Ceramic vs. Teflon

When shopping for nonstick cookware, one of the first things you need to do is decide what type of nonstick coating you want. Some brands are very up front about what their coating is made from, and some are less up front. Companies try to come up with catchy names for their coatings, but it’s just marketing. All nonstick cookware currently widely available falls into one of two categories: ceramic, and PTFE. PTFE is commonly referred to as the brand name Teflon. When comparing ceramic vs. Teflon, there are many factors to consider. Let’s start with an overview of each type.

Ceramic cookware

Ceramic is a newer material in the world of nonstick cookware. It’s widely considered to be the safest and most environmentally friendly option. Ceramic is free of PTFE and PFOA (more on PTFE and PFOA below). Ceramic coatings come in a wide variety of styles and colors.

Some argue that ceramic has a shorter life span than Teflon cookware. We have not found this to be the case. However we don’t cook with oil or cooking spray, which can dramatically affect the life span of both ceramic and Teflon cookware.

If you cook with oil, it’s critical to completely clean off all of the cooked oil after each use. Otherwise layers of oil will build up, quickly diminishing the nonstick properties of the cookware. But unfortunately if you vigorously scrub off the layers of oil, you inevitably take the nonstick surface with it. This can cause both ceramic and Teflon cookware to age prematurely.

The easy way out of this conundrum is to not use oil. For this reason, and more importantly for health reasons, we recommend cooking without any oil at all. Even if you cook without oil, some foods contain small amounts of oil. We find that cleaning with white vinegar can help make clean up a breeze.

Because ceramic cookware is a relatively new technology, there have been many advances in quality in recent years. Manufacturers are applying more layers of ceramic, so the coatings are getting thicker. Thicker coatings mean longer lifespans. Look for big improvements in ceramic cookware in the coming years.

Here are a few examples of our favorite ceramic options. For a complete list check out our guide here.

SetNonstick coatingSizes / Pieces
Price
Dishwasher safe*ColorsRating
10" Ozeri Green Earth Textured Ceramic Frying PanCeramic8", 10" or 12" frying pan$25.00No
Green
4.1
12" WearEver Pure Living Frying PanCeramic10.5" or 12" frying pan$14.99YesGold with white interior4.0
Cook N Home Ceramic 10-Piece Cookware SetCeramic6 pans
4 lids
$59.07YesRed4.6
T-fal Initiatives Ceramic Nonstick 14-Piece Cookware SetCeramic6 pans
4 lids
$59.97YesBlack4.4

Teflon cookware (PTFE)

PTFE is the “classic” nonstick material made famous by the brand Teflon. While it is very arguably on average more durable than ceramic at the moment, some are concerned about its safety. When overheated, PTFE coatings can break down and release toxic gases.

You can use PTFE cookware safely as long as you use it properly. 500ºF is the maximum temperature recommended for cooking with PTFE cookware. However if you’re cooking in an oven, most cookware handles are only oven safe to 350ºF.

Rachel Ray sauce pan

If you own birds, you may want to avoid PTFE cookware altogether. Birds are much more sensitive to PTFE fumes than humans.

When baking, roasting, or especially broiling with PTFE cookware, make sure to check the manufacturers recommended maximum oven safe temperature. For stove top cooking, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Always cook on low to medium heat. Never cook with high heat.
  • Never preheat an empty pan.
  • If you’re not cooking with a broth or liquid that absorbs heat, pay close attention to your cooking surface. Foods that coat most of the pan’s surface will help keep temperatures down.
  • Use extra care when using lightweight cookware. Lightweight pans heat faster than heavier pans.
  • Pay attention while cooking. Never leave a pan unattended.

Some PTFE cookware is manufactured using a chemical called PFOA. If you’re concerned about the environmental impact of your cookware, you want to avoid sets manufactured using PFOA. After reaching an agreement with the EPA, the major manufacturers of PTFE cookware, including Teflon, are phasing out the use of PFOA completely by 2015.

