We’re getting straight to the point today so grab something to drink and a snack and let’s get to it!
What are non-stick pans?
Non-stick pans are used around the world every day. They’re easy to cook with, easy to clean and can be found in 70% of homes in the US and the UK.
Non-stick pans are also commonly known as Teflon pans. But not to be confused, you can’t find a pan with a brand name tag that says Teflon. Teflon is a synthetic fluoropolymer called Polytetrafluoroethylene or PTFE for short, aka Teflon. PTFE is a silicone based compound that basically rejects food grade molecules which is where the whole non-stick craze comes from.
With convenience culture on the rise, we were introduced to the first non-stick substance in 1938. Funnily enough, the first non-stick pan, aka the invention of Teflon, was a total accident.
A chemist named Dr. Plunket worked for a company called Dupont. He was working on an experiment to create a non-toxic refrigerant when he left it overnight and came back to the coolant gas polymerized into a waxy, slippery powder that we now know as PTFE.
Three years later and Teflon was patented and trademarked. In 1954 is when the first Teflon-coated pan was sold.
What makes non-stick bad?
PFAS stands for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances and are used in products that resist heat, oil, stains and water. Sound familiar?
Science acronyms can sound scary, but to give you perspective, PFAS was found in 98% of the US population. It’s found in non-stick substances (like non-stick pans), pizza boxes, other fast food wrapping papers, cleaning products and more. It may sound scary, but it’s only bad for you if you’ve consumed large amounts.
Chances are you’ve come into contact with it before, but a small amount will not cause you any harm.
However, there is another compound that was used in the production of Teflon called PFOA, and this is what freaked everyone out.
Why is PFOA so scary?
PFOA (Perfluorooctanoic acid), is a man-made chemical also known for resisting heat, oil stains and water and was used in Teflon products for a long time.
But, just to clarify, PFOA is not Teflon. It was just used as a manufacturing aid to make Teflon easier to work with.
PFOA is also used in stain resistant fabrics and carpets, has been found in some areas where the water supply has been contaminated and workplaces that use the chemical during the manufacturing process.
Back around 2013 a few health agencies raised concerns about toxic chemicals being used to create the non-stick cookware we know and love.
What makes PFOA concerning, is that it has been known to stay in the human body for an extended period. Exposure from non-stick pans is very low risk. But because of it’s higher risks in water and workplaces, people were getting upset and were boycotting non-stick products made of Teflon.
How do I avoid PFOA?
Luckily, Teflon removed PFOA from it’s manufacturing process for non-stick pans and cookware in 2015. However, if you still have any non-stick cookware from 2015 or prior, it’s probably time to toss those out and renew your collection.
PFOA exposure is caused from high temperature heat. Well, most of us use our non-stick cookware to fry things, so what is considered high heat?
We’re going off on a subtopic here because I found a few different answers.
Some of my research said 500°F was hot enough to expose PFOA during cooking while other research found PFOA wasn’t exposed until the pan reached 570°F to 600°F.
I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty freaking hot for a stove-top temperature. So how hot does your stove-top actually get?
I found that between electric coils, electric glass and gas stoves, this seems to be the consensus on temperatures.
Low Heat: 200°F to 300°F
Medium Heat: 300°F to 400°F
High Heat: 400°F to 650°F
So prior to 2015 if you bought a non-stick pan there is a chance it contains PFOA. And if you’ve ever cooked with your non-stick pan on a high heat often, you may or may not have been exposed.
Note: I am not a doctor and am not giving out professional medical advice. This is all based on research.
The American Cancer Society says that if you were exposed you may have just experienced flu-like symptoms of headaches and have not found that PFOA in non-stick skillets have any further risks.
So now it’s safe to use my non-stick pans?
Well, yes and no. Non-stick pans are PFOA free as of 2015 so they’re safe to use in that aspect. But people are still cautious of using non-stick pans because of other factors. All of the manufacturing components that make up Teflon, which again, is a synthetic flouropolymer used to coat cookware to make it nonstick, are now deemed safe to use and cook with.
However, many people are not using their non-stick cookware properly or taking care of it properly, which is now raising new issues.
The biggest thing people find with their non-stick pans and cookware is that they chip. Have you ever noticed that your non-stick cookware is scratched and you can see the metal coming through? Well, you might have ingested a few flakes of the coating but it’s nothing to worry about.
A flake size piece of Teflon coating will pass right through. But it’s still a little unnerving right?
Here’s a few tips on how to avoid damaging your non-stick cookware and not ingesting any of the coating.
How to Use Non-Stick Cookware
First and foremost, when you’re buying non-stick pans or cookware read the label. Check to see what it’s made of and how to use it.
Buy a good quality non-stick pan. The better quality, the less likely the coating is to chip away and the longer it’ll last. But here’s a secret. Non-stick pans and cookware were not meant to last forever. They are not lifetime cookware like coast irons that you can pass down through generations. They last 5 years tops.
Pay attention when cooking. Not only is this important to prevent house fires but it’s also important to make sure your pan isn’t getting too hot.
Which also brings me to say, don’t set your heat up too high. Non-stick pans weren’t designed to withstand high heat. They also weren’t designed to cook all types of foods. Here’s a list of things you can cook and shouldn’t cook with your non-stick pan:
Do not preheat your non-stick pan. Non-stick cookware was not designed for preheating so it’s just not necessary. Put a little oil turn your heat on between low/medium and then add your food. A good rule of thumb is if your oil is smoking, it’s too hot especially for a non-stick pan.
Use soft utensils. Wooden and silicone utensils pair perfectly with non-stick cookware but metal utensils could scratch the coating.
Just because it’s dishwasher safe doesn’t mean it should go in your dishwasher. The best and safest way to clean your non-stick pans and cookware is by hand.
What about ceramic pans?
This is something I came across often since ceramic pans are very similar to non-stick, but unfortunately, there’s not enough research on ceramic pans. We know they are a silica based coating that is environmentally friendly and free of PFTE and PFOA which makes them marketable and more appealing to buyers.
But, they can still scratch and though ingesting flakes of ceramic coating will still pass through, you want to try to avoid it.
Also, ceramic cookware is like Teflon coated non-stick cookware where it only lasts about 5 years before needing to be replaced.
One difference is ceramic claims to be able to handle high heat up to 800°F but neither ceramic nor non-stick should really be used on high heat without it starting to breakdown their non-stick properties.
Talk about an oxymoron.
Buying a quality non-stick pan!
So sure, it’s safe to use non-stick cookware now that the world has done away with PFOA in the Teflon coating. Now you’re just not sure which brands are best to buy. But I’ve done all of this research so far, I wasn’t just going to leave you hanging. Here are my recommendations on a few non-stick pans to check out!
And remember, if you haven’t purchased new pans or cookware since 2015, for the sake of your health it’s time to get new ones ASAP!
- Amazon’s Choice 10″ Ozeri Pan
- Amazon Best Seller 8″ Michelangelo Pan
- Highly Rated 8″ Viking Culinary Pan
- Editors Choice 9.5″ Eslite Pan