At America’s Test Kitchen, we on the Reviews team test equipment and gear all year around. One important aspect of the testing process is to determine whether the equipment can withstand long-term daily use.
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In the case of regular nonstick skillets and ceramic nonstick skillets, there’s only one way to find out whether a skillet is truly nonstick: cook foods that can easily get stuck. Eggs fit the bill. We use a modified version of a test we learned about from the Cookware Manufacturers Association. It’s one of the ways the nonstick coating manufacturer Whitford tests its products.
In the test kitchen, we affectionately refer to it as “the 50-egg test.” It’s a rite of passage for the team. At some point, every person on our team has tested nonstick skillets and completed this test.
So what exactly does the 50-egg test look like? We heat each skillet to the exact same temperature, using a surface Thermapen throughout testing to make sure it’s not too hot or too cold. We carefully crack an egg into a bowl and then transfer it to the center of the pan and set a timer. The moment the timer beeps, we scoop up the egg with a spatula and simultaneously check for evidence of the egg sticking to the pan. Then we cook another egg. And another egg. And another egg.
In the original version, the “test is repeated until the eggs no longer lift off with ease.” We originally followed suit, but we found that we started to notice differences in performance across models long before we hit 50 eggs. Some—such as the internet-favorite Always pan—started to falter after 44 eggs. Meanwhile, our favorite ceramic nonstick pans, the GreenPan Valencia Pro and the Kyocera, breezed through the test. As the eggs piled up around us, we decided to cap the test at 50 eggs.
After all, this is just the first test of many. We then use the skillets to make a variety of foods that are typically prepared in nonstick skillets—Beef and Broccoli Stir-Fry, scrambled eggs or frittatas, and pan-fried delicate fish. After putting the skillet through all the above mentioned cooking, we go through another round of 50 dry-fried eggs to see if the skillet is still nonstick—or if it has deteriorated during use.
It may sound wasteful to dry-fry 100 eggs to test a skillet’s nonstick ability, but the work we do actually helps cut back on waste. We’re saving you from the stress (and wasted food) of yanking some stuck-on frittatas off of your skillet at your next brunch party. Our testing also prevents people from buying bad equipment that’ll just end up in the trash. We’re happy to do the work.
Though the eggs aren’t exactly pretty, our coworkers have eaten plenty of them over the years. If there are any leftovers, we compost them to combat food waste.