Non-stick cookware has become a favorite among consumers because of its non-stick surface that makes cleanup much more effortless. More and more cooks also prefer non-stick cookware as it allows them to use less oil or butter when cooking. These benefits, however, are being overshadowed by issues involving toxic chemical emissions.
In using non-stick cookware, are you unwittingly prioritizing easy cooking at the expense of your family’s health?
How non-stick cookware endangers health
The non-stick surface of aluminum or metal pans is made from a synthetic polymer called polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) or more popularly known as Teflon. When exposed to high temperatures, Teflon releases toxic fumes that have been found to kill pet birds instantly and cause flu-like symptoms in humans when inhaled.
While manufacturers of non-stick cookware have warned consumers to avoid cooking in high temperatures when using Teflon, tests conducted in 2003 by EWG showed that the coating of non-stick cookware breaks apart and emits toxic particles and gases when exposed to high heat from a conventional stove top even when cooking for just two to five minutes.
When you accidentally inhale these toxic fumes from your non-stick pot or pan, you may be exposed to flu-like symptoms characterized by headache, fever, and chills. There hasn’t been enough studies to prove how long-term effects of constant exposure to Teflon toxic fumes can seriously affect one’s health, but just the thought of exposing yourself or your family to these fumes is reason enough to consider other cookware alternatives.
Pots and pans made from stainless steel or cast iron remain safer options than non-stick cookware when cooking over stove-top or baking with oven-safe glass. Stainless steel, for example, is better in browning food than its non-stick counterpart. Cast iron, on the other hand, is more durable and can withstand oven temperatures better than non-stick pans.
How you can safely cook with non-stick cookware
If switching to safer alternatives is not an option for you anytime soon, you can still cook with your non-stick pans and pots without putting yourself at risk of inhaling the toxic fumes. Below are some do’s and don’ts you should keep in mind when cooking with non-stick cookware.
- Do use an exhaust fan over your stove to keep your kitchen well ventilated and clear away any fumes.
- Do keep your pet birds out of the kitchen to avoid toxic fumes from being inhaled by them.
- Do avoid putting your oven in self-cleaning function mode. When you put it under self-cleaning mode, the oven cleans itself by heating at high temperatures, which can release toxic fumes from its non-stick interior parts.
- Do cook on a heavier non-stick pan that doesn’t heat up faster compared to its lightweight counterpart.
- Don’t preheat your non-stick cookware at high heat, especially if it’s empty. Empty pans are more likely to reach high temperatures faster, which can immediately release toxic fumes.
- Don’t cook or bake way above the recommended temperature of 500 degrees Fahrenheit. At temperatures above 500 degrees, the coating of the non-stick cookware begins to break down and toxic particles and gases are then released.
- Don’t broil or sear meats. Broiling and searing require high temperatures that are way above what a non-stick cookware can actually handle.