Ceramic vs Teflon: What’s the Difference?

ceramic vs teflon featured image

Imagine, briefly, life without non-stick cookware. What would it look like? If you’re like us, life without non-stick cookware would be difficult, and… well… messy.

Non-stick cookware is a staple in many kitchens. A great non-stick pan can be a true workhorse in the kitchen – an item you use daily that you can’t live without.

That said, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the different non-stick options, in large part because most cookware brands have their own names for their non-stick coatings. 

Greenpan, for example, calls their non-stick coating Thermolon. Ballarini’s non-stick coating goes by the name of Granitium. At their core, however, these non-stick coatings are either ceramic or Teflon.

Here, we’ll help you understand the difference between ceramic vs Teflon coatings.

Why Use Non-Stick Cookware?

Before we jump into the details, let’s consider why non-stick cookware appeals to people. Non-stick pans are rarely found in professional kitchens. Why would a home cook want to use one?

The main function of a non-stick pan is that food doesn’t stick to it. This can be attractive for several reasons:

  • Non-stick pans are relatively cheap
  • Food doesn’t stick to the pans, making them easier to clean
  • The pans are easier for inexperienced cooks to use
  • The non-stick coating reduces or eliminates the need to use oil – making for a healthier meal

A great non-stick pan can be your best friend if you’re cooking sticky foods like omelettes or crepes.

Ceramic vs Teflon - What's the Difference?

There are two main types of non-stick coatings: ceramic and PTFE (known by the brand name Teflon). Most non-stick pans are constructed of either aluminum or steel and coated with one of these two options.

Ceramic has gained popularity recently due to the health and environmental concerns arising from Teflon. But it’s important to note that the specific chemical used in Teflon manufacturing that caused concerns, PFOAis no longer used.

With PFOA removed from the equation, Teflon is widely recognized as safe. Still, when it comes to ceramic vs Teflon, which coating is better?

Teflon Cookware Overview

Teflon was accidentally discovered in 1938 by scientists at the DuPont corporation and patented in 1941. The waxy, heat-resistant polymer was initially used for military and industrial applications. It wasn’t until the early 1960’s that Teflon became a household name when it was used to produce the most effective cookware ever seen.

The main advantage of Teflon, as you might guess, is that food doesn’t stick to it. This has been a blessing to home cooks since a Teflon pan is easier to clean than a traditional one.

However, ceramic-coated cookware began to make significant inroads into the market in recent years due to health concerns about the safety of the chemicals used in the Teflon coating. These concerns were mainly about a chemical used in the manufacturing of Teflon known as PFOA

ceramic vs teflon vintage advertisement
Vintage advertisement for Teflon-coated cookware

Teflon Cookware Health Concerns

Health concerns about Teflon cookware tie back to a specific chemical known as PFOA. PFOA was previously used in the manufacture of Teflon, and was associated with increased rates of cancer in highly exposed communities.

PFOA was phased out in 2015 and is not used in the manufacture of Teflon cookware today.

However, when Teflon pans are heated to around 500 degrees Fahrenheit the non-stick surface begins to degrade. Accordingly, Teflon cookware is better suited for low or medium heat, not high heat.

Ceramic Cookware Overview

Pans with a ceramic coating make for a smooth, non-stick cooking experience. Similar to Teflon pans, ceramic pans are easy to take care of and keep clean.

Ceramic coatings are typically made of organic materials such as sand. The coating is applied to the cookware and then cured at high temperatures.

Ceramic coatings are considered safer than Teflon because they do not contain toxic chemicals or release fumes when heated to higher temperatures. However, ceramic coatings are generally less durable than Teflon and break down after several years of use.

Ceramic and Teflon Drawbacks

Although non-stick cookware offers a ton of usefulness and convenience, both Teflon and ceramic-coated non-stick cookware have similar drawbacks.

They Have a Shorter Lifespan Than Traditional Pans

Traditional cookware crafted from stainless steel, cast iron, or copper can last a lifetime. Non-stick cookware has a shelf life of a few years, tops, depending on how often you use them and how well you treat them.

Even if you treat your non-stick cookware right, the coating will ultimately degrade over time and the cookware will need to be replaced every few years. Non-stick cookware will never last as long as traditional pots and pans.

They Aren't Oven Safe

Need a cookware set that can go right from the stovetop into the oven? Don’t buy non-stick.

Most non-stick cookware have plastic handles, which guarantees that the cookware can’t be put in the oven. Also, the Teflon coating begins to degrade at 500 degrees Fahrenheit, meaning it is best kept out of the oven.

This will limit your ability to cook recipes that require finishing in the oven, such as broiling or braising.

You Can't Use Metal Utensils on Them

When cooking with a Teflon or ceramic-coated non-stick pan, you must either use silicone, plastic, or wood utensils. This means no metal ladles, tongs, or whisks.

Using metal utensils on a non-stick pan will eventually scrape off and ruin the non-stick coating, rendering the pan useless.

Metal pan with a damaged Teflon coating
This is your nonstick pan's future if you insist on using metal utensils

They're Not Dishwasher Safe

Don’t be fooled by companies claiming their non-stick pans are dishwasher safe.

Spoiler alert – they’re not.

High temperatures and abrasive dishwashing detergent will degrade the non-stick coating and shorten the lifespan of the cookware. This means all non-stick cookware must be washed by hand.

Ceramic vs Teflon - Which One Should You Choose?

Modern Teflon no longer contains PFOA, making it a safe and dependable choice for cookware. Teflon cookware is perfect for new and experienced cooks who like making delicate dishes like eggs or crepes. It is easy to clean and maintain and eliminates the need to worry about food sticking or spending extra time scrubbing dishes.

Ceramic coatings can compete with Teflon, but they are still relatively new. Some users have found the non-stick surface to be less effective than Teflon, and don’t believe they last as long. However, they are generally more environmentally friendly and don’t have the problematic history of Teflon.

Whether you prefer ceramic vs Teflon largely comes down to personal preference and cooking style. While you might be able to squeeze a little more longevity out of Teflon, ceramic coatings are still competitive and might be a better choice if you are concerned about the environment or worry about Teflon fumes from overheated pans.

Still not sure? We’ve provided a comparison below.

Ceramic vs Teflon Comparison Table

Teflon

Ceramic

Who do you think wins in the battle of ceramic vs Teflon? Let us know in the comments.

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