Teflon Non-stick Pans: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly
If you are like me, chances are you have some Teflon non-stick pans in your kitchen. On the surface, these pans seem great because cleanup is easy, they require less oil when cooking and they are relatively inexpensive. That is the good part.
The bad part is when these pans are overheated or when the coating begins to break down (at the molecular level, so you wouldn't necessarily see it), toxic particles and gases, some of them carcinogenic, can be released. These toxic fumes may kill pet birds and cause people to develop flu-like symptoms which is commonly referred to as Teflon flu.
If you aren’t following the usage guidelines or have “ugly” pots and pans that have been scratched or scrubbed to the point where the surface is compromised, you could be jeopardizing your health. Any marred pans should be replaced immediately. Even the best Teflon pans with moderate usage only have a lifespan of three to five years according to DuPont (the manufacturer of Teflon).
To avoid the dangers of Teflon, you should consider replacing all of your Teflon pans with safer cooking options like stainless steel, enameled cast iron and cast iron. These pans might cost a little more upfront and may be slightly harder to clean, but your health is worth it.
If you are budget conscience, you may want to consider a phased in approach to replacing your pans. While you continue to cook with your Teflon non-stick, use them safely. The Environmental Working Group recommends the following guidelines:
Never preheat nonstick cookware at high heat -- empty pans can rapidly reach high temperatures. Heat at the lowest temperature possible to cook your food safely.
Don't put nonstick cookware in an oven hotter than 500 degrees.
Use an exhaust fan over the stove.
Keep pet birds out of the kitchen -- the fumes from an overheated pan can kill a bird in seconds
Home cooked healthy meals are a big part of our lifestyle. Using non-toxic cookware is important part of preparing those meals. We have made a switch to safer alternatives cookware as a way to reduce our exposure to potentially toxic chemicals.