(Family Features)--In the last several years, kitchen activity has increased as families bypass the drive-through to cook at home more often. According to a recent survey from DuPont, maker of the most popular nonstick coating for cookware, more than two-thirds of home cooks choose nonstick pots and pans because they help families cook convenient and healthy meals that are easy to clean up.
“You don’t need a lot of equipment to cook a simple and healthy meal at home. With a chef knife and a large, high quality, nonstick skillet you can cook a lot of really great recipes,” says Janice Newell Bissex, M.S., R.D., author of the new family cookbook “No Whine with Dinner” and co-founder of www.MealMakeoverMoms.com
As families try out new recipes and pick fresh ingredients for their home-cooked meals, it’s a good idea to understand what cookware to look for when it’s time to buy something new.
Types of Nonstick Coatings
Not all nonstick cookware coatings are equal. According to the Cookware Manufacturers Association (CMA), most quality nonstick cookware has a PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene) finish. PTFE, developed by DuPont 70 years ago, is used as a nonstick coating that is both durable and high-temperature resistant. Brands such as DuPont™ Teflon® nonstick coatings have been developed with a variety of coatings which are reinforced to resist scratching and can come in up to three-coat finishes — which means greater durability and a longer life for your pan.
Consumers also may be familiar with pans that advertise as ceramic finishes and claim they are natural or organic. Both ceramic and PTFE-based coatings start from minerals that are used to create a synthetic coating. PTFE coatings comply with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations for their intended use. In lab tests, which simulated cooking in a home kitchen, traditional nonstick coatings lasted up to seven times longer than ceramic finishes.
Using Nonstick Cookware
While there are few rules to using nonstick coated pots and pans, just like anything else in your kitchen, you can achieve the best results when you use proven techniques.
When trying out new recipes, or simply revisiting an old favorite, it’s best to use medium or low heat. Then add food and lower the heat to cook at an even temperature.
Because food releases so easily when you use cookware with nonstick coatings, you don’t need to use oil or fat when you cook unless you want to. And with recent improvements you also can use metal utensils on many high-quality nonstick-coated pots and pans without worry of scratching.
DuPont research also shows that cleaning up after cooking remains a top concern in the kitchen. With nonstick pans, cleanup is easy. Simply wash with hot, soapy water after each use; a sponge or dishcloth is usually all it takes to get the surface thoroughly clean.
Many nonstick pans also are dishwasher-safe. Check the manufacturer’s guidelines before using a dishwasher. Cookware also should be stored carefully to prevent unnecessary wear and tear.
Buying a New Pan
Buying something new for your kitchen — even a pot or pan — is exciting, and since you’ll likely be using it for a long time, you want to make the right choice. Use these tips when shopping for nonstick cookware:
—Think about what piece or pieces you will really use most. Start there and build. You can buy a single pot or pan or a full set, depending on your needs.
—Check out all the new types of pans available, as manufacturers are constantly innovating. For example, there are new nonstick pans for grilling, stainless steel pans with nonstick coatings, as well as new colors to add flair to your kitchen.
—Next, make sure you’re getting high quality nonstick and not a cheap imitation. Look for a pan that carries the Teflon® brand logo, so you know you’ll get the durability you expect.
—Finally, if you use cookware in the oven as well as on the stove, choose a handle that can take the heat, such as metal, and check the manufacturer’s guidelines for maximum temperatures.
Can you really brown food in a nonstick pan? Yes.
—You don’t need high heat to brown in a nonstick pan — use medium heat. You’ll get the same results; it will just take a little longer.
—Augment the browning of your main ingredient simply by adding a sweetener, such as wine, juice, vinegar, syrup or honey.