Choosing the best nonstick cookware for your kitchen can be challenging. Manufacturers throw phrases and words around like hard anodized, Teflon, Thermolon, diamond coated and porcelain enameled cookware. But what do these actually mean?
Our Top Pick: T-Fal Ultimate
This guide will help you learn about different types of non-stick cookware, their coatings, how to take care of them, and review some of the best pots and pans on the market.
Nonstick Cookware Reviews
Top Pick: T-Fal Ultimate Nonstick
Our top pick goes to T-Fal and their Ultimate Hard Anodized Nonstick cookware set. The red spot that helped popularize T-Fal’s nonstick cookware collection is only one of many things we love about this set.
- Glass Lids (clear to allow you to observe food, can fit better than metal)
- Silicone Handles (stays cool while you cook)
- Thermo-spot Heat Indicators turn solid red when pre-heated
- Hard-Anodized Aluminum
12 Piece Set Includes
- 2x Frying Pans (8”, 10.25”)
- 3x Sauce Pans with lids (1qt, 2qt, 3qt)
- 1x Dutch Oven with lid (5qt)
- 2x Nylon Utensils
The unique Thermo-spots in the center of each pan are an interesting feature to inform you when the pan is pre-heated.
However, at lower temperature struggles to indicate if the pan is hot or not. On the flip side, if your pan is extremely hot, you’ll notice that the spot has changed.
While this set is designed with the dishwasher in mind, T-Fal recommends that you re-season your cookware every 10 times that you wash it.
We still prefer to hand wash our pans especially given how easy this set is to clean. Nevertheless, if you're looking for a set that you can throw in the dishwasher safely, this set can handle it.
Is T-Fal oven safe? Yes, up to 350F. However, this cookware has silicone handles and we don’t like putting silicone or plastics in the oven. It just doesn’t feel like a good thing to do.
350F isn’t all that hot, depending on what you’re doing, and some ovens are a lot hotter than what’s indicated. It might be safer to keep them on top of the stove.
This set features special anti-warp technology to help it last as long as possible. The hard-anodized exterior helps prevent scratches, but you still need to be careful.
Unfortunately, the T-Fal Ultimate is not an induction cookware set.
This set is an affordable set designed by a well-known brand that keeps on top of the latest nonstick technology.
If you’re looking for a strong set of nonstick cookware that you can throw in the dishwasher occasionally, we feel T-Fal offers the best nonstick cookware.
Simply Calphalon Cookware Set
Another leader in cookware is Calphalon. This 10 piece nonstick cookware set is a visually appealing, but lacks 2 things that our top pick has.
- Double Non-Stick
- Signature Hard Anodized Aluminum
- 10 Year Warranty
10 Piece Set Includes
- 2x Frying Pan (8”, 10”)
- 3x Sauce Pans with lids (1qt, 2qt, 3qt)
- 1x Stockpot with lid (6qt)
The double coating of non-stick material on this set is supposed to give you an edge over other cookware, but these pots and pans are not able to go in the dishwasher.
So we feel that they aren’t as durable as the T-Fal cookware set. Makes sense, right?
This set comes with a long warranty, showing us that Calphalon is willing to stand behind the quality of their products.
Provided you stick to their instructions when it comes to use and cleaning, they may repair or replace your cookware set within 10 years. For more information on the Calphalon warranty, click here.
Comparing this to our top pick, it lacks 2 things and costs a little more. It lacks the ability to go in the dishwasher and it doesn’t have the thermos spots.
However, if you’re still looking for more cookware options, use this one for comparison. It'll help determine a base price for a "no-frills" model from a reputable brand.
High End: Woll Diamond Plus Cookware Set
Of course we have mention high end cookware and the 10 Piece Woll Diamond Plus cookware set fits the bill. When you see what they’ve incorporated in to their pots and pans, you’ll understand why it’s pricey.
- Safe With Metal Utensils
- Cast Handles
- Oven Safe to 480 Degrees
- Embedded Diamonds for Heat Conductivity
- Limited Lifetime Warranty
10 Piece Set Includes
- 2x Frying Pans (8”, 9.5”)
- 2x Sauce Pans with lids (2.1qt, 3.2qt)
- 1x Saute Pan with lid(3.7qt)
- 1x Stock Pot with lid (6.3qt)
One of the biggest downsides to non-stick cookware is the inability to use metal utensils. This set solves that problem!
