So you’re in the market for non-stick cookware and you’ve narrowed your choice to ceramic vs Teflon. But the mind numbing choices when it comes to cookware have you scratching your head.
Which one’s safer?
Which one lasts longer?
And what’s each of them made of anyway?
No worries, we’ve got you covered! Welcome to the most definitive guide you’ll ever need to help you decide between buying ceramic or Teflon cookware.
By the end of this article you’ll be crystal clear about the pros and cons of each and which is the best choice for you.
As always, we at the Cookware Advisor don’t offer a pro or anti stance against any type of non-stick coating. The objective here is to provide you with all the details possible so that you can make an informed decision.
There are no winners or losers here, just consumer choice.
What is Ceramic Cookware and Teflon Cookware?
Ceramic cookware or what is actually ‘ceramic coated cookware’, is metallic cookware (usually aluminum, sometimes cast iron or stainless steel) that is coated with a layer or layers of ceramic based non-stick coating. Ceramic non-stick coatings are typically made from inorganic minerals, primarily silicon and oxygen (think sand or clay).
For this article, I’m going to exclude discussion of 100% ceramic cookware, which is made purely of a natural clay formula with no metal in the cookware. This is what is known as true ceramic cookware and is what I consider the safest cookware available – provided you’re willing to take extra care since it can be fragile and break much more easily.
Teflon coated cookware is also metallic cookware, either aluminum or stainless steel, that is coated with 1 (generally at least 2 or more) layers of a plastic product called PTFE.
Teflon is actually just the brand name for PTFE and is often considered synonymous with non-stick cookware. (To understand more about Teflon, PTFE and PFOA, read here)
This article will talk only about Ceramic coated vs Teflon coated cookware – 2 different types of non-stick cookware, with different coatings used for its cooking surface.
So when we talk about ceramic vs Teflon cookware, the main difference lies in the composition of the nonstick coating on a metallic pan.
Ceramic vs Teflon – 10 Tips To Help You Choose
1. How high can you heat it?
Ceramic coating is heat resistant up to to 842 F though the nonstick characteristic of this type of coating can begin to deteriorate at temperatures above 662°F
Teflon or PTFE based coatings start to off-gas and disintegrate at about 500 F.
Couple of things to consider:
- Firstly, while ceramic coatings are technically harder and able to withstand higher temperatures than Teflon based coatings, it is still advisable not to over-heat ceramic cookware. Otherwise the ceramic coating can start losing its nonstick properties and the surface can become coarse or gritty.
- Secondly, there’s no need for food to hit such a high temperature while cooking. Most food should be cooked at medium to medium-high temperatures so as to preserve the nutrition of food.
Conclusion: At normal cooking temperatures (i.e. under 500 F), both pans are good. If you’re someone who likes/needs to cook on higher temps though, (eg sear or stir fry), ceramic coated pan might be a better option.
2. Is Teflon a better nonstick than Ceramic?
Generally speaking yes.
When a pan is brand new, whether it is ceramic or Teflon, it tends to be really slick and slippery. By some accounts, ceramic cookware even starts out with a better initial food release than traditional PTFE nonstick cookware.
However, ceramic pans tend to lose their nonstick feature fairly quickly, much faster than a PTFE pan.
Conclusion: If you’re looking for the best nonstick pan, nothing beats the food release of a good Teflon pan.
3. How long does nonstick ceramic vs Teflon coating last?
Any nonstick coating, be it ceramic or Teflon, will eventually wear out, and the life of the non-stick depends not only on the quality of the non-stick but also on the amount of use and abuse.
However, several sources have suggested that when it comes to the durability of ceramic vs Teflon, ceramic coatings have about one sixth the lifespan of PTFE coatings.
Side-by-side testing conducted by Whitford, a major supplier of all types of nonstick coatings, found that a ceramic coating will last 6 times less than a PTFE coating.
Chemours, the parent company for Teflon, did a life cycle assessment and determined it takes seven ceramic pans to deliver the nonstick performance of one Teflon pan.
