A nonstick skillet is an under-appreciated kitchen hero.
Neither as strong as a cast-iron workhorse nor as versatile as a stainless steel, it has a reputation of being for the novice—the one pan you bought before you even had a proper kitchen to equip. At this point, it’s probably banged up and scratched.
But if that’s the case, we’re here to tell you to get a new one, stat. (And if you don’t have one, get one, period.) A nonstick can do a lot, so long as you treat it right.
Let’s start with what you should be using it for. Well, eggs are a given: Scrambled eggs will stay creamy and lush. An omelet will slide right out when finished, as will fried eggs which, we promise, will get crispy over medium-high heat. Your frittata will shimmy right out, too. (We know what you’re thinking and yes, a nonstick can go in the oven, as long as it’s not blasting under the broiler or stuck inside for ages. Make sure the handle is oven-safe, too.) A small-sized skillet, generally eight inches in diameter, should be a solid size for your egg needs.
But a bigger non-stick (we’re talking 10 to 12 inches) is definitely worth having, too. It’s as good for giant oven pancakes as it is for pan-fried tofu or the crackliest-skinned fish. The pan heats up gently, without rising to a ripping hot temperature like a cast iron or stainless steel, which means that the skin won’t seize up and shrivel before the flesh is cooked through. And then—you guessed it—your filet will slide right out.
There’s also a lot you can use it for, even if you don’t have to. Say you just don’t want to lug out your heavier gear, but you also want to sauté mushrooms. A nonstick will work just fine. Or say you don’t have a microwave: A nonstick is so lightweight and easy to clean that reheating leftover fried rice or stir fry is almost as easy as pressing the 30-second cook-time button.
As for maintenance, taking care of your nonstick is just as important as taking care of your cast iron (which, as you probably know, people are obsessed with). Simply put, you should avoid scratching the coating, both because you don’t want it in your food and because the more you scratch it, the less non-stick your pan will be. This means you shouldn’t use metal utensils to stir, flip, or serve food. Rubber spatulas and wooden spoons only.
You should also take care when storing a nonstick skillet. Keep it on its own or put a kitchen towel over the surface to protect it in a stack.
That being said, don’t expect to keep a nonstick pan in pristine condition for 20 years. Luckily, the price point is on the lower end (our favorites run between $40 and $100, depending on the size), so replacing it when it's done its time won’t bust your budget. If it does get scratched up, and you find yourself having to scrub hard to get food out of the crevices, it’s time for a new one. Just promise us you’ll do it, okay? You’re no novice, after all.
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Originally Appeared on Bon Appétit