[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. ;))
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.
- 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.