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Why Don’t Chefs Use Non Stick Pans?

Most home cooks prefer to use non-stick cookware at home. Their ease of use, hassle-free cleaning and the convenience they offer make non-stick cookware one of the most sought-after options for grilling and frying foods in most home kitchens.

While non-stick pans are loved by a majority of cooks, you would be quite surprised to know that professional chefs avoid them, which leads us to the important question, “Why don’t chefs use non-stick pans?”

What Is Non-Stick Cookware?

Before we discuss why professional chefs don’t prefer using non-stick pans, let’s take a look at what non-stick cookware is in the first place.

Non-stick cookware essentially comprises pots, frying pans, saucepans, etc. that contain a coated surface to which food does not stick.

Non-stick cookware is coated with a layer of Teflon or PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene), which is a synthetic polymer that coats the tiny holes and crevices in the metal and makes the surface very smooth so that the food doesn't stick to the pan.

It doesn’t matter whether the grease is not enough or whether the food gets burned, it will simply slide off the non-stick surface. Perfect for modern cooking, non-stick cookware has many benefits.

It is very easy to use, speeds up the cleaning process and also reduces the amount of oil or fat needed for cooking.

So, Why Don’t Chefs Use Non-Stick Pans?

Although non-stick cookware is hugely popular amongst home cooks, often professional chefs don’t prefer to use non-stick cookware. And, here are some reasons why.

Non-Stick Cookware Is Not Durable

Typically, Teflon-coated non-stick cookware is quite fragile, with a lifespan of just around 3-5 years. And, as you use the non-stick cookware, the non-stick coating starts wearing away and over time, it becomes less effective.

They can get damaged easily and their short lifespan means that you need to replace them frequently.

non-stick frying pan

Compared to homes, in professional kitchens where the chefs are cooking all day, pots and pans undergo rough use and abuse, which shortens their lifespan significantly.

Further, the pans are exposed to very high temperatures, which non-stick cookware can’t withstand as compared to other materials like cast iron, stainless steel, anodized carbon steel, etc.

When exposed to temperatures above 500°F (260°C), often the Teflon coating deteriorates. Also, chefs use metal cooking utensils, which can damage the non-stick coating on the pans.

Also, taking care of non-stick cookware is not an easy task. You can’t put them to rough use, scrub them roughly while cleaning or run cold water when the pan is hot because all this can damage the non-stick coating.

Non-Stick Pans Heat Up Slowly

In professional kitchens, cooking happens at a very fast rate, where dishes need to be whipped up and served very quickly. And so, professional chefs prefer to use pots and pans with optimal thermal conductivity, which ensures that they heat up very quickly.

The Teflon coating on non-stick cookware inhibits efficient heat transfer. This means that you have to wait for a while before the non-stick pan gets heated before you can start cooking.

Also, the heat distribution in non-stick cookware is not uniform, which means that some parts of the pan become hotter than the rest. This means that the food does not get cooked evenly in these pans.

Non-Stick Pans Can’t Be Used In Ovens Or With Metal Utensils

It’s not a very good idea to use non-stick cookware in the oven. Putting the pan in an oven can damage the non-stick coating and must be avoided. It is best to use non-stick pans for cooking on the stovetop.

oven in a kitchen

Also, you cannot use metal spoons, spatulas and other utensils with non-stick cookware as the Teflon coating is quite delicate and can get scratched and damaged very easily. So, it is best to avoid using metal utensils with non-stick cookware.

Instead, using Teflon-lined or silicone utensils can help to keep your non-stick cookware scratch-free and prevent it from getting damaged.

Non-Stick Cookware Limits Your Cooking

Another common reason why professional chefs don’t prefer using non-stick cookware is that these pans are not good for certain cooking techniques such as searing or caramelization.

Typically, searing meat involves cooking the meat at very high temperatures until the exterior is caramelized, dark and crispy. This not only enhances the textural quality of some ingredients but also helps to add depth of flavor to your dish.

Since searing needs very high temperatures, this method of cooking is incompatible with non-stick frying pans.

Further, the texture of the pan is also key to the technique, where the ingredient you’re searing adheres to the crevices and pores in the pan and retains the heat and allows you to get the perfect sear.

Non-Stick Pans Reduce Fond

Fond is also sometimes used colloquially to refer to the solid bits of food found stuck to a pan after something was cooked; more technically, these bits are deglazed with a liquid in order to produce a fond

Fond is essentially the cooked food that is left in the pan after cooking the food, such as the residue after cooking meat or the sugar particles breaking down and left in the pan after caramelization.

The production of fond depends mainly on the texture of the pan and also requires high cooking temperatures.

Interesting Fact

Professional chefs love fond, which helps to add rich flavor and depth to sauces and gravies.

Non-stick pans with their smooth, Teflon coating do not hold onto the cooked food and the fond does not adhere to the surface and simply slides off.

This is the main reason why professional chefs prefer to use cookware made of cast iron or carbon steel because the textured surface with pores and crevices of the cookware are conducive to the production of fond.

Also, non-stick cookware can’t withstand the high temperatures needed for fond production. And so, professional chefs avoid using non-stick cookware that does not help in the production of fond, which is so vital to their dishes.

What Pans Do Chefs Prefer To Use?

Usually, professional chefs prefer to use heavy-duty cookware, preferably made of metal for their cooking.

This is because metal pans are not only durable and long lasting, able to withstand rough and constant use, but they help in the uniform dispersion of heat, allowing chefs to get perfect dishes.

The uniform distribution of heat also helps chefs to save energy and time. The most popular metal cookware that is popular with chefs includes cast iron, stainless steel and carbon steel.

Why Don’t Chefs Use Non Stick Pans

This is because cookware made of these materials is strong, does not need a lot of care and maintenance and they are very durable too. For instance, chefs prefer cast iron pans because of their texture, which makes them perfect for grilling and frying.

Aluminum is a good choice because not only does it conduct heat well but it is a cost-effective option. Cookware made of copper is also a popular option because copper enables efficient heat distribution.

Why Don't Chefs Use Non Stick Pans? Wrapping Up

In conclusion, non-stick cookware is a hugely popular option for cooking in home kitchens; however, professional chefs don’t really prefer using non-stick cookware in their commercial kitchens.

This is because chefs need cookware that can handle repeated usage, are resistant to damage due to impact and need minimum care and maintenance.

They prefer cookware that can handle high cooking temperatures, heat up quickly and also distribute heat evenly to facilitate quick and proper cooking of the food.

Non-stick cookware has several benefits, but it cannot withstand the demands of a professional kitchen. They are fragile, need careful handling, must be washed carefully and need proper maintenance.

Also, non-stick cookware does not have a very long lifespan and needs frequent replacement, which can be quite an expensive proposition. And because of all these reasons, non-stick pans are rarely found in professional kitchens.

Chef Matty
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