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Nonstick pans can really simplify your time in the kitchen.  They make it easier to cook a variety of foods without worrying about anything getting stuck on the bottom of the pan.  And, cleaning up is much easier with a nonstick pan as well.  With just a little soap and water, messes are wiped up, and the pan is left clean and ready to use again.  

What are you supposed to do, however, if you look at your favorite nonstick pan and notice that it is scratched.  Is a scratched non stick pan safe to use?  Is there anything you can do to fill in the scratch or repair the pan so you can keep using it to cook with?  Today, we’re going to learn more about what you should and should not do if your nonstick cookware is scratched.

Is using a scratched non-stick pan safe?

Understanding whether scratched Teflon pans and other nonstick pans are safe to use is important.  You, obviously, want to make sure you’re doing what’s in the best interest for you and the other members of your household and don’t want to risk anyone’s health.

So, is it safe to use a scratched non stick pan?  The safest answer is to replace the pan and not risk any potential dangerous side effects of ingesting any of the coating.  However, there are varying levels of scratches and everyone’s comfort level is a little different, so let’s take a closer look at whether scratched non stick pans can continue to be used for cooking.

When a nonstick pan is scratched, some of the coating may flake off.  This can happen when you’re cooking, and it could end up in the food that is being cooked, which means it will be ingested by the person eating the food.  While some fear that this nonstick coating is dangerous, research shows that PTFE (the Teflon coating used on many nonstick pans) is non-toxic and chemically inert.  An FDA consumer safety officer even said that if ingested, the flakes of the coating should pass through an individual’s body without posing a risk to their health.

However, one potential health risk associated with cooking with scratched non stick pans has to do with the exposed aluminum core.  As more and more of the aluminum becomes exposed, it can leach into the foods that you’re cooking.  Higher levels of aluminum toxicity has been connected with various medical conditions such as Alzheimer’s, breast cancer, infertility, and Crohn’s disease.

Cooking over high heat or with acidic foods can lead to greater aluminum concentrations in the foods you eat.  So, while a pan with a small scratch that isn’t used over high heat may be safer, it is up to you to decide whether your health or the health of those you love is worth gambling with.

Another important item to point out is that nonstick coatings, such as PTFE, should never be used at very high temperatures (over 570 °F).  At temperatures this high, the coating can begin to disintegrate and toxic fumes may be released.  These toxic fumes can cause chills, headaches, fevers, or other symptoms resembling those of the flu.

scratched non stick pan

What to do with Scratched Non Stick Pan

The safest thing to do with a scratched non-stick pan is to dispose of it and replace it with new nonstick cookware, ceramic cookware, or stainless steel cookware.  

However, if you’d prefer and you’re comfortable doing so, you can also try to fix a scratched pan.

How to Fix a Scratched Non Stick Pan

Follow the steps below if you want to know how to fix scratched non stick pan.  Note that this technique will work best on pans with smaller and shallow scratches.  It is not advisable to try to fix and continue using a pot with a deep or large scratch.

  1. Clean the pan very well to make sure any stains or rust are removed.  You can use a nonstick pan cleaning kit, but baking soda and water can also work very well.  Be sure to use a soft sponge or cloth or plastic scraper.  Do not clean the pan with anything abrasive that could cause more scratches.
  2. Towel-dry the pan and leave it out for another hour or two to ensure it is completely dry.
  3. Spray the pan with coconut oil.  Use a soft cloth to spread the oil over the entire nonstick surface of the pan.  Work carefully to ensure the entire nonstick side has an even coating of coconut oil.
  4. With the coconut oil still in the pan, place it on the burner over medium-high heat.  Leave it on the burner for a few minutes, allowing the entire pan to get warm.
  5. Turn off the burner and remove the pan from the heat.
  6. Let the pan cool at room temperature for about 45 minutes.
  7. After this, the pan’s surface should once again be nonstick.  Smaller scratches should be coated with the coconut oil.

If you follow the steps above and the scratch remains in your nonstick pans or returns after a few uses, don’t continue to use the old pan.  Make the investment in a new pan or new cookware set to ensure that you aren’t exposing yourself or others in your home to potentially harmful substances.  

Also, if you do manage to fix the scratch, make sure to follow the tips below to prevent future scratches in the newly fixed pan.

Scratched Non Stick Pan

Risks of Cooking in Scratched Non Stick Pans

We discussed some of the risks of cooking in a nonstick pan above.  Let’s take a deeper look at the potential downsides of continuing to cook in that scratched pan.

