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Buyers are generally attracted to “ceramic” cookware because of its pastel-colored non-stick surface and manufacturers’ claims that it’s healthy and eco-friendly.
It’s often promoted by paid Instagram influencers showing off their new, pretty pans.
Despite all the new players in the market, “ceramic” cookware has been around since GreenPan debuted it in 2007.
Given the seemingly recent resurgence of “ceramic” cookware, we put together a quick guide on what we think consumers should know before pressing the buy button.
Use the links below to navigate the guide:
- What Is “Ceramic” Cookware?
- How Does “Ceramic” Cookware Work And Will It Last?
- Is “Ceramic” Cookware Healthier?
- Is “Ceramic” Cookware Environmentally Friendly?
- Will the Prettiness Last?
- Can I Sear a Steak or Fish With “Ceramic” Cookware?
- Our Conclusion and Recommendations
What Is “Ceramic” Cookware?
We are putting “ceramic” in quotes because “ceramic” non-stick coatings are made using a silicone-based gel that mimics the glossy appearance of ceramic but doesn’t have any actual connection to real ceramic.
Also, most brands use an aluminum substrate beneath their surface. Aluminum is used in cheap pans as it can heat up quickly but has poor durability and heat retention characteristics, making searing and even heating of your pan very difficult.
Before you buy cookware for its pretty look, make sure to really understand the material beneath that pastel color.
How Does “Ceramic” Cookware Work and Will It Last?
“Ceramic” cookware’s surface is impregnated with a silicone-gel (similar to what is in your hair conditioner) and creates a non-stick surface by slowly releasing some of this sol-gel every time you cook.
This results in excellent food-release initially, but since the surface is “self-sacrificial,” the cookware’s effectiveness degrades upon every use.
Within one month to one year, the non-stick coating loses its effectiveness completely.
In terms of durability, “ceramic” coating has been shown to degrade 30-70 times faster than other non-stick coatings.
Need proof? Just read the Instagram comments and online reviews of the leading “ceramic” cookware brands.
Is “Ceramic” Cookware Healthier?
Generally, “ceramic” brands rely on a story-line around a fear of PFOA and other toxic-chemicals.
However, the truth is that all reputable non-stick cookware brands follow FDA and Consumer Health protocols, manufacturing their pans without toxins or PFOA.
The reality is that “ceramic” cookware brands use outdated information and fear-mongering market tactics to pitch inferior cookware.
Is “Ceramic” Cookware Environmentally Friendly?
“Ceramic” cookware companies tout environmentally-friendly production; however, this claim is up for debate.
Given these pans have some of the shortest effective shelf-lives of any non-stick surface and you have to replace them frequently, they are actually some of the least environmentally-friendly cookware options.
Will the Prettiness Last?
The reason why most of the high-end brands stick to dark-colored non-stick is not that they don’t love pretty pastel colors. The truth is that most of the light and pastel-colored “ceramic” non-stick coatings will quickly stain, discolor, and develop dark spots.
Also, consumers often report that ceramic coatings quickly chip — another reason why you should be wary of buying cookware for the colorful look.
Can I Sear a Steak or Fish With “Ceramic” Cookware?
“Ceramic” cookware also has limitations on the heat it can handle, making high-heat searing nearly impossible.
The surface will breakdown under high temperatures, so most manufacturers recommend low to medium-low heat to protect the surface.
If you’re looking for a crisp sear, you’re better off with a surface like Carbon Steel.
Our Conclusion and Recommendations
While “ceramic” pans can be devastatingly pretty, they have some of the shortest lifespans of any non-stick surface we tested, cannot heat up to high temperatures, and won’t maintain their beauty.
For those reasons, we do not recommend this type of cookware for most people.
Our recommendations are:
- For those who want a true non-stick surface that will last, we recommend pans with a solid, multi-clad base and durable multi-layer PTFE coating.
For this type of cookware, the best option is Made In Performance Non Stick Cookware.
Made In uses a premium 5-ply composition underneath a double-coating of performance non-stick. While the coating is made of PTFE, it is FDA-approved, non-toxic, and made without PFOA.
This is the cookware that professional-cooks trust for delicate fish or eggs. The All-Clad d5 non-stick collection offers similar construction, but it’s much more expensive than Made In, without providing more value.
- If you’re looking for a stick-resistant pan that can handle extremely high heat and will last forever, our preference is a well-seasoned carbon steel pan.
My top recommendation is the Made In Carbon Steel Pan. It can withstand temperatures up to 1200F, and it’s so durable that you will be able to hand it down to your children.
The downside is that, like cast iron, the non-stick surface will need to build up over time through a seasoning process.