Does Olive Oil Ruin Nonstick Pans? Plus: Ways to Avoid Ruining Nonstick Pans

You love your nonstick pan, especially to make fish, pancakes, or scrambled eggs. Although you usually butter your pans, today, your recipe calls for olive oil instead. You feel a little reticent to use olive oil. Can it damage your nonstick pan?

No, olive oil does not ruin nonstick pans since its residue comes off. Avoid cooking spray like Pam, as it accumulates on the nonstick pan. The more you use it, the more you’re destroying your pan with a permanent slick residue that necessitates a pan replacement.

If your nonstick pans are new or cost you quite a lot of money, you’re definitely going to want to keep reading. Ahead, we’ll talk about why olive oil is often wrongly vilified for destroying nonstick pans. We’ll also tell you which cooking habits you might already be guilty of that will reduce the life of your nonstick cookware.

This Is Why Olive Oil Doesn’t Ruin Nonstick Pans

Nonstick cookware such as pans is usually coated in Teflon or another type of polytetrafluoroethylene or PTFE. Only the inside of the pan is nonstick, so it will be a noticeably lighter color compared to the pan’s exterior. Yet even still, you don’t put food directly on the pan’s surface. Rather, you have to grease up the pan first.

As we said in the intro, not all recipes will call for butter as a greaser. In some cases, oil might be the preferred greasing ingredient. The good news is that whether you want to use olive oil, extra virgin olive oil, or even other types of oil on your nonstick pan, you shouldn’t have to fret about the oil wrecking the cooking surface.

Why? For several reasons. When olive oil adheres to the nonstick surface, it creates an extra layer. Between the olive oil and the nonstick coating, damage is less likely to accumulate when cooking with the pan. 

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Olive oil, like butter, is only on the pan for the time that you apply it. Once you wash your nonstick pan with some dish soap and a soft sponge, the olive oil residue comes off. You’ll see more in the next section why that’s so important, but for now, trust us that it matters quite a lot.

Another benefit of using olive oil on a nonstick pan is that its smoke point is quite high. Extra virgin olive oil in particular has a smoke point between 374 and 405 degrees Fahrenheit. Refined olive oil might have a smoke point of around 210 to 410 degrees. If you need the refresher, refined olive oil is a byproduct of virgin olive oil that combines other oils.

Since its smoke point is so high, you can cook with olive oil safely when making all sorts of food without worrying about its chemical composition changing.

Here’s What Can Wreck Your Nonstick Pans

If you’ve ever heard horror stories about nonstick pans losing their coating after applying oil, it’s not the oil itself that did it, but likely user error. The following common cooking mistakes can reduce the effectiveness of a nonstick pan.

Using Cooking Spray

How often have you misted your nonstick pan with your trusty canister of Pam and then started cooking? Even if you prefer another cooking spray brand, they’re all equally detrimental to the integrity of your nonstick pan. You’re much better off saving your nonstick cooking spray for your baking pans instead.

Each time you apply cooking spray to a nonstick pan, the residue never completely disappears. Yes, that’s even if you scrub and scour at the nonstick cooking surface, which you really shouldn’t do anyway if you don’t want to scratch off the coating.

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So now imagine you’ve had your nonstick pan for months and you’ve used cooking spray regularly. You’ll have created such a residue barrier that the nonstick surface has stopped working as intended. When you go to flip over your salmon, it sticks skin-side down to the pan. You end up ripping the skin right off the fish when you try to flip it with your spatula. In the meantime, your pan is left with cooked fish skin that you have to scrape off.

Anytime you’re using nonstick cookware, grease it with butter or oil only.

Turning on Your Stovetop and Then Adding Oil

How many recipes have you seen that tell you to warm up your pan and then pour on butter or oil? After all, butter can’t melt on a cool pan nor can oil move easily to coat the pan. Yet those recipes are spreading dangerous misinformation. When you turn your stovetop on and put the nonstick pan on with no greaser, it could give off toxins, especially if the pan is new.

You’re also not getting the full extent of greasing as you do if you put the oil or butter on the pan first and then turn the pan on. Although it can feel strange for a while if you’ve done it in the reverse order all this time, once you begin adding the fat first, you can feel good knowing that you’re preserving your nonstick pan.

Putting Your Nonstick Cookware in the Dishwasher

We’d hope this one would be a no-brainer, but you should never wash your nonstick pan or other nonstick cookware in the dishwasher. Any stainless steel or enamel surfaces on the cookware will survive just fine, but between the harsh detergents and high dishwasher heat, your nonstick pan will be a little less nonstick each time it goes in the dishwasher.

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If you’ve only cleaned your nonstick pan in the dishwasher a few times before, it’s not too late to rectify this bad habit without having to replace your pan. Yet the more washes the pan has endured, the worse off it will be.

Cooking with Metal Utensils

When you go to flip that pancake or turn your salmon over on your nonstick pan, what kind of spatula are you using to do it? Is it a metal one? That’s about the worst thing you can do if you want the nonstick coating to remain for as long as possible. Each time the metal makes contact with the pan, it can scrape, chip, or scratch at the coating until there’s nothing left. Use silicone or plastic utensils instead.

Overheating the Nonstick Pan

This is the big one. Although olive oil has a high smoke point and that’s part of the reason why it’s so well-suited to use on a nonstick pan, you shouldn’t be cooking on a pan anywhere close to that smoke point. Nonstick pans are not meant to withstand high heat, which is part of the reason why cleaning the pan in the dishwasher is so ill-advised. The temperatures could release dangerous toxins.

You should cook no higher than medium heat. For recipes that need high heat, make sure you’re using another pan other than your nonstick one. This is for your safety!

Related Questions

Is olive oil a nonstick cooking spray?

You’d rather not deal with unwieldy bottles of olive oil, as then it’s just more of a mess to clean up later. Well, it turns out, you don’t have to. You can buy olive oil as a nonstick cooking spray such as this spray from Crisco. Yes, we admonished using cooking spray before, but olive oil spray is just olive oil in an aerosol container, so it’s safe for your nonstick cookware.

Can you use olive oil on GreenPan?

GreenPan is a Belgian-based cookware brand that uses Thermolon for its nonstick pans, which doesn’t release toxic fumes. Their cookware is mostly ceramic. If you were gifted some GreenPan cookware, is olive oil safe to use? It is indeed, and the makers of GreenPan themselves say as much. They also recommend greasing your GreenPan with butter.