Non-stick cookware is the unsung hero of the kitchen. It’s one of those pieces of cooking equipment that you can easily take for granted until you deal with a pan that has lost its coating and you’re forced to wrestle with the bits and chunks of food left behind in the pan, ruining your otherwise flawlessly cooked dish. I use my non-stick pans almost daily, and reach for them when I’ll be cooking more delicate foods that have a tendency to stick like eggs or a nice white fish. And even though a nice wok is preferable, I have been known to whip out my trusty non-stick cookware when preparing stir-fry because the bits don’t stick to the pan and I’m not left with burnt pieces in my food. Not to mention that when food doesn’t burn into a pan, it also means that cleaning it will be a much easier and take less of your valuable time.
I also love non-stick cookware because it means that I only need to use a very small amount of extra oil when cooking, and when I’m trying to cook healthier, this is invaluable. There are a ton of non-stick cookware sets out there, many of them not so great in terms of durability and quality, so we set out to find the best buys for your money. Also, as the convenience of non-stick cookware has become more and more a part of the home cooking standard, many different types of non-stick surfaces have hit the market. In this guide, we clarify not only what the differences are, but also which is the best one for your kitchen.
A hot topic in recent years is the debate the health effects of non-stick surfaces. Our goal with this review guide is to not only provide you with the best non-stick cookware sets, but to also educate our readers so they have the information they need to make informed choices. If you just want to check out the reviews, you can find those immediately below. But if you want to know more about what to look for when buying, what to avoid and also what you need to know about non-stick cookware surfaces in general, check out our buying guide after the reviews.
Rachael Ray Cucina Hard-Anodized Aluminum Nonstick 12-Piece Cookware Set
Rachel Ray’s Cucina Non-stick Cookware Set features hard-anodized aluminum pans coated with the triple-layered Eclipse nonstick coating system manufactured by Whitford. The first, basecoat layer contains reinforcing elements that include resins and “unusually hard materials.” The second layer contains more reinforcing materials, and the third, espresso-colored topcoat layer consists of PTFE or Teflon. This set, however, is manufactured without the use of PFOA.
It includes a 1-quart and 2-quart saucepan, an 8 ½” and a 10” skillet, a 6-quart stockpot, and a 3-quart sauté pan, and glass lids for everything except the skillets. The set also includes two slotted, nylon, cranberry red cooking utensils – a spatula and a ladle-shaped spoon. The cookware handles are made of stainless steel coated with cranberry red silicone, and two rivets secure each handle. The sauté pan also features and extremely convenient helper handle. The handles on the lids have a high arch to help avoid burns from contact with hot glass. The set is dishwasher safe and oven safe up to 400°F, and the pans can be used on gas, electric, glass, ceramic, and halogen cooktops but require an induction disc for use on induction cooktops.
- Has a PFOA-free triple-layered non-stick coating with two layers of reinforcing materials for increased durability.
Contains two saucepans, two skillets, a stockpot, a sauté pan, slotted nylon cooking utensils, and glass lids for everything except the skillets.
Has stainless steel handles coated with silicone that are securely attached by two rivets.
Is dishwasher safe and oven safe up to 400°F.
Can be used on gas, electric, glass, ceramic, and halogen cooktops.
- Cannot be used on induction cooktops without an induction disc.
Has a PTFE- or Teflon-based non-stick coating.
Cuisinart Chef’s Classic Non-Stick Hard Anodized 17 Piece Set
Cuisinart Chef’s Classic Non-Stick Hard Anodized Cookware Set also features hard-anodized aluminum pans, but this set is coated with Whitford’s titanium-enforced, silicon-based QuanTanium coating. That means that it is both PFOA and PTFE free. Cuisinart states no oil or butter is needed for cooking in their Chef’s Classic set. The set includes a 1, 2 and 3-quart saucepan, an 8” and a 10” skillet, a 3.5-quart sauté pan with helper handle, a 4-quart Dutch oven, and an 8-quart stockpot with glass lids for everything except the skillets.