Here are a few examples of our favorite Teflon options. For a complete list check out our guide here.

SetNonstick coatingSizes / Pieces
Price
Dishwasher safe*ColorsRating
12" T-fal Professional Nonstick Thermo-Spot Fry PanPTFE8", 10.25", and 12"$25.79YesBlack4.4
T-fal Specialty 3-Piece Frying pan setPTFE8", 9.5", and 11" pans$23.00YesBlack
4.4
Cook N Home 15 Piece Cookware SetPTFE6 pans
4 lids
$57.59YesBlack4.2
T-fal Signature Expert Thermo-Spot 12-Piece SetPTFE6 pans
3 lids
$71.36YesBlack4.6

The Discovery Channel made an interesting short video on how PTFE cookware is made:

Ceramic vs. Teflon

There are a wide range of options and prices in both ceramic and PTFE cookware. Both ceramic and PTFE offer extremely affordable options, starting at around $20. More expensive options offer thicker coatings, which can significantly improve cookware lifespan. However as mentioned above, using oil or cooking spray can reduce lifespan significantly regardless of the cookware surface.

Calphalon handle

The main argument for ceramic cookware is that it’s toxin free and environmentally friendly. The main argument for PTFE cookware is that currently it can be somewhat more durable than ceramic in some cases.

Whichever you choose, it’s important to recognize that the way you cook and clean your pan can have as much or more of an impact on cookware longevity than the coating itself. Making the choice to cook without oil can improve the lifespan of both your cookware and yourself!

24 thoughts on “Ceramic vs. Teflon

  1. “Whichever you choose, it’s important to recognize that the way you cook and clean your pan can have as much or more of an impact on cookware longevity than the coating itself.”

    This is absolutely true. Over the past 18 months my family and I have been intentionally torture testing a 10″ skillet lined with the white ceramic non-stick coating. It was a cheap pan to start with (WalMart Mainstay) so I didn’t expect much. We have not been shy about using metal cooking utensils, though we would never intentionally strike the ceramic surface so as to chip it. Nor have we avoided cooking with oil (Olive or Peanut oil, never Canola or Rape seed oil),

    The outside finish of the pan shows all the wear of heavy use, but the ceramic coating is as pristine and effective as it was on the date of purchase. This despite having things scorched onto the surface multiple times. The key to the durability has been in having a scouring powder that will not scratch the ceramic surface even when you scrub hard; Bon Ami.

    Bon Ami is hard to find in stores today; it fell out of favor when formica counter tops became more common than ceramic tile ones, but it’s the perfect product for these new pans, and is relatively friendly to the environment. Thanks to Bon Ami, I will never buy a Teflon pan again

    • Hi John, thanks for the comment! That’s awesome to hear about your ceramic pan! We have never tried Bon Ami on our nonstick pans, but we do love it for our other household cleaning since it’s natural and non-toxic. We mention this in our blog, but white vinegar is another miraculous natural cleaner for many things, including nonstick pans. Thanks again for the input, and happy nonstick cooking!

  2. This was so helpful! Thank you for bringing up not only the pros and cons for each, but also what you recommend for each category! Amazon reviews can only take you so far. Thanks again!!

  3. “Always cook on low to medium heat. Never cook with high heat.
    Never preheat an empty pan.”

    Ok from a cooking standpoint i fundamentally disagree with this. You always want to heat the pan empty. I know you’re on your no oil thing but you go hot pan then add oil. And not cooking over high heat is an utter cooking nonstarter. The other information is fine. But not being able to use high heat? How do you guys cook without manipulating the heat?

    • Hi Derrick- Thanks for the comment and questions. In the section of our post you quoted, we are specifically discussing PTFE coated cookware. Avoiding cooking at high temps reduces the risk of toxins being emitted from PTFE/Teflon/PFOA coatings, as well as increases the longevity of the pan. When you preheat an empty PTFE pan, it is unfortunately surprisingly easy to exceed 300 °C, the temperature above which fumes are released. We do sometimes cook at higher temps with our ceramic coated pans, which do not emit toxic fumes like PTFE does. But for boiling, steaming, soups, stews, pastas, grains, sauces, etc which require very high temps, we use stainless steel cookware. We hope this helps answer your questions!

