Innovative Nonstick Skillets

Published July 1, 2013. From Cook's Illustrated.

Can newfangled designs improve on—or even stand up to—the tried-and-true nonstick skillet we’ve used for years?

Overview:

The biggest problem with nonstick skillets is that sooner or later they all quit being nonstick. Next on the list of gripes would be health concerns about the use of polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), a chemical that can release harmful fumes if heated to above 650 degrees. We wondered whether superior nonstick performance could be found without PTFE. Two of the pans we tested use ceramic finishes, while a third is a five-layer stainless steel and aluminum pan that promises to be nonstick without a coating. We tested them by making a series of single fried eggs without fat, not stopping until an egg stuck. Next we made crêpes to test for even browning and then moved on to beef stir-fry; frittata; and, lastly, scrambled eggs (which we also made without fat).

With fried eggs, the five-layer pan failed: It couldn’t release a single egg without sticking. Another gave us 73 eggs before sticking firmly, and another only began to stick at 77 eggs. In all tests, the five-layer pan felt heavy and awkward. The two ceramic pans were easier to… read more

The biggest problem with nonstick skillets is that sooner or later they all quit being nonstick. Next on the list of gripes would be health concerns about the use of polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), a chemical that can release harmful fumes if heated to above 650 degrees. We wondered whether superior nonstick performance could be found without PTFE. Two of the pans we tested use ceramic finishes, while a third is a five-layer stainless steel and aluminum pan that promises to be nonstick without a coating. We tested them by making a series of single fried eggs without fat, not stopping until an egg stuck. Next we made crêpes to test for even browning and then moved on to beef stir-fry; frittata; and, lastly, scrambled eggs (which we also made without fat).

With fried eggs, the five-layer pan failed: It couldn’t release a single egg without sticking. Another gave us 73 eggs before sticking firmly, and another only began to stick at 77 eggs. In all tests, the five-layer pan felt heavy and awkward. The two ceramic pans were easier to maneuver; the lightest of which was more responsive to heat, but it had other flaws. While this testing gave us hope that a ceramic nonstick pan to rival our traditional favorite might come along someday, we’re not quite there yet.

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