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3 Easy Alternatives to Non-stick Pans (Guide & Live Test)

3-Easy-Alternatives-to-Non-stick-Pans-Guide-&-Live-Test
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Why consider alternatives to non-stick pans?

For starters, Teflon coatings present a slew of bizarre health risks.

And the new “PFOA-free” non-stick isn’t much better (which I’ll cover).

Luckily, you’re in the right place.

I set out to find the best alternatives to Teflon pans and came back with three to share.

But I didn’t stop there. It’s one thing to explain each Teflon alternative… It’s another to show it.

So, to best serve you, I got my hands on all three non-stick alternatives for a test.

Below, you’ll discover the simple, step-by-step instructions to prevent sticking with each. Plus, see me cook an egg by following my own advice.

Also, you’ll see what to do if the pan still sticks, the need-to-know drawbacks and buying considerations before choosing each, the best practices for care…

And last, my top recommended products.

Let’s get started!

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3 Reasons to Replace Non-Stick Cookware with the Best Teflon Alternatives

3-Reasons-to-replace-non-stick-cookware-with-Best-Teflon-Alternatives

Did you know a pan filled with two tbsp of oil over high heat hits 514℉ in only 2.5 minutes? It’s true.

Now, I’ve (accidentally) overheated my old cookware loads of times. I’m only human.

But back then, little did I understand the risk.

Here’s why alternatives to non-stick pans are so vital…

Recent research (and controversy) shows those nasty Teflon chemicals have troubling consequences.

And guess what? New Teflon isn’t much better.

Let’s unpack this.

How bad is Teflon?

Some say it’s harmless.

Some say it’s lethal.

Both are a bit of a stretch (unless you’re a pet bird – in that case, Teflon will kill you). So here’s number 1…

In most conditions, non-stick coatings remain safe and stable… Until you overheat them.

So, what is “overheating?” At what temperature does Teflon become dangerous?

464℉, according to Dupont’s studies (the company that produces Teflon).

Once there, the coating breaks down and releases toxic fluorine compounds.

Remember what I said earlier? You can hit that temperature in two minutes on high heat.

What about “new Teflon?” What replaced Teflon’s original ingredient?

Due to PFOA’s relationship to cancer, organizations barred it from old-school Teflon after 2013.

As a result, you see PFOA-free non-stick pans advertised today.

What does PFOA-free mean? Is it any safer?

Instead of PFOA, manufacturers use the new Teflon substitutes GenX or PFBS as base ingredients.

Keep in mind, these are still PTFE (Teflon) pans, just with a small ingredient change.

Now, many consider these new alternatives a safer bet.

But, EPA research shows different…

GenX and PFBS are a little less toxic than PFOA, sure. But, they still show kidney, blood, thyroid, and immune system impacts to lab animals.

Facepalm.

Reason #2

PTFE pans don’t last forever.

At best, you’ll score 3-5 years from a non-stick pan before you need to drop extra cash on a replacement. And that’s with a high-quality pan and never using metal utensils.

Cheaper non-stick pans may last only a year or two.

Reason #3

It’s terrible for the environment.

Picture this. You chuck your old pan in the trash after a few years because the coating wore out.

Once PFOA (the toxic chemical in Teflon) enters the environment, it lingers there. Forever.

So, over time, tiny bits of fluoropolymer accumulate in drinking water, the food chain, and, yes, your body.

In fact, according to national health survey data, 98% of human blood contains PFAS.

So, no, modern-day Teflon won’t kill you. It’s safe with proper use.

But, considering that possibility of risk, plus the eco impacts, it makes sense to want the best Teflon alternatives.

I got you there.

3 Best Non-Stick Alternatives to Teflon Pans (and my test to see if they actually work)

Ceramic-coated, cast iron, and stainless steel rank as the top three non-stick pan alternatives.

Now, when considering what to use instead of non-stick pans, steel and cast iron seem wayyy off the Teflon alternative radar.

But, with a bit of patience and a few simple tricks, you can prevent sticking – easily.

Don’t believe me? I’m going to prove it right now by cooking eggs with each!

Side note: This was my first attempt to cook eggs in cast iron and stainless steel. So, you’ll see how easy it is, even as a novice.

First up, non-stick ceramic – the easiest to use.

Non-Stick Ceramic as a Teflon Alternative

Non-stick-Ceramic-as-a-Teflon-alternative
Pictured: Blue Diamond 10" ceramic-coated pan - Source: Amazon

Non-stick ceramic-coated pans mirror Teflon; only they’re much safer to use.

To be clear, I’m not talking about pure ceramic cookware. It’s overly expensive and scarce.

