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Dec 26, 2012 12:30 AM
Discussion

Safe non-stick pans that can handle high heat

Hey everyone,
I've been cooking with non-stick Teflon based pans but I've been concerned lately with the safety of this given that I often cook with high heat.

I was looking for pans that could fit the following:
Non-stick surface
Can handle high heat
PFOA PTFE free (as long as non-carcinogenic)
Not cast iron (don't want to deal with the seasoning business)

Optional: It would be nice to be able to wash in dishwasher (but not absolutely needed).

Generally I just cook pan-fried dumplings, eggs, stif fry, and occasionally stews (that require browning of the meat).

I've done some reading around this online but not entirely sure which sites to trust. Some have recommended Calaphon and others Le Cruset but I really have no clue. Price isn't an issue. Any advice would be appreciated.

Thanks!

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  1. DuPont recommends that PTFE not be heated above 260C/500F. For a few points of reference:

    - Maillard reactions commence at around 155C/310F
    - Indicative smoke points of common oils are EVOO at ~210C/410F, sunflower at ~225C/440F and semi-refined sesame oil at ~230C/450F
    - I'm not aware of any reason why a stew or braise should be cooked at above 100C/212F once the meat has been browned (but there are quite a few as to why it should be cooked at a lower temperature)

    I suppose there might be some concern about the pan exceeding 260C before ingredients are added, but otherwise it seems to me that you would neither need nor want the pan to reach 260C, so you might as well use Teflon-coated pans.

    2 Replies
    1. re: mugen

      < I'm not aware of any reason why a stew or braise should be cooked at above 100C/212F once the meat has been browned >

      You are absolutely correct. On the other hand, the original poster did say stir fry. Assuming, we are talking about high temperature stir fry, the practical temperature can easily excess the limit of Teflon cookware,especially when the cookware is empty. You will never see a Teflon wok in a Chinese restaurant for example.

      1. re: mugen

        I like to use a steel wok as I often use high heat for my cooking. Many stir-frying dishes have better flavor with high heat, especially stir-fried vegetables. I have had this steel wok for over 10 years, please see the link..
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z-fYeO...

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tpXhaK...

      2. Hi,
        I manage to cook all of your requested dishes without ever owning a coated non-stick pan. I use all clad and some le creuset. The all clad skillet is my egg pan. I just need a small amount of oil and heat not to high ( I have high output gas burners). I rarely have a problem with the all clad. There are cheaper versions of tri clad cookware out there that would probably work just as well. For stews, I use my le creuset ovens or braisers. I purchased all of them from the outlet when they had really good sales or from Williams Sonoma when they were discontinuing a color and they were a great deal. You can call a le creuset outlet and ask about sales. They will often ship for free. If you opt for second quality, ask salesperson to pick an item carefully with a tight fitting lid. If you want all clad look at cookware and more. They frequently have sales on their second quality items ( minor cosmetic issues). They still have a full warranty from all clad. All clad stainless is also dishwasher safe. I wash mine in there all of the time. There is a lot of good cookware out there besides non stick and the brands I mentioned.

        1. I bought a zwilling non stick ceramic fry pan about 6 mo ago.
          Worst non stick pan I have ever used and it was not inexpensive. I have a few scan pans that are several years old and still pretty good but not perfect.

          1. <Non-stick surface
            Can handle high heat
            PFOA PTFE free (as long as non-carcinogenic)
            Not cast iron (don't want to deal with the seasoning business)>

            Not sure your definition of "high heat", but if your definition is any where near mine, then there is no cookware fit your request. I know it is not what you want to hear, but there really isn't a cookware out there which can handle high temperature stir fry except carbon steel and cast iron. Technically speaking, carbon steel cookware (not being cast rion) fit your requst, but carbon steel requires seasoning -- all the same. There is a very good reason that you only find carbon steel and cast iron woks (not Teflon, not enameled cast iron, not anything else) in professional Chinese restaurants.

