The advantages of non-stick pans are obvious: you can cook with less oil, food doesn’t stick, and cleanup is easy.
The major downside, though, is that non-stick pans don’t last forever. And once the non-stick coating wears down, you need to replace the pan.
In this quick guide, you’ll learn:
- How long non-stick pans last on average
- How to maximize the lifespan of non-stick pans
- And how to know when it’s time to replace your non-stick pans
Let’s get right into it.
Use the links below to navigate:
- How Long Do Non-Stick Pans Last?
- When to Replace Your Non-Stick Pans
- How to Extend the Life of Your Non-Stick Pans
- Final Thoughts
How Long Do Non-Stick Pans Last?
Non-stick pans typically last between one and five years. Non-stick pans coated with PTFE (Teflon) generally last at least three years, and ceramic-coated non-stick pans last an average of two years. Pans with multi-layer PTFE coating or reinforced non-stick coating last the longest.
In general, the more layers of non-stick coating, the more resistant the cookware is to scratching, and the longer it will last. The extra layers of coating prevent minor scratches from degrading the cooking surface and exposing the bare aluminum base.
Many high-end cookware brands apply at least two, sometimes three layers of non-stick coating.
Made In also uses three layers for its non-stick cookware. The company claims that it lasts ten times longer than other premium brands’ non-stick coating and 30 times longer than ceramic.
Calphalon’s Signature and Contemporary collections also use three layers of non-stick.
While you can expect quality non-stick pans to last between three and five years, some brands use specially reinforced non-stick coatings that further prolong the pan’s lifespan.
For example, Cuisinart uses Eterna and Quantanium made by Whitford. The company claims that Eterna lasts ten times longer than other premium non-stick brands tested and states Quantanium is more durable than conventionally reinforced non-stick coatings due to the added titanium particles.
The Farberware DiamondMax non-stick material is PTFE enhanced with crushed gems to increase durability. It’s designed to be three times more durable than ceramic non-stick. So with this cookware, you can expect it to last at least three years.
Are multi-layer or reinforced non-stick coatings indestructible? No, not even close. Like every other non-stick pan, eventually, the coating will wear down, and you’ll need to buy a replacement. But the chances of them lasting five years are greater.
The bottom line is that non-stick pans last between one and five years, and the most durable, longest-lasting pans are those with multi-layer or reinforced non-stick coatings.
When to Replace Your Non-Stick Pans
It’s not always obvious when it’s time to replace a non-stick pan, but there are some red flags to be aware of.
Damaged non-stick coating
This is the most common reason people replace their non-stick pans. If your pan’s coating is scratched, peeling, worn down, or flaking, get rid of it. Not only can the non-stick material get into your food, but the aluminum underneath can react with acidic ingredients, leaving behind an unpleasant metallic flavor.
If your pan is rusty, replace it. To prevent rust in the future, follow the manufacturer’s cleaning advice, always dry the pan thoroughly, and use wooden or plastic utensils to avoid scratching the coating.
If your pan is discolored, there’s a chance it just needs a good clean. But if you haven’t been cleaning it properly, the dirt and grime could have worn the non-stick coating down. If this is the case, it’s time to replace your pan.
If food is sticking, there’s a good chance your pan is at the end of its lifespan. Even if you follow all of the maintenance best practices, the non-stick surface will break down and become ineffective over time. If you notice that eggs, pancakes, and other delicate foods are sticking more than usual, it could be time to replace your pan (or try this method to restore its slipperiness).
Warping is common with non-stick pans, and it happens due to thermal shock. In other words, when you exposed a pan to quick temperature changes, like when you rinse a hot pan in cold water, the metal can expand unevenly and cause warping. If your pan is uneven, wobbly, or has a warped surface, you can try and fix it with two of my suggested methods. Otherwise, it’s time to replace the pan.
Many loose pan handles can be fixed, especially if they’re just screwed on. But other types of pans have handles that can’t be fixed (ex. welded or riveted handles), and therefore, it’s just time for a new pan. Handles loosen with age, and if it’s been a few years, it might be time for a new pan anyway.
Pans made during or before 2013
If your non-stick pan was manufactured during or before 2013, throw it out. Even if it’s in perfect condition. Why? Before 2013, PFOA, a dangerous chemical linked to many illnesses, was used in the production of PTFE (also known as Teflon, the material used to coat most non-stick pans). However, all non-stick pans made after 2013 are PFOA-free and completely safe.
How to Extend the Life of Your Non-Stick Pans
There are many ways to extend your non-stick pans’ lifespan and maximize the value of your cookware.
Most non-stick pans are made with a durable aluminum base, so the pan itself will hold up fine. The key is to take steps to protect the non-stick coating—that’s the part that wears down quickly.
