January 28, 2021

How to *Not* Ruin Your Nonstick Pan

If you’re like me, your nonstick skillet makes its way from storage to stovetop on a frequent basis—the efficient go-to for creamy scrambled eggs, crispy salmon skin, and fluffy pancakes on the regular. With all that use comes a sense of responsibility, because if my nonstick is showing signs of misuse, it’s hard to pass the blame—the culprit is very clearly: me. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned about nonstick cookware over the years, it is that it’s among my most trusted helpers in the kitchen, but not without a little TLC. Nonstick, like many other cookware materials, can be a little finicky to take care of. While there are clear rules for how to handle these pots and pans, it can become confusing to parse out which rules apply to nonstick, and which guidelines you may have heard in passing that actually apply to the care of a different material. Is nonstick the one that needs to be dried immediately, or is that copper? And is it best to clean it with kosher salt, or was that cast iron? If you’ve noticed your nonstick cookware is starting to lose its… nonstickyness (can we get away with that one?), it’s likely that it hasn’t received the proper attention it requires. While other materials have a tendency to bounce back to full luster with some extra love (we’re looking at you, copper), nonstick pans made with a ceramic or polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) coating tend to be irretrievable once damaged. I’ve certainly experienced the dreaded signs of misuse—peeling, flaking, warping, and a less-than-perfectly-slick surface—and I imagine that many of you have, too. Unfortunately, those often mean our pans are approaching retirement. Luckily, though, there are a number of simple tips that one can follow to keep that at bay for as long as possible, so our pans can keep sliding out omelettes to perfection, year after year after year. How to Clean & Care for Stainless Steel Pans Like a Pro How to Season (& Clean) Your Trusty Cast Iron Skillet A good place to start? Always consider the strength of the flame you’re cooking over. First things first: Do not use over high heat, which is a surefire way to ruin your pan; cooking over low or medium heat will help maintain a smooth, stick-free surface. Plus, remember: ceramic non-stick, if that’s what you have, is a fast heat conductor (hi, Five Two Nonstick Skillet and Food52 x GreenPan Nonstick Skillet), retaining and distributing heat so nicely that an A+ sear won’t require the high heat it usually would. Next up, be careful to use the right fat. Reach for oils with a high smoke point—like grapeseed, sesame, or avocado—over those with a low smoke point, like EVOO. This is because low smoke point oils burn more easily, which can decrease the pan’s nonstick properties. Also worth keeping at a distance? Cooking sprays of all kinds. When I asked Ashley Holmgren, GreenPan’s Head of Ecommerce, for their best nonstick maintenance tips, she was quick to explain that cooking spray will develop a residue that can shorten the lifespan of nonstick cookware. Another helpful tip: Once you’ve got your oil of choice in hand, always preheat the pan, being careful to add oil—and distribute it evenly—while it’s still cool (it’ll help with both sticking and the integrity of your ingredients), and remember to employ rubber or wooden, and never metal, utensils (which can lead to scratching or even material deterioration). 15 Things You Should Never, Ever Put in the Dishwasher Of course, proper cleaning and storage will also send you on your way to success. The first step: Always wait for the pan to cool before letting it come into contact with cold water. Submerging a hot pan in cold water or even running cool water over hot nonstick cookware is the quickest way to warp a pan. Also, the faster you get to hand-washing, the easier it will be. I know it can be hard to skip the dishwasher, but if you’re committed to caring for your cookware, you’ll keep the nonstick in the sink—just not for too long. Under no circumstances should you use steel wool or other harsh, abrasive cleaning materials to wash your nonstick pan. Instead, use a gentle dishwashing liquid and a soft sponge or cleaning cloth. After your pan has been flawlessly cleaned and towel- or air-dried, place a pan protector, or a cloth or paper towel, over its surface if your storage space requires high stacking. This way, you'll ward off any scratches. If you do ever find yourself in a sticky situation—maybe