            <Some have recommended Calaphon and others Le Cruset >

            Calphalon has many lines of cookware. If we are talking about Calphalon nonstick, then we are talking about something you don't want to use. If we are talking about Calphalon stainless steel surface cookware, then they are not that different than other stainless steel cookware. All stainless steel cookware are not nonstick. What Calphalon cookware were you refering? Le Cresuset also has many lines of cookware, but the most famous one is the enameled cast iron. Enameled cast iron is not nonstick, and it really isn't designed for high temperature stir fry anyway. The worst cookware design I have seen is the enameled cast iron wok from Le Cresuset.

            http://www.amazon.com/Le-Creuset-Enam...

            P.S.: You really shouldn't use Teflon cookware for high temperautre cooking.

            30 Replies
            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

              Indeed...even if the coating is non-toxic when heated, the high heat will physically destroy the coating and the bond between the coating and the base metal.

              and I'm with ChemK, too, on thinking that nothing other than stir-fries should be on high heat, anyway.

                1. re: amulekii

                  meat is at medium-high -- just enough to sear the surface.

                  1. re: sunshine842

                    Thanks. Not a day in this community, and I'm already learning.

                    1. re: sunshine842

                      So are you saying that non-stick (assuming you don't think it's bad for you if cooked at moderate temperatures) is the best for everything? What's the point of cast iron then? I thought the whole point was that it's good for high heat when teflon won't do.

                      1. re: amulekii

                        No, I'm not one who believes that teflon is bad for you.

                        I have a mix of saute pans -- some are uncoated stainless, some are coated stainless, some are coated anodized.

                        Non-stick is really good for things that are a PITA if they stick...scrambled eggs...things with a high sugar content..pancakes...stuff that leaves you longing for a little-bitty jackhammer to get rid of all the cooked-on stuff.

                        But plain works well for other things -- there are times I *want* there to be a buildup of stuff at the bottom -- the French call it the "fond" -- that collection of browned bits that will lift off and add fabulous flavor when a little liquid is added, whether to deglaze the pan or head into a full-on braise.

                        Cast iron is a little bit of a different beast. The best ones -- the ones that have been used for decades -- have a glossy black finish that is as nonstick as anything Teflon can come up with. Cast iron is also superior at heat distribution and durability -- while you wouldn't want to cut directly in the pan, metal won't hurt it.

                        The bottom line is that other than a stir-fry, there's really not much that needs to be blasted at high heat. Sure it will take a little longer, but it will reward you with more evenly-cooked food, with a beautiful nut-brown crust, not a blackened mantle of coal.

                        1. re: sunshine842

                          I guess I was just considering the fond to be a product of high heat, but perhaps that's not quite correct.

                          I really need move away from the blackened mantle of coal. Good description.

                          1. re: amulekii

                            sometimes you really, really want the fond -- especially for sauces and braises. The fond comes from the proteins and sugars in the food -- as they caramelize or undergo a Maillard reaction depending on their composition, they brown, develop deeper, more pronounced flavours, and yes, they stick. It's okay, though, because with liquid (broth, juices, alcohol) they'll dissolve and become a part of the dish.

                            I remember watching an old episode of Emeril, and he showed a saute pan with a heavy layer of brown on the bottom of the skillet. "See that?", he said. "That's the love."

                            And it is...that browned stuff on the bottom is what makes sauces and braises have that fabulous long-cooked, homemade flavor that means someone took the time and energy to produce that dish.

                      2. re: sunshine842

                        Hi, sunshine:

                        I know this is an old thread, but I thought I'd share a lesson I learned this week when making pancakes in a Swiss Diamond nonstick pan.

                        I'd made a few, getting the temperature/flame dialed in, and I thought "Heck, I'm gonna see what the actual temperature is." To my shock, my IR thermometer hit 515F.

                        The lesson for me was that, until you actually measure the temperature, it's easy to assume you're cooking well within the "safe" range for PTFE, when in fact you're not.