Special construction and a unique non-stick coat with embedded diamond crystals allow you to use metal spatulas and tongs while you cook with no problems. This is an absolutely unique feature that has totally blown us away.
Wait, did you say diamonds? Yes, these pots and pans have real diamonds embedded in them. But that doesn’t mean you can fish them out and put them on a ring. It’s more like a small amount of diamond powder to help reinforce the coating.
While the metal parts of the pan are covered by a lifetime warranty, Woll only covers the non-stick cooking surface for 3 years. Eventually, the non-stick coating will wear off and you'll need to replace it. Given the price, that can be a serious financial challenge for the average home cook.
Check out the 10 Piece Woll Diamond nonstick cookware set, it’s one of the toughest pieces of non-stick cookware on the market.
Budget Pick: Cook N Home Cookware
Our budget pick goes to Cook N Home with their 15 piece set at almost half the price of comparable cookware sets. Are you a home chef on a budget? Check this out.
- Heavy Gauge Aluminum
- Lids Fit The Pans
15 Piece Set Includes
- 2x Frying Pan (8”, 10”)
- 3x Sauce Pans with lids(1qt, 2qt, 3qt)
- 1x Dutch Oven with lid (5qt)
- 5x Nylon Utensils
Silicone handles and lids that fit are all characteristic of higher priced nonstick sets. This set also includes pretty much everything the others do. However, being a budget set, there are a couple of things that stand out.
The nonstick coating works well, but you have to be careful with budget cookware and their coatings.
The heavy gauge aluminum helps give the pots and pans a sturdy feel, but it’s not going to be able to take abuse from utensils or high temperatures.
The provided utensils aren't the best either, but they’ll do if you don’t have any. That said you're not buying this set for the utensils. You can use the money you save by choosing this set to buy some quality silicone spatulas and spoons.
This set is made in China and the quality control can sometimes be lacking. You might find that the handles are a bit loose, but it’s nothing a few turns of a screwdriver can’t fix.
These things aren’t deal breakers, but definitely something to keep in mind.
Given the limited lifespan of non-stick pans, this budget set may be the best choice for someone who has just moved out on their own for the first time or someone who has a tight budget.
Nonstick Coatings Are Only Skin Deep
The first thing to know is that all modern non-stick cookware consists of a metal pan with a non-stick coating on top of it. The type of metal and coatings vary from pan to pan.
Most cookware is made primarily from aluminum, which is strong, durable, light, and an excellent conductor of heat.
Some high end manufacturers offer nonstick pans with copper or other precious metals like titanium in them, allowing them to transfer heat a bit better than normal aluminum pans.
Aluminum can be "anodized" by dipping it in an acid bath under certain conditions. This creates a layer of controlled oxidation that makes the cookware stronger and more durable.
Anodized aluminum doesn't have anything to do with how sticky or non-stick your cookware is; it just makes it a bit tougher.
Teflon is a brand name commonly used to refer to PTFE, or polytetrafluoroethylene. It's one of the most popular types of nonstick coatings because of it's ability to remain nonstick.
Recently, a number of groups have aggressively campaigned against PTFE, citing health concerns related to its manufacture.
PTFE is traditionally created with the use of another chemical called PFOA which has been linked to tumors and developmental problems in animals. Because of these concerns, PFOA (the dangerous chemical) has been phased-out of PTFE (Teflon) production as of 2015.
In other words, no matter what the cookware set you're looking at says, every single pot and pan in the North American market should be free of this stuff if it was manufactured after 2015.
Even if it was manufactured before 2015, the FDA has stated that the manufacturing process "drives off the PFOA," meaning the "risk to consumers is considered negligible."
PTFE (Teflon) is *extraordinarily* non-reactive and non-toxic at room temperature; it's actually used in surgical grafts and to coat catheters in hospitals for this reason. Eating it accidentally is unlikely to cause any health issues.
The biggest concern would be the PTFE getting stuck somewhere and then causing problems because your body can't dissolve or digest it.
I absolutely don’t recommend eating your pots and pans.
PTFE will begin to break down at around 486 degrees Fahrenheit. This is well beyond normal cooking temperatures and above the smoke point of most oils, so it's unlikely that your pans will hit this temperature during normal use.
That said, an empty pan will hit this temperature in about two minutes on a burner set to high, so you'll need to exercise a little caution and keep your burners turned down.
Allowing your pans to get too hot will damage them and potentially release toxins (See Good House Keeping’s Safety Facts).
