Scratching Your Non-Stick Pan: Recommended
Scratching your non-stick pan is bad. Scratching it damages the non-stick surface, exposes the material below to corrosion, gives food a crevise to encrust, etc. Thus the prohibition on using a metal spatula, or steel wool, or forks or knives to poke at one's food when cooking on a non-stick surface. This has always been gospel to me, and I have protected my non-stick plans like they were my own flesh and blood.
Then, one day, I forgot, and I used a fork to break up some lumps in the rue. The non-stick surface scratched. The pan was ruined.
Well, not totally ruined .. we continued to use it, though with the silent agreement that when we could next budget it, we would buy a replacement. But in the meantime, the non-stick surface was largely intact, and surely using it was better than using a non-non-stick pan. And you know what? It continued to work okay. Washing it out was a bit more of a pain, and we eyed the corrosion growing under the scratches warily, but it continues to be a good pan to cook on.
The nicest thing is, the pressure is off. When I use the pan, I can just use it, and no longer feel such a powerful need to protect it. It's already "ruined", so why worry? I even use metal instruments on it occasionally, and while it is gradually getting more and more beat-up, it's still a lot of fun to cook on. The relief is so pronounced that I prefer using it even when we have another no-stick pan which is better suited to what I am trying to do (ie, it is larger, smaller, deeper, etc).
If this resonates with you, you might want to think about taking one of your older, less-favorite no-stick pans (if you have such a one -- else, look around in a thrift store. You should be able to pick one up for a dollar or so) and lightly drag a fork across it a couple of times, not bearing down, and not fast, just letting the weight of the fork do the work. Check with your spouse first, of course, if you both cook, and make sure you're in agreement. See how you like it.
If you try it and find that you enjoy having a scratched no-stick pan, I'd love to hear from you. Drop me an email at t t k @ c i a r . o r g and tell me your story. I will periodically update this page with links to your letters.
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