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Are nonstick pans the better choice?

August 18, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
While cooking a nice meal can be enjoyable, cleaning up after one isn't necessarily. Nonstick pots and pans make a big difference. Plus, you can fry with less fat. These days there's new, "greener" nonstick cookware. How good is it? Consumer Specialist Ric Romero teamed up with Consumer Reports to get to the bottom of nonstick pans. Nonstick pots and pans have been around for a very long time, but along the way they have been accused of being a health risk and not holding up very well. But in our tests it appears those claims aren't sticking any more.

Pots and pans look nice and shiny in the store, but not after a messy meal.

Nonstick cookware can help. And now Consumer Reports has tested something new "green" nonstick pans with new kinds of coatings.

"There has been concern that cooking at very high temperatures can break down the coating on typical nonstick pans, releasing a potentially harmful chemical into the air," said Dan DiClerico from Consumer Reports. "But our tests haven't found a significant health risk."

In all, Consumer Reports tested eight sets of "green pans," ranging in price from $100 to $500. For one of the test, each pan is oiled once and then four eggs are cooked back to back.

Testers were checking to see whether the egg stuck to the pan. One of them was easy to clean afterwards.

And machines scrubbed the pans up to 2,000 times, to see how well the nonstick surfaces held up. One of the pans did well, but not all of them passed the test.

"Another test measures how evenly a pan cooks. In that test, one of our 'green' pans, the Mercola Healthy Chef, burned the pancakes," said DiClerico.

The Mercola's ceramic handle broke on both the frying pan and the saucepan. But some of the "green" pans actually did better overall than conventional nonstick pans.

Consumer Reports named the Earth Pan set a Best Buy. For $190, you get ten pieces and it's dishwasher safe.

If you do a lot of braising and browning of foods, you need uncoated pans. Consumer Reports' tests found some good ones for under $200 for a ten-piece set. They're Emerilware Stainless and Kitchenaid Gourmet Essentials brushed stainless. Of course they will be harder to clean than nonstick cookware.

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