The set also includes a 20 cm uncoated steamer insert with a cover. The tight fitting lids seal in moisture, nutrients, and flavor. The stainless steel handles are secured with two rivets each. The pans feature drip-free rims and are oven safe up to 500°F, but they are not dishwasher safe. Also, although Cuisinart says that it is safe to use metal utensils with these pans, we recommend extending their life by staying with nonmetal utensils. While these pans can be used on gas, electric, glass, ceramic, and halogen cooktops, they require an induction disk for use on induction cooktops.
- Uses Whitford’s silicon-based, titanium-hardened, PFOA and PTFE free QuanTanium coating.
Provides a very complete set including three saucepans, two skillets, a Dutch oven, a sauté pan with helper handle, a stockpot, and a steamer insert with glass lids for everything except the skillets.
Features drip-proof rims on the pans.
Is oven safe up to 500°F.
Can be used on gas, electric, ceramic, glass, and halogen cooktops.
- Is not dishwasher safe.
Should not be used with metal utensils.
Requires an induction disk for use with an induction cooktop.
T-fal Ultimate Hard Titanium Non-stick PFOA Free 12-Piece Cookware Set
The T-Fal E765SC 12-Piece Ultimate Cookware Set uses titanium to strengthen the non-stick PTFE interior, but the Thermo-Spot heat indicator is designed to prevent overheating. When the dot becomes a solid red, the pan is properly preheated. The pans are made of hard-anodized aluminum and feature TechnoResist Anti-Warp bases. It contains a 1, 2, and 3 quart saucepan, an 8” and a 10 ¼” skillet, and a 5-quart Dutch oven with lids for the saucepans and the Dutch Oven. It also includes two nylon utensils – a slotted spatula and a solid spoon. The silicone handles are securely attached by two rivets each. The tempered and vented glass lids seal in moisture and nutrients.
T-Fal says the set is safe for daily dishwasher washing and that it can be used with metal utensils. Nevertheless, we recommend hand washing and nonmetallic utensils. The pans are oven safe up to 400°F, and the lids are oven safe to 350°F. The set can be used on gas, electric, glass, ceramic, and halogen cooktops, but requires an induction disk for use on an induction cooktop. The set is PFOA, cadmium, and lead free.
- Features TechnoResist AntiWarp bases on the pans.
Includes the ThermoSpot heat indicator to guard against overheating the pans.
Provides vents on the tempered glass lids for releasing steam before lifting the lid when cooking is done.
Is dishwasher safe.
Can be used with metal utensils.
Is PFOA, cadmium, and lead free.
Is oven safe up to 400°F for the pans and 350°F for the lids.
- Uses a Teflon-based non-stick coating.
Requires an induction disk for use on an induction cooktop.
Rachael Ray 14 Piece Hard Enamel Non-stick Cookware Set
Rachael Ray’s 14 Piece Hard Enamel Non-stick Cookware Set in marine blue features a colorful, porcelain enamel exterior over a hard-anodized aluminum pan, but all of Rachel Ray’s cookware is coated with Whitford’s triple-layered, PTFE-based Eclipse non-stick system. The coating is PFOA-free, however. The set includes a 1 and 2 quart saucepan, an 8 ½” and 10” skillet, a 3-quart sauté pan, a 6-quart stockpot; lids for every pan except the skillets; an Oven Lovin’ Crispy Sheet for roasting and baking; a Spoonula, a combination spoon and spatula that helps remove the last tasty bit of food from the pan; a slotted Lil’ Devil Turner; and a Lazy Spoon with a slot in the handle that allows you to hook it to the rim of the cookware and keep drips from the spoon in the pan.
The silicone handles on the pans and baking sheet stay cool, and the shatter-resistant glass lids lock in heat, moisture, and nutrients. The handles on the pans are securely attached with two rivets each, and they are oven safe up to 350°F. These pans can be used on electric, gas, glass, and ceramic cooktops, but require an induction disk for use on induction cooktops. The set is not dishwasher safe and should be hand washed.