                        This comports with one of my earlier experiments on a coil stove, in which I wanted to see how long a pan, left unattended on HI, took to go >600F. It was only about 2 minutes. Two minutes after that, the temp exceeded my gun's range of 947F. At that point a cook would be breathing the PTFE combustion products which everyone agrees are extremely toxic.

                        Complacency about non-stick cookware staying under the advised limit is no longer one of my problems.

                        Aloha,
                        Kaleo

                        1. re: kaleokahu

                          Awesome. I'm shocked that people are still coming out with these home-done experiments. I can understand DuPont being sloppy, but where is America's Test Kitchen?

                          1. re: kaleokahu

                            Okay.

                            I'm a) not really losing sleep over nonstick coating, and I b) don't cook over high heat.

                            But thanks for the info.

                            1. re: sunshine842

                              Hi, sunshine:

                              I don't cook my pancakes over high heat. I was making them the same way I've always done them--over a medium flame--when I discovered the surface of the pan was >500F.

                              That's the point--people assume the actual pan temperature is well below the recommended max, and don't *know* unless they measure.

                              Aloha,
                              Kaleo

                              1. re: kaleokahu

                                I have electric, not gas.

                                I truly have never even thought about the actual digital temperature of my pans...if it's too hot, stuff is burning and/or sticking and/or boiling over...if it's too cold, stuff isn't doing any of that, including getting hot.

                                Simples.

                                1. re: sunshine842

                                  It's only simple if you don't care whether you're exceeding the safe use warnings or degrading the pan.

                                  1. re: kaleokahu

                                    My "youngest" pan is approaching 5-6 years old (don't remember, exactly) My oldest was my grandmother's -- have no idea how old it is.

                                    Apparently I'm not degrading the pan.

                                    Bottom line is, I admire your curiousity and determination to find out exactly how hot your pan is getting.

                                    I just don't share your enthusiasm.

                    2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                      With the newer line of ceramic "non -stick" pans out there the original post peaked my curiosity but it would appear same problems exist with high heat cooking. My grandmother's 1940's black cast iron stuff is still my favorite followed by the de Buyer carbon. Unlike expensive shiny clad stainless, they were nothing to look at when new so I don't care what they look like now. Little hot water, dry and rub with a little oil from time to time.

                      1. re: Tom34

                        <With the newer line of ceramic "non -stick" pans out there the original post peaked my curiosity >

                        Yes, the newer ceramic nonstick pans (dubbed Greenpans) out there were very interesting to me, but as you know, they never realy take off compared to Teflon nonstick cookware.

                        I think, in large part, is that they usually don't last very long. In 2010, Earthpan was the top ranking Greenpan by Consumer Reports, but even its company agreed that Earthpan does not last as long as a typical Teflon pan.

                        "Stephanie Beck, Senior Sales Director of Meyer Corporation, the largest manufacturer of cookware in the US, says their EarthPan is a direct response to consumer concerns. Meyer’s proprietary sand-based, non-stick PFOA- and PTFE-free coating is called SandFlow. It earned the EarthPan a top ranking from “Consumer Reports” in food-release, hardness (the resistance to wear and tear) and durability.....
                        The EarthPan is a fantastic product, ranked number one, she says, but like many green pieces of cookware it doesn’t hold up to the durability of Meyer’s popular Circulon line of non-stick pans. “The best green product is not going to be up to the performance of our higher-end non-stick cookware.” Consumers must have realistic expectations, advises Beck.

                        http://www.foxnews.com/leisure/2010/0...

                        <My grandmother's 1940's black cast iron stuff is still my favorite followed by the de Buyer carbon. >

                        Agree wholeheartedly.

                      2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                        I joined just so I could recommend your post.

                        Why isn't enameled cookware nonstick? Why isn't it good at high temperature? I figured the whole point of cast iron is that it's good for high temperature, so why shouldn't I use enameled cast iron for high temp cooking?