Instead, picture a smooth, ceramic surface instead of a PTFE-based non-stick. The coating sits atop a metal base.

Like Teflon, you don’t need butter, and the ceramic wipes clean easily, great for busy folks and dieters.

But the main benefit – no toxic fumes if you overheat your pan!

And no environmental contamination, either.

Another plus, you get a wide variety of shapes, sizes, colors, and construction (which I’ll discuss soon) to choose from.

The Test: How non-stick ceramic performs

Below, I’m using a 10” Blue Diamond ceramic pan without butter.

Let’s test it out.

Step 1: Preheat the pan (important!) for 2 minutes over medium-low to medium heat.

Step 2: Add your egg(s).

ceramic-alternative-to-non-stick-pans-cooking-egg
The residue is from prior eggs for breakfast - not stuck

I snapped the above image right after adding the egg. Notice how the whites stay put?

That’s because the pan is hot enough.

You can test the pan’s heat by splashing water onto its surface. It’ll sizzle when the pan is ready.

Step 3: Let the egg sit for a minute or two before you start moving it.

And then…

No sticking whatsoever! For scrambled eggs, follow the same measures.

Preheat, then let the eggs sit for a moment before scrambling.

Is the food still sticking? Here’s why:

  • You didn’t fully preheat the pan before adding food. If the pan is too cold, food sticks.
  • You’re going too hot and the food burnt to the pan.
  • You’re flipping/ moving the food too soon. With proteins especially, let the food cook enough before moving it.
  • You might need to add a dash of oil for extra sticky foods or on older pans (preheat the pan before adding oil).
  • There’s built-up oil residue on the pan, which happens from non-stick aerosol sprays (due to the extra chemicals). To rid the residue, clean your pan with a baking soda/ water mixture.

Drawbacks of ceramic as a non-stick alternative to Teflon

In general, non-stick ceramic coatings won’t last as long as Teflon.

Using metal utensils, the dishwasher, and high heat will further reduce the pan’s lifespan.

But, you can enjoy several years by following the Best Practices coming up.

Important considerations of choosing a non-stick ceramic pan:

  • Construction: Thick, higher-quality ceramic pans heat more evenly, which further prevents sticking. Also, you need ceramic pans with stainless steel or iron layers for induction stoves. GreenPan, for example, uses an iron/ copper bottom disk.
  • Coating: Not all ceramic coatings are created equal. For example, the Blue Diamond pan I’m using has a diamond-infused ceramic coating, which increases durability. Hunt for a diamond or titanium-infused coating.

5 best practices to boost non-stick lifespans:

  1. Use low/ medium heat only. Too much heat weakens the coating.
  2. Avoid those non-stick aerosol sprays. Instead, add a dash of natural, high smoke point oil such as canola or vegetable.
  3. Let the pan cool before cleaning to prevent shock damage.
  4. Don’t use the dishwasher. Work a soft sponge with hot, soapy water instead.
  5. Avoid metal utensils – choose wood or silicone utensils instead.

Takeaway for ceramic as an alternative to Teflon pans + recommended products

Altogether, you have the same benefits and limitations as Teflon pans. But without the health concerns.

So when you need a pan that’s easy to cook with and clean, ceramic makes the best alternative to Teflon cookware.

Consider GreenPans Valencia Pro 12” for a higher-end, longer-lasting pan.

Or, check out my same (and affordable) Blue Diamond 10” non-Teflon pan.

Cast Iron as an Alternative to Non-Stick Pans

Cast-Iron-as-an-alternative-to-non-stick-pans
Pictured: Lodge 12" cast iron skillet - Source: Amazon

Unlike traditional non-stick pans, cast iron develops a natural, non-stick seasoning layer that improves with time – not falls apart.

With a bit of patience and a dab of vegetable oil, you gain a slick Teflon alternative.

Also, cast iron has the ruggedness to last for generations yet costs little.

A $30 pan can outlast high-end stainless steel skillets.

Another unique benefit? Its insane heat retention. While cast iron takes a while to heat, once it gets hot, it stays hot.

So, when you drop a chilled slice of meat onto your pan, the heat stays consistent. This means unmatched browning and tastier food.

Enough chatter, here’s how to operate cast iron as a non-stick pan alternative.

How to prevent sticking with cast iron – First things first…

Before anything, you should season your pan.

This is your permanent base layer and helps prevent most foods from sticking.

Yet, for super sticky stuff, the following section is critical.

Step 1: Wash your pan with dish soap and hot water (the only time you’ll use soap), then dry it thoroughly.

Step 2: Place foil on your oven’s bottom rack. Crank the heat to 400℉.

