What is teflon coating?
Teflon (also polytetrafluoroethylene or PTFE) is a synthetic chemical made of carbon and fluorine. Surfaces coated with teflon become nonstick and frictionless, making it ideal for cookware like pans and pots. Teflon-coated pans are easier to clean, use less oil to cook with, and last longer in the kitchen.
Most cookware today is coated with teflon, not just pans and pots. But while the benefits of teflon coating have definitely been a blessing for anyone tired of scrubbing pans, the safety of teflon products has come into question a lot! Mostly regarding a chemical called perfluorooctanoic acid or PFOA.
What is PFOA?
Perfluorooctanoic acid is a chemical that was used in the manufacturing of Teflon cookware and other non-stick products. The alarm over its use was raised when it was found that repeatedly heating and cooling PFOA coated cookware could cause it to leak into the food being cooked.
Ingested PFOA is dangerous to the human body: it can cause thyroid issues, infertility, and even some forms of cancer – which led to the teflon cancer scare in the early 2000s. Warned about the dangers of Teflon poisoning, manufacturers all over the world agreed to ban the use of PFOA in non-stick cookware in 2013.
So is teflon safe now?
Absolutely. PTFE is inert in its solid form and will most likely pass through your digestive system with no issue. In addition, the temperatures used for cooking aren’t typically hot enough to release PTFE fumes into the air – though toxicologists are quick to remind people that overheating Teflon coated cookware is a bad idea.
How to take care of teflon cookware
If you’re still concerned about Teflon’s dangers, there are ways for you to avoid it by taking care of your cookware. Not only do these methods prevent damage to the coating, but they also help it last longer in the kitchen.
- Use silicone, plastic, or wooden utensils. Metal can scratch the surface of Teflon pans, making them vulnerable to flaking.
- Do not preheat empty pans. Empty Teflon pans are good conductors of heat and warm up quickly if nothing is inside them, potentially causing the PTFE to fume out.
- Replace when needed. Teflon coating isn’t permanent. Once it flakes, peels, or chips because of time or prolonged use, replace it immediately.
- Ventilate. Cooking in a well-ventilated area minimises the little PTFE fumes that you may be exposed to.
- Gently handwash. Avoid using steel wool sponges or scrubbing pads with washing Teflon cookware, since they scratch the surface easily.
Is there such a thing as “the safest cookware?”
Truthfully, there is no true non-toxic frying pan or utensil out there – these tools eventually degrade with time and use. The best thing that you can do is to always make sure that your cookware comes from a trusted, reputable source, and always make the extra effort to maintain and use it properly.
Doing your due diligence when buying and using cookware is the best safeguard against accidents or complications that come with using them. The safest cookware is the one you know well.
Keep on cooking
We hope that this article has helped assuage your fears about teflon being toxic. Just make sure that your non-stick frying pan comes from a trusted brand, and you should be able to enjoy the convenience of non-stick cooking for years to come.