How Long Do Non-Stick Pans Last? + Common Mistakes to Avoid!

There’s just something about cooking with a non-stick pan. It gives you the perfect pancakes, scrambled eggs, and anything else you decide to cook in it.

And that’s why it is a kitchen staple that everyone needs to have.

However, before you invest in one, you need to know how long non-stick pans last.

Because, as with all things in life, there comes a time when you must throw the pan out as it not only becomes ineffective but dangerous as well.

So, keep reading to find out how long non-stick pans last and what you can do to make them last longer!

How Long Do Non-Stick Pans Last?

The lifespan of a pan depends on a lot of factors but on average, a non-stick pan lasts about three to five years. After that, it usually starts showing signs of damage or just doesn’t perform that well anymore.

One of the factors that affect its life is the non-stick coating on the pan. The two most common coating types these days is the Teflon coating and ceramic coating.

Both are quite effective at preventing your food from sticking to the pan. However, when it comes to durability, Teflon does slightly better than ceramic at making your pan last longer.

On the other hand, ceramic is a better option than Teflon when it comes to food safety.

Most importantly, the biggest factor that determines the life of your non-stick pan is yourself. How you use the pan and how well you care for it plays a significant role in its life and performance.

Some of the common mistakes people make that shorten the life of the non-stick pan include using cooking sprays and metal utensils. We’ll tell you some more mistakes and what you should be doing instead to preserve your non-stick pan in a bit.

Signs You Need to Throw Away Your Non-Stick Pan

Unfortunately, non-stick pans don’t exactly come with an expiration date, so that you’d know for sure that you need to discard it.

So, what should you do when you don’t want to part with your pan but don’t want to continue using a damaged one either?

Look for these signs, which indicate that your non-stick pan is beyond use, and you should probably do away with it.

Also read: When and How to Recycle Your Frying Pans?

The Coating Has Significant Scratches, is Chipped, or Peeling

One very obvious sign that your non-stick pan is damaged and beyond use is if you start to see significant scratches on its surface or the coating starts peeling or if it has become chipped.

There are several reasons behind a pan starting to peel and showing scratches such as overheating or use of abrasive materials.

These changes mean the actual non-stick coating of the pan has started deteriorating. You will even notice this as your food starts sticking to the pan and doesn’t come off that easily as before.

Other than the performance, using a pan despite these signs is also quite dangerous for your health. It can cause flakes or compounds of that non-stick coating to go into your food, and consequently, lead you to ingest them.

The Pan is Warped

A warped pan is not as apparent but still a clear sign that your non-stick pan won’t last long now.

Usually, when your pan heats at a very high temperature very quickly, it can expand unevenly at some places. This causes the pan to bend out of shape or warp.

A pan can also become warped if it has been dropped. One way to check if your pan is warped is to pour some oil or water in the middle and see if it starts spreading unevenly to one side.

While a warped pan is not that dangerous, it does affect the effectiveness of the pan.

It can prevent your food from cooking uniformly over the pan. Besides that, there are a few ways to unwarp a pan as well if you don’t want to throw it out yet.

The Pan Has Uneven Heating

Uneven heating or cooking of food in the non-stick pan is another sign that either it has accumulated a buildup on its surface or the coating has worn off from some places.

This is one of the most annoying problems as you either end up burning your food or serving it uncooked.

Sometimes, the pan develops these hot spots, which are always at a higher temperature than the rest of the pan.

Additionally, if the pan has developed buildup over its surface due to improper cleaning or maintenance, it will not only lead to uneven cooking but also slow cooking.

It will take you longer than normal to cook your foods, which can be quite inconvenient.

Common Mistakes to Avoid to Make Your Non-Stick Pan Last Longer

While we say that most non-stick pans last about three to five years on average, there are things you can do to ensure that your pan lasts longer than this.

And that involves avoiding some common mistakes that damage your non-stick pan. Here are the mistakes you want to avoid.

Using Cooking Sprays

This is one of the most common mistakes people make when cooking on a non-stick pan. They assume that the cooking spray will grease the pan and further ensure that nothing sticks to the pan.

While it does work in the short term, over time, as you keep applying that cooking spray and heating it, it builds up a nasty layer on the pan.

This not only affects its heating, but it is almost impossible to clean later without damaging the pan.

What You Should Do Instead: Use butter, fat, or oil.

Stacking All Your Non-stick Pans Together to Store Them

Not everyone has a big kitchen with ample storage space, and that’s why we’re forced to stack our pans all in one pile.

This does make them easy to store but also easier to damage.

Most pans are metal, and when you directly stack them like that, the contact between the metal surfaces causes scratches on the pan.

These scratches then affect the heating of the pan. Therefore, all you need to do is prevent that direct metal contact between your pans.

What You Should Do Instead: Place a towel or some protective surface between the pans to prevent any scratching.

Heating/Cooling the Pans to Extreme Temperatures in Short Time

This goes for most pans, but especially for non-stick pans, avoid heating them to extreme temperatures or cooling them down instantly in a short time.

You should avoid excessive heat on a non-stick pan altogether. But if you do heat it that much, let it come to room temperature before dumping it in cold water to wash.

Similarly, don’t take a cold pan and put it over high heat. These extreme temperature changes are very damaging to the pan. It can lead to warping or even cause the pan’s non-stick surface to erode faster.

What You Should Do Instead: Heat or cool the pan slowly.

Washing Your Pan in the Dishwasher

Even if the pan is advertised as dishwasher-safe, avoid putting the pans in the dishwasher if you want to prolong its life.

The high pressure, heat, and harsh detergents used in the dishwasher cause the non-stick coating of the pan to strip away faster. This affects its performance and shortens its life.

More importantly, a dishwasher is quite unnecessary. By design, a non-stick pan is quite easy to clean and doesn’t require much time or effort.

Even if you end up burning something on it, you can let the pan soak in warm, soapy water for a while and clean by hand as usual.

What You Should Do Instead: Use a soft, non-abrasive sponge and soapy water to handwash the pan yourself.

Using Metal or Other Abrasive Materials

As mentioned earlier, metal to metal contact leads to scratches. This is the same for when you use metal spatulas and spoons on the pan.

The constant contact and rapid stirring motion can cause scrapes and chips on the surface of the pan.

More importantly, it leads to the compounds and flakes of the pan going into your food, which is quite dangerous.

What You Should Do Instead: Use rubber, silicone, or wooden utensils.

Cooking Acidic Food on Them

This is not necessarily a mistake for all non-stick pans, but some cheaper ones can get damaged through acidic foods as well.

When you cook foods such as lemons or tomatoes, their acidic juices can leak out and damage the pan’s surface over time.

What You Should Do Instead: Avoid acidic foods such as lemon, tomato, etc.

Conclusion

No one enjoys having to scrape food off a sticky pan. Not only is it a hassle, but it can also completely ruin the presentation of your food. That’s why we need non-stick pans in our life.

However, if you keep using after it has fulfilled its life, it becomes more of a headache than a convenience. Hopefully, now you know when you need to discard it and what steps you can take to prolong its life.

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