- Uses Whitford’s durable, three-layered Eclipse non-stick coating system.
Includes the Oven Lovin’ Crispy Sheet for baking and roasting.
Includes the Lazy Spoon that hooks to the edge of the pan to prevent drips.
Can be used on electric, gas, ceramic, glass, and halogen cooktops.
- Uses a PTFE-based non-stick coating.
Requires an induction disk for use on induction cooktops.
Is not dishwasher safe and should be hand washed.
Simply Calphalon Non-stick 10 Piece Cookware Set
The Simply Calphalon Non-stick 10 Piece Cookware Set consists of hard-anodized aluminum pans, and are double-coated with a non-stick coating that, according to TheKitchen.com, is PTFE-based. The coating is PFOA-free, however. The set includes a 2- and a 4-quart saucepan, a 10” and a 12” omelet pan, a 3-quart sauté pan with a helper handle, and a 6-quart stockpot with tempered glass lids for everything except the omelet pans.
The silicone handles are securely attached with two rivets each. The set is oven safe up to 400°F. Although Calphalon says that the set is dishwasher safe, we recommend hand washing. You should not use metal utensils with this set, but you can use it on electric, gas, ceramic, glass, and halogen cooktops. You will need an induction disk to use it on induction cooktops.
- Is PFOA-free.
Includes 2 saucepans, 2 omelet pans, a sauté pan, and a stockpot with tempered glass lids for everything except the omelet pans.
Is oven safe up to 400°F.
Can be used electric, gas, ceramic, glass, and halogen cooktops.
- Has a PTFE-based non-stick coating.
Should not be used with metal utensils.
Should be hand washed.
Requires an induction disk for use on induction cooktops.
What to Look for When Purchasing Non-stick Cookware
First, you should look for the same things you would look for when purchasing any type of cookware. If you are purchasing your non-stick cookware in a store, you can and should pick it up to judge the weight. Move the pieces around by the handles as you would if you were cooking with them to judge how well balanced the pieces are. If you are buying online, look for some indication of the thickness or gauge of the walls and bottom of the pan. Heavier pieces with thick walls retain and distribute heat better than lighter weight pieces, and they allow you to cook at lower temperatures. That saves energy and saves you money over time.
The lids should fit tightly, which also helps retain heat as well as retaining moisture and nutrients. Glass lids are convenient because you can observe the food while its cooking without removing the lid and losing heat and steam. Whether welded or riveted, the handles should be attached securely in several places. Riveted handles provide more nooks for food residue to collect; welded handles aid easy cleanups. Heat-resistant handles will stay cooler while you are cooking.
What to Look for in Non-stick Coatings
You will find non-stick coatings on stainless steel and anodized aluminum. These coatings include Teflon, diamond-coated Teflon, thermolon, ceramic, and porcelain enamel. Cookware manufactured by the French company Tefal, which sells in the United States under the T-Fal label, also uses Teflon. Non-stick cast iron cookware comes with ceramic coatings.
Teflon, T-Fal, and Classic Non-stick Coatings
Concerns about Teflon are long-standing. Some are unfounded, but others are accurate.
Until 2015, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) was used during the manufacture of Teflon-coated cookware to cause the coating to adhere to the pan. That chemical is associated with the appearance of thyroid problems, tumors, and developmental problems in animals and may be a human carcinogen. Eight manufacturers, including DuPont, the company that created Teflon, signed an agreement with the EPA to phase out the use of that chemical by 2015.
However, PFOA appears to be more of a concern for those involved in the manufacturing process, and, possibly, those who live near one of the factories where PFOA was used. PFOA is only present during the manufacturing process and is not present in the cookware and PFOA burns off during the manufacturing process. Therefore, using Teflon cookware, even that manufactured before 2015, will not expose you to PFOA.
Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) is the chemical name for Teflon an is a fluoropolymer, and that compounds such as PTFE that contain fluorine are generally toxic. When used at the recommended low temperatures, Teflon, or PTFE, is safe. However, at temperatures above 500°F, PTFE begins to break down at the molecular level, which is invisible to the human eye. In the process, it begins to release fragments of its chemical components.
A study by the nonprofit watchdog organization, the Environmental Working Group, found that at temperatures above 680°F PTFE emits at least six toxic gases, two of which are carcinogens. However, it is unlikely anyone would inhale enough of those gases to become ill while cooking in an open area like a kitchen where the fumes would dissipate rather than become concentrated, especially if you use the vent fan above your cooktop. However, results from studies regarding the long-term effects of exposure to overheated Teflon pans have not yet been collected.
To learn how quickly Teflon pans reach 500°F, the Good Housekeeping Research Institute used pans of three weights – 1 lb., 3oz.; 2 lbs., 1 oz.; and 2 lbs., 9 oz. – to prepare five dishes – scrambled eggs, chicken and pepper stir fry, bacon, hamburgers, and steak. While the pans remained within the safe temperature ranges during the preparation of the scrambled eggs, stir fry, and bacon, with the medium-weight pan reaching 465°F in 5 ½ minutes as the bacon fried, other activities were risky. Preheating the empty lightweight pan for 1 ¾ minutes raised its temperature to 507°F. Preheating two tablespoons of oil in the lightweight pan for 2 ½ minutes raised its temperature to 514°F. Frying the hamburgers for 8 ½ minutes in the heavy-weight pan raised its temperature to 577°F. Frying the steaks in the lightweight pan for 10 minutes raised its temperature to 656°F. This was the only test that brought the temperature of the pan above 600°F.
However, classic Teflon coated pans cook meats in their own juices and do not brown or sear meats as well as uncoated cookware does. So, these pans are not the best choice for frying thick patties or cuts of meat. However, the medium-weight and heavy-weight pans appear to have been safer than the lightweight pan in this limited test. If you intend to use Teflon-coated pans for all-around, general purpose cooking, we recommend purchasing the heaviest weight pans that you can afford.
DuPont sets the maximum safe temperature for Teflon pans at 500°F, and DuPont and other manufacturers regard use at temperatures above that limit to be abuse of the cookware, which would likely void any warranty. So, when using Teflon cookware, we strongly recommend that you read the manufacturer’s instructions and stay below the manufacturer’s recommended temperature limits.
Industrial Diamond Coated PTFE (Teflon)
One company, Swiss Diamond, mixes miniscule industrial-grade diamonds into the PTFE coating for their pans to create a harder, more scratch-resistant surface. Nevertheless, Swiss Diamond states on their website that neither sharp or pointed utensils should be used with their cookware, and metal utensils should also be avoided. According to the manufacturer, it is also safe to put them in the dishwasher or in the oven up to 500°F. However, Swiss Diamond also recommends washing their cookware by hand and using only low to medium heat settings on cooktops.
Thermolon and Ceramic Non-stick Coatings
Thermolon is a ceramic, non-stick coating created by Greenpan to be 100 percent PFOA- and PTFE-free. The coating is made with silicon, not silicone. Silicon is a hard, brittle crystalline solid with a blue-gray sheen which it confers upon Thermolon coating.
Other ceramic coatings also use silicates like silicon, and some use titanium.
Greenpan claims that they release 60 percent fewer greenhouses gases during the manufacture of Thermolon-coated cookware than would be released during the manufacture of Teflon-coated cookware because Thermolon cures more quickly than Teflon, and it cures at a lower temperature than Teflon.
Silicates have the same crystalline structure that makes it easy for a jeweler to create facets in diamonds. This characteristic leaves ceramic coatings vulnerable to impacts and chipping. So, as with Teflon, you should not use metal utensils in pans with ceramic coatings, and don’t tap utensils on the edge of the pan. In addition, repeated cycles of heating and cooling can cause ceramic coatings to lose their non-stick quality. You can partially restore the non-stick quality by occasionally cleaning the coating with a mild abrasive like baking soda. Ceramic coatings can breakdown and release gases, as Teflon does, but they do not do so until they are heated to temperatures of 850°F or higher. Still, keep temperatures below 500°F, because higher temperatures age the coating more quickly, speeding the loss of its non-stick quality.