Step 3: Drop 1 tbsp of vegetable oil onto your pan and work it in with a towel. Cover every nook and cranny.

seasoning-cast-iron-alternative-to-non-stick-pans

Step 4: Then, grab a fresh towel and wipe the pan again, stripping any excess oil. You want a super-thin layer leftover.

Step 5: Place the pan upside down on your preheated oven’s top rack (the foil catches any dripping). Bake for 1 hour.

seasoning-cast-iron-alternative-to-non-stick-pans-oven

Step 6: Once finished, let the pan cool before removing it.

Voila. Now you have smooth, non-stick cast iron.

The best part? The seasoning maintains itself from the fats in your food.

The Test: Cooking extra-delicate foods with cast iron

I’m using a new 12” Lodge cast iron skillet that I scored a few weeks ago and ran through the above seasoning process twice.

Step 1: Preheat the empty pan over medium-low for 7-8 minutes. I use the #4 setting out of 9.

Since cast iron disperses heat slowly, ensure the entire pan is hot.

To check, drip some water on both the center and towards the edge. The water should sizzle or dance around in both places.

If it evaporates immediately, lower the heat a little.

Step 2: Once you’re hot, add a good 1-2 tbsp of fats (butter, ghee, oil, etc.).

For butter, wait until it’s fully melted and spread it around the pan.

cast-iron-alternative-to-non-stick-cookware-melting-butter-collage

Step 3: As soon as the butter fully melts (above right), drop your eggs in.

Don’t touch them for a couple of minutes – wait until the whites stiffen and bubble.

See below:

Ignore the one egg with a broken yoke – that was purely my error!

Step 4: Once the egg whites firm up a bit (shown above), now you’re ready to flip.

See, no sticking whatsoever!

For scrambled eggs, follow the same concept. Let the edges firm up a little before you begin scrambling.

Is the food still sticking? Here’s why:

  • Too little butter or oil.
  • The pan is too cold when you add the fats.
  • The oil burned. If you add the fats too early, they can burn and gain a gummy texture that causes sticking. So, add the fats (to a hot pan), wait a few seconds, then add the food.
  • You went too hot. Low and slow cooking works better for delicate foods in cast iron.
  • The food is too cold. Let ingredients sit outside the fridge for a little before cooking.
  • The meat or fish is too wet. Always pat dry proteins before tossing them into the pan.

Drawbacks of cast iron as a Teflon alternative

Cast iron takes more effort and patience than traditional non-stick pans.

Plus, you need to add a fair bit of fats to prevent sticking, so, less calorie-friendly than ceramic.

Also, you can’t use dish soap or the dishwasher – it’ll strip the seasoning. And always hand-dry.

Considerations of choosing your cast iron pan:

  • The pan’s surface: Most modern cast iron pans, like Lodge (above), have a slight texture. Yet, others like Finex boast a polished surface that further prevents sticking.
  • Do you want easier care? Enameled cast iron pans don’t rust or need seasoning and take soap just fine. But they’re more expensive and less non-stick than seasoned iron.
  • Weight: Don’t go straight for a giant pan. Cast iron is heavy, so attain only the size you need. For a pan that shares cast iron’s non-stick benefits, but weighs less, check out carbon steel.

4 best practices to care for cast iron pans:

  1. Don’t cook acidic foods in cast iron. Enameled versions handle acidic food, though.
  2. To clean, scrub with a stiff brush and hot water. Then, wipe dry to prevent rust.
  3. For extra stuck-on food, boil water in the skillet on high heat. Then, work a metal spatula to scrape out the gunk. Coarse salt with a scrubber works too.
  4. After you wash and dry your pan, wipe a thin layer of vegetable oil into the iron to preserve the seasoning.

Takeaway for cast iron as an alternative to non-stick pans + recommended products

Sure, cast iron takes extra effort to prevent sticking, but it’s a quick and straightforward process.

The two keys: Proper preheating and plenty of fats – applied in the correct order.

Once you master this (fun) process, you gain a healthy alternative to non-stick cookware for life.

I recommended grabbing either an affordable Lodge skillet or Finex’s polished skillet for higher non-stick performance, although it’s pricey.

Stainless Steel as an Alternative to Teflon Pans

Stainless-Steel-as-an-alternative-to-Teflon-pans
Pictured: Cuisinart Multiclad Pro 10" skillet - Source: Amazon

Countless households and chefs worldwide swear by stainless steel for its versatility.

With a few simple tricks, you can easily use it as an alternative to non-stick pans, too.

Steel is a hybrid between the past two…

There’s no coating to wear out or chip – unlike standard non-stick pans. Yet, stainless weighs less than cast iron.

