In order to fully benefit from our foods, we need to not only consider the way we select ingredients, but the way we prepare them. By asking yourself, “What is in my cookware? Is my nonstick cookware safe?” you can prevent harmful chemicals from getting into your food.
Using Nonstick Cookware
As you cook more meals at home, you’ll want to find easier ways to do it. You may find yourself searching for “shortcuts” or more convenient methods. Nonstick cookware has become increasingly popular due to its easy clean-up and even heat distribution.
Nonstick coating has several advantages:
- Easy cleanup
- Less food sticking to the surface
- The ability to cook with less oil and butter
What’s in Your Cookware?
If you prefer using cookware with nonstick coating, you are not alone. It heats evenly, is dishwasher safe, and keeps food from sticking to the pan.
You might be wary of this cookware, though. Have you heard about the harmful chemicals, heavy metals, and toxins used to make these pots and pans?
Although non-stick cookware may be a convenient alternative to traditional pots and pans, it may not be the safest. Why? Well, there are heavy metals, toxins, and other chemicals to be aware of.
Most nonstick pans are coated with polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE). This is also known as Teflon. 1
There are a lot of rumors out there that Teflon produces toxic fumes and that these pans may not be safe to use. What happens if you ingest pieces of the nonstick coating?
Medical experts state that small amounts of these chemicals, PTFE and PFOA, are not harmful, and that they are found in all kinds of food packaging.
Teflon (or PTFE) is a synthetic chemical that comes from carbon and fluorine atoms.
Although the frictionless surface has made non-stick pots and pans popular for several reasons, it has also been under investigation. The concerns have centered around the chemical PFOA – perfluorooctanoic acid. As of 2013, that chemical is no longer used in nonstick cookware.3
Cooking With Nonstick Cookware
Don’t throw away all of your old nonstick pots and pans just yet. The chemical compound found in this cookware is only harmful at higher temperatures (above 570 degrees Fahrenheit).
At that temperature, the cookware starts to break down, releasing toxic chemicals. Ingesting these toxic gases can produce flu-like symptoms.
Birds, especially pet birds, are susceptible to Teflon poisoning. This comes from toxic fumes and long-term effects of gases.
As scary as that sounds, one study found that this toxic sickness happened with exposure of at least 4 hours in humans.4 Using common-sense with nonstick cookware will cut this exposure.
Minimize Your Risk
Cooking with nonstick cookware can be safe and convenient with the following tips:
- Use wooden and plastic utensils to reduce scratching and flaking of the coating.
- Vent the kitchen with an open window or the exhaust fan.5
- Don’t preheat an empty pan as it can reach high temps within minutes. Add some water or food to the pots and pans before you preheat. Overheated pots are health risks.
- Try cooking on medium and low heat. Avoid broiling with nonstick pots and pans.
- Wash your nonstick pots and pans by hand with gentle soap and sponge, not steel wool. Washing it more gently will prevent scratches and keep the surface coating intact.
- Throw away pots and pans with scratches and peeling. When the bottom of your pans start to flake and chip, it’s time to get rid of them.
Know Your Kitchen
You may have received a set of nonstick cookware as a house warming gift and you really enjoy using them. There’s no need to throw them away. They are generally a safe way to cook your meals, provided they aren’t scratched or chipped.
However, if you are worried about chemicals, stock your kitchen with these alternatives:
- Stainless steel
- Cast iron
You’ve probably heard chefs rave about cast iron skillets. When seasoned properly, cast iron is naturally nonstick. The same is true of stoneware. These materials can withstand extremely high heat. Stainless steel pots work well with glass lids for stovetop steaming. And stainless steel can be used without the concerns of overheating the cookware Teflon.
Silicone coatings and ceramic cookware sets are relatively new to the market. They don’t generally withstand heat well. They both can be used to supplement your non-stick cookware. This type of cookware is not scratch resistant, so make sure to use wooden utensils rather than metal.
Care For Your Nonstick Pans
In order to keep pots and pans safe for everyday use, you need to care for them. Here are some quick tips to remember when you use this convenient cookware:
- Hand wash with gentle soap and sponge, not steel wool or a harsh scrubbing agent.
- Use wooden, silicone, or plastic utensils while cooking.
- Do not overheat.
- Avoid using nonstick cooking spray – opt for oils or real fats.
- Stop using if you see flakes or scratches.
Proper care of your nonstick pan will ensure it is safe to cook in on a regular basis. As with any kitchen item, take notice of wear and replace as necessary. After all, it is coming into contact with the food you and your family eat.
Is Nonstick Cookware Safe?
Today’s nonstick pots and pans are safe for normal home cooking as long as temperatures are kept under 570°F (300°C), and pans are not scratched or chipped. This makes these pots and pans great for cooking foods like eggs, stir fry, bacon, pan-seared fish, and even crepes.
Avoid cooking heavier meats in a nonstick pan using high heat.
Since 2013, Teflon by Dupont has been PFOA free due to health concerns. Although pans with Teflon coating had a negative reputation, the removal of the dangerous chemicals has made them a much safer option than before.
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