The advancements in science and technology have allowed us to enjoy a wide array of improvements in every sector – cooking is no different. Now, we can buy cookware that doesn’t even require any seasoning or cooking with a ton of oil.
They’re nonstick and more durable, all while improving upon the quality each day and coming at a lower price. In that category, two of the most popular options are ceramic and PTFE. And the debate between ceramic vs nonstick cookware is one worth talking about.
So, that’s what we will be talking about today. We will give you the facts, the information you should consider before buying, and a verdict to get you the best option.
First, let’s start with a general overview of ceramic cookware. Funnily enough, many users first think that these products are entirely made of ceramic (although we can see where that confusion might come from), which is not the case in reality.
Cookware of this category comes with a coating on the exterior. The purpose of this outer layer is to achieve nonstick abilities, which they quite efficiently do. And they don’t contain any toxic elements either.
This feat is possible due to the silicon dioxide in these layers, which is both hydrophobic and oleophobic. In Layman’s terms, these mean that they will provide you with nonstick properties against both water and oil.
These products still use the usual steel, cast iron, or aluminum base as the main element. And the most significant highlight they came with was that they are more eco-friendly and do not harm your health in any way.
Ceramic cookware is much more recent in comparison to classic nonstick products. And while they struggled to provide impressive durability at first, they’ve come a long way, with some of them even working fine with dishwashers.
Another impressive bit about these products is their ability to retain heat for a more extended amount of time. And you can probably imagine why that’s a good thing for a product that exists solely to cook stuff with heat.
One issue, however, is that it’s not as impressive at heat distribution and conduction. But since it’s only a thin layer, it’s not as big of an issue. Moreover, it would help if you are careful with which utensils you use.
- Zero harmful or toxic elements
- Various colors and looks
- Cleaning is effortless
- No seasoning or oil required
- You need to maintain some safety methods
- Abrasive utensils and cleaners are a big no
Nonstick (PTFE) Cookware
The first thing we want to get out of the way is the jargon that comes with the nonstick products. Firstly, these use PTFE (acronym of Polytetrafluoroethylene; thank goodness that the short form exists) as the coating on the outer layer.
This element is what you call a synthetic fluoropolymer of tetrafluoroethylene (let’s not get into that). You will often see the term Teflon, which is nothing but the branded name that first started when these products came into the market.
Therefore, people still use those two terms interchangeably. The biggest issue you will find about this coating is the presence of Perfluorooctanoic Acid (also known as PFOA), which is indeed harmful to humans and the environment.
Many people don’t know that nonstick products have stopped using PFOA for several years now, so that is undoubtedly a relief. However, PTFE, the main ingredient of these products, comes with a few caveats worth mentioning.
The first one is that there is a limit to how much heat this layer can take. Generally, that maximum temperature is around 500 degrees Fahrenheit. As long as you’re below that threshold, there are no risks. However, going above that wouldn’t be wise.
So, it’s safe to say that most users are not under any risk if they are using a nonstick product, as going above that threshold isn’t something usual. In terms of avoiding sticking, these products are slightly better.
Moreover, it’s also slightly better in pricing, as it’s more widely available and manufacturers have cut the cost over time. But the usual safety measures regarding maintenance apply in this too.
- Generally more affordable
- No harm below the temperature threshold
- Excellent nonstick performance
- Easy to clean after cooking
- Impressive heat distribution
- Potentially unsafe over the temperature limit
- They require careful maintenance
Ceramic vs Nonstick Cookware
Now that we have a more precise notion of what these products are and how they work, we can discuss the distinctions between them. We’ll also provide you with ideal use cases with both of them, along with an overall winner.
The reality is that nonstick products won’t last as long as, say, a quality cast iron pan. And that’s not due to the manufacturer’s incapability either; cookware like this will not be as durable.
Given that trade-off, it’s somewhat rational to expect that these products’ prices would reflect that. And thankfully, they do. You can find these products at surprisingly low prices, but there will be a variation between ceramic and PTFE.
That distinction, in general, is that PTFE is slightly more cost-effective in comparison to its rival. And that is because it has been in the market for ages and partly due to manufacturing cost is inherently lower in contrast.
These days, you can find affordable ceramic cookware too. And as time goes, that prices will hopefully keep getting lower. But right now, the reality is that you would need to spend a bit more cash on ceramic for the exact attributes.
