pan with eggs and vegetables

Are non-stick pans toxic?

  • a couple of months ago
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It’s hard to find a kitchen without Teflon, and that’s not surprising. Teflon is great for keeping your food off your pans and pots. And if you burn your food Teflon makes it’s easy to clean up.

But what’s the price we are paying for this convenience?

Before we answer that question, let’s look at what Teflon is?

Teflon (Polytetrafluoroethylene [PTFE]) is a synthetic fluoropolymer of tetrafluoroethylene invented in 1938. Just by hearing this name you should know it’s not something you want to get in touch with your food.

One of the most important features of PTFE is its extremely low Surface Free Energy (SFE), thanks to which it has good lubricating properties and no impurities adhere to it.

Another important property of PTFE is its high chemical resistance. It practically does not react with anything or dissolve in any way, even in concentrated hydrofluoric acid.

Why Teflon is dangerous?

There are researchers, such as Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie, who warn against the fatal effects of Teflon. They argue that the substance used to make Teflon (perfluorooctanoic acid) is “toxic, causes birth defects, developmental and hormonal disorders and elevated cholesterol levels, and is also considered a potential carcinogen.”

Those researchers are not alone, The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) also warns against Teflon, which is also widely used in clothes, upholstery, and carpets.

“Teflon and similar compounds tend to accumulate in the brain tissues, especially in the hypothalamus, and in this way, they can interfere with the hormones. They also have carcinogenic properties, can affect the immune system of organisms and cause developmental abnormalities. For these reasons, it is better to limit the contact of children who are more sensitive to the influence of harmful chemicals than adults” – says the WWF report.

Apparently, Teflon is carcinogenic, and all you need it just small damage to the coating to release toxic substances.

Another danger comes from overheated Teflon.

Teflon producers claim that while cooking food at normal temperatures (up to 260 degrees Celsius), there is absolutely no risk, but in the case of overheating Teflon, toxic gases are released.

Those gases cause polymer fume fever, an otherwise rare sickness which usually happens to welders or factory workers working at very high temperatures.

Symptoms are similar to flu (chills, headaches, and fevers) with chest tightness and a mild cough.

Other materials to avoid

copper mug

Not only non-stick cookware can be dangerous. The same can be said about aluminum and copper cookware.

Both can release dangerous amounts of toxic substances during cooking, especially while frying in high temperatures.

Even drinking from copper mugs or aluminium bottles should be avoided.

Safe Alternatives for Healthy Cooking

As you can see, Teflon can accumulate in your brain and poison you with toxic gases.

The good news is there are safe and cheap alternatives that you can use in your kitchen: cast iron, stainless steel, and copper.

  1. Cast Iron

shrimps in cast iron skillet

Cast iron cookware is one of the oldest tools used for cooking. It has been used in Asia (China, India, Korea, and Japan) for centuries and long before the formation of the United States of America.

Cast iron skillets and pots stand the test of time and are still very popular, especially with outdoorsmen. They are damage resistant, practically indestructible and can be put directly into the fire. In most cases, a cast iron skillet will serve you for life and even longer.

What’s most important is that cast-iron cookware is free of any chemicals and 100% safe. It’s as safe and natural as cooking can be. Plus, cast iron keeps heat extremely well which makes cooking easier and faster.

Because cast iron can withstand heat, it’s also safe to use in the oven.

Now comes the best part – the price. You can get a nice cast iron skillet under $20. You can toss it around, put it into the fire, burn food thousands of time and it will still serve you well.

Downsides?

There is just one. Cast iron must be seasoned before first use and then from time to time to keep the food from sticking. Watch this video to learn how to season your cast iron cookware.

  1. Stainless Steel

stainless steel pan

Stainless Steel is almost as safe and non-toxic as cast iron and is a preferred by many professional chefs.

Usually, this kind of cookware is built like a sandwich of copper, aluminum, and stainless steel.  Layers of copper and aluminum are put in between stainless steel. This gives it more heat conductivity through copper and aluminum while keeping safe from copper or aluminum toxicity.

This heat conductivity is what makes stainless steel cookware so good for cooking, especially steaks and other kinds of meat that requires high temperature and needs to be cooked evenly.

High-quality stainless steel (make sure all your stainless-steel cookware is made of premium 18/10 stainless-steel) is durable, dishwasher and oven safe.

Since it’s made of steel, there are no toxic substances that can evaporate during cooking or flake off and get into your body.

The only thing you have to be careful about is cleaning. Cleaning your stainless-steel pan harshly or with harsh materials can damage the lining. This kind of damage can be a result of cleaning the pan or pot with steel wool. The damaged lining can result in leaching of nickel, a substance that is toxic.

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