Non-stick pans have revolutionized cooking by making it easier and more convenient to cook for people of varied culinary expertise. Their popularity stems from their ability to reduce food sticking, decrease the need for excessive oil or butter, and simplify the cleaning process. Your average home cook doesn’t have time to do a deep-dive on seasoning stainless steel cookware, so here at MasterChef we have compiled this article to explore the different types of non-stick coatings, their quality levels, the benefits of non-stick pans, proper care techniques, and demystify some of the health concerns related to their use.

Types of Non-Stick Coatings

Non-stick pans are typically coated with materials that prevent food from sticking during the cooking process to make cooking as hassle-free as possible. The most common types include:

  • PTFE (Teflon): Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) is the most widely known non-stick coating, often referred to by the brand name Teflon. It offers excellent non-stick properties and is highly resistant to heat and chemicals.

  • Ceramic: Ceramic coatings are derived from sand (silica) and are free from PTFE and PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid). They provide a smooth cooking surface and are known for being the more environmentally friendly non-stick option.

  • Hard-Anodized Aluminium: This type of non-stick pan involves aluminium that has been electrochemically treated to create a hard, durable surface. While not inherently non-stick, it is often combined with a non-stick coating for enhanced performance and ease of use.

  • ILAG: ILAG is a Swiss-based company known for producing high-quality non-stick coatings. ILAG coatings are PTFE-based, nowadays usually PFOA free, but often incorporate additional layers for durability and scratch resistance.

  • Enamelled Cast Iron: These pans are cast iron with a smooth enamel coating. While not as non-stick as PTFE or ceramic, they offer some degree of non-stickiness and are highly durable and often perfect for both in-oven as well as stovetop cooking – think grilled mac and cheese, shakshuka, and other family-favourite bakes.

Quality Levels of Non-Stick Coatings

The quality of non-stick coatings can vary significantly, pricing will generally be indicative of the different quality levels you should expect. Note that non-sticks can degrade over time, so most coating types will feel of equal quality at first use, similar to freshly sharpened cheap knives, but this durability will wain over time.

  • Entry-Level: Basic non-stick coatings may last for a few months to a couple of years with regular use. They are more prone to scratching and wear.

  • Mid-Range: These non-stick pans often feature reinforced coatings, such as multiple layers of PTFE or enhanced ceramic surfaces. They offer better durability and can last several years without any real maintenance.

  • High-End: Premium non-stick pans, like those coated with ILAG's top-tier products or high-quality ceramic, offer superior performance and longevity. They are often reinforced with diamond dust or other hard materials to increase scratch resistance and heat tolerance. Most manufacturers will label their product with the official ILAG badge so you know what to look out for when browsing the store shelves.

MasterChef Cookware is made with a high quality ILAG non-stick, non-toxic coating manufactured without PFOAs. The non-stick coatings are subjected to stringent internal and independent controls to ensure that they are harmless to health. These tests are repeated at regular intervals.

Health Concerns of Non-Stick Pans

PFOA, a chemical linked to various health issues like kidney and liver disease, was used in Teflon production until 2013. The PFOA Stewardship Program led to the elimination of PFOA from Teflon products, making them PFOA-free since 2013. Here ae a few simple things to avoid potential issues:

  • Don’t preheat an empty pan. Empty pans can reach high temperatures within minutes. Make sure you have some food or liquid in pots and pans before you preheat.

  • Avoid cooking on very high heats. Cook on medium or low heat and avoid broiling, since this cooking technique requires temperatures above those recommended for non-stick cookware.

  • Ventilate your kitchen. When you’re cooking, turn on your exhaust fan or open up windows to help clear any fumes.

  • Use wooden, silicone, or plastic utensils. Metal utensils can lead to scuffs and scratches on the non-stick pots and pans, reducing the life of your cookware.

  • Hand wash. Gently wash pots and pans with a sponge and soapy, warm water. Avoid using steel wool or scouring pads, since they can scratch the surface.

  • Replace old cookware. When Teflon coatings on your cookware start to visibly deteriorate with excessive scratches, peeling, flaking, and chipping, they are ready to be replaced.

  • Use ILAG or Ceramic: ILAG and ceramic coatings are non-stick and non-toxic, manufactured without PTFEs and PFOAs.