Buyer’s Guide: Nonstick Cookware
To purchase the right pots and pans for your kitchen, consider the size, coating, and safety concerns here—then read on for top-rated picks.
Practical nonstick cookware is popular with kitchen newbies and experienced chefs alike. After all, cooking with coated vessels can prevent foods from sticking to surfaces, saving meals from ruin. What’s more, nonstick cookware often requires less (or even no) oil, resulting in lower-fat fare. Like its traditional counterparts, nonstick cookware can range widely in price, from $50 to $500, depending largely on the cachet of the manufacturer. Here’s your opportunity to learn what you need to know about nonstick pots and pans so you can pick up the best nonstick cookware set for your particular cooking style, space, and skills—not to mention your budget.
Food slides easily from cookware surfaces thanks to one of two types of coating: classic or ceramic. Classic, officially known as PTFE (for polytetrafluoroethylene), was first made popular when the brand name Teflon first hit the market in the 1960s. Ceramic coatings are made with ceramic nanotechnology—a fancy way of saying “very small particles”—and are considered the more environmentally friendly choice. While PTFE tends to last longer than ceramic, the Environmental Protection Agency has found a potential health risk in overheating PTFE-coated pots and pans. At temperatures around 500 degrees, PTFE can release fumes that are likely carcinogenic, so those who cook at high temps may wish to opt for ceramic. Unfortunately, ceramic coated cookware doesn’t hold up as well as PTFE and may need to be replaced within a few years after frequent use.
Remember, you don’t just cook in your cookware—you also reheat in it and wash it as well. So it’s essential to consider if a set is safe for the dishwasher and/or microwave. While Teflon itself is microwave safe, PTFE cookware is generally made of metals—and metal, of course, should never be placed in a microwave, where it’s likely to explode. Some ceramic cookware is microwave-safe, but pieces with any metallic compounds are not to be nuked.
When it comes to cleaning, many (not all) nonstick cookware brands claim their products are dishwasher safe. Just remember that the higher the temperature, the faster a nonstick coating will degrade. So to prolong the life of your nonstick cookware, consider washing it by hand no matter what the manufacturer says. Ask the salesperson to steer you towards the right cookware for your reheating and washing methods, and always check the label on the cookware itself.
To avoid scratching nonstick cookware, skip metal spoons and spatulas and use wood, silicone, or nylon instead. Fortunately, some nonstick cookware sets throw in an assortment of utensils as part of the deal.
Finally, as with any set of cookware, think about how many pieces you need. Ask yourself the following: How much cooking do you usually do? Are you making meals for small or large groups? What will your kitchen storage accommodate? If you occasionally prepare dinner for yourself and your partner, an eight-piece set that includes various sizes of saucepans, skillets, and a large soup pot might suit you fine. If you serve up multiple meals per week for a large family, however, larger set with up to 15 pieces offers more flexibility and range.
3 Hot Options
To help you find the best nonstick cookware for your kitchen, we’ve picked a few favorites based on the considerations outlined above and critical reviews on the top shopping sites.
Cuisinart 66-17N Classic Nonstick Anodized Cookware Set ($199)
This extensive but not expensive 17-piece set of classic nonstick aluminum cookware is popular with Amazon shoppers. It’s especially suited for fat-free cooks, thanks to a surface that’s anodized (toughened up with a protective oxide layer) and reinforced with titanium, meaning no oil is ever needed to keep food from sticking. Safe in dishwashers and oven temperatures up to 500 degrees (lids are safe up to 350 degrees), this sleek black set also boasts stay-cool handles. It’s metal, so not nuke-friendly, but the manufacturer claims it’s dishwasher safe. Available on Amazon.
T-Fal Signature Aluminum Cookware Set ($64)
This 12-piece classic aluminum set—a favorite of Lowe’s shoppers—hits the sweet spot of not too few, not too many pieces. The budget-friendly set is perfect for folks with small kitchens, with just six vessels: two saucepans, two frying pans, a griddle, a Dutch oven, with corresponding lids and tools. It also comes with a slotted spoon, spatula, and ladle. A built-in heat indicator in the center of each piece helps prevent undercooking or overheating, which can extend the life of the set when kept under 350 degrees, where it’s both oven and dishwasher safe (but a microwave no-no). Available at Lowe’s.
WearEver Pure Living Nonstick Ceramic Cookware Set ($144)
Named the best ceramic cookware set of 2017 by professional reviewers at The Spruce, this ceramic-coated 15-piece set boasts nine vessels and six lids, with saucepans, fry pans, a soup pot, a griddle, and more. Safe in the dishwasher and the oven if kept under 350 degrees, it’s made of aluminum, so not microwave-friendly. Less heat-sensitive than its PTFE counterparts, the set can withstand cooking temperatures of up to 700 degrees, so low-level flambéing isn’t out of the question. Bring on the coq au vin and bananas foster! Available on Amazon.