So I’ve been reading a lot lately about how evil Teflon-lined cookware is – how it can emit toxic fumes, how the Teflon can flake off in your food, etc… So I decided to actually do some research on the risks of Teflon and what the best alternatives are. I’ll summarize some of that research here, in case some of you are interested in eliminating non-stick cookware from your kitchen.
Now, I grew up with non-stick cookware, and let’s admit it – it’s convenient and easy to use. But now that I’m a bit more experienced as a cook, I think I can make the switch to other kinds of cookware without disastrous results and without too much sacrifice in time and convenience.
Non-Stick Teflon-Coated Cookware
- Non stick
- Cheap – a thin, cheaply made $30 pan from Walmart can perform tolerably well because the Teflon prevents burning and sticking
- Easy to clean
- Can use less oil
- Releases toxins when heated at high heat (this is why woks usually are not non-stick, because stir-frying usually requires high temperatures)
- Short life-span (nonstick coating usually wears out in a year or two)
- Scratches easily; you must use wooden or plastic implements
- Nonstick coating can scratch off into food
I personally think that the concerns about the toxic Teflon coating are valid ones. Even if my home stove can’t reach the “high” temperatures required to cause the coating to release toxic gas, I don’t really want to take the risk. And the thought that I’m slowly eating the chemical coating as it scratches off in my food? Umm…that’s pretty gross.
So I did some research into stainless steel cookware.
Stainless Steel Cookware
- No health risks
- Durable; long life span
- Can brown food better and creates the nice “fond” (browned bits) to make sauces and gravies
- Usually oven-safe
- Costs more; a cheap, thin stainless steel pan will have hot spots and heat unevenly, so investing in a good-quality stainless steel pan is recommended
- Must use more oil to prevent sticking
- Requires more elbow grease to clean
- Can discolor and lose its shine, requiring the use of a cleaning product like Barkeeper’s Friend to restore finish
At this stage in my life, I think I’m ready to put a little more work into my pots and pans for the sake of my family’s health. And since nonstick pans are cheap, I can always keep one as a backup for “sticky” or delicate foods such as eggs or fish.
I’m also considering buying a cast-iron skillet. Many cooks swear by it, and say that a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet is as nonstick as a Teflon-coated skillet, with the added benefits of better heat distribution, great sear on meats, and amazing cornbread.
What kind of cookware do you use, and how do you like it?