I am not a chef, a scientist, an engineer, or a metalworker. There are many articles and books that I have not read thoroughly and committed to memory; I have glanced through them. I am in a unique position though. I wouldn't call myself an expert, but I am a person that has used a lot of pans. I also have years of observation and feedback from thousands of customers, plus the feedback and knowledge from my co-workers. They are serious cooks and have been in the cookware business for decades. So they know pans.
Everyday I sell pans to customers. Some of them I get to talk to and discuss the pans in detail, but others just come in and buy and I always worry that they don't know what they are getting into. A very high percentage of the pans that we get back from customers have been misused and abused. Some pans are just not right for some people. I think lifestyle and expectations should be considered when selecting cookware, even before food preference and stoves.
So here we go.
Never use Pam or other cooking sprays if you care about your cookware (or bakeware for that matter). The propellents and oils will, with heat and time, cause a muck on your pans that is a royal pain to remove. I don't know of anyone that has actually taken the time to do so. It's probably cheaper to get a new pan at that point. Use olive oil or butter or get one of those pump spray bottles. If I don't think I can trust myself with pouring oil right into a pan, I pour a little oil in a little bowl and use a little silicone brush to apply it to the pan or the food. If convenience is more important to you than pan life, go ahead and use cooking spray. Just don't be surprised when I point out in the pan usage instructions that they don't recommend it.
Never use high heat. Everyone thinks they have some special cooking method that requires high heat, but that is delusion. The whole point of having a nice pan is that it will perform well and you don't HAVE to use high heat because it is so efficient. But people LOVE to put their pans on and crank it to HIGH 10. Just don't. Maybe the pan can handle high heat, but that doesn't mean it should always be used that way. That being said, if you will need high heats, get a pan that you can bring back from the dead, which you will need to do inevitably if that is your cooking method. Get cast iron or stainless steel and stay away from non-stick.
"If I don't use high heat, how am I supposed to get my pan hot??" This is how: when you step into the kitchen to cook, put your pan on the heat first thing before anything else. But don't put it at cooking heat. Put it on low and let it heat up slowly while you prep your ingredients. That way, by the time you're ready with the food, it will be hot. Once the food is in, you may turn it to medium if needed. In all my dealings with pans, it seems that this preheating step is really the secret to everything.
I know that sometimes you learn something one way and that is the way you've always done it, but sometimes it is good to try other things, especially when the person suggesting it has very good reasons to try. So if you find yourself in these burn-your-sticky-pan-to-shit people, try something else. Because my pans look great and I use them all the time!