, not just because it’s one of the least expensive options, but because Cook’s Illustrated rated this pan their all around winner.
If you’re looking for the largest possible non-stick pan, it’s hard to beat the Tramontina 14" for just over $46.
The two brands above offer quality non-stick coatings that will certainly stand up to normal use. However, for those who expect that their non-stick pan will get heavy use, we feel like reviews of Scanpan’s baked-in non-stick releasing agents offer a durability that beat the others.
Finally, as consumers, we’d think twice about purchasing a T-Fal simply due to reports of a slightly domed center that causes eggs and pancakes to pool. Although, if you’re a fan of searing sausage or other meats that would benefit from fat drainage, this could be a perk.
Bottom Line: Use the Above Reviews to Guide Your Next Non-Stick Purchase
What you’ll look for in a perfect non-stick pan depends on which foods you like to cook, and how many servings you’ll usually be making at one time.
Just remember that even when carefully washed and stored, non-stick pans don’t have a particularly long shelf life.
While cost is another factor to consider when shopping, you can see from our product comparison above that finding a top-notch non-stick pan for under $60 is perfectly possible.
However, armed with the information we’ve shared on the different types of non-stick coatings and which qualities indicate a durable non-stick coating and pan, you hopefully feel prepared to make an informed purchase.
Are you left with any questions regarding how to best shop for and select non-stick cookware that suits your needs? Let us know in the comments below.