Why Don’t Chefs Use Non-Stick Pans?

If you’re an avid at-home cooking enthusiast, chances are you’ve done your fair share of research on professional cooking techniques. But you might have been surprised at the avoidance of using non-stick pans in a professional kitchen. Although non-stick pans can be highly convenient cookware in a home kitchen setup, there are a few reasons professional chefs avoid them.

Chefs don’t use non-stick pans because they lack the durability to withstand frequent use. Higher cost and incompatibility with specific cooking techniques also come into play in a chef’s decision to avoid non-stick cookware.

In this article, I’ll discuss the notable disadvantages of non-stick cookware in a professional kitchen setting. Read on to learn more about why chefs tend to avoid non-stick pans.

Do Professional Chefs Avoid Non-Stick Pans?

Many at-home cooks are constantly singing the praises of their non-stick cookware. So, you might be wondering, why would all chefs swear off such a convenient tool?

Professional chefs avoid non-stick cookware in their kitchens in general. However, chefs occasionally use non-stick pans for a few specific dishes, especially those including eggs.

Due to the construction properties of non-stick pans that reduce their durability, most chefs instead resort to pots and pans made of more stable materials. Carbon steel and cast iron are popular alternatives to non-stick pans in professional kitchens. These materials are also much less expensive than Teflon cookware, making them much more suited for stocking professional kitchens.

What Are Non-Stick Pans Made Of?

Because non-stick pans have reduced durability, most chefs instead resort to pots and pans made of more stable materials. In order to understand why non-stick pans lack durability, it’s necessary to understand the materials they are made of.

Non-stick pans are typically coated in a layer of Teflon. As a polymer, Teflon fills any tiny pores and crevices in the metal, making the surface much smoother and allowing fewer food particles to adhere to the pan.

Another name for Teflon is Polytetrafluoroethylene or PTFE. PTFE is a synthetically produced polymer with a variety of modern applications. However, its non-stick abilities are well known in the kitchen for reducing the amount of fat needed for cooking and speeding up the dishwashing process.

Non-Stick Pans Lack Durability for Extended Use

As you use a non-stick pan over time, the Teflon coating is worn away and becomes less effective. As a result, the average lifespan of a Teflon-coated pan ranges from just three to five years. 

However, this lifespan is drastically shortened in a professional cooking environment. Professional chefs are cooking all day, every day, which means their pans are getting used significantly more than the average home cook’s. In addition, the metal cooking utensils chefs often rely on can quickly damage the non-stick surface of Teflon pans.

Teflon pans also can’t handle the significantly high temperatures that other materials like cast-iron are known for withstanding. The Teflon coating can deteriorate if a non-stick pan experiences heat above 500ºF (260ºC). This deterioration is another reason chefs prefer not to use non-stick pans.

Non-Stick Pans Limit Essential Cooking Techniques

Another reason professional chefs tend to avoid non-stick pans is their incompatibility with specific cooking techniques. Many of the techniques that chefs use rely heavily on pores in their cookware. For this reason, techniques like searing and the use of fond become extremely difficult to execute with non-stick pans.

Searing Is Difficult With a Non-Stick Finish

Searing is a common cooking technique, especially for professional chefs. While searing, an ingredient—typically meat—is cooked at a high temperature until it develops a darkened, caramelized, crispy exterior. Doing so adds flavor depth to a dish and can improve the textural qualities of certain ingredients. However, the searing technique is often incompatible with non-stick pans because it requires extremely high temperatures.

Believe it or not, the pan texture is also crucial to the searing technique. The pores and crevices in a pan can latch on to the ingredient you are trying to sear, holding in heat and creating the best environment for the searing process.

Teflon Pans Reduce Fond Significantly

Fond describes the pieces of cooked-on food that are left in a pan after meat is cooked. Professional chefs rely on fond to add rich flavor to any gravies or pan sauces accompanying the meals they make. 

However, fond production depends on high temperatures and a textured cooking surface. Smooth, Teflon-coated pans are incredibly ineffective at holding on to the bits of cooked food that chefs refer to as fond. Inability to utilize fond is another significant reason chefs prefer cast iron or carbon steel cookware.