This coating turns to glass as it is baked, or fired, onto the pans. It is PFOA and PTFE free and will not scratch, but it is vulnerable to chipping. So, again, you should avoid metal utensils when cooking with porcelain enamel pans, and you should avoid tapping any utensil on the edge of the pan. You also should avoid abrasive cleaners like scouring powder or steel wool. If needed, use a plastic scouring pad instead. Cookware that has the exterior coated with porcelain enamel is generally light in weight and easy to handle. It also comes in a range of colors and even two-tone gradients of colors. Porcelain enamel coated cookware can be used on cooktops, and it is oven safe up to 350°F. The manufacturing process used to create porcelain enamel and ceramic non-stick cookware is environmentally friendly.
Do Your Research
In writing this review, we discovered that cookware manufacturers and brands may provide only minimal information about the non-stick component in their non-stick coatings. If you would like more information about the coatings manufactured by Whitford, the company provides an online Housewares Coating Guide.
Advantages of the Best Non-Stick Cookware
All non-stick cookware makes cleanup faster. It also reduces the chances of scorching sauces, although, with enough ensuing distractions, it can be happen. The non-stick surface also makes it easy to slide foods like pancakes, omelets, and fried eggs right out of the pan. With a non-stick surface, you also can use less oil when you’re cooking. That is a great health-related benefit.
Disadvantages of Non-Stick Cookware
Because the non-stick surface is a coating, all non-stick cookware shares an issue with durability. Although diamond-encrusted PTFE–coatings are harder, other Teflon- or PTFE-based coatings are soft, and subject to scratching and eventual wear. Silicate-based coatings, such as Thermolon, ceramic, and porcelain enamel coatings, are hard but brittle and prone to chipping due to the crystalline structure of their silicate base. While metal utensils can scratch PTFE-based coatings and cause them to begin to flake, they can chip silicate-based coatings. While manufacturers of some non-stick cookware say that their products can be placed in the dishwasher, all recommend hand washing as the preferred cleaning method.
Compared to the long life-spans of uncoated cookware, DuPont recommends that you replace Teflon-coated cookware that has received moderate use every three to five years, even when it has received proper care. Teflon-coated cookware that has received heavier use should be replaced every two years.
Also, as previously mentioned, heating Teflon/PTFE-based coatings above 500°F causes them to begin to breakdown at the molecular level. At 660°F, these coatings release fumes that can kill pet birds and cause a temporary flu-like condition called polymer-fume fever in humans. At temperatures above 680°F, Teflon-based coatings begin to emit toxic gases. However, DuPont has set the maximum safe temperature for Teflon-based coatings at 500°F, and the manufacturers of Teflon-coated cookware regard use above those temperatures as abuse of the cookware.
While overheating silicate-based cookware has less serious consequences, repeated cycles of heating and cooling does cause the coating to lose its non-stick properties. As with Teflon-based coatings, the manufacturers of silicate-based coatings rate the cookware as safe only up to temperatures of 500°F and recommend the use of only low to moderate temperatures on cooktops.
How to Maintain Your Non-Stick Cookware
When using a cooktop, do not preheat Teflon cookware, and use no higher than medium temperatures for preheating silicate-based cookware. Do not use non-stick cookware at temperatures above 500°F. Set cooktops only to low or moderate temperatures when using any type of non-stick cookware. Avoid metal utensils and sharp or pointed utensils, and do not tap utensils on the edge of silicate-based cookware. Hand wash your non-stick cookware. You may use a mildly abrasive cleaner, such as baking powder, to help restore some of the non-stick properties of ceramic-coated cookware.
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