your pan is nearing the end of its lifespan (usually around five years, depending on how often it’s being used, and how carefully) and it’s been used over high heat one too many times—don’t despair, just follow these simple steps: Partly fill the pan with water, and add a ½ cup of white vinegar. Bring it to a quick boil over the stovetop, then remove and let cool, skimming away any residue that made its way to the top. Once cool, pour out the liquid and wash out with warm, soapy water—the burnt food should be easy to wipe away. As you can see, there’s nothing complicated about caring for your nonstick cookware and keeping it in great condition—all it takes is some mindful cooking, cleaning, and storing. And although your trusty skillet won’t last a lifetime, with proper care, its best years are sure to yield so many treats. Worth the effort? We think so. In the event you’re looking for the very best ways to clean all of your cookware, you’re in luck. We’ve compiled guides on cleaning and maintaining the most popular materials you’ll find in the kitchen (your pots and pans will thank you): Copper is a bit more delicate than many other cookware materials, requiring a lighter touch (no harsh scrubbing!) and a polishing from time to time to restore its original shine. Stainless steel is ideal for a successful sear or sauté, but can get easily dinged and spotted with signs of meals past. Many of the tricks to keep them looking new have to do with what goes in them, and when. Most of us know that cast iron isn’t to be cleaned with soap and water, but did you know that you actually can give it a more conventional deep clean once in a while? For real! How do you keep your nonstick cookware in tip-top shape? Tell us in the comments below! This article was updated in November 2020 with even more nonstick care tips. From Our Shop our line! Five Two Essential Skillets $89–$139 More Options Sale! Food52 x GreenPan Nonstick Cookware Collection $59–$299 $59–$299 More Options Sale! ZWILLING Madura Plus Nonstick Pan $50–$149 $50–$119 More Options
December 15, 2020

All the Ways to Clean Silver: Ranked from Worst to Best

If you’re lucky enough to have inherited a set of silver flatware or invested in some ornate candlesticks, you know that its shine can begin to dull and tarnish in as little as a few months. This is actually because household silver (used for jewelry, platters, tea sets, etc.) is a composite of pure silver, which is very soft, and other, stronger metals like copper to create a long-lasting final product. Tarnish on sterling silver can appear in the form of a yellow-gray or almost black film on the surface of an item, but unlike rust which eats away at metal, tarnish is easily dealt with. Sterling silver, like many other metals, just requires a bit of upkeep to maintain a mirror-like shine.  Lucky us, when we put out the call, you answered. Based on suggestions from our community, we tried six different methods—some store-bought, some DIY—all on one lucky spoon. Read through our findings below to find out which methods didn’t exactly stack up, and which was the clear winner. Least Effective: Toothpaste Two readers, QueenSashy and Klrcon, suggested using toothpaste to clean silver—but Boulangere said that it's "abrasive and will scratch the silver, especially if it's not silver plate." Well, it didn’t do all that much.  Definitely the least abrasive cleaner out of this lot, a whitening toothpaste only lightened the tarnish rather than removing it altogether—which, depending on your needs, might be enough. Smell is great and it's not a very annoying thing to get on your fingers because it just rinses off. Cost is minimal (and/or you probably already have it on hand). Most Aggressive: Hubcap Cleaner The man who sold me a set of silver-plate utensils (not mad at him, because technically I didn't ask) recommended hubcap cleaner as the best way to get them squeaky clean.  Far and away the most aggressive of the cleaners we tested, hubcap cleaner left the most silvery, shiny section—but stripped away all the good tarnish and even left a strange splotch. Dug up on a back shelf at Home Depot, this wasn't the easiest bottle to source in New York.  Something about rubbing hubcap cleaner on a utensil you wish to eat off of later just feels...wrong.  Great in a Pinch: Lemon Juice & Baking Soda  "Oxidation on silver can be cleaned off with lemon juice and baking soda," Rebecca Harvey shared. Easy enough to just reach in the fridge and pantry for these supplies, we set to work.  