Nonstick pans are a dream come true for the masses who actually like cooking. Most foods cooked using nonstick cookware need less oil or butter to cook and hence are healthier to eat. Cleaning nonstick cookware is a breeze because, well, nothing is supposed to stick to the insides of the pans.
With people becoming more aware of living healthy lives, even the types of cookware bought and their pros and cons have become an important issue. That being said, do you know if nonstick cookware are safe? Does nonstick cookware have a shelf life, and if so, when should you toss that nonstick pan out into the bin?
Using a nonstick pan makes life a breeze when cooking pancakes, frying eggs, bacon, sausages or the tricky lambchop. Or is it?
What are nonstick cookware?
All nonstick cookware come coated with a layer of PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene), which is commonly known as Teflon. This protective layer prevents oil or water sticking to the surface, thus makes cooking healthier and convenient as less oil or butter is used, and makes cleaning up even easier.
PTFE or Teflon, is a synthetic chemical composed of carbon and fluorine elements. It was developed in the 1930s and became popular in cookware soon after.
In the early days, another chemical called PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) was also used together with PTFE to produce Teflon. Research done has linked PFOA with a number of health conditions, e.g., kidney disease, liver disease, thyroid disorders, cancer and even infertility.
PFOA was even detected in blood samples of a majority of people who took part in a US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) conducted from 1999 – 2000.
As such, the use of PFOA was banned in 2013 by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and nonstick cookware made after that year are all PFOA-free.
Can nonstick cookware withstand high temperatures?
Teflon is generally known to be a safe compound. However, Teflon coatings start to break down upon reaching temperatures above 300°C, which is when they start releasing toxic chemicals into the air.
Inhalation of these toxic fumes may give you Teflon flu, medically termed as polymer fume fever. While not deadly, polymer fume fever will give the affected person temporary flu-like symptoms like fever and chills, headaches and body aches, after 4 – 10 hours of exposure. Symptoms normally go away after 12 – 48 hours.
Safety precautions to take when using nonstick cookware:
- Any food that requires cooking on low or medium heat can be cooked on nonstick cookware. These would include scrambled eggs, pancakes, or re-heating previously cooked food.
- Never pre-heat empty nonstick cookware, as they heat up very quickly.
- Don’t cook on high heat. During a test, nonstick pans heated on high temperature reached 260° in less than 5 minutes, which is close to the 300°C temperature to release toxic chemicals in the air. As an added precaution, ensure good ventilation in the kitchen.
- Don’t fry or sear meats on a nonstick pan, as these 2 methods require high heat.
- Invest in heavy nonstick cookware, as lightweight cookware heats up faster.
- Use wooden or silicone cooking utensils on nonstick cookware. Metal utensils can lead to scratches which will shorten the lifespan of the cookware.
- Use a dishwashing detergent with a sponge to gently wash nonstick cookware. Steel wool or scouring pads will damage the nonstick surface.
Shelf life of nonstick cookware:
The nonstick frying pan is one of the most frequently used in Asian kitchens. As nonstick frying pans have a tendency to get scratched or scraped easily with stir-fry cooking, they should be replaced the moment the coating starts to flake off as black bits of Teflon may end up in your food.
Even high quality nonstick cookware that are taken care off, will perform well for 3 to 5 years, after which time they should be replaced.
All said and done, nonstick cookware is here to stay. To be on the safe side, buy quality nonstick cookware, use them and take care of them properly. Ditch them the moment scratches appear if you do not want to ingest Teflon.
Bottomline – your life is more important than that of your nonstick cookware!
1st June 19:40