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A Guide to Nonstick Cookware
This coating allows food to cook thoroughly without getting stuck to the pan, which is a godsend for many people who cook. The non-stick coating is primarily made of fluoropolymers including PTFE and PFOA, which are often referred to as Teflon.
Although a modern concept, there is evidence that this type of cookware may have been used by the ancient Greeks to bake bread.
There are several types of nonstick coatings:
- Low-end items are generally created with a gaunt layer of non-stick coating which means they are fragile. It will be easy to scrape the surface from a lower end pan, so use non-abrasive utensils when cooking. These pans are often very lightweight and may teeter on the burner so be careful not to hit the handle while you are maneuvering around your kitchen. To ensure longevity try not to drop these pans, they will easily bend.
- Mid-grade products often have two layers on its surface. The first is your traditional non-stick coating, and the other is a layer that helps to seal it in. This level of non-stick products should last longer than low-end items because they don’t get scratched as easily.
- Obviously, high-end non-stick cookware sets are the best way to go. Although they can break the bank, they are manufactured with 3 or more coatings for insane durability. These products will also have a smoother finish.
- Baked enamel doesn’t contain the chemicals that ordinary non-stick items have. They also are much stronger since they do no scratch or peel.
A little less than a decade ago, non-stick dishes accounted for nearly 90 percent of aluminum cooking products sold. Why? Probably because you never have to worry about your food sticking to the pan. Now cooking meals that involve fish, eggs, or chicken breast won’t have to be a hassle, plus clean-up will be a breeze!
If you live a healthy lifestyle you are going to love these cookware sets. With non-stick you use much less butter/oil, which in turn will cut the amount of fat you consume. Many times you can cook on non-stick surfaces without using any oils ! Some items can be used in the oven, but you should visit your instructions to be sure your dish qualifies.
Non-stick items are also more resistant to corrosion than others.
There is a ongoing debate about the safety of non-stick cookware. The non-stick coatings often include substances called perfluorooctanoic acid or PFOA and polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), which have been proven to be detrimental to your health. These chemicals are generally created during the production of Teflon products, which is why many people avoid using them.
PFOA and PTFE are in fact dangerous substances, but experts don’t feel as if the circumstances are dangerous enough to discontinue the manufacturing of non-stick cookware sets. A test was performed in which scientist placed a Teflon dish under a burner at 650 degrees and allowed birds to ingest its fumes.
Many of the birds were diagnosed with respiratory concerns and others never made it through the experiment. Fortunately, not many of us need our non-stick pans to be heated to such an extreme temperature, hence why these products are still being sold.
Due to the fragility of non-stick dishes, you may have to replace them more than others. Experts suggest that the average non-stick pan will last for a maximum of 5 years but typically require replacement in about 3
Check out our scoop on nonstick vs stainless steel cookware
If you want to ensure chemicals don’t leak into your marvelous meals be sure not to put you non-stick items over high heat. When the temperature is too high, your coating can break down and release toxins. If you ever make the mistake of overheating your pot or pan and see fumes, toss it to be safe.
Once your dish heats to 660 degrees F you are at risk for an illness called polymer-fume fever which may not kill you but can cause headaches and chills. Continuing to use your cookware along with high heat could create carcinogens or cancer-causing compounds, this occurs when non-stick is heated to about 680 degrees.
Many people agree that you shouldn’t use metal utensils when using a non-stick pan because you could scratch the coating. Once your coating is removed your food will begin to stick to your pan, and the dish is ruined.
Another concern with using metal utensils is that you could be mixing the coating in with your food. Remember non-stick coating is made from chemicals that may not be safe in certain instances, so it may not be a good idea to consume it. Studies show that if the coating is swallowed in small amounts it isn’t likely for the body to absorb it, so you’ll be fine if you occasionally slip up.
Never preheat a non-stick pan during cooking, to be safe use them under low-medium heat only Some brands may require preheating so read the directions that came with your set. You want to be sure the temperature of your dish stays as low as possible to avoid being exposed to PFOA and PTFE. These pans heat up relatively quickly, in fact, studies show that they can rise to 500 degrees in under 5 minutes! Also, do not use your dishes with power burners, they get way too hot! Foods that cover the entire pan will help keep the temperature down.
