frying pans without nonstick coating

why would i want a pan like this :

i have a nice nonstick pan ( Anolon with DuPont Autograph coating ) and i have no complaints about it, its very good - heats evenly, food doesn’t stick and cleans easily too.

but i have heard people say that you should have both a nonstick pan and a regular one. i am partial to cuisinart triple ply because i own their triple ply sauce pan and its built like a tank.

the question is, why do i want a regular pan (without nonstick coating) ?

and let me be the first to take a stab at it too. i wanted to take some cashews and cover them with caramel, so i took an older pan, put some sugar in it, melted it, then put the cashews in. everything worked just dandy except now the teflon coating became discolored :slight_smile: in fact it even seems like if i cook anything in this messed up pan the food tastes like teflon :slight_smile: so would stainless surface pans be good for applications requiring extra high temperatures ?

I think you answered your own question. The non-teflon pans are very durable. They can last a lifetime. Teflon pans are great but they only last a few years.
If you treat a high quality non-teflon pan with care and use it proplerly you wont have sticking issues with food and such.
Keep it slightly oiled, dry (of water), and clean.

[ol][li]Maintenance[/li]I’m sure you’re aware of the advice not to use metal utensils in a nonstick pan because of the damage they may cause to the coating. Stainless surfaces are much more durable, though of course this doesn’t mean that you should abuse them, or that it’s effortless to keep them always looking shiny and new.

Although nonstick coatings are much better than they used to be, eventually that stuff will come off (so says Alton Brown in his book Gear for Your Kitchen, anyway). The way I figure it, hey, if Teflon’s so non-sticky, how’s it gonna stay in the pan forever? Still, people love the idea of having a nonstick cooking surface, and for good reason. Brown’s recommendation, if you’re inclined to believe him, is to buy less expensive pans and replace them as needed. Interestingly enough, when Cook’s Illustrated tested low-cost nonstick pans in September 2002, the $30 Farberware was found to be best, even beating out the Calphalon.

[li]Reactivity[/li]I haven’t had any personal experience with nonstick coatings imparting a taste to food, but apparently you have. On the other hand, stainless steel is inert relative to food[sup]1[/sup], so that it won’t give any off-flavors on its own, nor will it retain traces of, say, that chili you made last week.

There have also been some recent concerns over the potential toxins nonstick coatings may release with application of high heat, though the temperatures reached during cooking appear to be safe. I haven’t actively followed this topic, so can’t say any more other than that it looks like you can find out more recent developments here.

[li]Color[/li]This is probably a matter of individual preference, but for people who like to judge the doneness of their food by looking, it may be easier for them if the pan’s surface is a light color. Browning, I’d venture to say, would be more difficult to see if the pan is dark, whether from a nonstick coating or an anodized finish. Speaking of which…

[li]Browning[/li]Sometimes sticking is good. Cook’s Illustrated says “in a nonstick pan it is almost impossible to develop the beautiful brown crust on meat or chicken that is the result of high-temperature searing.” (This comes from a paid-only area of their website, so no link, sorry.) After you’ve removed the food from the pan, the remaining brown and sticky bits can be deglazed by adding flavored liquids (mmm…wine!) and made into sauces or the base for stews. It’s more than just the color, though – browning adds texture and flavor to foods as well[sup]2[/sup].[/ol]Having said all that, it’s still a good idea to have nonstick pans. Eggs, rice, cheese, and polenta stick mercilessly to uncoated pans. (All you cast iron snobs, I don’t want to talk to you. Stay away. ;))

  1. Somebody’s bound to come in here and ask for a cite. Sorry, I don’t have a specific one available. It is, however, frequently mentioned in any source that talks about materials for cookware, such as The New Cooks’ Catalogue, which I just returned to the library, so can’t quote from.
  2. No cite for this one, either, but just compare, say, a grilled hamburger patty vs. a microwaved one. Or, if you’re vegetarian, a roasted red bell pepper vs. a microwaved one.

