The safest approach for an amateur cook is to use a non-stick pan. Professional chefs, on the other hand, typically avoid them with gusto. Why? They are not safe for high temperatures, they need special care, they are expensive long-term, and they are not good for browning or searing.
Why chefs don’t use non stick pans
Non-stick pans are not safe for cooking at higher temperatures – It is common sense that non-stick pans are not suitable for cooking at higher temperatures. This is because Teflon and other non-stick coatings will begin to decompose at temperatures over 400 degrees Fahrenheit, releasing toxic particles into the food being cooked. Most chefs would never cook with a non-stick frying pan at such high temperatures, so why would they use one to start with?
Non stick fry pans need special care – Many amateur cooks don’t realize the extra care needed to keep their non stick frying pans in good condition. It is recommended that you only use wooden or plastic utensils when cooking with a non stick pan. Metal utensils will scratch the coating, and cause it to wear out faster (and release toxic particles into your food). You should also never pour water on a hot non stick pan; steam could build up underneath the coating and damage it. If you need to clean your non stick pan, you should not use abrasive cleaners, steel wool pads or other hard objects. The coating can be damaged by excessive heat and hot water, so you should avoid long periods of soaking.
Non stick pans are expensive; they might not last as long as some other fry pans – While non stick frying pans can initially be a very good investment due to their low cost, they may not always be the best value over the long term. Some chefs report that their non-stick frying pans can wear out within a couple of years of regular use, while more traditional frying pans are known to last for many decades with proper care. If you are not willing to put in the extra work needed to maintain your non stick frying pan, you could end up spending more money than you save.
Non stick pans make poor browning tools – Even if you use an oil with a high smoking point (such as corn oil or safflower oil), non stick frying pans still have trouble browning food properly. Traditional cast iron and carbon steel frying pans can be properly preheated and used to cook with oils that have a much lower smoking point (such as olive oil). The temperature range is then wider, giving you more flexibility when cooking fried eggs or seared steaks.
Non stick pans need special care when cleaning – Many amateur cooks are accustomed to throwing their non stick frying pans in the sink with the other dishes after cooking. Although you can do this, you shouldn’t let your non stick frying pan soak for more than a couple of minutes (and never leave it in the sink overnight). You should also never use abrasive cleansers or steel wool when washing your non stick pan. If you do use soap, make sure to rinse everything off well to avoid damaging the coating with residue.
Non-stick pans are not as good at searing meat as proper frying pans – As we discussed above, non-stick frying pans have trouble producing good browning on high heat. Consequently, a proper cast iron or carbon steel frying pan is going to make much better seared steaks and other meat dishes.
What type of pans do professional chefs use?
If you asked hobbyist cooks what type of pans they prefer, you’d probably find that most people favor non-stick pans. If you ask professional chefs the same question, however, you’ll likely hear that they prefer to use stainless steel or cast iron pans. The reasons they give for this are pretty simple.
Why do professional chefs use stainless steel or cast iron frying pans?
Stainless steel is a better conductor of heat compared to cast iron, which allows cooks to sear meat quickly without overcooking or burning it. Stainless steel also offers more advanced cooking functionality to professionals. Cooks can maintain a higher temperature with stainless steel pans, and avoid the buildup of food residue. Stainless steel pans also completely insulate food from direct heat, preventing any steaming or boiling.