Tuesday, May 24, 2011

{ Non-stick, No Good? }


For years now I've heard on the news or read in various sources about the dangers of non-stick pans. Today I'm going to give you a brief summary of an article from Good Housekeeping that compiles evidence and tests to let us know whether non-stick is or isn't safe. So here we go.

The article I'm using for this post is: "Nervous About Non-stick?" from Good Housekeeping by Amanda Schaffer. Click the link to be directed to the article. The article cites Robert L. Wolke, Phd as saying about non-stick pans, "They're safe... as long as they aren't overheated." Overheating would be bringing the pan to any heat over 500 degrees fahrenheit. At over 500 degrees the non-stick coating begins to break down, releasing toxic particles and fumes. So what does that mean? 500 degrees sounds pretty hot. Do I actually get my pans that hot?

To answer that question Good Housekeeping did some tests with non-stick pans in their test kitchen. Their testing showed that pans do easily reach heats higher than 500 degrees fahrenheit. In particular, these high heats are reached when preheating with oil and when cooking steaks and hamburgers the pans. (Please see the article for details of their testing.) The steak was cooked in a cheap lightweight non-stick pan and reached 656 degrees! At 660 degrees non-stick pans release toxic fumes that can lead to "Teflon fever", the fumes will only make you sick but they can kill a pet bird - sounds safe to me! The article however does not mention how common this is, but is it really something that you even want to worry about? Further, as of the writing of this article there was no research on the long term effects of overheating your pans on a regular basis and the affects that it may have on you and your family.

On the other hand, the article does say that the fear of your non-stick flaking off into food isn't really anything to fear. The flakes are small enough to pass through your body without being absorbed.

In the end, Good Housekeeping concluded that non-stick pans can be used safely, however you should take precautions when using them. If you have or choose to purchase non-stick pans please see page three of the article for Good Housekeeping's tips on how to use non-stick safely.

As for me, I don't want to worry about any of this. So when we started replacing pans a few years back we decided to search for non non-stick options and here's what we've ended up with:

A couple of cast iron skillets and a griddle. Cast iron is heavy and takes some minor maintenance. It's a cheap replacement option and works great if you're willing to take care of it. If you want cast iron without the maintenance you can get porcelain coated cast iron. We have a porcelain coated cast iron dutch oven from World Market, I'm not crazy about how it cleans. It was relatively cheap so that may be the problem. We love our skillets and griddle though and they are a super affordable replacement option, 12" skillets are under $20.


Stainless steel, aluminum core cookware is what we decided to purchase for our "set"- you know the sauce pans, stockpot, etc. We found this article, "Stainless Steel Cookware: We Have a Winner," and it helped us to make a decision on which pans to buy. It talks about what makes a good stainless steel pan. (If you go through this link and surf around the site you can find out about all kinds of cookware to help you decide which is the best fit for you and your family.) We are enjoying our stainless steel pans. They feel nice to cook with, they heat up fast and they clean easily. Here's what we got:

Cuisinart MCP-12 MultiClad Pro Stainless Steel 12-Piece Cookware Set

(We got this set for $230 from Amazon! Wait until Amazon has it in stock to purchase if you want a steal of a deal on this set and get their free super saver shipping to boot!)

Any hoo! Sorry to bore you, but I promised a part two about non-stick in my BPA post so here we are. If you weren't aware of the dangers of non-stick I hope that this gives you a source to learn how to use it more safely. And if you're in the market for new pans, I hope that I've given you some new non-stick ideas.

Thanks for reading!

1 comment:

Pat said...

Good stuff, Jessica!

A year or so back I found a good price on a decent cast iron skillet. I am crazy in love with cooking with that pan. I'm looking for a dutch oven also, for long slow cooking, and maybe a sauce pan, I think I'd be set.

The best part about cooking with cast iron is it just feels simple and old-school, and I like that.

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