Nonstick cooking spray is one of the least glamorous – and most functional – items in the kitchen. Spraying on a thin layer of vegetable oil is much more efficient than greasing a pan by hand and uses much less oil over all. Most cooking sprays are aerosols, which means that small particles of oil are suspended in gas, which propels them out of the can. Sprays may also contain emulsifiers or anti-foaming agents, in addition to oil. The additives help to keep the emulsion stable and help the oil leave the can smoothly, as well as helping to ensure that the oil disperses evenly over your cooking surface. Not all cooking sprays are aerosol-based, and some newer products use a “cleaner” aerosol by using carbon dioxide as a propellant, rather than something like propane.
In a recent issue (February/March 2015), Cook’s Country magazine set out to see which cooking sprays performed the best in the kitchen and whether some of the new cooking spray technologies made big improvements on the original formulas.
The top-rated cooking spray was Original PAM No-Stick Spray, which produced a perfect release even with very sticky foods and coated the pan evenly every time. It’s a best selling brand for a reason! Other top finishers included Winona Pure 100% Oil Spray – a non-aerosol spray that was very convenient, but not quite as good at preventing sticking as PAM. Crisco Original No-Stick Spray produced an excellent non-stick surface, but tended to brown when cooking at temperatures over 400F. Smart Balance and Mazola Original Sprays also performed fairly well overall.
The least successful sprays were PAM Organic Canola Oil and Spectrum Naturals Canola Oil Spray – two sprays that used “cleaner” aerosol technology. Both of these products were nonstick, however both produced off-flavors in the food that tasters hated. Both received a not recommended review from the test kitchen.