This is a solid pan that performs well, contains recycled metal, and is coated with a nonstick ceramic material that releases significantly less toxic stuff into the environment.
Like all nonstick pans, the coating doesn't last forever. And if you cook over high heat for prolonged periods of time, you shorten the surface's effective life.
Despite some limitations, this is a quality nonstick pan that’s better for the environment (and possibly your own health).
For years, some consumers have been wary of traditional nonstick cooking surfaces. Do they cause cancer or other illnesses? Are they bad for the environment? The American Cancer Society says Teflon—the brand name for polytetrafluoroethylene, or PTFE—is not suspected to cause cancer, though fumes from overheated pans can cause flulike symptoms in people and be fatal to birds. But perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a chemical used in the Teflon-making process, has raised greater concerns. It’s now widely present at low levels in both humans and the environment, where it seems to stick around for a very long time. It’s not surprising that cookware companies would seek out alternatives.
Hong Kong–based GreenPan says on its website that it was the first company to offer ceramic nonstick cookware, back in 2007. These days it sells globally, in over 100 countries (in the U.S., that includes marketing on Home Shopping Network). GreenPan’s ceramic nonstick coating is called Thermolon, a name they trademarked. You can heat Thermolon pans up to 850 degrees Fahrenheit without releasing toxic fumes or causing the lining to blister (though cooking at high temperatures for any length of time shortens the effective life of the nonstick coating). And the company touts not just the lack of toxicity while cooking, but also that its manufacturing process is relatively green: It uses a proportion of recycled metals for the cooking surfaces and handles, and says the Thermolon manufacturing process releases a lot less C02 into the environment than the process for Teflon and other nonstick coatings.
The body of GreenPan’s 10-inch fry pan is cast from recycled hard anodized aluminum and has a recycled stainless-steel handle. It feels solid when we pick it up, and it’s slightly heavier than other 10-inch pans we have. The sides are fairly straight, not too sloping. The Thermolon nonstick surface is made from a process called sol-gel technology, which GreenPan describes on its website as “small particles suspended in solution that gel together to form a matrix.” GreenPan touts Thermolon as a coating that’s not simply better for humans and the environment, but is a superior cooking surface: good heat distribution, plus excellent browning and crisping at lower temps. The instructions tell you to hand-wash the pan without using excessively abrasive sponges or scrubbies.
To judge its nonstick properties and general cooking chops, we put the GreenPan 10-inch fry pan through three tests: scrambling eggs, frying eggs, and searing salmon fillets.
Scrambling eggs: We used six eggs, with butter as the fat medium. We set the fry pan over a medium gas flame and added the butter, then reduced the heat to medium low. We liked how the pan is weighted—we felt comfortable swirling the eggs in here. Using a flexible spatula, we soft-scrambled the eggs without any hint of sticking. Score: A.
Frying eggs: We fried three eggs in vegetable oil. We set the GreenPan over a medium gas flame—this pan is definitely thicker than a lot of nonstick pans, but we didn’t notice that it took longer to heat. And the pan's relatively unsloped sides allowed for a somewhat larger cooking surface than other nonsticks we’ve used. We added a modest 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil, cracked in our eggs, and fried as usual. The eggs slid around easily, and fried up beautifully. Score: A.
Searing salmon: We fried two dinner-sized portions of skin-on salmon fillet in vegetable oil. We set the GreenPan over a medium-high gas flame, added 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil, and waited a few seconds for it to heat. Then we dropped in the salmon, skin-side down. We liked how the pan’s gray color let us see the browning around the edge of the fish a little better than a black pan would. After the salmon started to brown, we lowered the heat to medium and flipped the fillets. The results were gorgeous: We got a nice sear on the skin side, and our fillets cooked evenly. And even though the handle is a bit shorter than on other fry pans, it didn’t get hot. Score: B+.
Photos by Chris Rochelle