Because of the no metal tools in a nonstick pan rule, and the fact that I have not yet found a non metal whisk, I have to use a naked pan to whip up a sauce from the aforementioned brown crispies. If you want a smooth sauce, you really need a whisk.


Blackening fish in a teflon-type non-stick pan doesn’t work to well. the temp needs to be high enough the teflon starts to degrade. It works OK in a hard-anodized pan, but nothing beats a properly seasoned old-fashioned cast iron fry pan.

There are also a bunch of roasting techniques that involve pan-browning the food and then putting the pan and food into the oven to roast. That’s also best done with a tall-sided fry pan.

In general I really like the hard-anodized pans, although I do have one cheapo teflon I use for eggs which gets replaced every year or so as the teflon starts to get ragged.

The only downside that I’ve heard about the use of Teflon-coated pans, is that once the Teflon surface is damaged, there could be a risk of potentially releasing cancer-causing agents from the broken Teflon surface. I don’t know how true this really is. Has anyone else heard of that?

“Clean a saucepan with water, clean a frying pan with a piece of bread” - Mrs Beaton.

The implication being if you keep a non-teflon pan constantly oiled, it will end up with non-stick properties. Check out the woks they use in Chinese restaurants. They take a lot of beating with metal implements and the food never sticks, because they oil them every night.

You wouldn’t want a pan like that one, you want a pan like this one:
As has been mentioned above, with proper use they become virtually non-stick. They also heat more evenly than most cookware because of the heavy weight.

Plus, a 10" cast-iron skillet beats a rolling pin in a kitchen conflict every time

this is FALSE. even heating is not a function of weight but of how well a material conducts heat.

the best heat conductors are Copper and Aluminum. copper is marginally better than aluminum but considerably more expensive, so a copper-core pan is likely to have this core too thin to provide optimum heat conduction. Aluminum-core pans are the way to go.

also aluminum has higher specific heat than iron, gram per gram aluminum holds TWICE the heat that iron does.

so ok, i should buy a pan without teflon, but i want tri-ply one ( aluminum core and stainless steel on both interior and exterior ) why do some of you like cast iron so much ?

also the hard-anodized aluminum while durable, is not as durable as stainless steel or cast iron, because oxide layer is thin, and aluminum particles in food are not healthy. also i believe hard-anodized is quasi-nonstick which kinda defeats the purpose ?

Argh. Maybe we should get some real numbers in here. The following figures come from my old Heat Transfer textbook, but should be easily verifiable elsewhere, and may even be available online:

              [symbol]r[/symbol]         c[sub]p[/sub]      k@20°C   k@100°C
Silver      10524     0.234      419      415
Copper       8954     0.383      386      379
Aluminum     2707     0.896      204      206
Iron         7897     0.452       73       67
18/8 SS      7817     0.460       16       17

[symbol]r[/symbol] = Density. Unit in kg/m[sup]3[/sup]
c[sub]p[/sub] = Specific Heat. Unit in kJ/kg·°C
k = Coeff. of Thermal Conductivity. Unit in W/m·°C

From this, we see that copper actually beats aluminum by a margin of 85-90% in thermal conductivity. Silver is better yet, but just barely – and who can afford it? Back to copper, being a better conductor than aluminum should mean that thinner cores may be used and still provide even heating, though it is unclear to me what the minimum thickness is, and whether a thin copper core is just as good as an aluminum core of approximately twice the thickness. But copper-cored pans are still expensive in any case, so that’s a consideration. Another thing to remember is that if a pan only has a copper external coating, then that coating is no more than cosmetic and is too thin to affect the pan’s cooking properties.

Speaking of copper exteriors, don’t get the idea copper is the best material just because of its superior conductivity, and that if you have the bucks, you should only buy all-copper pans. There are some foods that demand its responsiveness (say, a delicate sauce that would be overcooked otherwise), but that’s not true of all foods. Match the material to the food; there is no universal best.