Conclusion: In absolute terms, expert opinion suggests that the nonstick functionality of a Teflon pan lasts up to 6 times longer than that of a ceramic pan.
4. How much maintenance or care does ceramic vs Teflon cookware require?
Both types of cookware don’t need any seasoning.
Both require the use of wooden or silicone utensils.
Harsh scrubbing should be avoided for both so as not to damage the coating.
Conclusion: Both ceramic and Teflon nonstick pans are easy to maintain though both do require some basic care to help prolong the life of the cookware.
5. Is ceramic safer than Teflon?
Two answers to this, so take your pick!
1. No. At normal cooking temperatures under 500 F. A ceramic pan is no more or less safe than a PTFE (Teflon) coated pan.
2. Yes. A higher temperatures over 500 F, PTFE or Teflon starts breaking down, emitting fumes that are bad for the environment (think burning plastic), fatal for birds and if exposure is high enough, cause what is known as ‘polymer fume fever’ in humans, which has flu-like symptoms.
The thing to keep in mind here though is though we don’t cook food at those temperatures, it is very easy for a pan to hit those super high temperatures by accident. According to a test done by The Good Housekeeping Institute, it took an empty nonstick pan less than 2 minutes to heat up to over 500°F. A pan with oil? A whopping 2.5 minutes to hit 514°F.
Ceramic coating, on the other hand, won’t break down and emit fumes, even if you accidentally overheat a pan.
Point is, if you’re careful and never heat an empty nonstick pan, a ceramic vs Teflon is equally safe to use.
Conclusion: If cookware safety is a concern for you, and you don’t want to take the chance of even accidentally overheating a nonstick pan, choose ceramic. Particularly if you have pet birds.
On a side note, if cookware safety is of paramount importance to you, I would urge you to check out 100% ceramic cookware instead of ceramic coated cookware, like Xtrema. This is cookware that has no metals, no coating and no chance of anything leaching into food. It is considered the safest cookware out there.
6. Is nonstick ceramic better for the environment than Teflon?
There are 2 parts to this question.
Part 1: Is the process for making ceramic cookware better for the environment than the process for making a Teflon pan?
Yes. Ceramic non-stick coatings are made of inorganic minerals, primarily silicon and oxygen (like sand or stone) which are more environmentally friendly.
These coatings are applied using a Sol-gel process. Sol-Gel is a process that converts the inorganic liquid Solution into a Gel that can be applied to any metallic substance and hardened by a heat firing process known as curing.
This allows for easier application during manufacturing. Most PTFE (Teflon) based non-stick coatings require at least 3 applications. Ceramic coatings require as little as one layer. They also need less time to cure, which reduces oven time, saves energy and emits 50% less carbon dioxide than PTFE based products.
Teflon, on the other hand, needs another chemical for its application onto a metallic pan. In the past, it was a chemical called PFOA (Perfluorooctanoic Acid), which however, was identified as a pollutant and a likely carcinogen by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and has been phased out of use since 2015.
It’s been replaced by other chemicals however, called Gen X and early reports indicate that GenX chemicals are no better than the notorious PFOAs they replaced.
Part 2: Is the usage of a ceramic pan better for the environment than a Teflon pan?
Again, yes. Ceramic coatings won’t break down and emit fumes that are bad for the environment vs Teflon pans that do start off-gassing at temperatures over 500 F. Which as we’ve seen above, are not hard to hit, even if accidentally.
Conclusion: It seems like the manufacture of Ceramic pans is more environmentally friendly than that of Teflon pans. Also, while cooking at normal temperatures, both types of nonstick cookware are on par. But at higher temperatures, ceramic coatings are more stable and will not disintegrate like Teflon coatings.
Overall, ceramic pans seem better for the environment than Teflon pans.
7. Ceramic vs Teflon – which cookware is oven safe?
Generally Teflon coated pans are not considered oven safe since the coating would not be able to withstand the heat and start disintegrating. Ceramic pans are oven safe.
