Americans have been cooking burger patties and flipping eggs in their non-stick fry pans for decades. But if you asked for their opinion on the controversial chemicals used to make some of these pans, you’d often draw a blank stare. Is it safe to use non-stick pans? In this article, we’ll answer this and also offer some useful tips to keep your kitchen safe if you use one of these pans.
Why non-stick pans got a bad name
The American Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was the one to raise the curtain on the safety of non-stick, back in 2004. They revealed that Teflon contained cancer-causing chemicals called PFOA. More recent studies have revealed that this chemical can casue a range of health issues which include: increased cholesterol, immune system issues, thyroid hormone disruption and liver and kidney complications.
PFOA in no longer used in the manufacture of Teflon pans – it was phased out in 2013. In fact, PFOA is no longer manufactured in the U.S., with the exception of some being made for use industrial use.
Manufacturers of non-stick pans are now required to make consumer products that are safe for the intended use. Although this means the dangers should have reduced, there are some ways that consumers can stay safe when using a non-stick frying pan.
Tips for safely using a non-stick pan
- Never over-heat a non-stick fry pan. Harmful chemicals can be released when heated above 500°F (260°C).
- Avoid using metal utensils that can scratch the pan’s surface. Use plastic or wooden options that won’t cause damage.
- Wash your pan by hand using warm, soapy water. Avoid washing them in dishwashers or using abrasive cleaning products like steel wool.
- Read the manufacturer’s manual or instructions before use. Following their recommendations for usage and cleaning is highly advisable.
- Avoid using oils with a high smoke-point. For example, safflower and olive oil are not good options for cooking a stir-fry. Peanut oil is a better choice as it can deal with the heat a lot better.
- Throw out pans that are visibly damaged with scratches that have exposed the inner coating.
If you’re concerned about using non-stick then remember there are a wide range of other cookware products on the market. Enamel, stainless steel, copper and cast iron are all potential options.
There have been health concerns about non-stick pans for decades now. Thankfully, the material that is believed to be the main problem, PFOA, has been taken off the market.
It is still advisable to take some safety precautions when cooking with and washing a non-stick pan. By following the tips we have outlined above you should expect years of service from your pan with minimal health risks.
Of course, as consumers we have the right of choice. If the idea of non-stick surfaces make you uncomfortable, then simply choose another type of pan without the connected stigma.