Nonstick Cookware: Safe or Not?

Whether you are a housewife, a professional chef, or just a food enthusiast, the convenience of food preparation is a big deal. From storage to plating, convenience and efficacy are what every cook is searching for.

This is why cooking equipment evolved. From energy-efficient cookers to environmental-friendly fridge, modern equipment is every chef’s dream. A nonstick cooking pan is no exception to that.

With its Teflon coating, cooks no longer have to exert much effort in trying to flip that fried fish without peeling its skin. Cooks would no longer have to waste food particles stuck on the pan’s surface and destroy its overall appearance.

Indeed, nonstick cookware is ideal for both restaurant and household cooking. Aside from effortlessly stirring food, its nonstick surface allows the Teflon-coated cookware easy to clean. However, is nonstick cookware safe? Find out here.

Is nonstick cookware safe?

To answer that question, you first need to understand what nonstick cookware is made of and what kind of chemicals are applied to its coating. Nonstick cookware can be fry pans and saucepans. Their surface has been covered with a polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) material which is also called Teflon.

Teflon is made of fluorine atoms and carbon, which makes up a synthetic chemical. This kind of material was first invented during the 1930s and provided frictionless, nonstick, and non-reactive surfaces. This material is what makes Teflon a lot more convenient to utilize and easier to clean.

It only requires a minimal amount of butter or oil to cook food, thus making the dish healthy to eat. This is why many health-conscious people prefer nonstick over ordinary cookware because they no longer have to deep fry meat to cook it thoroughly. Teflon also has plenty of applications.

This material is utilized for cable and wire coating, waterproof surfaces for outdoor materials such as raincoats, and carpet and fabric protectors.

However, nonstick surfaces’ safety and reliability have been held under investigation over the past ten years. The concerns are focused on the chemical used, which is perfluorooctanoic acid.

This chemical was previously utilized to make nonstick coatings, but today, not anymore. It is because the investigations and further researches have dived into the possible risks in regards to Teflon’s overheating.

Exposure to PFOA and Teflon

PFOA has been linked to numerous health conditions such as kidney disease, thyroid disorders, testicular cancer, and liver disease. Moreover, it has also been associated with low birth weight and infertility.

Although these associations need further study, it is always best to take safety precautions when using Teflon products.

Fortunately, all Teflon-coated products nowadays are already PFOA-free. Thus, the health risks caused by PFOA exposure no longer concerns buyers. However, one cannot assure the total absence of PFOA chemical in nonstick cookware production because this chemical has been continually used until 2013.

What does this mean? It only means that some manufacturers might still use a small number of PFOA chemicals on cooking pots until now. Although the amounts are regulated, users should avoid overheating the product to ensure utmost safety.

In temperatures above 300 degrees Celsius, Teflon coatings will break down and release toxic chemicals into the atmosphere. Inhaling these gases may cause Teflon flu or polymer fume fever. Headache, fever, body aches, and chills are the flu-like symptoms of Polymer fume fever.

The onset of this illness manifests after four to ten hours of fume exposure. The condition may resolve within twelve to forty-eight hours. Some researchers reported more damaging side effects of Teflon exposure, such as lung damage.

However, in most reported cases, people affected by these toxic fumes from overheated Teflon cookware were only exposed at overly extended periods (more than four hours).

Final Thoughts

There will always be ways to minimize the risks of using nonstick cookware. These include precautions like not preheating an empty pan, avoid cooking at extremely high temperatures, ventilating your kitchen to help the fume escape, and using wooden utensils to avoid scratching the Teflon-coating. 

Most users also prefer to hand wash their Teflon-coated cookware to preserve the quality of the material. Safety measures should always be applied; the same goes for all other traditional cookware.

There will always be pros and cons of every kind of cooking material. What is essential is, you, as a buyer and a cook, should know how to use these sets of equipment wisely and adequately.

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