Avoid using cooking sprays because they can build your dish. Always use a soft rag or sponge to clean your pans to prevent scratches.
If you like using non-stick pans it is important to make sure your home has proper ventilation. Air-flow in the home is crucial because if it is lacking, you could be breathing in tons of toxins. If you happen to cook with the heat too high but your home has adequate airflow, you are at a much lower risk for health issues. An excellent way to get air flowing is to cook with your exhaust fan on high. This advice isn’t a pass to turn up the heat, the temperature of your cookware should still be below 500 degrees.
Do not use these types of dishes if you plan to broil or sear because these techniques require high heat. Stick to foods that can be easily cooked using low heat like fish, eggs, and chicken.
Keep anyone including children, pets, and those who are pregnant out of the kitchen while using non-stick items.
Thinking about investing in a non-stick set? Here are a few things you should pay attention to while browsing:
- If you want to avoid overheating your pan, try to find a heavier dish. The pots and pans that have more weight won’t heat up as quickly as the lightweight ones. Keep in mind that these products may be more expensive so be prepared to spend!
- After you wash your pots and pans try not to stack them to avoid scratches. If you have a limited amount of storage space, you are welcome to place a sheet of paper towel between them to serve as a barrier.
- Do you own a dishwasher? If so, make sure your products are dishwasher safe.
- To avoid chipping your non-stick coating invest in wooden utensils. Items made from steel or metal may be strong enough to scratch your non-stick cookware which will open the door for toxins to seep into your food. Bamboo is also a good material for these types of pans.
- If the package says it is a 12 piece set, the number commonly includes the lids and other utensils so read the descriptions carefully.
- Thoroughly clean your cookware. If any oil is left on the surface, it could build up and cause your coating to become ineffective. Be sure not to scrub too hard because you could remove the coating and end up in the same predicament.
- If you have a huge family, opt for larger pots and pans to cut down cooking time. This will also reduce the number of dishes you have at to wash at the end of the day.
- There is no need to purchase a complete set; you may purchase a few items at a time.
Other high-performing brands include:
- The Pampered Chef
- Paula Deen
- Sur La Table
- Rachel Ray
- Le Creuset
- Chef’s Toolbox
It is tough to judge non-stick cookware because even though it only has a few advantages they rank high.
Those who have trouble with food sticking to their cookware will love non-stick products. They allow food to glide in your pan without the excessive use of butter and oil which is one reason they should live in every home. Also, since food doesn’t stick to the pan, people who dread washing dishes will benefit because cleanup is as easy as 1-2-3.
On the flip side, if you are a health nut, the idea of non-stick cookware may be frightening. If you aren’t a cautious individual, it is so easy for you to overheat your pan and create toxic fumes. The dangers of PFOA and PTFE are frightening, especially because it could produce chemicals similar to World War II nerve gas! Those who have animals, children, or are currently expecting should only use non-stick cookware when it is absolutely necessary because they are at a higher risk of reacting to the effects of PFOA and PTFE.
If you are looking for cookware that is non-stick but hate the disadvantages you could opt for a unique choice. Many ceramic dishes are also non-stick. Another name for this type of coating is Sol-Gel. The great thing about ceramic non-stick is that it is free from both PTFE and PFOA. Sol-Gel cookware also comes in a variety of colors.
There are a few rumors about the dangers of ceramic cookware also. They are also made with chemicals that could cause bodily harm, but they are tougher to come in contact with.
There are a few brands on the market that formulate non-stick products without the use of PTFE and PFOA, they include:
- Earth Pan
All in all, you should only be using non-stick cookware if you are going to take the necessary precautions to avoid being exposed to PFOA and PTFE.
For those who like to wing it in the kitchen, you should try using cast iron or stainless steel cookware instead.
Also, if you have children or are a pet lover using non-stick items the wrong way could cause them to become very ill. There is no real need for non-stick cookware, owning it is completely up to you, but it could make your life a bit easier.