Relatively abrasive, especially for an all-natural cleaner, this combination removed almost all of the tarnish (even some of the good kind) and left a slightly dulled sheen.  Made by mixing up two common pantry items, this one is something you'll always have on hand—and very easy to come by if you don't. The fizzing effect was great fun.    User Claire Smith recommended jewelry cleaner, and others got specific: "I think Wright's silver polish is the best," said Molly Fuller (who was seconded by Boulangere). Chocolate Be raised the bar with her recommendation: "Each and every time you polish silver with anything but Tiffany silver polish (which is very expensive and I don't know if it is still even available) you will be taking some silver off your piece."  Both highly effective and gentle, this silver cleaner removed the brown tinge of tarnish without getting rid of any of the good stuff.  Obtaining it was easy in New York City, where you can just swing by the Tiffany's store even if you're wearing sneakers, but wouldn't be as simple to come by in other markets. Spray feature made it easy to coat a piece quickly, and would have been really nice if you were cleaning a lot at once.  At $20 a bottle, it was the cheapest item in the Tiffany's store, but pricey comparatively. Wright's Silver Cream. With a strength comparable to the Tiffany's cleaner, Wright's was very effective right from the bottle—though it did require a little more time to get a high shine.  Sponge applicator doesn't make total sense when you're cleaning forks rather than earrings, but did the great work of keeping it mostly off your hands.  One of the lower-priced off-the-shelf cleaners, Wright's is easy to obtain at any drug store or pharmacy and consistently low in cost. Best Overall: Aluminum Foil, Baking Soda & Hot Water Klrcon insisted that "for silverware the easiest method is the aluminum foil and baking soda trick," which is something we heard from a number of users. "You just dump it in the sink and let it soak and it does a darn good job of getting even heavily oxidized tarnish off if you leave it long enough... Then you just give it a good rinse."  Shop the Story Others suggested variations on this solution, ranging from Pegeen's tip "to fill an aluminum pan (or one lined with aluminum foil) with hot water, add salt and baking soda, and stir to dissolve. When you add the silver pieces, a chemical reaction occurs, removing tarnish." to our creative director Alexis' version, which called for just baking soda, stirred into hot water in a pan lined with aluminum foil. A short soak in this solution loosened the dark tarnish so that it rubbed right off, but left just the right amount of lighter coloring that we love. Being mostly water based, it was the least gunky solution to deal with. As the baking soda and foil reacted with the silver, the whole bath gave off a slightly strange, dirty scent. Though it required a bit of set-up—lining a dish with foil, then dumping in baking soda and hot water—we could see how this would be the easiest way to polish a mess of silverware by far. The Verdict? While true silver polishes, such as both Tiffany's and Wright's, cleaned the spoon very much to our liking (meaning thoroughly but without excessive abrasion), nothing compared in ease, effectiveness, and lack of mess than the combination of baking soda, hot water, and aluminum foil. It's all-natural, effective because of a chemical reaction (which we geekily love), and seemed impossible to mess up. We also loved how simple it would be for cleaning a whole pile of silver.  If you happen to live near a Tiffany's and don't mind forking over for a bottle, or have a tub of Wright's on hand for cleaning earrings, they wouldn't be bad in a pinch. Our tube of toothpaste didn't seem very effective, but the real concern would be that every tube is different so the potency would be hard to moniter. Both lemon juice + baking soda and hubcap cleaner were so powerful we'd be scared to try them on good silver—and the latter was just a little gross to consider for untensils. Here's How to Do It: Line a casserole dish or shallow vessel with aluminum foil (or obtain an aluminum dish). Sprinkle in a generous amount of baking soda. Add the silver pieces, being sure that each piece touches the foil.  Pour hot water on top, wait until it cools, and then remove each piece and rub clean with a rag.  First photo by Bobbi Lin; all others by Alpha Smoot. This article has been updated in December 2020 to provide even more (!) silver-cleaning tips.