How to Restore Your Peeling, Sticky Non-Stick Pan

Are you dealing with a sticky non-stick pan? 

Sadly, that’s not an oxymoron!

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These days, unless you live in the rural middle of nowhere, you’re probably not cooking with pure aluminum cookware. If you’ve ever cooked in an American city, odds are that you’ve cooked with a non-stick pan – perhaps without even knowing it! They’re almost the only thing sold at most common shops, like Walmart or Target.

Non-stick pots and pans feature a water- and oil-repellent surface – and, therefore, require less cleaning.

Rather than wait for hours soaking your pans in soapy water and then scrubbing out every last speck of grime, with non-stick pans you can wipe the mess right after cooking.

Or throw your non-stick pan in the dishwasher – most non-stick surfaces are dishwasher-safe!

But Sometimes Your Non-Stick Pan Peels – Or Gets Sticky!

aluminum-frying-pan-with-non-stick-coating

We know the frustration homesteaders feel when their non-stick pans start failing them in the kitchen, RV, or campsite.

That’s why we’re about to show you the best non-stick cookware repair spray tips and answer all of your questions like can you recoat a non stick pan – and how to repair your non stick pan from scratch.

Because sometimes, there comes a day when your non-stick isn’t doing what it’s supposed to do. It’s sticking. What to do when bits of food are stuck to your non-stick?

But first – before we show you how to repair your non stick pan without fuss…

Let’s Look at the Science of Non Stick Pans!

Back up, and let’s take a crash science course on non-stick science. Let’s start by answering the question: why does food stick? If you could magnify a metal pan, you’d see that it’s a remarkably uneven surface.

There is all manner of nooks and crannies that food can get stuck in. When you heat the pan, these micro-imperfections expand, allowing food to get trapped in them.

Non-stick was – like velcro or penicillin – discovered by “accident” in 1938. Now, let’s straighten out what that means. An “accidental” invention doesn’t mean that someone was dilly-dallying along and just chanced upon a fully formed product.

Rather, the inventor (in this case, Roy Plunkett) was aiming to create something else (tetrafluoroethylene gas) when he accidentally made a different substance. His experiment, in short, messed up.

But, rather than throw away the screw-up, he investigated the new creation for its usefulness. And discovered what his company would later patent as “Teflon.”

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Teflon – or, more generally, polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE); “Teflon” is a brand name, like “Kleenex” – was, early on, recognized as an exceptionally slippery substance.

So the discovery of PTFE wasn’t an accident as much as an invention of serendipity. Later, a French engineer (Marc Grégoire) found a way to fuse PTFE with aluminum and voilà! (I can use that; it’s a French word!) – The creation of non-stick cooking!

Did you know?

Roy Plunket wasn’t a mere inventor! Instead, Roy boasted impressive credentials such as a Bachelor’s Degree in chemistry (1932) from Manchester College.

In 1933, Plunkett also completed his Master’s Degree from Ohio State University. Notice that Roy’s Master’s Degree only took around one year to complete! Several years later, in 1936, Plunkett attained a doctorate – also from Ohio State University.

Read more – here’s a short Roy Plunkett Biography on the Lemelson-MIT Program’s blog for a wealth of engaging insights into the successful entrepreneur – and chemist!

Does the “Non-Stick” Part Break Down?

If your non-stick pan is sticking, it all boils down to one thing: your non-stick PTFE (“Teflon”) surface is no longer keeping the food off the metal.

The food is getting through to the metal beneath and sticking like it would on a regular ole pot. This is probably due to scratches: micro-scratches, or even some not-so-micro ones!

The best remedy is prevention: to be aware of this in advance and treat your non-stick pots and pans well! It all comes down to not scratching them, or you’ll rub off the PTFE coating.

Here are a few pointers:

  • Use plastic or wooden cookware for cooking and serving – not metal!
  • When storing non-stick pans, don’t stack them. Or the bottom of one may scratch the non-stick surface of another.
  • And never, never use steel wool to clean off anything that does get stuck! (You’d just be exacerbating the problem.)
  • Also, avoid high temperatures. Non-stick pans don’t handle high heat well.

And, as a side note, should you use oil in a non-stick pan?

Here’s the answer. Yes. You should! 

