Nonstick cookware is extensively used all around the world. It is useful for cooking a variety of meals that may cling to the pan and ruin the taste. But is nonstick safe, or should we use them for cooking? Read on.
There is a lot of debate over the usage of nonstick cookware and its coatings, such as Teflon. Some people claim it is safe for cooking, while some think it can cause serious medical conditions like cancer.
Cooking with nonstick pans is convenient, and its cleaning is simple. All thanks to the special coating of nonstick. This coating substance is known as PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene), sometimes known as Teflon. This synthetic substance is composed of fluorine and carbon, and it has a nonstick and smooth surface.
The nonstick nature of these pans makes them ideal for cooking. It only requires a little oil, butter, and ghee. That is why weight watchers love to cook their food in nonstick pans.
Previously, PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) was used to coat the nonstick pans. Due to health and environmental concerns – the safety of nonstick pans coated with PFOA and Teflon is still under investigation.
Teflon vs. PFOA
Until 2013, PFOA was used to coat cookware. The majority of the PFOA was burnt off during the manufacturing process, but a little quantity was always left behind.
PFOA is associated with various health problems like kidney damage, thyroid disorders, liver problems, and cancer. It may also cause infertility, testicular cancer, and low birth weight in babies.
It was once used to coat nonstick cookware, but all Teflon-coated pans are now PFOA-free. So there are no health concerns associated with the use of Teflon-coated nonstick pans.
The US EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) mandated the removal of PFOA from all Teflon products in 2006. EPA invited eight leading companies of PFOA production and Teflon as well.
Due to increased health and environmental risks associated with PFOA, this program aimed to eliminate the PFOA use from all the products by the year 2015.
This target was achieved with mutual cooperation, and since 2013, all nonstick pans and other Teflon products have been PFOA-free.
Dangers associated with overheating of Teflon
Teflon-coated nonstick pans are safe. It is a stable compound that does not get mixed with food or cause harmful effects.
However, while cooking at extremely high temperatures like more than 300℃, the coating of Teflon begins to break. It releases toxic chemicals.
Inhalation of these chemicals leads to Teflon flu. It is also called polymer fume flu that has the same flu-like symptoms. During this condition: chills, fever, and headache are common, but that is not life-threatening. The symptoms last for about 2-3 days. It usually happens after 4-8 hours of exposure.
Only limited studies have shown the serious health concerns of Teflon overheating, like lung damage.
During these studies, the individuals were exposed to Teflon fumes for four to five hours. The fumes were produced at an extremely high temperature (390℃).
So generally speaking, exposure to Teflon fumes at an extremely high temperature for extended periods may cause serious health problems, but overall it is safe to use the Teflon coated pans.
By adopting safe cooking practices, it is easy to avoid the harmful effects of Teflon.
Safety tips while cooking in a nonstick pan
Teflon-coated nonstick pans are safe for cooking. If you follow the safety tips while cooking, it will be easy, healthy, and safe.
You can follow these safety tips to minimize the risks associated with nonstick pans:
Avoid high temperatures: High temperatures can burn off the Teflon coating. It makes fumes that are dangerous to health. It is good to cook your food on low or medium heat. Avoiding high temperatures will make your food healthy while cooking in nonstick pans. It will also make your pans long-lasting.
Don’t overheat the empty pans: Before starting your food preparation, make sure to avoid the overheating of empty pans. Always start with some food, oil, or liquid in your pan and avoid overheating them. Empty pans can reach high temperatures quickly, so make sure you are not using empty pans.
Use of compatible utensils: When cooking with nonstick pans, it is best to use plastic, wooden, or silicone spoons. It prevents the scratching of pots and increases their life.
Proper ventilation system: If you are using a nonstick pan, open the windows or turn on the ventilation fans in your kitchen. It will remove any fumes from the kitchen and make it safe for you to cook.
Clean with non-abrasive sponges: Nonstick pans must be washed with soft sponges. Scrubbing pads should be avoided while washing nonstick cookware since they can scratch the surface.
Avoid broiling and searing: If you use nonstick pans, avoid broiling and searing meat since these cooking methods require high temperatures. It can burn off the Teflon coating and generate fumes.
Choose thicker pans and pots: Instead of selecting light-weight pans, choose heavy nonstick pans and pots. These pans will cost you some extra money, but they can tolerate enough high temperatures. So it is good to go for heavy and thicker nonstick pans.
Replace old nonstick pans: The nonstick pans usually last for 3-5 years. However, if you see any visible scratches or deterioration of pans, it is the right time to replace your old pans and pots with newer ones.
The small flakes produced from the scratching of the pans can get mixed with your food. Though it can pass through the stomach without causing any harm, they have increased chances of producing more fumes by overheating. So the right way is to throw them out.
What are alternatives to nonstick cookware?
Nonstick cookware has been safe to use since 2013. If you are still concerned about your health or want to avoid cooking in nonstick pans, there are other options.
Some Teflon free alternatives of cookware include:
Cast iron pans: When it comes to safety, durability, and value, cast iron is unrivaled. Because it is naturally nonstick, it does not allow food to stick to cookware. It can also tolerate a high temperature even above the recommended temperature for nonstick pans.
Stoneware: Stoneware is another alternative to nonstick pans and pots. It provides an even heating surface. Stoneware can tolerate high temperatures and is also resistant to scratches.
Stainless steel: Stainless steel-made utensils are safe for cooking. These are non-toxic and ideal for browning and grilling as well. They are also nonstick, which is extremely useful for baking food. It lasts longer and is quite easy to wash. You can even use them for several years.
Ceramic cookware and silicone utensils: These are much common. Both are modern ways of cooking food. Ceramic is nonstick, but it is nonresistant to scratches. Similarly, silicone utensils are good for baking.
They can be used in delicate ceramic utensils and nonstick cookware. But due to its soft nature, it cannot withstand direct and high heat and is good for baking only.
Nonstick pans and pots are extensively used in our kitchens. There are a few concerns about their usage.
Previously a chemical called PFOA was used in nonstick cookware that has now been eliminated.
Since 2013, all Teflon-coated nonstick pans and pots are PFOA-free and are safe to use. However, you must adopt safe cooking practices to use nonstick pans.
Avoid overheating, scrubbing, and scratching nonstick pans since they can flake off the Teflon coating. These flakes can pass through the body safely, but they have more chances of releasing harmful fumes at high temperatures.
There are several other alternatives to nonstick pans. You can opt for them if you are really concerned about your health.
Teflon-coated nonstick pans are generally safe to use and can be used for regular cooking.