Here are my top tips for protecting and prolonging non-stick pans, especially the coating:
Avoid metal utensils
Metal utensils can scratch and chip the non-stick surface. Instead, use wooden, plastic, silicone, or nylon kitchen tools.
Store it properly
Incorrectly storing your pans can lead to scratches, especially if you’re trying to save space by stacking your cookware. Don’t stack your cookware unless you’re using a liner (like this one on Amazon) to protect its surface.
Avoid high heat
Non-stick cookware doesn’t perform well when using high heat, and exposing it to extreme temperatures can damage the coating. If you’re searing, browning, frying, or cooking ingredients that benefit from high heat, grab a stainless steel pan or cast iron skillet. Most non-stick pans are oven-safe, but never exceed 500°F, and always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
Don’t put your non-stick pans in the dishwasher. Even if the manufacturer claims the pan is dishwasher-safe, wash them by hand with warm soapy water and a soft sponge. The exposure to high temperatures, hot steam, and harsh chemicals in the dishwasher will break down the pan’s coating over time. When you’re hand washing, avoid metal scrubbing brushes and always dry the pan thoroughly.
Don’t store food in the pan
Don’t store food in a non-stick pan. Tomato sauces, lemon juice, wine, and other acidic foods can break down the pan’s coating, especially if you leave these foods in the pan overnight or for multiple days.
Avoid drastic temperature changes
Drastic temperature changes can lead to warping. Avoid heating and cooling the pan rapidly. Instead, build up to high heats and cool the pan down slowly. Rinsing a piping hot pan with cold water is the most common cause of warping. Wait until the pan is fully cool before washing it.
Use oil or butter, not cooking sprays
Cooking sprays can result in a sticky build-up that’s hard to wash off (even if the label says sit’s safe for non-stick pans). Over time, it will wear down the pan’s surface. Instead, use oil or butter. If you’re watching your calories, get an oil mister to help control the quantities.
Broiling exposes non-stick pans to too high of temperatures, which can ruin the coating. Instead, use a stainless steel pan, which can tolerate much higher temperatures and won’t break down under the hot flames.
Don’t cut food in the pan
Cutting ingredients with sharp utensils or a knife while they’re cooking in the pan is a recipe for disaster. In fact, it’s the easiest way to scratch and ruin the pan’s non-stick coating. If you need to cut an ingredient, remove it from the pan and cut it on a cutting board. This tip seems obvious, but cutting ingredients while they’re in a pan is something people do all the time, and it’s the quickest way to destroy your pan.
Buy high-quality pans
Invest in a high-quality, multi-layer, reinforced non-stick pan. Pans made with a hard-anodized aluminum base are less likely to warp, compared to standard aluminum. Brands like All-Clad and Made In may cost a bit more, but they’ll last longer, saving you money long term. Now, I’m not suggesting that you spend $200 on a non-stick pan—that’s unnecessary considering non-stick pans only last five years if you’re lucky. But, spending $50 to $125 on one quality non-stick pan that will last several years, is a wiser choice than spending $20 on a pan that will only last six months to a year.
Use a variety of pans
Don’t use your non-stick pan for every cooking venture. When searing, broiling, slow cooking, or braising, it’s better to use stainless steel, cast iron, or carbon steel. Save non-stick for the right meals such as eggs, pancakes, stir fry, and other recipes that can get sticky.
On average, non-stick pans last between one and five years. Higher quality pans with reinforced, multi-layer non-stick coating tend to last at least three years, but if you take good care of them, they can last up to five years.
The best way to ensure that your non-stick pan lasts is to protect the coating. Avoid metal utensils, drastic temperature changes, high heats, cooking sprays, and dishwashing.
I suggest investing in premium non-stick pans, like those produced by Made In, All-Clad, or Calphalon. They will last longer due to the multi-layer surface and expert craftsmanship. These options handle wear-and-tear better than cheaper brands.
Do you have any tips for extending the life of non-stick pans? Please share them in the comments below!
If you found this article helpful, you should also check out:
- Why Do Pans Warp? 6 Common Causes (and How to Unwarp)
- Why Does Food Stick to Non-Stick Pans? (And How to Prevent It)
- Carbon Steel vs. Stainless Steel Pans: What’s the Difference?
- The 5 Best Alternatives to Non-Stick Pans
- Cast Iron vs. Stainless Steel Cookware: What’s the Difference?
- Stainless Steel vs. Non-Stick Cookware: What’s the Difference?
- Average Cast Iron Skillet Weight (With 17 Examples)
- Carbon Steel Cookware Pros and Cons
- Ceramic vs. Teflon Cookware: What’s the Difference?