                        1. re: amulekii

                          HI Amulekii,

                          Enameled cookware is kind of nonstick, but not very. Two things about enameled surface. First, enameled surface is less nonstick than Teflon nonstick and less nonstick than seasoned cast iron surface. However, it is more nonstick than stainless steel surface. Second, enameled surface gradually becomes less nonstick over usage. A brand new enameled cookware is more nonstick than a 1 year old enameled cookware.

                          <Why isn't it good at high temperature?>

                          Actually, I should take on step back. Enameled cookware can handle high temperature. What it cannot handle is sudden change of temperature from very high to very low, or from very low to very high. The enameled surface can crack.

                          A good example is that an enameled cast iron Dutch Oven can be used for deep fry.

                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                            Should I worry about taking things from low heat to high heat? Are you speaking just theoretically, or is that a real thing to watch out for?

                            1. re: amulekii

                              you can take from low to high (or vice versa) but you have to do it gradually. Anything sudden (say, pouring ice-cold broth into a hot pan in which you've been sweating onions) is going to cause thermal shock = cracks.

                              1. re: sunshine842

                                For enameled ware, are there any situations where I might have to worry about taking it from low heat to high heat too quickly?

                                1. re: amulekii

                                  Putting cold ingredients into a cold pan and sticking on a hot burner.

                                  Thermal shock = cracking.

                            2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                              <A brand new enameled cookware is more nonstick than a 1 year old enameled cookware.>

                              I can't speak from personal experience, but when CI tested cast iron skillets, they noted that the LC enameled pan got more nonstick as testing went on. Of course, that's not a year of testing.

                              I've also seen Staub and LC owners who claim their skillets get more nonstick over time. Maybe it's the black coatings that are being used? I can't say, but wanted to add what I've read to the discussion.

                              1. re: DuffyH

                                Hi, Duffy: "Maybe it's the black coatings that are being used?"

                                Yes. IMO these black coatings on LC and Staub do take on some "seasoning", and so can improve with use.

                                That is *not* to say that the white/light coatings won't take any seasoning at all. But IME it's far less. Then there's the fact that few consumers can be expected to tolerate polymerized gunk/seasoning making their glossy pretty pans "dirty"--they can't help stripping it right back down to the enamel after every use. Black enamel not so much because the gunk blends right in.

                                Aloha,
                                Kaleo

                                1. re: DuffyH

                                  Got it. In my experience, my enameled became less nonstick overtime. This could be because I actually cleaned it, which most likely made it less nonstick.

                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                    Hi CK,

                                    I've been on the fence about ECI skillets for a long time. I'd like a semi-stick pan, but I worry that it won't clean as easily as stainless. And I am all about easy to clean.

                                    Starchy food sometimes sticks like glue and can be a PITA during cooking, but deglazing or soaking floats it right off.

                                    Is ECI as easy to clean?

                                    1. re: DuffyH

                                      It really depends on the expectation of "clean". ECI is actually not difficult to clean. However, most ECI has a white interior, and it does easily get stained, and it is very difficult to remove the stain.

                                      http://www.goodfoodstories.com/wp-con...

                                      People use bleach and everything, which of course makes it worse in the long run, including losing its original grossy shine.

                                      I find it slightly easier to remove food residue from an enameled cast iron cookware than from a stainless steel cookware. A short soak in warm water should remove most food resides (not including food stain though). On the other hand, we can be much rougher on a stainless steel cookware. We can use metal scrapper. We can use abrasive powder. It is much easier to restore a stainless steel cookware to its original shine than to restore an enameled cast iron cookware to its original white.

                                      I hope this makes sense.

                          2. I'd recommend that you check out Silit Silargan cookware. Relatively non-stick (similar to Le Creuset), no PTFE (ceramic coating), can handle high heat, no seasoning required, dishwasher safe, heavy and solid, made in Germany. I have a few pieces and really like them. Here's a link:

                            http://www.silitcookwareusa.com/silit...