As chemically coated cookware has fallen out of favor, so ceramic pots and pans have proved an increasingly popular choice for home cooks.
These provide a more natural non-stick surface, with oil being slowly released throughout the pans’ lifetime.
The thing is, that protective layer doesn’t last forever, however well you care for it. Can you restore a ceramic pan and make it non-stick again?
The good news is that with a little bit of maintenance, you can save yourself a trip to the store – and a lot of money in the process.
In this article, I’ll start by explaining the most common causes of how ceramic cookware loses its non-stick properties. After that I’ll explain how to re-apply a homemade non-stick surface using the simple seasoning approach.
(Head back to my massive cookware guide when you’re done for more help with this side of kitchen life!)
Why Do Ceramic Pans Lose Their Non Stick Properties?
There are two main causes for ceramic cookware to become noticeably sticky on the stovetop.
Punishing Your Pots & Pans At Too High A Temperature
If it’s at all possible, you should avoid putting ceramic cookware in the oven, unless it’s specifically advertised as being oven-safe.
Even if that is the case, I recommend being extremely sparing when oven cooking with ceramic pans.
It’s not the kind of activity that will cause your ceramic pan to lose its non-stick surface overnight. Rather, it’s a gradual thing that will sneak up on you over time. You won’t know a problem’s developing until it’s too late.
Adding Scratches With Sharp Metal Utensils
If you use sharp utensils on any non-stick surface, you’ll slowly but surely make a small problem increasingly worse.
Even very minor scrapes and scratches will spread all over the cooking surface, and before you know it you’ll find your non-stick surface isn’t doing much for you at all.
The easiest way to prevent this problem occurring is to invest in a decent set of silicone or wooden utensils.
When you consider the often high cost of a new cookware set, it’s not hard to justify spending a little extra money to get the right tools for the job.
Once the surface on your set has gone, after all, you’ll face a much higher cost if you have to replace individual pieces (or, even worse, the entire set).
Fortunately, there is something you can try before resorting to handing over money of your hard-earned cash…
Restoring A Non Stick Surface To Ceramic Cookware
So, everything’s sticking to your ceramic cookware and you want to get those pots and pans back into perfect cooking condition.
Before you go out and buy a new set, it’s worth trying to season these problematic pans.
It’s a process that will be very familiar to owners of raw cast iron cookware, but might not be familiar to you if you’ve not worked with this material before.
In simple terms, raw cooking surfaces are covered with countless millions of microscopic dips, bumps and imperfections.
By seasoning pots and pans, you “bake” a layer of oil onto the cooking surface. After the oil has bonded to the pan, you end up with an ultra smooth cooking surface. This in turn stops food from sticking to it at high heat.
How To Season A Ceramic Pan
The process of seasoning a ceramic pan isn’t enormously complicated. It’s well within the capability of the average home cook, even if you’ve not attempted it before.
It’s important that you follow the steps carefully though, as good preparation is half the battle here.
Step 1: Preparing The Ceramic Pan For Seasoning
We’re going to be baking a layer of oil onto the pan, so it goes without saying we want to start off with a pristine surface before doing anything else.
This means nothing more complicated than giving the ceramic pot and really thorough wash using warm water and standard kitchen detergent.
Once you’re done, look over the pan surface in a clear light and make sure every last bit of grub and dirt has been removed.
If it’s still looking like it’s in bad shape, you can take a slightly more aggressive approach to cleaning up.
- Put your ceramic pan on the stovetop and add a cup of water.
- Add two tablespoons of bicarbonate of soda along with half a cup of white vinegar.
- Stir everything in the pan until it’s all combined.
- Heat the contents to a simmer, and then let the mixture go to work on the pan for around ten minutes.
- Once ten minutes are up, empty the pan, then give it a normal wash as I’ve outlined above.
Step 2: Oiling The Surface Of Your Ceramic Pan
Now that we have a completely clean pan surface to work with, it’s time to add the oil.
You can use a number of different oils for seasoning, although the most commonly recommended are rapeseed, soybean or flaxseed oil.
All three of these do a great job for what we’re doing here, and are very easy to buy. You might not have these in your kitchen, but it’s worth investing in a whole bottle as you’ll need to re-season your surfaces in the future anyway.
A quick note first on olive oil.
This is the one oil type that you should never use for seasoning cookware. Yes, it’s a convenient option that you likely already having lying around in your kitchen, but its low smoke point makes it wholly unsuitable for the job at hand.
Once you’ve bought your oil of choice, add a few drops to the surface of the pan. Next, use a bit of kitchen towel to gently work the oil into the surface. Make sure you cover the bottom and sides of your ceramic pan.
Don’t over-do it with the oil!
There should be a noticeable sheen on the surface once you’re done, but there should not be so much oil on the surface that it’s sticky to the touch.
It’s much better to repeat the seasoning process a time or two, than use too much in one sitting.
Step 3: Heating The Oil
Our next job is to actually heat the oil so that it can bind properly with the surface on your ceramic pan.
Before doing that, there are a couple of important safety precautions I recommend, particularly if you’re doing this for the first time:
- Don’t do this as a background chore. It’s a long way from being the most glamorous kitchen task, but any time you’re heating oil it pays to keep a close eye on things.
- Open a window in your kitchen. No matter how gently you go about heating the oil, you are bringing it up to its smoke point. If you’re monitoring things closely you’re really not going to have a problem here, but it’s just good sense!
Now you’re all set.
Put your oiled ceramic pan on the stovetop and dial the heat up to medium. It can take a little while for the oil to reach its smoking point, but don’t try to rush things. Different oils take different amounts of time to smoke. A slow and steady approach is much better here.
Once the oil begins to smoke, turn off the heat, take the ceramic pan off the stovetop, and then put it somewhere out of reach where it can cool down safely.
When the pan is cool enough to handle, grab another piece of kitchen towel and just gently wipe any excess oil from the surface.
You should now have a silky smooth surface that food effortlessly slides off.
Long Term Maintenance
Unfortunately, seasoning of any kind of cookware is never a “one and done” affair.
It will eventually need to be re-seasoned, regardless of the material you’re working with
The good news is that the process of day to day, oil-based cooking with your ceramic pan will naturally apply a gentle re-seasoning process.
Just to set expectations, it won’t be as effective as a dedicated session of seasoning. It will delay the inevitable a little longer though.
When will you need to fully re-season your ceramic pan again?
Simple! When food starts sticking again, it’s time for another round.
In other words, don’t obsess over scheduling this task. Be guided by the performance of your pots and pans and you’ll soon know when a little bit of TLC is needed once again.
Hopefully this guide helps you make your ceramic pans non-stick again. It may not work 100% of the time, simply because everybody reading this will have cookware that’s in a different state of disrepair.
Still, if your non-stick layer is lacking and causing you problems in your day to day kitchen life, there’s certainly no harm in at least trying.
It’s definitely worth a shot before you make the big decisions to spend your hard-earned kitchen budget on a new collection of pots and pans.