  4. Pingback: Why Ceramic is Safer than Teflon on Your Cookware | SRG Green Living – News and Tips for Eco-Friendly Apartment Living

  5. I’m so glad I found your review. I am replacing my indoor grill appliance and they have a new version with ceramic coating. I had no idea if this would work as well as as ‘Teflon’ and could find no reviews on the item. Since the item is specifically designed for no oil cooking, I am going to go with the new ceramic, due thankfully to your review of two surfaces!

  6. I’ve got a stupid, cheap Wearever 12″ ceramic frying pan and all I do is frying chicken breast in it with a drizzle of olive oil. I’ve pounded it for two years, still more or less good as new (although it is about due for a good, hard scrub, finally). I run it through the dishwasher…

    I’m pretty much sold on ceramic over Teflon. It’s maybe not so good for making things crispy browny as Teflon, but it takes a licking and keeps on ticking, as they say…

  7. Thank you so much for the information! I just purchased a small ceramic fry pan, the first ever, and am amazed at how wonderful it is to cook in. I am so exhausted with babying my stainless in order to try to fry vegetable, eggs etc. All the posts are helpful and I will heed the advice and also will be purchasing more ceramic and no more Teflon.

  8. I am staying in India n came accross these types of ceramic non stick induction stainless steel cookware…I want to know its performance if any one can guode me

  9. How would you stir fry vegetable’s etc. without using any oil? Obviously meat usually has it’s own fat/juices which are released when cooking but onions and the like?

    Thanks :)

    • Hi CC- We usually fry starting with just a little water, but you can also use a light broth if you want to add extra flavor. The key is not to use too much liquid, and believe it or not onions etc will still brown nicely. We actually have a series of pictures of onions browning about a third of the way down on our tofu scramble recipe post. We also recently started following an amazing ‘no oil’ chef who starts just with the onion and no water at all, to get the browning happening quicker. Frying with little/no liquid is a little different than what most people are used to, but it definitely works!

  10. I’m looking at buying new pots, the sets I’m looking at are both dishwasher safe and one is ceramic while the other is Teflon.. Does the white of the ceramic stain?

    • Hi Heather, we’ve been using white ceramic for quite a while. We often use turmeric which makes everything bright yellow, but it has never stained our ceramic. Our ceramic coated pans are as white as new. As long as you keep them clean they should be fine. We clean ours with regular dish soap and a soft sponge, and we never use metal utensils on them, so there are no scratches either. Please let us know if you have any other questions! Best, ~Maria

  11. I use ceramic cookware. I wipe the pans clean with soft paper towels while the pan is still hot/warm. Then I let the pan cool and wash in the sink with soap/water/soft sponge. My cookware looks clean and brand new.

  12. Very interesting, my husband loves to cook and drowns everything in olive oil. We just bought a cermanic coated one and one question he has is it seems to take longer to fry, then with oil? He keeps it at a med heat with no oil..(and killing him not to use oil..:) ) Is that the case, to use lower heat other wise it was burning.

    • Hi Sheba- That’s so great that your husband is reducing his oil intake! His arteries will be very grateful:) And once he gets over the oil/fat addiction, he really won’t miss it. Trust me I went through the same process myself.

      Regarding frying with no oil, are you using any water or broth in place of the oil? This is called “steam frying”. Start with a few table spoons of water/broth. When the water/broth starts to steam off, your veggies will start to brown. Depending how brown you want them, you can add one or more tablespoons as you cook, allowing you to control how brown and crispy things get. Also as you’re finishing up the frying, you can add a bit more water to “deglaze”, which will release whatever brown residue is on the pan onto your veggies. It’s different than cooking with oil, but it doesn’t take much experimentation to get the hang of it. Hope this helps, if you have any more questions let us know!

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