The pans used by professional chefs endure a lot of heavy use.
Non-stick pans are notorious for their delicate non-stick coating and sensitivity to high heat.
So, they may not look like a good choice for professional cooking. But, do professional chefs use non-stick pans?
Most professional chefs prefer cast iron, aluminum, carbon steel, stainless steel, and pans made of other materials over non-stick pans because these pans are better suited for continuous and heavy usage. Nonetheless, chefs may sometimes use non-stick pans for cooking certain ingredients, like eggs or fish.
There are, of course, exceptions to this rule.
Some renowned chefs like Gordon Ramsay prefer certain non-stick brands like ScanPan and Hexclad with superior functionality and design features.
Let’s now look at the different factors responsible for reducing the appeal of non-stick pans in professional kitchens.
Why Do Professional Chefs Avoid Non-Stick Pans?
Pans are one of the most important types of cookware in a professional chef’s arsenal.
They use it for multiple purposes, from frying food to making sauce and even preparing dessert.
While non-stick pans are popular in regular kitchens, they aren’t widely preferred in professional kitchens for the following reasons.
1. Non-Stick Pans Are Fragile
Non-stick pans are seldom designed for heavy use.
The non-stick coating is usually delicate and gives way at high temperatures.
So, it’s not a good idea to heat these pans for too long.
The non-sticky surface will break down when heated to high temperatures.
Since professional chefs work rigorously and cook food at higher temperatures than we do at home, delicate non-stick pans are seldom suitable for their cooking needs.
These pans are also prone to damage during the cleaning process because harsh abrasive cleaners can dislodge the delicate non-stick coating.
Rather than going through several non-stick pans each time they get damaged, it makes more sense for the chefs to use more durable and reliable cookware.
2. Non-Stick Pans Are Prone to Food Safety Concerns
All non-stick coatings carry some level of food safety risk.
When these pans are heated to high temperatures, the coating breaks down and releases toxic chemicals.
Some of these chemicals are carcinogenic. The damage to the surface also affects the quality of food.
These problems reduce the appeal of non-stick pans in professional settings.
3. Non-Stick Pans Can’t Be Used with Metal Utensils
Another big problem with non-stick pans is that the delicate surface is prone to scratches and dents.
When scratched, the PFOA or Teflon coating releases toxins into the food.
Hence, these pans should be used with great care and kept away from metal spoons, tongs, and spatulas.
This can prove highly restrictive in a professional kitchen, where chefs don’t have the time to handle things carefully.
Hence, they prefer hard materials that can endure rough use.
With proper seasoning and continuous use, cast iron and carbon steel pans develop a natural seasoning that works just like non-stick coatings.
Hence, these are the more widely preferred pans for delicate recipes.
They can also use metal spatulas, tongs, and other utensils to stir ingredients in aluminum, copper, and other types of pans without damaging their surfaces.
4. Non-Stick Pans Don’t Produce Fond
“Fond” is a sticky brown glaze or crust that develops at the bottom of a pan when you cook food for a long time.
It’s formed by the sugars in the food that break down and clump together.
When the cooking is done at a high temperature, the fond caramelizes into delicious and appealing brown bits.
These bits add a unique and distinctive nutty flavor to the dish.
Non-stick pans are entirely incapable of forming fond because they don’t reach the high temperatures at which sugars break down.
This reduces the flavor and overall appeal of the food.
Nevertheless, some chefs prefer to use non-stick pans for specific needs.
For instance, they may keep a non-stick pan handy to cook eggs which will break easily if handled roughly.
The same goes for fish which can stick to the pan and lose its skin if the pan isn’t well-seasoned.
When non-stick pans are used in professional kitchens, they’re usually strong, sturdy, and made of high-quality non-stick coatings.
Chefs like Gordon Ramsay opt for internationally acclaimed brands like ScanPan and Hexclad that invest a lot of research and planning into their non-stick cookware.
These pans hold up better than regular non-stick cookware, and the food cooked in them is usually just as flavorful as that prepared in other types of pans.
What Pans to Use Instead of Non-Stick Pans?
Now that we have seen that non-stick pans aren’t widely preferred by professional chefs, let’s look at what pans can replace them.
1. Carbon Steel Pans
Carbon steel pans heat up quickly and cook food thoroughly.
They’re lighter than cast iron pans, which are another popular choice in professional kitchens.
They’re also easy to handle and can withstand high cooking temperatures without warping.
With continuous use, carbon steel pans develop a natural layer of seasoning or black patina.
This layer makes the pan naturally non-stick, and the food easily comes off the surface.
The only downside of carbon steel pans is that you should be careful while cleaning them.
Rubbing the surface with abrasive cleaners will dislodge the natural layer of seasoning and make them lose their non-stick properties.
So, you will have to season them again.
Another problem is that the iron in the alloy can react with acidic ingredients.
Hence, you shouldn’t leave acidic food in these pans for too long.
2. Cast Iron Pans
Most chefs will have at least one cast iron pan in their collection because of its excellent functionality and useful properties.
Cast iron pans heat well and withstand extremely high temperatures.
They’re excellent for searing food and help the food develop a deep-brown crust.
You must use a layer of oil to season these pans before use.
The layer of oil seasons the pan and makes the surface non-sticky.
Hence, you can cook food on these pans with minimum oil, and it will easily come off the surface.
Another advantage of cast iron pans is that they can directly go from the stove to the oven.
This proves very useful when preparing certain recipes like pasta bake and frittatas.
However, cast iron pans tend to be very heavy and difficult to handle.
They also need special care during washing and storage.
If these pans are exposed to moisture, they develop rust.
Additionally, you should be careful about scrubbing the surface since rough handling can dislodge the natural seasoning layer and affect their natural non-stick properties.
3. Stainless Steel Pans
Stainless steel is an alloy of chromium, nickel, silicon, and carbon.
It’s food-safe, and the metal is good for cooking at high temperatures.
These pans have a beautiful metallic luster and are easy to handle.
They’re lighter than cast iron and carbon steel pans.
These pans are useful for cooking a lot of dishes, and thick stainless steel pans are often oven-safe as well.
However, the problem with these pans is that they’re not naturally non-stick.
Unlike carbon steel and cast iron, stainless steel doesn’t develop a patina with seasoning.
Hence, food can stick to the base, and chefs may have to use more oil in their cooking to avoid this problem.
Stainless steel, however, is dishwasher-safe and not prone to rusting.
It’s usually used for making sauces, stir fries, and other recipes in professional kitchens.
4. Aluminum Pans
Aluminum is another lightweight and highly durable metal that is widely used in professional kitchens.
Aluminum distributes heat evenly and thoroughly. It’s easy to clean and maintain as well.
These pans heat up faster and hence are more convenient when chefs can’t wait too long for their cast iron or carbon steel pans to become hot.
Aluminum pans are lighter than cast iron and carbon steel. Hence, they’re easy to move around in a kitchen.
However, these pans lose their original luster with continuous use and tend to develop pits when exposed to water or moisture.
They’re usually not dishwasher-safe.
Apart from these pans, professional chefs may also use copper, ceramic-coated, or anodized aluminum pans in their kitchens.
It’s not uncommon for them to experiment with different materials to find favorites for different tasks.