Thermolon is a non-stick coat that's essentially identical to PTFE.
It's marketed as being "safer" because it's also manufactured without PFOA. It's a bit harder and conducts heat a bit better, but the aluminum in your pan has a much bigger impact on heat distribution.
Thermolon still scrapes off easily should you happen to scratch it with a metal utensil.
Ceramic coatings are an interesting option that solves the non-stick problem in a totally different way. It's a bit more durable than PTFE through normal use, but it's sensitive to heat. You should never use high heat with ceramic cookware because the coating will diminish quickly.
Ceramic non-stick coatings are very comparable to PTFE or Thermolon coatings. In the kitchen, they're more or less identical. In fact, how you use and clean your pans is much more likely to have a bigger impact on how long your cookware lasts than what type of coat you choose.
Since both cost about the same, the real difference is in aesthetics. Ceramic coatings are often white, while PTFE and Thermolon coats are black.
Some porcelain enameled cookware has a Teflon interior with outside of the pot or pan being enamel to create a beautiful finish. Others have a porcelain surface that is nonstick and helps prevent the need to season the cookware. Porcelain is non-reactive and hygienic.
Non-aluminum non-stick cookware exists, but usually only for specialized applications.
For example, cast iron is thick, heavy, and strong and retains heat very well which makes it good for Dutch ovens and hot-pots. The downside is that it’s slow to heat up and doesn't heat evenly.
Recently there has been a craze for cast iron pans that are porcelain enameled. This makes it a lot easier to take care of compared to traditional cast iron pans but still benefit from the cooking properties of cast iron. There’s also the aesthetic value of having an orange or pink pan versus a solid black one.
Handles and Oven Safety
Is nonstick cookware oven safe? Usually it is, but to what degree depends on the coating and handle type. See the “Nonstick is only skin deep” section above for coatings and temperatures.
Non-stick cookware manufacturers get a little bit creative when it comes to trim and handles. While several options and styles are available, they boil down to two categories:
Metal Handles - Oven safe to about 500 degrees but get hot when you cook.
Non-metal Handles - Typically oven safe to only about 350 degrees but remain safe to handle during normal cooking. Non-metal handles are often made of silicone or plastic.
Be sure to check the instructions provided with your cookware for more information and exact temperatures. We don’t recommend putting silicone or plastic in the oven, just to be on the safe side.
Care and Cleaning of Non-Stick Cookware
Whatever type of coat you choose for your nonstick cookware, there are a few tips and tricks you can follow to help ensure that it will last for as long as possible.
- Avoid Overheating: While some coatings might be a bit more resistant to higher temperatures, that doesn't mean that the metal inside your pans won't start to warp. Stick to medium or low heat in order to prevent any issues.
- Purchase Appropriate Utensils: Careless contact with metal will quickly scratch off any non-stick coat. For best results, get a set of wooden or silicone spatulas for use with your cookware. Some cookware sets come with some utensils, but they aren’t always the most durable.
- Avoid the Dishwasher: Dishwashers use high heat and strong detergents. They can leave a film on your cookware after each use and rattle around against other items which could scratch your pot or pan. We recommend to hand wash all of your non-stick cookware with warm water, gentle detergent and soft sponge as soon as it's cooled to a safe temperature.
- Avoid Unnecessary Oils: Read the instructions that come with your pots and pans and take the manufacturer's advice regarding oils to heart. Some coats, notably ceramic and porcelain ones, work best with little to no oil. Excess oil can damage the non-stick properties of your pan if they aren’t cooked or cleaned off. Other coats work best with a small amount of oil or don't care how much you use.
- Educate people in your kitchen: Make sure that anyone who's going to use your cookware is aware of how each piece should be used and cleaned. Using a metal spoon to taste test your cooking straight from the pan is often the biggest culprit of scratches.
Final Thoughts On Choosing The Best Non-stick Cookware
All available non-stick coats are fairly fragile and vulnerable to being worn down through normal use. Each option provides a nonstick solution that cook food with a reduced amount of oils and fats.
Many manufacturers of non-stick cookware offer warranties to cover defects, but they don’t cover misuse or accidents. Avoiding dishwashers, metal utensils, and overheating should help extend the life of your cookware.
We don’t think there is a superior option, just different ones. You may need to experiment with different types of cookware coatings until you find one that suits you the best.
Did you enjoy our nonstick cookware reviews and guide? Leave us a comment below with your thoughts and experiences with nonstick cookware.