Nonstick pans are unbeatable for fish fillets and omelets that can slide right out fast without sticking. And without using too much butter or oil, you can cook amazingly delicious foods. These pans also don’t need any scraping.
Modern skillets, pans and pots are made with Teflon coating because it offers advantages, such as quick food release and cleanup. It also prevents food from sticking to the surface and promotes healthy cooking. With nonstick properties, these pans are advantageous for people looking to cook with less oil and reduce cholesterol levels.
However, consumers are still concerned about its safety and chemical emissions. So, is it safe to use Teflon? Keep reading this article and find out.
At the very least, it is safe – if you’re not overheating it. Otherwise, nonstick coating may begin breaking down. When this happens, some of the gases and toxic particles will be released. These compounds will come off if the temperature is too high, resulting to the decomposition of the coating. Examples of such compounds are with fluorine. There is no doubt because most of the coating formula is made of fluoropolymers that also prevent food from sticking to the pan.
Perfluorooctanoic acid, for instance, was used in Teflon surfaces. Studies had it that lab animals developed tumors in the pancreas and breast due to PFOA exposure. Certain research also noted that people working at chemical plants or living near chemicals plants were also likely to develop cancer.
In 2012, Teflon makers stopped using PFOA. But then, the FDA revealed that the PFOA can evaporate during the manufacturing stage.
In this case, it’s unlikely to reach homes when consumers started using it. But then, you still need to take caution in using nonstick pans because it can break down when used at a high temperature. What happens is that it can lose its nonstick property and lose color. [More on this in a bit]
How hot can be too hot? Temperatures beyond 500 degrees Fahrenheit is the point when chemical fragments start breaking down and being released by the pan. Thus, the recommended maximum cooking is 500 degrees F.
At about 680 degrees Fahrenheit, Teflon coating will release at least six gases, including carcinogens. You would breathe enough of these carcinogens if they are formed.
So, what will happen if the nonstick pan flakes off? You might swallow a chip if it starts flaking. It will not have any ill effects on your health because a small particle of it will just pass through your body.
How to use nonstick cookware safely?
You can use the cookware safely if you would just follow certain precautions in using it. Check out the following for tips on how to use this cookware safely.
- Don’t preheat an empty nonstick pan because it can quickly reach a high temperature within minutes, releasing fumes including polymer. To prevent it from happening, you must put liquid in the pan before preheating it.
- Make sure that your kitchen is ventilated. If you have an exhaust fan, turn it on when cooking. You can also open the windows to clear any fumes.
- Hand wash the pans. Even if the manufacturer says that it’s dishwasher-safe, it’s better to hand wash these pans. Use soapy and warm water. Do not use a scouring pad or a steel wool that will scratch the surface.
- Replace an old nonstick pan. If you noticed flaking off the surface or too many scratches, chipping and peeling, you must replace it.
- Cook on low to medium heat. It is unlikely to cause a problem if you’re using it to cook food on low to medium heat. Foods like pancakes, warmed up foods, and scrambled eggs are less likely to cause a problem. It can be safe to use cooking other types of foods. The bottom line is never cook on high heat using a nonstick pan. Avoid broiling because it requires extremely high temperatures or that above the recommended temperature for a nonstick pan.
- Avoid damaging or chipping the pan. Don’t use metal utensils on nonstick pans. Metal utensils can cause scratches and scuffs on nonstick, shortening the lifespan of cookware. The pan is also likely to release toxic compounds if they do flake or chip. You should also avoid scratching the pan. Better, you should use wooden spoons in cooking.
- Do not stack these pans. If you need to do it, you must use a paper towel liner in between each pot and pan.
- Do not also sear meats because it requires high temperatures that these nonstick pans cannot handle.
- Avoid lightweight pans. Choose a heavier one, instead, because lightweight pans heat up fast.
What are better alternatives? Generally, nonstick cookware is safe, but if you’re still concerned, you can opt for its alternative.
- Ceramic cookware: It is a new product, but it is a safe cookware with nonstick properties. However, its coating can be scratched easily even if it is nonstick.
- Cast-iron cookware: Cast iron has natural nonstick properties if it’s seasoned properly. This material can also last long and can keep up with high temperatures.
- Stainless-steel: This material is another excellent alternative to nonstick cookware. You can rely on it for its performance, especially for browning or sautéing food. It is also scratch-resistant, durable and dishwasher-safe.
- Stoneware: This cookware has been around for thousands of years. Stone can also heat evenly and is scratchproof. You can also count on it for cooking at high temperatures.
- Silicone cookware: It is synthetic rubber used in kitchen utensils and bakeware. But then, it cannot stand up high heat. It is why silicone cookware is only suitable for baking.
The Bottom Line
There’s nothing to fear about nonstick cookware if you would use it properly. Take note of those tips shared earlier to ensure safe use of this cookware. But if you’re still worried about any ill health effects of nonstick cookware, you can also opt for alternatives, including stoneware, silicone ware and stainless-steel cookware. But nevertheless, nonstick is safe for cooking. Just use it with caution and follow specific use instructions.