In terms of non-stickability and even control of the heat, cast iron is the best material for a frying pan, closely followed by heavy-weight aluminum. Stainless Steel is the worst.
Non-Stick frying pans have a much shorter life than you might expect. When even slightly worn, overheating can cause the surface to release potential carcinogens, noxious gases, and tiny particles that can get into the lungs.
Professional chefs will "prove" a new metal pan with oil before its first use.
To do so, follow these instructions:
- Pour cooking oil into the pan to a depth of about 0.8 inches, heat it up on the stove until very hot but not smoking
- Pull to the side of the stove - or put it on the lowest heat possible - for at least six hours (overnight is ideal)
- Dispose of the oil and wipe the pan out with a clean, dry cloth
To "prove" a moist pan with salt:
- Cover its bottom with a thick layer of household salt
- Heat until the salt starts to turn brown and you can see residual water bubbling out the metal.
- Dispose of the salt and wipe the pan out with a clean dry cloth.