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What is Nonstick Coating?

By Kris Roudebush
Updated May 16, 2024
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Nonstick coatings are popular for their easy clean up and their low fat cooking because they don’t need oil to prevent sticking. Most nonstick coatings are made of one of two bases, silicone or fluorocarbon. Silicone-based nonstick coatings are used in bakeware and generally thought of as dishwasher safe. Quality nonstick coating for stovetop cooking will be made with polytetrafluoroethylene or PTFE which is a fluorocarbon.

Nonstick coatings are applied in layers. Each layer can be applied by one of three methods. Spraying will give a dense finish, but it must be done by hand. Curtain coating will take blanks of layers that will be applied to the metal as it is formed, in a press, on a conveyor belt. Finally, roller coating will pass the cookware or bakeware through the rollers, applying a thin, even layer of coating. Roller coating is the least expensive process.

Once applied, the nonstick coating is cured at a very high temperature to bind the coating to the metal. This results in ridges. Those ridges can be felt by running your fingers on the nonstick coating. They might also use a silicone exterior if the coating is shiny. Silicone and animals fats don’t get along, so keep the silicone for baking only.

When looking for a quality and longer lasting nonstick coating, look for a matte surface that is absolutely smooth to the touch. Your new cookware should contain instructions for use and cleaning. Some quality cookware will even have copper in the layers for better heat conductivity. Look for at least three layers of nonstick coating in your cookware. Nonstick coating on the outside of the pan is another sign of quality, and will help during clean up.

Clean up, utensils, and heat applications are very important to protecting your investment. You should use wooden or nylon utensils to prevent scratching the layers. Nonstick coating is intended for medium heat only. High heat can damage nonstick coatings causing fumes which could be fatal to birds. People with asthma should also be very careful. Unless a pan needs to be pre-heated it’s never a good idea to heat an empty pan. When pre-heating nonstick cookware keep in mind that most aluminum pans will heat up quickly.

Always follow manufacturers’ instructions for clean up. Most nonstick coatings don’t hold up well in the dishwasher, but maybe not for the reasons you think. It’s the high heat drying cycle that will wear down the finish. So even if your cookware is dishwasher safe consider pulling it out before the drying cycle. The safest method is always hand washing and because of its nonstick coating, it's easy too.

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