As nonstick cookware continues to dominate culinary space, the debate as to which nonstick is the best and more nonstick than the other will never end. There are Teflon, cast iron, stainless steel, and ceramic nonstick cookware. Each of these have their own sets of pros and cons.
One such debates that comes to mind is the ceramic vs nonstick. Note here that the latter cookware refers to Teflon coated cookware, which is often regarded as the true nonstick. At first, there were concerns about ceramic cookware, but we can say they are here to stay.
There has been persistent quality and safety concerns surrounding both Teflon and ceramic cookware. However, these concerns are calmed from time to time. Still choosing the best between the two is often a matter of personal and kitchen accessory preferences.
Ceramic vs Teflon: What’s the Difference?
As you shop for a nonstick cookware, you want to be sure about the coating you want. Whereas some of the manufacturers are upfront with this information, some are not so straight forward. While the coating may be given funny marketing names, all coated nonstick cookware have either ceramic or Teflon.
The difference between the two types of nonstick is purely on the coating material used. Both are coatings, unless in ceramic, where certain high quality ceramic cookware are made from pure ceramic.
What is nonstick cookware made of?
Just to create a clear distinction here, the term nonstick is used in reference to Teflon coated pans and skillets. They are the original nonstick, hence the term. Nonstick cookware are made from polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) (Phew! That’s a mouthful!).
This material is a synthetic fluoropolymer or tetrafluoroethylene, but we will call it PTFE. The material was invented and patented by DuPont Corporation in the 1930s. It was not until the 1950s the PTFE was first used in cookware.
The main advantage of PTEF is that no food sticks on it, thus the rise in popularity of nonstick pans. Teflon, as they mostly referred to is the brand name of the company that uses PTEF to manufacture nonstick pots, pans, and skillets.
In recent years, concerns have been raised about the use of PTFE in nonstick pans. Researchers have established that at high temperatures, the coating degrades to release toxic fumes, which leach into food and the air.
At room to moderate heating temperatures, PTFE is stable and inert. However, beyond 5000F, the coating deteriorates. Still, the claims are still regarded as baseless in certain quotas, since PTFE is used in bone transplants and heart surgery.
Besides PTFE, another concerning chemical in nonstick pans has been perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). Both are synthetic chemicals are considered harmful. However, since 2015, all Teflon pans are PTFE free, thus alleviating these fears.
Still, these pans should not be used at temperatures exceeding 5000F. They are best used on medium heat, and should never be preheated empty.
Another thing, the pan construction can either be stainless steel or any other material, coated with PTFE. A mixture of molybdenum, chromium, and nickel results in excellent cookware properties with impeccable rust/stain resistance.
Pros of nonstick pans
- The nonstick property sticks for a while
- Easy to clean with soapy warm water
- Some brands are dishwasher safe
- Little to no pre-cooking preparation
- Some can be used up to 3500F in an oven for an hour
Cons of nonstick
- Not for high temperature cooking
- Not dishwasher friendly
- Coating flakes after sometimes
- Requires only non-metallic utensils
- Pans warps under thermal shock
- Health concerns
What is Ceramic Cookware Made of?
The reason for the ceramic vs nonstick debate is the sudden rise in popularity of ceramic cookware. In a way, ceramics have taken advantage of the health concerns surrounding PTFE and PFOA used in nonstick pans.
While ceramic has been popular in homes as pot flowers, no one had ever imagined the material could be used as a nonstick coating for cooking accessories. Thanks to a non-stick feature consisting of silicon dioxide as well as oleophobic and hydrophobic encapsulation of the coating, ceramic pans are nonstick.
Importantly, the coating is oil and water resistance, thus vastly improving the kitchen experience. Another improvement on the part of ceramics is the heat retention, which is better than ceramic coated cookware.
Unlike the ceramic pans of yester-years, which were weak and had the coating peel off with ease, todays ceramics are sturdy and resistant to kitchen knocks. Since ceramic is not toxic in high heat, it’s a healthy choice does not set free toxic fumes, hence the increasing popularity.
Moreover, ceramic is considered one of the most environment friendly and safest cooking options currently available. It is available in an array of colors and styles, adding more than just a convenient cooking technique to your kitchen.
Because a ceramic surface is oil and water resistant, ceramic is more non-stick than Teflon. As a result, you can cook food without using excessive amount of oils. In fact, you can prepare eggs on a ceramic pan without oil at all, and it won’t stick to the surface. Better yet, ceramic conducts heat impressively, meaning neither hot nor cold spots in the cooked food.
Most of the time, ceramic nonstick pans are not ceramic in their entirety. What this means is that the ceramic is just a coating, like PTFE. The base metal can be stainless steel. What this means is that both Teflon and ceramic cookware should not be used at high temperatures due to the risk of the coating stripping or flaking.
Another variation is a hard aluminum body with a thick inner coating of white ceramic. The aluminum provides the sturdiness and stability that ceramic does not provide on its own.
Similarly, there exists pure ceramic pans which are of higher quality, excellent conductors of heat, and usable at high temperatures. However, these are expensive and harder to find in comparison to the ceramic-like coated cookware.
When you decide to use oil on a ceramic nonstick, clean off the oil after you are done. Otherwise, the oil continues to build up, gradually reducing the effectiveness of the nonstick properties of the cookware.
Unfortunately, once the oil layer builds up, relentlessly scrubbing it off inevitably takes off the nonstick surface. This tendency is what causes both ceramic and Teflon cooking ware to degrade prematurely.
If you go for ceramic, you should use hand-washing rather than a dishwasher. Because of the brittle nonstick surface, dishwashers are a no for a ceramic cookware.
- No harmful chemical in its composition
- Available in an array of styles and colors
- Friendly to the environment
- No need for oil or butter when cooking
- Hydrophobic silicon dioxide makes them very easy to clean
- Safely used to store food
- Not dishwasher-safe at all
- Not to be used with metallic utensils
So, Which One You Should Choose
In all fairness, both ceramic and nonstick cookware share drawbacks. You should not use metallic utensils on them, have shorter lifespans compared to traditional pans, are not safe for ovens, and not dishwasher safe. Moreover, both cannot be used for deglazing.
But which one should you choose? In terms of affordability, Teflon coated cookware are generally cheaper than ceramic cookware. The durability is almost similar, although some chefs agree that ceramic coating is more durable than Teflon.
It is safety concerns that ceramics triumph. However with the elimination of PTFOA, nonstick have become just as safe. Ceramics heat up slowly, but retains heat better than Teflon. Both are easy to clean, thanks to their non-porous surfaces.
Having said that, whichever cookware you choose, your cooking and pan cleaning methods determines the longevity of the cookware, rather the coating itself. Whereas ceramic cookware are great, they are not replacing Teflon any time soon. Teflon has remained a trustworthy cookware for some time now, and is preferred by many experienced and upcoming cooks.