But that’s only a part of the spectrum. Let’s see how the other properties compare to each other.
Safety and Risks
This part is probably the part most users are worried about. There has been an ongoing debate about whether we should ditch nonstick products over health concerns. We have explained it to some extent above, but let’s see a proper comparison below.
- Nonstick (PTFE) Products
As we have mentioned earlier, the biggest issue with these products was Perfluorooctanoic Acid, AKA PFOA. Fortunately, we have come a long way since realizing the adverse effects of that element.
As a result, manufacturers have completely given up using it over the last few years. Almost all the products you can buy in this category will probably have the label saying PFOA-free in the description.
However, there is still a headache over the temperature threshold with PTFE coatings. And the maximum temperature is somewhere around 500 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s where the tricky bit comes in.
If you are confident that you will not be going over that threshold, and it doesn’t matter much to you, these products are entirely safe. Research shows that there’s no risk if you’re below the temperature threshold.
But if you think you might need to go higher or don’t want to take the chances, then that’s a decision you need to take. Otherwise, there needs to be no concern over safety.
Ceramic cookware is generally safer than the other option. That is to say that there is no temperature threshold that you need to keep in mind. Therefore, there are also no possibilities of harmful fumes or chemicals in general.
The biggest highlight of these products was that they’re safer in comparison and do not use any toxic elements. And even though 500 degrees Fahrenheit is a limit that most people probably won’t get to with their nonstick pan, it’s worth considering.
So, in terms of safety, ceramic options might get an edge if you don’t intend to have a temperature limit. And due to the manufacturing of these products, you can be sure that they will impose no health risks upon you.
Now, you will not find many distinctions when taking care of or maintaining your cookware. That is because even in the ceramic vs nonstick pans debate, there are some similar ground rules that you need to follow.
And these ‘rules’ will allow you to ensure that the product will not harm you in any way and give you an extended usage period. So, you will have to avoid utensils like metal or anything abrasive in nature.
Although PTFE products will usually tell you to avoid metal utensils, ceramic options might even recommend using wooden options. Other than that, there are not many distinctions in this area.
Longevity and Durability
Let’s face it – one of these products won’t last you for decades like quality stainless steel or cast iron pans might. Moreover, the extent to which these products will serve heavily relies on how frequently you use them and maintain them.
Generally, both ceramic and PTFE-coated cookware will last you somewhere between one to five years. Of course, that’s quite a variable, but that’s how things are with these products.
While the quality has a lot of say in this aspect, how you take care of the product can heavily influence its durability. For instance, if you clean it with abrasive cleaners and use metal utensils, things will not be awe-inspiring.
You can find some higher-end PTFE products that feature up to three layers of nonstick coating. That ensures a longer lifetime, and the product will generally last longer than both ceramic and most other nonstick products.
Ease of Usage
How the cookware performs and how well you can use it without facing any issues is vital. One of the best things about these products is that they are surprisingly easy to use even if you are a complete beginner.
Even while debating about ceramic vs nonstick, you will find almost no sticking regardless of what you are cooking. Moreover, you don’t need to go through seasoning or pour in a lot of oil to keep things from sticking.
And if you would try to find a distinction between PTFE and ceramic’s performance, you probably will not find a huge difference. However, the former might have a slight edge in terms of avoiding sticky situations.
While that advantage isn’t drastic by any means, it is there. Therefore, if we had to choose one from the two of them, we would say PTFE has the edge in comparison.
Which One to Choose?
Much of the decision will depend on your preferences. However, some facts will undoubtedly play their roles with what you choose. So, what are our thoughts about the best option between the two?
If we are looking from the perspective of performance and value for money, nonstick or PTFE takes the cake, in our opinion. Moreover, it’s entirely safe for you to use these products as long as you stay below the maximum threshold.
However, if you are all in on the ceramic side of things, you can go toward that aisle without worries. You might end up spending a bit more money and a little bit of nonstick performance (which is negligible), but that’s about it.
Choosing one between ceramic and nonstick cookware can get quite a bit complicated. Then there are the misconceptions about health issues, in general, that end up confusing people even more.
That’s why we have tried to demystify the situation, give you the answers to the commonly asked questions. Hopefully, you can now understand the difference between ceramic and nonstick cookware.