Minimal oil and limited cleaning job after preparing sticky foods is the norm when using nonstick pots. They are life savers for many. Stir-fried veggies, pancakes, and omelets slide right off the surface of a nonstick. However, after a while (months to years), the pans lose their touch.
While the longevity of the Teflon coating has come a long way in the last couple of years, the pans begin to perform less effortlessly than when new. As such, the pans need to be seasoned, to restore their non-sticking properties.
Traditionally, seasoning has been associated with cast iron pans. However, because of the same reasons, manufacturers propose that you season you nonstick pans twice in a year. With time, oil and food particles inhibit functionality, hence the need to revive the non-stick coating.
What Does Season Nonstick Pan Mean?
When not cleaned well and taken care of properly, a nonstick pan deteriorates in quality, thanks to the buildup of stains. With time, some of the delicate foods begin to stick to the coating, making the pan less effective. Sometimes, dents on the bottom of the pans causes scratches that limits the functionality of your pan.
Seasoning a nonstick pan refers to the application of a layer of oil onto the surface of either a cooking or frying pan. You can use an oil of your choice such as vegetable oil or any other with a similar viscosity.
Seasoning utilizes a Chemistry principle called polymerization. When a layer of oil is applied to a surface, then heated until the oil emits smoke, the oil particles turn into plastic form, which bonds to the metallic surface of the pan.
Hence, the new plastic layer covers the dents, scratches, and stain present on the Teflon coating. Further degrading of nonstick properties stops, so as the possibility of rusting from the exposed metallic spots.
There are several reasons why you ought to regularly season a nonstick cookware. The most obvious reason is when there is obvious sticking of food on the pan unlike before when food slid right off the surface. With time, stains build up on the pan, interfering with the coating.
It is not only an old nonstick pan that should be seasoned. Even a brand new Teflon pan has first use instructions, among them a suggestion to first clean the pan, then season it. If you have been ignoring the instructions, then you should start reading them.
You are required to first rinse the pan in warm water, then dry them up with a paper towel. Once you are done, use a paper towel to apply either coconut or vegetable oil. Olive oil is not recommended since it smokes at low heat, creating dark spots that do not come off easily.
Rubbing the oil around the coated surface adds another coated layer. This layer acts as a barrier between the Teflon coating, food, and hard utensils. The result is a prolonged lifespan of your skillets, unlike when left unseasoned for the first time.
Fast forward to several years after first using your new Teflon pan, time takes a toll on the frying pan you have grown so fond of. Scratch marks form utensils become apparent, the bottom is dotted by black marks, dents are visible, and food sticks to the pan.
At this stage, it is now time for another round of seasoning. The frequency of seasoning to restore the pan to its original glory should be done at least twice in a year. The oil serves the purpose of creating a film that fills up the voids and dents, ensuring an even nonstick surface.
How to Season a Nonstick Pan?
Before you season a nonstick pan, it needs to be deep-cleaned. This first step ensures you get rid of the stains and food particles that are partially responsible for the lack on nonstick properties of late.
The best method of cleaning the pan is using a mixture of vinegar, baking soda, and water. Add a cup of water, half a cup of vinegar, and two tablespoons of baking soda to the pan. Then, light up your stovetop and place the pan on medium heat for about 10 minutes as the mixture boils. Take it off afterwards. Wash off the mixture using a gentle dish soap and sponge.
It is important to completely dry the pan before seasoning it. A paper towel or soft cloth is great for this task. Any impurities would prevent the oil from sticking to the pan surface. Begin reviving the pan by warming it on the stove top (emphasis is on low heat).
As the pan warms on the stove top, preheat your oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. The reason is to prevent temperature shock when a cold pan goes into an oven at 3000F. Basically, the idea is to bake the pan in the oven once it is coated with a layer of oil.
Once the pan is warm enough, apply a thin coating of vegetable oil on the cooking surface. Canola oil works well too. If you cannot find any of these, then a cooking oil rich in unsaturated fatty acid does the trick. Examples include sunflower, corn, flaxseed, and soy oil.
The exposure to oxygen inside the oven would then stimulate the fatty acids to polymerize. Some chefs recommend you apply about half an inch thick layer of oil, then transferring the pan to the oven for up to 2 hours.
The heat from the oven forces the oil to sync into the Teflon coating and bottom of the pan, creating an extra layer. One thing to consider is the oven-safety feature of your nonstick pan. Check the temperature which it can withstand, and for how long.
After the two hours, turn the oven off, and leave the pan inside until morning. If you are uncomfortable with the oven method, or your pan is not oven-safe, then a simple preheating of the pan on a stove top does the seasoning job.
Pay attention to medium heat and as soon as the oil starts to smoke, remove your pan. Allow the pan to cool down, and wipe off excess oil from the cooking surface. We would suggest your repeat the procedure on the stovetop several times in a day, in order to have a longer lasting seasoning.
Can You Deep Fry in a Nonstick?
The straight answer is no. The temperature and time duration required for deep frying ruins the Teflon pan. High heat degrades the Teflon coating when it reaches above 5000F. So, as long at the temperature stays below the 500 mark, then you are good, anything above that is catastrophic to you and the pan.
For the most part, nonstick pans are easy to clean. But, they still get scratches and stains during their service life. With time, grease, dents from stacking/temperature fluctuations, and tiny food particles build up on the bottom, hindering the performance of the nonstick bottom.
As a result, they become sticky, adversely affecting the efficiency of the surface. Luckily, a simple seasoning with vegetable oil over a medium heat stove top revitalizes its lost glory.
The trick is to first clean the pan thoroughly to get rid of any lodged stains. Then you can either use the baking method on the oven or heating on stovetops, allowing to cool, then wiping off excess oil.