If you cook in the kitchen often, you're probably used to checking the expiration date of certain food items, especially perishables like milk and cheese. It's relatively easy to tell when these items go bad based on the look, smell and changes in texture. However, did you know that the other items in your kitchen have an expiration date too?
Though it's much harder to know when you'll need to replace kitchen tools like knives, appliances and cookware, each of these items has an expiration date you'll want to be aware of. Whether you're in spring-cleaning mode or just purchased new pots and pans, you will need to replace them at some point and the Bob's Red Mill team is here to help. Keep reading to better understand the average lifespan of your household cookware and how to care for it properly.
What Is the Average Lifespan of Household Cookware?
If you’ve found yourself wondering, “how long do pots and pans last?” We have the answer. Different types of cookware have different lifespans. While there is no exact timeframe of when you should replace your cookware, most nonstick cookware items will remain good for about five years. This being so, you can do things to ensure that your pots and pans remain in good shape for as long as possible.
Tips to Maintain Your Cookware
To guarantee that your cookware is adequately cared for and improve your skills in the kitchen, follow these simple tips:
Stick to Hand Washing
Because of the heat and pressure applied in a dishwasher, placing your pots and pans in one can be pretty damaging. To increase the lifespan of your cookware, be sure to hand wash them with dish soap and water.
If you run into a few baked-on stains that won't come off with a typical scrub, add baking soda to your pans while washing them. Doing so will help lift the stains off the surface and add strength to your scrubbing. To keep your pots and pans coating from coming off, use an ordinary kitchen sponge and stay away from metallic brushes.
Oil Your Pans Well
When cooking anything in your pots and pans, be sure to prepare them first with a bit of oil. Adding olive oil, coconut oil, or butter will help create a non-stick surface and prevent food from adhering to the pan. Not only does this protect your cookware, but it also results in a much easier cleanup.
Use a Soft Spatula
When handling food in your pans, be sure to use a spatula made of a soft material like wood, silicone, or food-grade plastic. This will protect the non-stick coating of your cookware and ensure that they are not damaged in the process.
Refrain from Using Cooking Sprays
Cooking spray often contains chemicals, and these chemicals are not suitable for you or your baking tools. To prevent the nonstick coating on your pans from damage, refrain from using cooking sprays and use oil instead.
Different Types of Cookware
Different types of nonstick frying pans are extremely popular and have made cooking (and cleaning) in the kitchen an easy task! Nonstick pans are a type of cookware that has a special nonstick coating. This coating allows food to cook in the pan without actually sticking to it. The coating of most nonstick cookware is made of polytetrafluoroethylene, also known as Teflon.
When well taken care of, most nonstick pans will last up to 5 years. So, how do you know if it's time to replace your nonstick cookware? It's advisable to replace your pans once you notice that the surface has begun to peel. If the surface is peeling, the coating underneath could mix with the food cooked on it and become a health hazard.
In comparison to nonstick pans, ceramic cookware is pricier but more efficient. Ceramic cookware requires less grease and is free of many chemicals and substances that nonstick cookware contains.
This being so, the typical lifespan of ceramic cookware is much shorter than nonstick cookware. Ceramic pans have a lifespan of just about a year. However, that year can be extended to nearly three years when well taken care of.
More and more at-home chefs are deciding to switch to ceramic cookware because the ceramic coating is free of PTFE and PFOA, two harmful chemicals often found in nonstick coatings. Most ceramic pans are also non-stick and easy to clean.
When used frequently, ceramic cookware will begin to chip and these ceramic bits can mix with your food. If you notice your ceramic pan chipping, it's time to replace them. Like traditional pots and pans, to extend the life of your ceramics and keep them in good condition, handwashing is recommended.
Stainless Steel Cookware
A stainless steel pan is non-coated and commonly made out of stainless steel. Their lack of coating allows food to brown better and makes them a little more durable than most nonstick pans. Because you don't have to worry about protecting a coating, stainless steel pans are usually oven safe and can be cleaned without fear of damaging the pan itself.
This being so, their lack of a nonstick surface can make burnt-on food challenging to remove and may require a bit of extra scrubbing. Because of stainless steel pans' durability, they frequently last significantly longer than nonstick and ceramic pans. When well taken care of, stainless steel pans can endure for decades!
Knowing how to use a cast iron skillet and properly caring for it will make it last for a very long time. You may even have a skillet that has been passed down in your family over the years. Because cast iron skillets don't have any kind of coating on them, you won't have to worry about it wearing down over time.
The one thing you do want to look out for when cooking with cast iron cookware is bacteria. Each time you clean your skillet, be sure to clean it well. Due to their lack of coating, food tends to accumulate on the surface of cast iron skillets, and too much food growth over time can cause bacteria to form.
When Should You Buy a New Set of Cookware?
Regardless of which kind of pots and pans you purchase, there are several telltale signs that it's time to swap them out for a newer version. Here are a few of the most common:
Your Cookware Is Warped
If your cookware has become warped, it's likely time for a new set. Warped cookware is when your pan becomes bent out of shape. The most common cause of warped cookware is when a pan is heated or cooled too quickly, causing certain parts of the pan to expand and tighten faster than others.
While warped cookware isn't generally a health hazard, it will affect your pots and pans' cooking quality and distribute heat unevenly. How can you tell if your pan is warped? If you can't tell just by looking at it, try placing your pan on a flat surface and see if it wiggles. If it does, the heat won't be distributed evenly, resulting in certain areas being over or undercooked.
Your Stainless Steel Cookware Is Chipping
If you know how to clean stainless steel pots and care for them properly, stainless steel pots and pans can last for a long time. However, if you notice that the stainless steel exterior on your pans has begun to chip, it's time to invest in a new one. You'll want to replace your pots and pans upon the first sight of chipping to ensure that bits of stainless steel don't break off into your food.
How can you tell if the stainless steel is wearing off? Take a look at the base of your pot; if it's a different color, then the stainless steel coating has started to wear down.
The Cookware Handles Are in Bad Shape
Taking proper care of cookware extends far beyond the actual pot and pan. You'll want to pay attention to the handles as well. Not all cookware is equipped with heat-safe handles, and because of this, the amount of heat they encounter needs to be monitored. If your pan's handle is introduced to too much heat at once, it may melt or fall off while you're cooking.
Additionally, over time handles can wear to the point where there is a chance they may break when using them. If you notice your cookware's handle is about to fall off, then it's time to replace it. If new pots and pans aren't in your budget at the moment, we recommend removing the handle altogether rather than continuing to cook with it. A faulty handle may expose your food and your hands to high levels of heat that put you at risk of getting burned.
If you're working with a pot or pan without the handle, be sure to use an oven mitt to protect your hands from high temperatures.
Overall, taking proper care of your cookware will drastically affect how long it lasts. This is also true of the quality. Purchasing high-quality cookware will help your pots and pain remain intact, even when used frequently.
Pots and pans of a lower quality are generally made with materials that warp, chip and melt easier. Use the signs above to determine when to replace your cookware and invest in a new set. From everyone at Bob's Red Mill, happy cooking!
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