What’s The Difference: Ceramic Vs. Nonstick Vs. Enamel-coated Pans

Know what makes each one different.

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Frying pans are probably the most used cookware you have in your kitchen. These pans are the workhorse of your everyday cooking needs, whether you're making breakfast or preparing a hearty dinner. This pan can be coated in any number of materials, and it's this that makes each different from the other. 

All these pans can be made of any kind of material: stainless steel, carbon steel, cast iron, or even a heavy-bottomed pan with a triple layer of copper, aluminum, and steel to make it durable. However, the coating on the inside of the pan is what's more important for some cooks. 

Are you confused about what kind of coating is best for you? Here are the differences between these kinds of pans: 

1 You can use metal utensils on ceramic and enamel-coated pans. Stick to wooden utensils for nonstick pans. 

Unlike the nonstick pans with their slick but soft coating, the ceramic and enamel-coated pans are coated with a substance that's harder. While cooking utensils made of heat-resistant plastic or wood can be used for any kind of cookware, you won't have to worry so much about using your other utensils when you have a ceramic or enamel-coated pan. While it can withstand metal utensils, these can still scratch the surface so you should still take care when using metal cooking spoons in your coated frying pans. 

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These heat-resistant utensils are still best used on nonstick pans so that the coating can be more durable in use and thus, last longer, no matter what the manufacturer says. 

Photo by Unsplash/Andrew "Donovan" Valdivia
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2 Nonstick pans can flake. Ceramic pans can chip. Enamel coatings can crack and get worn down.    

All pans have their cons and for these pans, each has its own flaws. Nonstick pans have a soft, almost-rubberized feel to their nonstick coating which can flake through the use of metal utensils or even through time. This is the reason why it's recommended that wooden, silicone, and heat-resistant plastic be the utensils you use when cooking with these pans. 

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You might think that ceramic pans might have a harder coating, and it does as does enamel-coated pans. However, ceramic, as the name suggests, can chip just like a plate. It may take a very hard fall from the counter to the floor to chip the ceramic coating but it can happen. When this happens, the chip can be the start of the web that cracks the rest of the surface. 

Enamel-coated pans too can crack and become worn down in time. This is the same kind of surface coating you may find on your coated cast iron Dutch ovens. These provide a less porous surface, making it easier to maintain, versus the naked cast iron material so it's common to find cast iron coated in this way. However, this too can crack, especially with mishandling a heavy cast iron pot. 

3 Enamel-coated pans are the most expensive. Ceramic pans are moderately priced. The nonstick pan is the most affordable. 

Enamel-coated pans are the most expensive of these pans. That's because it's commonly cast iron that's enamel-coated and cast iron cookware is not as affordable as other cookware materials. Meanwhile, ceramic pans are in the mid-range of prices. Ceramic coatings are fused to the pan, usually aluminum and sometimes stainless steel, in a process that's similar to car paint jobs. It starts as a powder and when fused, creates a slick surface. This makes it more expensive than even nonstick. 

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Nonstick pans meanwhile are pans that are literally coated in the nonstick material. Think of a beaten egg or crepe batter that you swirl to coat the inside of the pan. That's the same principle behind the coating. This is easier to apply than either enamel or ceramic and thus, is the more affordable option. 

4 A nonstick pan is a disposable pan. 

Since nonstick pans are the most affordable option among the three kinds of pans, it's easy to think of this pan as a disposable pan. That's why it's okay to not spend too much on the nonstick pan since it's more practical to buy a new one later on when the nonstick surface has become pockmarked and no longer as nonstick as it originally was. 

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