Plus, it doesn’t rust – you can chuck steel in the dishwasher to save time when you’re busy.

And, like ceramic pans, steel cookware comes in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and performance levels (more on that soon).

So, let’s dive deeper into this handy non-stick alternative.

The Test: How to prevent sticking with stainless steel

Below, I’m using an old 8” tri-ply Kenmore skillet with copper bonding. I believe these were discontinued, but this pan from Anolon is similar.

For step-by-step instructions, follow the same process as cast iron (see above)the only difference is heating.

Stainless steel heats up faster, so don’t preheat as long. Again, test the pan’s temperature with water droplets.

So let’s see how it goes for me.

Step 1: I preheated the empty pan over medium-low (#4 out of 9).

Step 2: Then, I dropped some butter in and let it melt (Although I think I used too much butter!).

stainless-alternative-to-non-stick-pans-melting-butter

Step 3: Once the butter melted, I dropped the egg in and let the whites stiffen.

See, you can make eggs without worry, even in a non “non-stick” pan!

Step 4: Once the egg whites stiffened up and bubbled (seen above in the video clip), I flipped the egg and finished it off.

Again, scrambled eggs (or other delicate foods) follow the same concept.

Heat the pan to the right temperature and add enough fats.

Is the food still sticking? Here’s why:

The troubleshooting for stainless steel is the same as cast iron – see above.

If you still can’t prevent sticking, add a temporary seasoning layer. Here’s how:

  1. Preheat an empty steel pan over medium-high heat for a few minutes.
  2. Then, add a canola or vegetable oil dash – wipe it around the surface with a towel (carefully).
  3. Then, let the pan sit until the oil begins to smoke. After it does, remove the pan from heat.
  4. Once the pan cools, wipe out the remaining oil. Done!

To be clear, you don’t need to season stainless steel. Plus, it’s not as permanent as cast iron seasoning.

But, it’s an easy process you can do right before cooking.

Drawbacks of stainless steel as a Teflon alternative

Like cast iron, stainless steel requires extra effort to use as a non-stick alternative.

And steel doesn’t transfer heat well and may have cold spots (which impacts sticking).

You can combat that by grabbing a quality multi-clad pan – see below.

Considerations to choose the proper steel pan for non-stick cooking:

  • Construction: This is crucial to adopt steel as a non-stick alternative… Grab a high-quality multi-clad pan with an aluminum or copper core sandwiched by stainless steel layers. This design prevents cold spots, heats evenly, and prevents warping.
  • Stainless steel grade: Avoid cheap 200-series stainless steel. It corrodes and sticks easier. Ensure your pan is 300-series (304-grade, 18/8, 18/10, 310-grade, etc.).

Best practices to care for stainless steel:

  • Let the pan cool before washing to prevent warping.
  • To avoid water spots, hand wash your pan with hot, soapy water – then hand-dry before storing. If you use the dishwasher, remove the pan once the cycle completes and hand-dry.
  • For burnt-on food, let a water/ vinegar mixture soak for 1-2 hours, then scrub with a Scotch Brite scrubbing pad. You can also boil 2-3 sliced lemons for 10 minutes, then wash the pan after.
  • For burnt-on oil or stains, scrub the pan with Bar Keepers Friend or baking soda.

Takeaway for stainless steel as an alternative to non-stick pans + recommended products

Like cast iron, steel demands a few key steps to prevent sticking.

Yet, it’s easier to cook with and lower maintenance than cast iron.

But, any old steel pan won’t do.

You need a quality multi-clad skillet for non-stick cooking.

Check out Tramontina’s Tri-ply pan for a quality, affordable option.

Or, for the best non-stick abilities, check out All-Clad’s D3 tri-ply pan. Either one can last you a lifetime.

Recap and My Opinion

Non-stick ceramic is the closest thing to traditional non-stick. It works the same way.

Both cast iron and stainless steel take extra work to use as alternatives to Teflon frying pans, but it’s a simple process.

I recommended a mixture of each.

Grab a non-stick ceramic pan and use it only for busy days or super delicate foods.

That, mixed with proper care, you can enjoy years of use.

Then, grab cast iron or stainless steel for everything else.

If you follow those steps above, you won’t have much scrubbing to do. Plus, they’ll last forever!

P.S. Now you know the three best alternatives to non-stick pans. Next, check out our review of the nine best non-toxic cookware sets to dive deeper!

Adam Heck
Adam Heck

Adam - the author and TGL founder - has a background in product research and design. For years, he's successfully created, produced, and sold eco-friendly, sustainable kitchenware in all fifty states. When he's not reading, cooking, or lifting, he's helping families level up their kitchen and dining gear with relevant blog posts.

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