5 foods you should never cook in a non-stick pan

Don’t cook these foods with your non-stick pan… or you could destroy it!

Foods to never cook in a non-stick pan
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When it comes to frying, flipping or simply cooking something on the hob, the best non-stick frying pans are loved by experienced chefs and passionate home cooks alike. But because of how easy they are to cook with and clean, many people reach for them to cook just about anything… and that’s the biggest mistake you can make when using a non-stick pan.

Non-stick cookware does what it says on the tin – it cooks food and prevents it from sticking to its surface. As non-stick frying or sauce pans are coated with a Teflon material, it makes the pan easier to use and clean, and gives it its non-sticky quality.

But, to make sure your pan stays non-sticky, it’s important that you’re taking care of it properly, Whether you’re overusing your non-stick pan, not using the right tools to clean it or you’re cooking the wrong type of food with it, this can ruin its surface which will lead to burnt or Teflon-flaked food… yuck.

I’ve already covered foods you shouldn’t cook in an air fryer, a barbecue, an Instant Pot and a slow cooker and now it’s time to look at the non-stick pan. Without further ado, here are 5 foods you shouldn’t cook with a non-stick pan, to ensure it remains in the best condition and your food comes out edible.

Before we get into the list, it's worth noting that if the coating of your non-stick pan has worn away, warped, discoloured or scratched, you should stop using it and throw it away. Cooking with a pan like this isn't safe and you could ingest toxic compounds from the surface if it flakes off into your food.

1. Searing meats

Charred steak in grill pan

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If you’re searing or charring meat, like steak, chicken, burgers or tuna, you shouldn’t use a non-stick pan. Getting a good sear on a piece of meat requires high temperatures, and non-stick pans aren’t made for this type of heat. Any hotter than 260°C or 500°F will cause the surface of your non-stick pan to discolour and lose its non-stick properties. Ruining the pan aside, a non-stick pan won’t deliver the best searing results, so you won’t get the browning, crispiness or crust that you’re looking for.

2. Sauces

Foods to never cook in a non-stick pan: sauces

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If you want to make a pan sauce, you should avoid using a non-stick pan. Pan sauces tend to rely on caramelisation that remains in the pan and as a non-stick pan doesn’t allow these sticky brown bits to adhere, your sauce won’t be as rich or thick as you want it to be. Many recipes say you can make sauces in a non-stick pan but for thick sauces like gravy, you just won’t get the best results.

3. Tomatoes

Foods to avoid before bed

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Tomates and anything acidic like lemons, wine or vinegar should never go in your non-stick pan. Due to their acidity, these ingredients will wear down the coating of your pan’s surface, making it age quicker and lose its effectiveness. While many non-stick pan manufacturers say to replace your pan every five years, they also tell you to stop using them when the surface appears scratched, discoloured or warped… and tomatoes can speed up this process.

4. Stir fry

Foods to never cook in a non-stick pan: stir fry

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Similar to searing meat, non-stick pans can’t take the high heat that’s required to make stir fries. Stir fry needs to be cooked quickly and the appliance used to make it should be able to caramelise the meat or vegetables. A non-stick pan can’t do this effectively and as said previously, attempting to add too much heat to it can damage the surface of the pan and cause it to release toxic chemicals from the Teflon material.

5. Anything that needs deglazing

Deglazing is a cooking step that removes and dissolves browned food bits or ‘fonds’ from a pan to help flavour soups, gravies and sauces. As mentioned before with sauces, a non-stick pan doesn’t leave this residue at the bottom of the pan so there will be nothing for you to deglaze! Most liquids that are used to deglaze are also alcoholic like wine, which is too acidic to go in a non-stick pan. You’re better off using the best saucepan sets for any deglazing or sauce making.

Bethan Girdler-Maslen
Home Editor

Beth is Home Editor for T3, looking after style, living and wellness. From the comfiest mattresses to what strange things you can cook in an air fryer, Beth covers sleep, yoga, smart home, coffee machines, grooming tools, fragrances, gardening and much more. If it's something that goes in your house, chances are Beth knows about it and has the latest reviews and recommendations! She's also in the know about the latest deals and discount codes from top brands and retailers.

Having always been passionate about writing, she’s written for websites, newspapers and magazines on a variety of topics, from jewellery and culture, to food and telecoms. You can find her work across numerous sites, including Wedding Ideas Magazine, Health & Wellbeing, The Bristol Post, Fashion & Style Directory, TechRadar, CreativeBloq and more. In her spare time, Beth enjoys running, reading, baking and attempting craft projects that will probably end in disaster!