When To Throw Away Non-Stick Pans: 5 Signs It’s Time
by HexClad Cookware
We all have favorite pans that we like to break out when it’s time to cook, and some may be years old. They’ve made many creamy sauces, flavorful stir-frys, and decadent pastas.
After all that cooking, your pans may be showing their age — especially your non-stick pans. If you use these pans, it’s essential that they are in good condition. Old non-stick pans with scratches, bubbling, and other signs of age can affect the food you cook in them, so it may be time to find a replacement pan.
How are you supposed to know when that time comes? We will share the top five signs that it’s time to throw out an old pan and get a new one.
Though it may sting, your cooking experience and your food will be all the better for it, especially when you upgrade to cookware that uses the latest in cooking technology. Not only will you forget about your old non-stick pans, but you won’t want to remember a time without your new pans.
What Is a Non-Stick Pan?
Non-stick pans have a quality that prevents foods from cooking onto and sticking to the surface of a pan. This is achieved through a coating on the surface of the pan called Polytetrafluoroethylene, or PTFE. It’s a mouthful, we know.
PTFE was discovered in the 1930s and has a long list of desirable attributes. The most notable, however, is its slippery, non-stick quality.
If this sounds unfamiliar, you may know this material by its more common name, Teflon. This is the same substance as PTFE, but Teflon is a name brand while PTFE is the generic term.
How Non-Stick Pans Work
PTFE is made by heating chemicals which are then polymerized (linked together to make larger molecules) under intense pressure. This makes a chain of carbon and fluorine atoms bonded together — flourocarbon atoms.
The fluorocarbon atoms are bonded in a way that makes them substance inert. This means the atoms don’t want to come into contact with other substances, including your pumpkin pesto ricotta cheese-stuffed pasta shells.
This means that the chemical makeup of your pan reacts in a way that allows you to cook food without your pan trying to hold onto some of it.
How Do Non-Stick Pans Start To Break Down?
You know that saying, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen?” The same goes for your non-stick pans. While these pans are meant to withstand heat, they can only do so for so long.
The chemical composition of PFTE will react to heat over 575 degrees Fahrenheit. This means that anytime you cook above 575, the coating will start to break down little by little.
What will happen?
When your non-stick pan is exposed to higher temperatures, the nonstick coating starts to break down. Eventually, food will begin to react negatively, as particles from the pan’s surface and undesirable gases are released.
When this process starts, you should replace your pan — and we’d suggest skipping another PTFE non-stick option. If you continue to use your aging non-stick pan, you might be exposed to chemical poisoning — Not exactly what you had scheduled for dinner.
Signs of the Times: How To Know When To Replace Your Pan
Like it or not, your non-stick pans will eventually need to be replaced. You already know what can happen by continuing to use old pans.
Here are a few signs that it’s time to throw your old non-stick pans away.
If your pan has bubbles, also known as warping, on the non-stick surface, it’s time to throw it out.
Warping can occur for a number of reasons, including general use over time. The most common cause of warping is when the pan surface goes through sudden temperature changes, known as thermal shock. For example, when you put your hot pan under cold water right after taking it off of the range, you’re increasing the risk of warping.
You may do this to prevent food from sticking to the pan; however, non-stick pans shouldn’t have this issue. If they do, it’s time for a replacement.
This practice also does more harm than good. The hot pan and cold water combo makes the non-stick surface react in the worst way. This results in damage to the pan, such as warping and cracking.
A PTFE-free, non-stick surface is one of the advantages of HexClad cookware. Our pans feature a laser-etched surface. It combines peaks of stainless steel with valleys for a revolutionary non-stick surface — no extra coating needed.
There Is Discoloration
You might think that a discolored pan just means added flavoring, but pans that are browning or losing color over time need to be replaced.
The discoloration is happening with use, of course, but it also means that food is seeping through the non-stick surface.
There Are Chips and Scratches
Many non-stick or ceramic-laden pans are sensitive to utensils. With these pans, it’s best to use rubber spoons and ladles and skip the metal.
However, over time, even with the correct utensils, you may notice scratches and chips in the surface of your pan. If this happens, it means two things are occurring.
One: Chips and flakes from the non-stick surface are coming off and going directly into your food.
Two: The non-stick surface of your pan has been compromised, so your food is likely sticking to the pan.
Either of these signs indicates an immediate need for a new pan — potentially one that can be used with all your cooking utensils, including rubber, wood, and metal.
This is a major advantage of HexClad pots and pans. Since we don’t use PTFE in our non-stick technology, it is safe to use any kind of utensil with these pans. You’ll have no worries about chemical substances getting into your food.
Worn Out Handles
If the handles of your pan are starting to look flimsy or peeling and cracking, it’s time to replace your cookware.
Many pots and pans aren’t made with the most durable handles, so they’ll start to give faster than the surface of the pan itself. This is another key point to be wary of when deciding on new cookware.
HexClad pans, for instance, are designed to go from range to oven in a single motion. This means our handles need to stand up to these higher temps. Pans with plastic or rubber handles don’t have this capability and will break down faster over time, which is why we use sturdier materials.
Non-Stick Is Sticking
Last but not least, if your food is sticking to your non-stick pan, it’s time to throw it out.
Non-stick surfaces last a long time, but with wear and tear and improper handling, they will start to give.
When this happens, you’ll notice items that usually slip out of the pan with ease are now trying to bring the pan along with them. Something as intentional as an omelet will now become just basic scrambled eggs.
Out With the Old, In With the New
It’s not always easy to get rid of your pans, but these signs of old age will help you know their time is up.
If you feel guilty about just throwing them away, don’t. Depending on wear and tear, there are donation sites or scrap metal dropoff locations where your pans can be recycled instead of being added to a landfill.
Though it can be sad to say goodbye to your reliable old pan, new pans are important for both your health and safety. And we’re sure shiny new HexClad pots and pans will make throwing out old pans a lot easier.