This post is part of our buyers guide to non stick pans. Updated periodically, please visit the guide for further information about non stick pans.

It’s all too common for people to get brand new nonstick cookware, only for it to erode and become unusable in a matter of months.

Have you noticed nonstick cookware that starts to peel? Maybe scratches start to show on the surface? Then you might want to pay attention.

Generally nonstick cookware is made of teflon, and rather safe to use and cook with. But at high temperatures the protective seal on nonstick cookware can begin to break down, and in the process can release toxic chemicals. Inhaling these fumes may lead to polymer fume fever, also known as the Teflon flu. You also certainly don’t want any of this to end up in your food.

With proper care your nonstick cookware should last a few years. Here are the tips to remember when you are cooking and handling.

Lay off the Cooking Sprays

Look, we get it. Cooking sprays (like PAM) are convenient and make minimal mess. It’s hard to resist using them, but in reality they can cause a lot of damage to your pan.

Cooking spray builds up on the surface over time, and creates a barrier between the food and the surface of the pan. This buildup reduces the pan’s ability to adequately heat up whatever is cooking. If you notice that your food starts to take longer to heat, or has spots that just don’t seem to cook through, build up can be to blame. It can also be a massive pain to remove, and ultimately can even remove the nonstick sealant.

Instead, spring for butter or olive oil that gives you the same coating and is also a much healthier option.

Hand wash when possible

Part of the appeal of a nonstick pan is how easy they are to clean. That includes the allure of being able to simply toss it in the dishwasher after use. But try really hard to resist that urge. While it sounds counterintuitive, constant dishwashing of nonstick pans can actually degrade the quality of the cookware.

Dishwashers can get pretty hot, and warp the metal and shape of the pan itself. Given enough cycles in the dishwasher, and you can also find that the sealant on the pan starts to break down. Detergent can also be pretty harsh and over time contributes to breaking down your pan.

Instead, hand wash with warm water, dish soap, and a soft sponge. It might take a few extra seconds, but the pans will be better off long term.

Season occasionally

Seasoning refers to using cooking oil to help coat and fill in the ridges on the surface of any pan. Dings, scratches, and a diminished sealant coating can all be (temporarily) remedied with a proper seasoning. While seasoning is used most often for cast iron skillets, it’s also essential for dinged up nonstick pans.

Simply take some olive oil, rub along the surface of the pan, and heat in an oven at 250 – 300 degrees for about an hour. While you don’t have to do this all the time, every few months is ideal.

Avoid metal utensils

Metal utensils causing scratches or scraping off the nonstick coating. That’s why it’s always best to use wooden or plastic when cooking on nonstick pans. While metal may seem easier and more sturdy it’s best to get yourself a rubber spatula that can handle most tasks.

Use on low to medium heat

While other types of nonstick pans like ceramic can stand a little more heat, try not to blast your nonstick pan with a constant high-heat flame. Let your pan heat up properly on a lower setting. They retain heat well enough so that you won’t it to endure heat which could ultimately warp the pan.

If you want to do high heat cooking get yourself a stainless steel pan. They can withstand high heat MUCH better than nonstick sealants without getting damaged.

Never plunge your pan into hot water

Known as “Thermal Shock“, it can be tempting to immediately throw a searing hot pan underneath the faucet to clean. But be warned – metal that goes from extreme heat to cold rapidly can warp almost immediately. It can also wear down the nonstick sealant, essentially rendering your favorite nonstick pan unusable.

Lastly, store properly

This should be a given for all your cooking equipment. Try not to stack your pans or throw them in drawers or cabinets where they could be scratched or dented. Invest in a pot rack or find a place that it can sit unobstructed in your cabinet.

Nonstick pans are truly a great tool to have in your kitchen and while not necessary for a home cooking setup they are highly convenient. Taking proper care of your pan will keep you from wasting money every few months on a few one and keep your food safe.