Conclusion: If you like to do a lot of oven cooking, particularly from ‘stove to oven’, then ceramic cookware is the better choice for you.
8. Which option is dishwasher safe, ceramic or Teflon?
Concise answer: Depends on the particular brand
Eg. Some Rachael Ray Cucina Hard Anodized Nonstick Cookware is marked as dishwasher safe (make sure the product mentions it, since not all nonstick cookware is dishwasher safe). Likewise, Greenpan Paris ceramic cookware is marked as dishwasher safe.
But seriously, when I hear of washing your cookware in the dishwasher, my first response is always: WHY?!!?
Why would you subject your new cookware to the harsh environment and detergent of a dishwasher and reduce its lifespan, when you could just as easily wash the nonstick cookware by hand and enjoy it for many more years?
End of rant.
Conclusion: Both ceramic and Teflon cookware comes in dishwasher safe options. But please, wash all your cookware by hand. You’ll thank the Cookware Advisor when you manage to get several more years out of your nonstick cookware!
9. How much fat/butter do you need for cooking in ceramic vs Teflon coated pans?
Both ceramic and Teflon pans are advertised for no/low fat cooking. However, my experience as the Cookware Advisor has been that ceramic coated pans perform better and the nonstick lasts longer if a little brush of oil or fat is used with each cook.
Conclusion: For really low-fat cooking, a Teflon pan might be your best choice.
10. If the coating scratches or chips off, which pan is safer to use, ceramic or Teflon?
This question has 2 parts to it too:
First, if the coating chips or flakes off and you ingest it – what’s the risk?
Ceramic coatings are made of inert, inorganic material like silicon. There is no known risk if you accidentally consume a small flake of coating. It will just pass through your body.
Teflon or PTFE is an inert plastic and again, if you accidentally ingest a piece, it will simply pass through your system. You might be interested to know that because of its non reactive nature, Teflon is even used in joint replacements!
Second, if the coating gets scratched and the underlying metal is exposed, what is the risk with ceramic vs Teflon cookware?
Both ceramic and Teflon pans have a metallic base, either aluminum or stainless steel. If the coating gets scratched or dinged with usage, the underlying metal would be equally exposed, regardless if the coating is ceramic or Teflon.
Conclusion: While a heavily scratched pan should be discarded or replaced, a ceramic pan with minor scratches is no more or less safe than a Teflon pan with scratches since the underlying metal would be equally exposed.
In the end, it really comes down to a personal choice and cooking preferences. But here’s a summary to help you decide:
Choose Teflon or (PTFE) coated cookware if you:
- cook on low to medium heat,
- want to cook very low fat food
- want the best nonstick experience
The Cookware Advisor Top 3 Teflon (PTFE) nonstick suggestions:
- Best All Rounder: T-fal Ultimate Hard Anodized Nonstick Cookware
- Close Runner Up: Cuisinart Chef’s Classic Non-Stick Hard Anodized
- Best Value: Rachael Ray Cucina Dishwasher Safe Hard Anodized Nonstick Cookware
Choose ceramic coated cookware if you:
- Prefer to cook foods that need higher heat e.g. searing and stir-frying,
- Don’t mind using a bit of oil or fat. Ceramic coatings perform best if they are treated as ‘low-stick’ rather than completely nonstick
- Like to do ‘from stove to oven’ type of cooking since ceramic coated cookware is oven safe.
- Want to be sure your cookware has no chance of releasing toxic fumes, even if accidentally
The Cookware Advisor Top 3 ceramic nonstick suggestions:
- Best all rounder: Caraway Cookware (read my full review here)
- Close Runner up: GreenPan Lima Healthy Ceramic Nonstick
- Best Value: T-fal Initiatives Ceramic Nonstick
No matter your choice whether Teflon or ceramic, here are some suggestions to help prolong the life of your cookware:
- Use wooden or silicone utensils
- Avoid going above medium high heat
- Never heat an empty pan, particularly a Teflon pan.
- Avoid washing in the dishwasher, always wash by hand.
- In all cases, be prepared to replace your pan in 1-3 years.