The risks of using Teflon outweigh the non-stick benefits.
Lunch Hour Lesson #50
You may have heard by now that non-stick coated pans utilize chemicals that have been shown to be toxic, to create the non-stick effect. The type of chemicals that are used are called PFAS, or Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. And they aren’t only used in cookware, but also in things like microwave popcorn bags, water-resistant fabrics and carpeting, as well as household paints and many other materials.
Teflon is one of the PFAS that is the most common non-stick pot and pan coating used in the industry, with up to 99% of non-stick cookware and bakeware utilizing Teflon.
DuPont, which is the corporation that invented and manufactures Teflon, argues that Teflon is safe to use, but advises that 500 degrees F is the maximum temperature for cooking with this material.
The company explains that if the cookware is heated to a higher temperature than 500 degrees, the coating will start to break down (at the molecular level) and toxic particles and gases, some of which are carcinogenic, can be released. Many are flourine-containing compounds.
Now, even though DuPont and most cooking websites do assert that cooking with Teflon is safe, I like to employ my “err on the side of caution” strategy with this one and not use it in my kitchen, for several reasons:
Cooking temperatures are hard to control. According to a Good Housekeeping article, a pan preheated on high with 2 tablespoons oil reached 514 degrees in 2.5 minutes in a lightweight non-stick pan. That is pretty quick to get up to the temperature of releasing harmful gases, and makes me think that even if the pan hadn’t been heated on high, it may have gotten up to that temperature with a bit more time.
Canary in the Coal Mine
While a person may or may not feel the effects of the PFAS gases, animals do, and there have been many reports of pet birds dying from the fumes because their respiratory systems are more delicate. I see this as a literal “canary in the coal mine” situation!
Part nutritional education, part sugar detox, part support group – an empowering combination!
PFAS are shown to remain in the environment and in our bloodstream for decades, earning them the name by some scientists as “forever chemicals”.
AI’d simply rather use cookware that I don’t have to worry so much about. I don’t monitor the temperature of my pan while cooking, so how will I really know if I’m exceeding the limits and moving into dangerous territory?
So, what are some alternatives? Now I’ll share the variety of materials that I use for my cookware depending on what I’m making:
For stir-frying and cooking eggs and pancakes, I use GreenPan products, which are made with a safer “non-stick” ceramic surface that doesn’t contain any PFAS and does not release harmful gases. I also use an enameled cast iron LeCreuset braiser for larger dishes.
For boiling anything like soups or water for pasta or hardboiled eggs, I use heavy-bottomed stainless steel pots with no coating inside. I like Farberware as a brand.
For roasting vegetables or baking cookies, I use Nordic Ware Naturals aluminum baking sheets with no non-stick coating and use unbleached parchment paper or a silicone baking mat for easy clean up. This article made me feel more comfortable baking with aluminum. (Never use aluminum cookware on the stove.)
For baking bread, I use LeCreuset ceramic loaf pans.
For roasting meat, making casseroles, or making quickbreads like cornbread, I use Pyrex glass dishes.
Resolve to replace one of your pieces of non-stick cookware (if you have any!) and let me know what you choose as an alternative.
Lunch Hour Lessons with Allison
Watch this week’s Facebook LIVE – Lunch Hour Lesson #50 Teflon Pots and Pans: Why I Don’t Use Them and My Alternatives. Each week I bring you a topic related to nutrition and health that I think is interesting, and give you a lesson to take with you into your daily life. Watch Live on Facebook, Wednesdays, 12:30pm PST!
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