You mentioned aluminum’s higher specific heat when compared to iron, but that’s not the full story. What we should be interested in is heat capacity, which is roughly c[sub]p[/sub]·[symbol]r[/symbol]. Aluminum’s low density results in it having a lower heat capacity than cast iron. So? Cast iron’s low conductivity and high heat capacity means that it has a slow heating/cooling ramp but is excellent at maintaining a steady temperature, which is ideal for pan-frying. Aluminum-based pans will reach higher temperatures quicker, and are thus better suited for searing and sautéeing.

No, it’s a function of how well the pan conducts heat. It’s not just a function of the material’s intrinsic properties. A 4-lb cast iron skillet conducts heat better than a 1-lb aluminum pan.

Different pans for different purposes. Cast iron is great, but I’m not going to do a quick saute in it. Teflon is nice, but I won’t try to sear and roast a steak in it. Triple ply stainless is super, but I’m not doing eggs over easy in it.

Overall, the triple ply stainless has the most utility, it can take high heat, non-reactive surface, fairly light weight, metal tools are OK. The other two popular options are better for certain things, but have drawbacks that limit their utility.

My suggestion is to have equipment from all 3 groups, and choose according to your need.

AskNott, you can always pick up a set of these. :wink:

FWIW, I can assure you that through experience I have found this to be the case. Thin teflon-coated aluminum pans (the kind that make a percussive ringing sound when you tap the bottom with your knuckle) suck at heat distribution. There’s always hot spots in these pans.

Teflon-coated aluminum pans with thick bottoms (about a half-inch or more in thickness) are heavenly and do a far better job at distributing heat.

That said, I’m all for a well-seasoned copper skillet.

AskNott, in addition to the Amazon link, Williams-Sonoma also has a silicone whisk. I use mine to spank Fierra when she’s naughty. :wink:

Seriously, there is a wide variety of quality in non-stick pans. One of the best nonstick pans I ever got was a $10 Wal-Mart 14-inch pan, which kept its nonstick coating through nearly daily use for about 11 years. In fact, I still use it. My hyper-expensive Calpalon and All-Clad pans, however, seem to have a very poor non-stick coating. In fact, they really need some scrubbing to clean.

I’d love to be able to “season” normal pans properly, but have not mastered the technique.

refer to the table posted by earthling.

204/73 = 2.79 times more iron by volume is needed for same heat conduction as aluminum.

7897/2707 = iron is 2.92 times denser than aluminum.

2.79 * 2.92 = you will need a cast iron skillet to be 8.15 times heavier than an aluminum pan to achieve same heat conductivity.

but .896/.452 = you will only need an iron skillet 1.98 times heavier than aluminum one to have she same heat capacity.

and in fact, per unit volume (thus per unit thickness) iron has 1.47 times more heat capacity than aluminum.

so yes, i will grant you a cast iron pan holds more heat :slight_smile: but doesnt spread this heat as well unless its 2.79 times thicker.

my anolon aluminum pan is pretty thick, in fact when my father held it up, judging from its weight he refused to believe it was made of aluminum :slight_smile: it heats very evenly.

by the way i hope you noticed that all CPU heatsinks are made of aluminum or copper or copper+aluminum hybrids like the one in my desktop. but none made out of iron. also ALL amplifier heatsinks are made of aluminum.

by the way thank you all for your responses. given how cheap cast iron is, it might be actually worth it :slight_smile:

It’s not on their website, though it may very well be in their stores – I’ve noticed several items from their stores that aren’t available online. I’ve also noticed that W-S has private-labeled several items from Cuisipro, so the stuff on Amazon may well be the same thing.

Well, this is what Alton Brown has to say:

[ul]Alton Brown’s Gear for Your Kitchen, pp. 27-29[/ul]

no wal-marts around here :slight_smile: dang, a 14 inch pan will run a fortune on amazon :slight_smile:

Oops, you are right. I was looking at his table but misread the units.

By the way, is evenness of heating (temperature gradient) really proportional to conductivity alone? Assuming a uniform metal plate and applying a constant heat input to one spot, what determines the temperature gradient at a time when that spot reaches a specific temperature? (I’ll try solving it later if nobody knows the answer off hand)

just ordered this baby :