Non-Stick Cookware: The Toxic Price of Convenience

Non Stick Cookware: The Toxic Price of Convenience

Convenience is probably the word – (or should i say desire)- of the century in every home. We are all looking for ways to make our lives easier; so we are spending on/investing in non-stick pans (in our kitchens) so we don’t spend hours literally scrubbing pots and pans;  pre-bottled water so we can just grab and go; microwaves, so that we can just reheat our food without the stove, etc.

With numerous studies showing the health dangers associated with household items like those found in our kitchens, bathrooms, cleaning cabinets as well as body care products, it’s important that we educate ourselves of what we are spending money on.

My aim for this blog is to provide some information on such topics; and today, I want to focus on non stock cookware, and the role you and I play in paying the toxic price of convenience.

Nonstick cookware is something you are very likely to find in every home. Why? Because they have made cooking of foods that are prone to sticking silly easy.

That being said, lots of recent research surrounding the coating on nonstick cookware have revealed its potential toxicity.

Original nonstick pans (branded Teflon) were made with PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) and polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE). 

Perfluorooctanoic acid or PFOA is a synthetic chemical used to manufacture polymer coatings that are heat-, stain-, scratch-, and stick-resistant. PFOA has,  however, been linked to various cancers, and has now been removed from a lot of non-stick products. They do however still contain PTFE. 

SO, what is PTFE?

PTFE is a clear plastic that is used to coat metal pots and pans, giving them the waxy, easy to clean surface. 

While PTFE is considered safe, the problem is that it starts to break down when heated to temperatures around 450-500 degrees, releasing potentially toxic fumes.

Based off of this, you already know 2 things:

  1. If your non-stick pan contains pfoa, it’s as toxic as  it is convenient. You should always check for that.
  2. Once 1 is cleared, your PFOA-free nonstick pan is not in itself the problem; but could still be toxic if it contains PTFE and/or you’re cooking with it on high heat (ie- temperatures 450 degrees and up). In this case, it’s you and not the pan.

Your non-stick pan is not the pan to use when cooking in a rush, or cooking commercially because these two instances usually require high heat.

For context: a PTFE-coated pan can reach 750 F (399 C) if left for eight minutes at high heat on a stovetop, according to this 2017 article.

Here’s how you can take good care of your non-stick cookware to ensure that they are not toxic for you and your family:

  1. It’s really important that you use the pans on low-to-medium heat, in a ventilated area.
  2. Do NOT use utensils that will scratch your pan. I would recommend strictly wooden/ silicone utensils in your non-stick pans.
  3. Wait till your pan has completely cooled before submerging in water, as extreme temperature changes could cause deterioration to the non-stick coating. 

Once heated to high temperatures, the PTFE coating begins to disintegrate, releasing toxic gases.

I am a cast-iron lover and would recommend cast iron/ enameled cast iron/stainless steel for almost everything! However, I do own the Always Pan which I really love and mainly use for steaming/reheating. This pan has a ceramic non-stick coating. No PFOA, PTFE, GenX chemicals or other questionable materials in sight! It’s always great to have a low-maintenance pan on hand for relaxed days. And that’s basically what my Always Pan is to me. While you do not necessarily need the Always Pan, I would definitely look out for pans that are both PFOA and PTFE free to remain on the safe side. I would also recommend that you invest in other kinds of pans instead of *ONLY* non-stick pans.

I wrote about what you must know before investing in cookware, and I think that post would also be helpful to you, since we are on the topic of cookware. You can read it here.

Always in Love and Health,

Nana Xx


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