The Disappointing, Disappearing GreenPan

greenpanCookware makers have launched a variety of nonstick pans touted as “eco-friendly,” some also promising that their new coatings will last longer, work at higher temperatures, and resist scratches. But as our testing revealed, it’s not easy being both green and a solid performer. Furthermore, whether some of these pans are really any greener than the old nonstick is a big open question.   Traditional nonstick coatings use two controversial chemicals: PFOA and PTFE (also known as Teflon). PFOA, or perfluorooctanoic acid, is a processing agent widely used in manufacturing that has been detected in water, food, wildlife, and human blood samples.  (The Environmental Protection Agency cites it for causing birth defects in laboratory animals).  The problem with PTFE, is when the cookware reaches temperatures of 500 F or more, this otherwise stable and non-toxic chemical will begin to deteriorate. When a nonstick pan has been scratched or overheated , it is very possible that some of the coating ends up in the food we eat. In addition, some of the fumes released by even a  new nonstick pan can be lethal to household birds.  So consumers (and cookware manufacturers) have been casting about for a solution that is environmentally friendly. The trick is to create a nonstick cookware without using the chemical PFOA in the manufacturing process.  The problem is that although PFOA does not seem to transfer to the food, it is a chemical that is hard to break down in the environment.   Assuming you use your non-stick cookware appropriately, i.e. not heating it excessively and unattended, always heating the pan with something in it, not scratching off the Teflon and consuming it for dinner, using non-stick pans is relatively safe for humans.  Consumers who wish to avoid PTFE and PFOA have turned to so-called green skillets which use ceramic-based coatings.  One of the most high-profile environmental-friendly cookware is called “GreenPan”.

“The Original “GreenPan (along with other ceramic and silicone cookware that includes Cuisinart’s GreenGourmet and Bialetti’s Aeternum) advertises that it can provide stick-free, Teflon-like performance but without the undesirable PFOA or PTFE chemicals.  Does it work?  Apparently, not very well.  Tests conducted by America’s Test Kitchen and Cooks Illustrated showed that most green pans did not perform as well as the more traditional nonstick finish.   And consumer sentiment has not been kind towards the GreenPan. Most user reviews are reporting about staining and sticking. It seems that the pans are good at the beginning (first few months) but after a while, the food starts to stick to the pan.    The Ceramic coated skillets works well initially, however the ceramic coating begins to become a not so non stick coating after about 3 or 4 months. We purchased the 11 inch skillet with the helper handle and when the pan was new it performed as advertised.   However, within a few months, we noticed that food began to stick – cooking eggs was almost impossible to do without a mangled result.   Our experience is mirrored by hundreds of similarly disappointing reviews posted at Amazon and Consumer Reports  (which rated the GreenPan highly, but acknowledged that it did not subject the pan to continued use over a long period).   GreenPan is now called GreenLife and it sells white-colored ceramic pans.   They have received better reviews, but the jury is still out on longevity.

One of the problems posed by ceramic surfaces is that it is very sensitive to oil.  Cooking sprays, especially, can degrade the lifespan of ceramic skillets.  If you cook with oil, it’s critical to completely clean off all of the cooked oil after each use. Otherwise layers of oil will build up, quickly diminishing the nonstick properties of the cookware. But unfortunately if you vigorously scrub off the layers of oil, you inevitably take the nonstick surface with it. This can cause both ceramic and Teflon cookware to age prematurely.

Perhaps the technology is too new and it needs to be perfected. However that was not the case when Teflon was first used in cookware.  Until “green” skillet technology improves, we’re sticking with traditional nonstick or a well-seasoned cast-iron pan.   We found that the three-pack of Tramontina’s Gourmet Selection Sauté Pans sold at Costco for about $25 have proven to be very durable and effective — at a fraction of the GreenPan price.   Yes, it uses Teflon.   And if that’s a dealbreaker, then you may need to return to cast-iron or stainless steel.

13 replies
  1. Elaine Swanson
    Elaine Swanson says:

    I have been very happy with my month old green pan (white one from Target). However last night frying a hamburger and reheating potatoes, it is so stained that I cannot clean it. Don’t want to scrape as I know that is the end of the pan.. Suggestions??
    Thank you!

    Reply
    • mshames
      mshames says:

      Often, we’ve found that deglazing a pan with wine or broth can get rid of stains without the need for abrasives. But the fact that the stain occurred at all is not appropriate for a “nonstick” pan.

