Skip to content   Skip to footer navigation 

Is it time to throw away your pots and pans? 

Our experts share five signs that your cookware needs replacing, plus how to dispose of your old pots and pans.

Last updated: 04 April 2024


Checked for accuracy by our qualified fact-checkers and verifiers. Find out more about fact-checking at CHOICE.

Are you always watching a pot that just doesn't seem to boil? Regularly scraping burnt bits from your frypan into the sink? 

If the motley collection of pots and pans in your cupboards has seen better days, it could be them that's to blame, and not your cooking skills. 

"Good-quality saucepans and frypans can last you many years or even a lifetime if you look after them properly, and will do you lots of favours when it comes to cooking great dishes," says CHOICE kitchen expert Fiona Mair

"But not all pans will go the distance. In our kitchen lab, we often see pans that easily sustain scratches and damage, and some that just aren't built to last."

Here are a few signs it might be time to invest in some new pans, plus how to dispose the old ones and tips for buying new.

1. Your non-stick pans are scratched or flaking

Non-stick pans have been a popular choice for many home cooks since they were invented in the 1950s – their slide-right-off surfaces make them easy to cook with and easier to clean. 

In the early 2000s, though, they were surrounded by controversy when certain types of non-stick cookware were found to contain toxic, harmful chemicals known as PFOAs, which have now been phased out from use in pans. 

These days, non-stick pans are often made with coatings such as Teflon, the brand name for a chemical coating known as polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE).

If your pans are flaking or scratched, you probably want to avoid potentially ingesting bits of the plastic coating

It is deemed safe and non-toxic when used at temperatures below 260°C, but if your pans are flaking or scratched, you probably want to avoid potentially ingesting bits of the plastic coating with your scrambled eggs. 

But if you want to avoid or minimise your exposure to chemicals such as PTFE and PFOA, look for ceramic non-stick cookware, which uses a glass-like ceramic material that's derived from beach sand to create a non-stick effect.

If your cast-iron enamel-coated pans are chipped on a surface that comes into contact with food, it's time to replace them, as the surface could flake into your food. Many premium cast-iron pots have lifetime warranties so you may be able to get them replaced free of charge. 

CHOICE tip: To ensure you buy a pan that's resistant to scratching, check our expert reviews. For non-stick frypans we assess the durability and resilience of the non-stick surface by scrubbing a section of each pan 10,000 times. We use a mechanical scrubbing arm with a Scotch-Brite scourer attached and with a 10kg weight applied.

2. Your pots and pans have rust or pitting

Stainless steel or old aluminium pots that are showing signs of rust or pitting should also be replaced. Rust is not toxic, but it can flavour any food cooked in the pan so this should be avoided. 

"Pitting" refers to damage to the pans caused by chlorine and chloride found in salt and it can be caused by acidic foods over time – it's not dangerous but can look unsightly, so may mean you want to replace your pans.

3. You want to switch to induction

More and more Australians are switching away from gas in order to make healthier, more sustainable choices for their home energy. 

If you want to switch to an induction cooktop, it's important that you have induction-compatible cookware that's the right size for the induction cooktop you'll be cooking on, so you may need to invest in some new pans. 

Most frying pans and saucepans are induction-compatible these days (we've tested the latest frying pans and saucepans in our induction cookware review), but the size you buy is important as the base of the pan needs to match the elements on your induction cooktop to guarantee efficiency. 

To check whether your existing pots and pans will work on an induction cooktop, you'll need to see if they have a ferrous base by placing a magnet on them. If the magnet sticks well, you're good to go. If not, you'll have to invest in some new cookware.

The size you buy is important as the base of the pan needs to match the elements on your induction cooktop to guarantee efficiency

Cast iron, steel, some enamelled steel, and stainless steel pans with an iron base or core are suitable, but glass, aluminium and copper generally are not. If in doubt, look for the induction-compatible symbol or try the magnet test.

Saucepans are measured in litres, not diameter so to find the perfect-sized saucepan for your induction cooktop, you should measure the base to find out the diameter and ensure it matches a zone on your induction cooktop.

4. The handles are loose, cracked or broken

No-one wants to rely on a dodgy broken handle when they're cooking up a storm, so if yours have any damage, it's time to address them to ensure your safety. 

A loose screw can be tightened, but if you have handles that are split or broken and can't be replaced, it's time to get some new pans.

5. Your pans are warped and don't sit flush on the cooktop

If your watched pot just doesn't boil or food isn't cooking evenly, it could be because the base of your pan is warped and it's time to replace it. 

An uneven base on a saucepan or frying pan means food will take longer to cook, which will cost you more in energy and potentially ruin your dishes. 

If you're cooking with induction, it's particularly important that your pans sit flush with the cooktop to guarantee the best heating and cooking results. 

Can you recycle old pots and pans?

Pots, pans and metal kitchenware cannot go in your household recycling bin and unfortunately many of these items end up in landfill. 

If your pots and pans are at the end of their life and can't be donated to a charity shop or repurposed, there may be services in your area that can recycle them. 

Some local councils and organisations such as Recyle Smart, and retailers such as Kitchen Warehouse, offer recycling services for pots and pans made from materials including stainless steel, copper, aluminium and cast iron. 

Contact your local council to find out if there are any options in your local area or search on Recycle Mate.

We care about accuracy. See something that's not quite right in this article? Let us know or read more about fact-checking at CHOICE.

Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.