Is Your Non-Stick Cookware Safe?

Is Your Non-Stick Cookware Safe?

Pots, pans, skillets, frying and sauté pans, baking sheets, and woks … today, kitchens are stocked with an array of non-stick cookware because they make cooking and clean-up a lot easier. Besides letting those omelets slide around nicely in a pan and being able to flip those burgers without leaving part of them on the bottom of the frying pan, cleaning up is quicker when you don’t have to soak and scrub baked-on food particles. Plus, a non-stick surface allows you to cook with less (or even no) oil or butter, a boon to dieters, diabetics, and others who watch their weight.

But sometimes there’s a price to pay for having a nice non-stick cooking surface. Is your non-stick cookware safe as well as easy? Are you putting yourself and your family’s safety at risk with dangerous chemicals, fumes or flaking particles from your pots and pans? Let’s take a look at the products on the market and see what we can learn.

 

Teflon and PFOAs

Back in the day when Teflon was the new wonder cooking option, non-stick pots and pans were made with PFA (polyfluoroalkyl) which would release PFOAs (perfluorooctanoic acid) – now considered a chemical carcinogen – when heated. Adding to that danger was that many of the potentially carcinogenic chemicals flaked off into food when cooking.

Preparing healthy, wholesome meals using fresh organic foods goes out the window when you expose those foods to toxic cookware. So we have to ask ourselves: What has changed since Teflon gave way to alternative non-stick products and is our non-stick cookware safe?

Even without PFOA, overheating pans can still create problems. When the pans get too hot, compounds in the coating can be released as fumes. These fumes can cause health problems. Overheating the pans can also make the coating less effective, breaking down the coating that is supposed to be protecting us from those cancer-causing chemicals.

We’re told that another chemical, polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), a coating on some pans, turns into toxic PFOA at high heat, breaking down at about 300 degrees Celsius (600 degrees Fahrenheit) and releasing toxic fumes into the air. If you don’t think you would ever let your pan get that hot, keep in mind a forgotten empty pan can reach 500 degrees F in less than two minutes. Plus, cooking foods over a high burner can also bump up the heat fast.

 

Non-stick Cookware Options

A lot of non-stick cookware materials have been marketed to consumers. Some coat steel, aluminum, and other traditional cookware metals with other materials like stone, ceramic, titanium, silicone, and proprietary formulations to form non-stick surfaces. They’re designed to keep food from bonding to the surface where our food makes contact.

But ever since the bubble burst on early non-sticking cookware, many cooks are wary of “new and improved” non-stick cooking products that have since followed. Identifying safe non-stick cookware has gotten more complicated.

Here are some options that might be considered safe or safer than what you have in your kitchen cabinets. The jury is still out on what constitutes the safest nonstick cookware, but here’s the non-stick talk around the cooking world.

 

Ceramic

Ceramic cookware is made of ceramic clay that is shaped, dried, fired, and glazed. But not all ceramic cookware is created equal. Some manufacturers coat their metal cookware with a ceramic glaze so it’s not completely ceramic. Lower quality ceramic-coated cookware tends to use glazes that are chemically derived. Many of these glazes break down after a few years of use.

Some ceramic cookware options:

Ceramica. Cuisinart’s Green Gourmet line has two options: one is hard anodized version, the other a tri-ply stainless steel. Both have a non-stick coating called Ceramica, PTFE- and PFOA-free. The Tri-ply, with an interior and exterior material, is designed for use with induction stovetops. The anodized version has an interior and exterior that’s hard anodized, said to be dense, non-porous and highly resistant to normal wear and tear.

Zwilling, a German cookware brand, has Ceraforce Ultra with a three-ply base made up of two layers of stainless steel with an aluminum core with a ceramic coating. Zwilling says this combination ensures even heat distribution and the aluminum helps to save energy. It’s also dishwasher safe.

Ecolution cookware is made with durable, water-based ceramic coatings – some are ceramic, some titanium, and one is a proprietary water-based coating called Hydrolon. The coatings are bonded to pots and pans with water, instead of chemicals, which is interesting. Underneath the coatings, Ecolution uses some traditional materials; some are stainless steel, some cast iron, some carbon steel, and some are not so traditional, called borosilicate glass that’s supposed to hold up to high temperatures.

 

Titanium, Stone, Silicone

Titanium and stone are other popular materials fused to traditional metals to create a non-stick surface. The advantages of these materials are that they are scratch-free and durable – to varying degrees, depending on the product.

Scanpan, a Danish-made product line is made from recycled aluminum with a non-stick proprietary ceramic titanium coating. On their website, they state they produce one of the market’s most resilient non-stick coatings and oversee all stages of manufacturing in their own factory. Scanpans are dishwasher safe and induction-ready, meaning they’re usable on induction cooktops.

Green Earth pans make Ozeri cookware in Germany (a country known for high-quality knives and cookware). They have a nonstick stone-derived coating called Greblon, said to be chemical-free.

Another product from Germany, StoneLine, advertises a 100 percent non-stick and non-scratching product line. They also say the cookware can hold up to the use of metal utensils without damaging them.

GreenLife cookware pots and pans have an aluminum body and a nonstick coating called Thermolon, which is described as an inorganic (mineral-based), comprised mostly of silicon and oxygen. GreenLife cookware is said to be lightweight and has high thermal conductivity.

 

Do the Research

Many of these safer choices are also eco-friendly (biodegradable, recyclable), heat efficient (even distribution of heat), safe at high temperatures, versatile (can be used on all ranges –gas, electric, induction), and safe to clean with mild abrasives.

If you’re serious about making sure the pan that heats the food you eat is safe, check online independent reviews for more details regarding their performance, pros and cons, and wear and tear. Also check manufacturers’ websites and the most current news, as cookware sets often get redesigned and reconstructed. Old versions get replaced with new ones that may perform differently; they may be made of different materials; the locations and country where manufactured sometimes changes; and the company that owns the product may have changed.

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