Teflon, Ceramic, Anodized Aluminum … If you're looking for new non-stick cookware, the options may overwhelm you. With almost a dozen different varieties of pots and pans to choose from, it's hard to figure out which ones are intended for which type of cuisine and which are the safest. I spoke to Lisa McManus, the executive editor of tasting and testing at America’s Test Kitchen, who helped analyze the ins and outs of nonstick pans.
Why use non-stick pans?
First things first, let's evaluate why use nonstick pans in the first place. In addition to their convenience, McManus explains that they are particularly good at cooking items that can fall apart.
"We like to use non-stick cooking utensils for baking, and non-stick pans for delicate foods like eggs and fish, where you really want food to be easily released from the pan without sticking and potentially breaking and breaking food," he explained.
But you can cook just about anything in a nonstick skillet, and choosing a high-quality skillet can mean you don't need many others.
What Makes a Skillet Nonstick?
The core of your nonstick skillet can be made of various materials like aluminum, stainless steel, or ceramic, but what makes it nonstick is an additional coating.
"The non-stick part of a pan is actually just a coating applied to its surface, making non-stick cookware less durable than traditional cookware.; That coating can be scratched or worn. Manufacturers apply it as spray paint, applying one to five coat layers, ”McManus explained.
That's why non-stick pans wear out over time, as the coating deteriorates. More on that later.
What types of non-stick coatings are there and which are the safest?
PTFE or Teflon coating
Historically, most nonstick cookware has been coated with Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), also known as Teflon, a coating made by Dupont. While these pans are quite effective at being nonstick, they do come with safety concerns.
"PTFE-based coating will release harmful fumes if heated to over 500 degrees, which is surprisingly easy to doEspecially if you heat the empty skillet or cook only a small amount of food at a time. We always preheat non-stick pans with oil in them, rather than emptying them, because the oil will start to smoke well below 500 degrees, ”McManus. If overheated, people can experience "Teflon flu,quot; or poisoning, experiencing symptoms such as "fever, chills, sore throat, and weakness," according to a 2012 research study.
Notably, Dupont settled a $ 671 million class action lawsuit in 2017 after thousands of personal injury lawsuits were filed for the leakage of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a chemical used to make Teflon, from its plant in West Virginia. PFOA, which was used in the manufacture of Teflon until 2015, has been "linked to a number of health conditions, including thyroid disorders, chronic kidney disease, liver disease, and testicular cancer. It has also been linked to infertility and low birth weight, "according to Healthline, citing several research studies (here's a recent one linking celiac disease to chemicals in Teflon, among other substances).
Nonstick ceramic coating is on the rise with direct consumer brands like Our Place, which makes the Always Skillet, a skillet designed to replace most of your cookware due to its versatility and design, promoting safety and ease of use of the coating.
Ceramic coating is considered safer than PTFE coating because it does not contain toxic chemicals like PFOA, nor does it release gases when heated to higher temperatures. However, McManus notes that, in his experience, ceramic cookware is less durable than its PTFE counterpart.
"Ceramic coatings are much more brittle, and overall we have found that they are much less durable than traditional PTFE-based non-stick coatings," he shared.
Direct Consumer brand Caraway sells a four-piece ceramic-coated cookware set, derived from founder Jordan Nathan's own experience with Teflon poisoning after trying a variety of cookware on a job previous. Caraway utensils are also oven safe.
Aluminum pans are also on the rise, although anodized aluminum "is not technically a non-stick coating," McManus explained. Rather, "it is a process that creates a darker, harder aluminum oxide surface than is generally present in an aluminum pan. That makes the pan surface a little bit stronger and non-reactive (aluminum uncoated can react with acidic foods and give a metallic taste) and looks good but it is non-stick, and it won't be even more so through seasoning and use as cast iron or carbon steel pans. "
While there are health concerns when cooking with aluminum, anodized aluminum is generally considered safe since it is sealed and does not interact with acid like typical aluminum does. Notably, McManus prefers stainless steel to anodized aluminum because "anodized aluminum coatings will wear out over time and with use, while a stainless steel lined pan is quite indestructible," he explained.
What do I need to know about cooking in my nonstick pans and how to care for them?
To safely and effectively use your nonstick pans, avoid overheating them, as McManus explained earlier. You want too favor butter or oil over a nonstick cooking sprayBecause the latter "can create an invisible buildup on the surface of the pan and form a barrier between food and the non-stick surface when heated directly," he shared.
Of great importance is make sure your skillet contains something as it is heating up like oil or food, since heating an empty frying pan can cause overheating and, in the case of Teflon, emit toxic fumes.
Nonstick pans are generally not considered the most durable options when it comes to pans. While a cast iron skillet can last a lifetime, nonstick frying pans can lose their effectiveness after a year or two. "Nonstick does not last forever, no matter how careful you are"Share McManus." It wears out and gradually becomes less and less slippery. Every time you use it, the stain wears out a bit. If you burn food on it, it damages it; if you drag a spatula over it or use metal utensils That can scratch and damage the nonstick. "
Related Reading: 8 Cardinal Sins From Cookware You Don't Realize You Are Engaging
Depending on the brand and coating, you may be able to get a longer shelf life from a nonstick pan. Our Place shares that with smooth and proper use, the non-stick coating on your Always skillet should last about five years, just avoid using metal utensils on the surface to avoid scratches.
Proper use will spread the non-stick coating on any non-stick pan, and McManus offered some best practices. McManus explains: "Don't shock it thermally, which means don't send it from very hot to cold"Like putting a hot skillet under a cold tap; that encourages any frying pan to deform. Do not put it in the dishwasher; strong soap can wear out and non-stick objects that move against the surface of the container during the wash cycle can also damage the coating. " avoid abrasive scrubbers while cleaning too.
McManus also offered that you can keep the nonstick coating using oilSimilar to a cast iron skillet. She explains, "Gently heat it with a teaspoon of oil in it, then remove it from the heat and wipe the oil all over the nonstick interior of the pan, then wipe off most of the oil and let it cool. We have found that this gives you a boost to the non-stick, even if it is temporary. "
Caraway provides a breakdown of how to care for your ceramic-coated pans before, during, and after cooking, including tips such as using low and medium temperatures during cooking, as the ceramic coating so efficiently retains heat.
As for me, I keep ceramic-lined pans in my kitchen. And let's be honest, I overheat my pans infrequently while I anxiously wait for them to heat up. While Teflon may be the most durable, I personally am not willing to risk my health for it.
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