A good friend of mine recently approached me in regards to buying some new cookware. After making my typical pitch at trying to get someone to buy the $1900 All-Clad set, I sat down to figure out what a good recommendation would be. The question quickly turned to non-stick vs non-non-stick for lack of a better term. I am going to ignore, at least in this article, the material the cookware is made of and try to focus just on the finish. There are definitely pluses and minuses to both styles of cookware, but is there a clear cut winner? Hit the jump to see how things stack up between the two.
There are certainly a myriad of choices out there, fighting on the side of non-stick the choice is clear, and Teflon has ruled the roost for many years. Accidentally invented in 1938 it wasn’t until 1961 when “The Happy Pan” introduced Teflon to cookware in North America. Fighting on the side of non-non-stick or sticky pans are many players, such as hard anodized aluminum, stainless steel, ceramic coated cast iron, cast iron, carbon steel and even glass. All of these non-Teflon coated materials will, to a certain degree, allow food to stick to them without liberal amounts of oil or fat. They do however have a rich history dating back to roughly 7000bce when groups in Asia started carving cooking vessels out of stone.
I feel given my quest for scientific knowledge that I need to clear something up right off the bat. Despite what you may have heard, or what you currently believe, Teflon cookware does not pose a health risk to you, your family or your birds unless you are beating your wife with a Teflon pan. Yes we have all heard that overheated Teflon pans can be a problem but the truth is that when any pan, Teflon or not, hits over 500 degrees Fahrenheit you have reached the flash point of most cooking oils and fats. It is generally acceptable that most Teflon coated pans are good for up to about 662 F, so if you like filling your home with the acrid smoke of burning oil than yes Teflon may not be your cookware of choice. If however you are not criminally insane keep reading.
Ok, now that we have that out of the way, what are the benefits of Teflon. Well for one thing it’s one of the slickest substances known to man, lizard lovers may like to know that it is the only known surface to which a gecko cannot stick. What does that mean for your food other than delicious gecko’s can’t escape your pan, it means that super tricky cooking can be done easily in a Teflon pan. Things like eggs, crepes and fish can easily be produced without fear of broken yolks, ripped crepes or skinless fish. It’s also more difficult to burn food when cooking in Teflon pans. Health nuts love the fact that since you don’t need a lot of oil or fat to keep food from sticking you can keep your food healthy and flavorless. Add to this the fact that Teflon coated pans are much easier to clean and you have a pretty convincing argument for non-stick winning the battle, but no so fast. Sometimes we want our food to stick. WHAT?
Yep it’s true, ever heard of a pot sticker, ever wonder how it got that name, it certainly wasn’t from sliding off a Teflon pan. Pan sauces, beautiful pan sauces, made from using a liquid to pull up all the bits that have stuck to the pan (de-glaze) during cooking your protein simply can not be done in a non-stick pan. Like a perfect sear on your steak, that nice outer crust that forms when you have a nice high heat and a slight stick? Good luck with that in your non-stick pan, you simply can’t get perfectly browned meat in a non-stick pan. So what’s the catch with these sticky pans? Well for one thing with that stick comes extra effort at clean up time, not to mention that some foods that you don’t want to have stick, do. Remember that fish you cooked perfectly in you Teflon pan, well mess up the heat or the amount of fat or oil in your sticky pan and you can kiss that delicious skin good bye. But wait, they can’t both suck, which cookware do you use at Flavourgasmic? That’s easy, here in the Flavourgasmic test kitchens we use both.
Yep, it’s true, we own a single 12″ non-stick frying pan, perfect for when we want to fry some eggs, cook some crepes, or just want an easy clean up. The rest of our cookware, well it’s of the sticky variety, mainly becuase we like to have the abilty to control our level of stick, through both proper understanding of heat and the use of oil and fat. I personally believe that cooking with sticky pans makes you understand and learn more about how to cook. My oppion is to get yourself a good set of stainless steel or anodized aluminum pans, add a 10″ or 12″ teflon frying pan and have the ultimate cookware aresenal at your disposal. Truth be told I recommend you get the pans that you will use, if you don’t like your pans you won’t use them, if you don’t use them than the MAN wins.