      Reply
    • Anonymous
      Anonymous says:

      I bought a set of two The Original Green Pans with Thermolon from Costco. Since the directions very specifically said not to cook on High heat, I have not and yet the center of one of the pans is lifting causing it not to sit flat on the burner. Paint has chipped along the edge of the other pan therefore I will be returning these to Costco. What a disappointment!

      Reply
  2. David Donnelly
    David Donnelly says:

    We have owned 2 Green Pans, which we purchased at Williams Sonoma, a year ago. Both pans perform flawlessly. Nothing adheres to the surface of either pan.
    We bought 2 for our daughter, who is equally pleased and gives rave reviews.Our pans look like the day they were purchased.
    I have no idea who does your testing, but in my opinion, they should get new jobs

    Reply
  3. anonymous_guest
    anonymous_guest says:

    Our Greenpan non-stick was short-lived, based on amount of use. If you use it infrequently it seems it could last a long time. Slowly food will begin to stick, creating a permanent, growing ‘sticky’ spot. I wish we had known to be fastidious when it came to cleaning off the oil, may have gotten more life out of it.

    Reply
  4. Leg
    Leg says:

    Like several other commenters, I purchased my pans at Costco. They worked reasonably well for awhile, but have developed sticky spots that burn and stain. I do not cook on high heat nor use cooking spray on them. They are only cleaned with a non-abrasive sponge. They have never been put in the dishwasher. When wet, you can tell where the sticky spots are just by moving your fingers over the pan bottom and, where you encounter drag instead of slickness, that is where it will burn. You can’t see this, but you can feel it. Have other types of pans that perform better and have lasted longer.

    Reply
  5. John
    John says:

    I bought a green pan about 6 months ago and at first, it was great! Then it started to stain and everything would stick to it. I had to through it away. Very disappointing, I paid good money for that pan.

    Reply
  6. J Bukovsky
    J Bukovsky says:

    We have been using the Green Pan in two sizes for about a year. The pans are well constructed for use on a flat top stove. The pans have never been placed in a dishwasher nor scratched during use: only utensils of high temperature plastic or silicone have been used. Coconut oil, olive oil, and butter are typically used for cooking most foods. Only a non-scratch sponge with dish detergent has been used for cleaning the pans. As far as I can tell, all oil is removed after each use. Typically the pans have been used several times a week.

    For the first six months, both pans exhibited a slippery cooking surface. In the past few months, however, they have both begun sticking. It has now gotten to where every item cooked now sticks.

    Considering the expense of the of the pans, the usable life seems extremely short compared with Teflon.

    Reply
  7. anonymous
    anonymous says:

    All accurate statements, I can validate this article is based on experience. I had the exact same experiences which is why I’m ditching my pans that have the word “green” used in all its advertising and try the Calphalin classic ceramic this time around.

    Reply
  8. Janet
    Janet says:

    Bought two Greenpans yesterday. Quite expensive! The 30cm frying pan seemed brilliant on its first use. The food slid around perfectly. Then I noticed that the fat from the bacon had run to the sides. I am not happy. The base had domed! The pans are going back for a full refund. I assure you – it was on a medium heat. As an ex B&B owner I am fastidious about the care of my pans and these are the first new ones I have bought in years. I am very happy to recommend the £10.00 frying pans from IKEA.

    Reply
  9. Daniel
    Daniel says:

    There are 4 current product lines for the GreenPan. We purchased the Lima(base model) from Bed, Bath and Beyond. It has exhibited some of the negative tendencies mentioned in this article. We have since purchased a more expensive version of the GreenPan in the Paris Pro line and have not experienced any of those issues. Quite frankly, we love all the GreenPans, but especially the higher end pan that has a higher end coating. If you buy the ones from Costco, my guess is that those are a baseline model.

    Tips for cleaning the older pan: Our Lima model developed staining and some sticking. I am OK with the stick as long as it can be cleaned. On the staining, I first washed the pan and then took a auto/car cleaner wax and it removed the staining. The micro abrasives and possibly the petroleum distillates removed the staining. Don’t go crazy on the petroleum distillates, it’s a minuscule amount and yes, I wash the pan immediately afterward. Ours looks good as new. The new ones need no such attention.

    Reply

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