If you heat the pan without oil as you might heat a pure metal pan, you could damage the PTFE coating. Furthermore, if there are any micro-scratches in your pan, the oil will fill them – keeping it non-stick.

Also – using a tiny splash of coconut oil when cooking is almost always a good idea.

PTFE isn’t resistant to everything! However, if treated well, it’ll have a decently long shelf life.

What If My Non Stick Pan’s In a Sorry, Sad State Already?

But maybe this article reached you too late, and your non-stick pan looks like an ice-skating rink in late February or March! Is there anything you can do to fix it?

Yes!

Before you go running off to Walmart to buy a replacement (and create more junk in our planet’s landfills by discarding the old one) read on for some tips on how to refresh that PTFE coating.

Can You Recoat a Non Stick Pan?

At this point, if you have a “non-stick” pan that’s sticking, you’ve probably got a couple of questions. Such as, “Can you fix a scratched Teflon pan?” Or, maybe, “Can ‘Teflon’-coated pans be recoated?”

They’re all good questions. And, lucky for you, the answers are yes and yes – the damage is mitigable!

Mitigable, but not necessarily reversible. You can recoat your non stick pan – but this is rarely the best option.

To do a full-recoat of a non-stick pan, it’s a lengthy and complicated process – that involves bathing the pan in hydrochloric acid, applying up to seven layers of PTFE, and then baking it at over 800°F!

In short, it’s not something that you should try at home.

So, if you can’t replace the damaged PTFE, what can you do? The most obvious answer is to season your pan with materials that will help the pan be non-stick again, even the parts where the PTFE coating has degraded.

Non-Stick Cookware Repair Spray

First, if the damage isn’t too severe, it’s straightforward to recoat it with a non-stick cookware spray. 

You can find non-stick cookware spray on Amazon, ranging from about $15 upwards.

  1. Wash your pan thoroughly, and let it dry.
  2. Then, liberally apply the repair spray.
  3. Let it sit for half an hour,
  4. and then bake it – not at 800°F, but a mere 350°F – for 45 minutes.
  5. Lastly, take it out of the oven and allow it to cool naturally.
  6. Re-wash it when finished, and bingo.

Good as new!

Also – please follow the instructions from the non-stick cookware spray manufacturer!

Safety first!

Did you know?

Adding a dash of coconut oil to your cooking surface is one of my favorite ways to lubricate a pan. Even non-stick pans! I recommend organic virgin coconut oil for a natural choice. Coconut oil also adds a tropical flavor to your stirfried veggies!

I also love liquid coconut cooking oil to help lubricate a pan in a pinch. Although, many of the liquid coconut oils I’ve encountered are flavorless. Word to the wise!

If you’ve ever tried to cook fried eggs in a sticky pan – or made a mess out of your veggie and chicken stirfry when cooking on your flat top – then coconut oil is your new secret weapon.

What If I Don’t Want to Buy More Stuff?

goose-drumstick-frying-in-a-pan

Are there other options? Yes – and they require fewer extra gadgets. The other option is to “season” your pan with oil, baking the oil in to fill the microscopic pores where food might get caught and stick.

  1. Clean the pan thoroughly to get any sticky food out of the microscopic pores.
  2. You can do this by mixing water, 2 tbsp of baking soda, and ½ cup of white vinegar.
  3. Then, heat the pan on the stove for about 10 minutes.
  4. Don’t use abrasives – or you’ll scratch the pan even more.
  5. Apply a thin layer of peanut oil or coconut oil, and stick it in the oven at around 350°F for 1-2 hours.
  6. Most oils should be fine. Just don’t use olive oil, which has a low smoke point and denatures under heat.

The downsides to this method are that it isn’t as permanent as the repair spray. The oil can be cooked out of the pores, and the pan will start to stick again.

But it will help!

You may have to re-season it again, on occasion, but a properly seasoned non-stick pan will last far longer and cook far better than one that’s littered with bits of oil and food dried onto it.

Taking Care of Your Cookware and Non-Stick Pots

If you care for your non-stick pots and pans well, the “non-stick” part will stay non-stick, and you won’t have to waste hours scrubbing off burnt bits of food every time that you cook with them.

Non-stick cookware was an incredible time-saving invention when it was first made in the 1950s, and it can continue to be so today. All that’s needed is a little TLC – and the understanding that, to keep it non-stick.

Just don’t damage that PTFE coating!

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