  • The nonstick coating in a scratched pan may begin to flake off.  The flakes can make their way into the foods you eat.  While there is mixed research on whether this coating is actually harmful, it is best to not risk it.
  • When a nonstick pan is scratched, it exposes the pan’s aluminum core.  The bigger or deeper the scratch, the more of the aluminum core that is exposed.  When exposed, the aluminum may leach into the foods that you’re cooking.  Aluminum toxicity levels (ingesting more than 1 mg of aluminum per each kilogram of body weight in a week), have been tied to various medical conditions.  These include irritable bowel syndrome, fertility problems, Crohn’s disease, breast cancer, cysts, Alzheimer’s disease, and more.
  • Cooking with a nonstick pan, and particularly a scratched nonstick pan, over high heat is very dangerous.  High temperature (over 570 °F) can cause the coating to disintegrate.  This can release perfluorooctanoic acid, a dangerous chemical.
  • Nonstick pans with scratches also lose more of their nonstick coating.  This can make them less ‘nonstick’ and not as effective at keeping foods from sticking.  While this isn’t necessarily a danger, it is annoying when you’re trying to cook.  You could also potentially scratch the pan more trying to remove, stir, or flip the stuck-on foods.
Scratched Non Stick Pan

How to Prevent Your Non Stick Pans from Getting Scratched

If you purchase a new nonstick pan to replace the old scratched one, or have any other nonstick cookware in your home, preventing scratches from happening in the first place is important.  When your pans are scratch-free, you won’t need to question whether they are safe to use for cooking. 

Follow these dos and don’ts to prevent scratches on your nonstick cookware:

  • DON’T use metal utensils with nonstick cookware.  Metal forks, spatulas, tongs, or other utensils can scratch the pan’s surface.
  • DO use utensils made from silicone, wood, or plastic.  These materials are less likely to scratch the surface of a nonstick pan.
  • DON’T stack nonstick pans on top of one another.  The base of the top pan can rub against the nonstick coating of the pan below it and leave behind scratches or chips.
  • DO hang nonstick pans or store them without stacking.  This will prevent one pan’s bottom from scratching the nonstick surface of the other pan.  If you want or need to be able to stack your pans to conserve space, place a soft cloth or cookware protector between the pans.
  • DON’T clean nonstick pans in the dishwasher.  The water pressure and stronger detergent can damage the pan’s coating.  
  • DON’T use steel wool or other abrasive scrubbers to clean a nonstick pan.  These materials are too rough for the nonstick coating and will leave behind small scratches.
  • DO clean nonstick pans using a sponge (without a scrubber side).  A sponge should be sufficient to remove food from the nonstick surface, and it won’t leave behind scratch marks.
  • DON’T heat a nonstick pan over high-heat.  Higher temperatures can damage the nonstick coating.  Try to cook over medium heat or lower when using nonstick cookware.  

Pros and Cons of Non Stick Cookware

As with all other types of cookware, there are both benefits and drawbacks to cooking with nonstick pans.  Here are a few of the pros and cons to help you decide whether nonstick cookware is right for you.

Pros

  • There is less worry about foods sticking or burning when you cook in a nonstick pan.
  • You don’t have to add as much oil or butter when cooking, which makes it easier to cook healthier meals.
  • Cooking eggs, fish, tofu or other delicate foods is much easier with a nonstick pan.
  • Nonstick pans are easy to clean with just a soft cloth or sponge.
  • Nonstick cookware can be less expensive than stainless steel sets.
  • Individuals who don’t have as much experience in the kitchen often prefer the ease of using nonstick cookware.
  • No oiling or seasoning is required.
what to do with scratched non stick pan

Cons

  • The coating of a scratched nonstick pan may flake into the food you’re eating.
  • If the aluminum core of a pan gets exposed, aluminum can leach into the contents of the pan.
  • You shouldn’t cook over high heat when using nonstick pans.
  • You’ll have to use nylon or wooden utensils; metal utensils shouldn’t be used with nonstick cookware.
  • It is more difficult to caramelize or brown foods when cooking in nonstick pans.
  • Nonstick pans should not be washed in the dishwasher.
  • While some nonstick pans may be oven safe, they won’t be safe to use at the higher temperatures that a stainless steel pan will be.
  • Storing nonstick cookware can be more challenging because you can’t stack the pans together without something protective between them.

Scratched Non Stick Pans:  What to Do

If you have a scratched nonstick pan, the best and safest option is to dispose of the pan and purchase a new one.  This will protect you and any others in your home from ingesting potentially dangerous chemicals or aluminum.  After you get a new pan, remember to follow the tips I shared above to prevent the pan from getting scratched.

FAQs

Is it OK to use scratched non-stick pans?

No, the safest choice is not to use a scratched nonstick pan.  The coating can flake off into the foods you’re cooking.  Additionally, as more of the aluminum core gets exposed, the aluminum can leach into the foods in the pan, which can be very dangerous.

Is it safe to use a scratched Tefal pan?

No, as with other nonstick pans, it is best not to use a T-fal pan that is scratched.