These skillets require little or no fat to prevent food from sticking, which makes them indispensable for preparing delicate egg dishes, crêpes and fish. To protect the nonstick coating, never expose the skillet to high heat; many manufacturers also recommend adding some kind of fat before preheating.
What to Look For
Because of controversy surrounding the environmental and health effects of PFOA, a chemical used in the fabrication of many nonstick coatings, some companies have recently introduced ceramic- based and other PFOA-free versions. Producers claim that the latest nonstick coatings are also more solidly fused to the pans, so they’re less likely to chip and wear out—another issue with older coatings.
Heavier skillets cook more evenly than flimsier ones and are less likely to quickly overheat, which can harm the nonstick coating.
Nonstick pans with stainless steel or silicone-coated handles are more versatile than pans with plastic handles, which usually can’t go in the oven. But even most oven-safe skillets should not be used for broiling, which would expose the coating to a damagingly high temperature.
Caring for Nonstick
Nonstick pans are generally very easy to clean—one of their most appealing attributes—but the coating needs to be treated gently. Abrasive sponges and steel-wool pads are not recommended, as they can scratch or chip the nonstick surface. (For the same reason, manufacturers recommend cooking with wooden spoons or plastic spatulas instead of metal utensils.) When stacking nonstick pans in a cabinet, place a paper towel or another liner inside each skillet to protect the coating.
Three Nonstick Winners
Cuisinart GreenGourmet 12-inch $70; 800-726-0190 or cuisinart.com.
Calphalon One Nonstick 12-inch $150; 800-809-7267 or calphalon.com.
Anolon Ultra Clad 12-inch (available in February 2009) $120; 800-326-3933 or anolon.com.