Health & Fitness

Why Cooking With A Nonstick Pan Is Not Safe?

With nonstick pans you can cook with less oil. Also cooking with nonstick pans are less messier and they are easy to clean. But are nonstick pans safe? One of the major concern with nonstick cookware, is that the it’s coating can flake off and be potentially ingested.

Another rumor is that the Teflon is toxic, which is partly true. Teflon lining is not safe at high temperature. However, some manufacturers are now using ceramic based nonstick linings, which are said to be safe even at high temperature.

Busy households prefer nonstick cooking surfaces for convenience. Nonstick allows you to lift baked goods out without hassle, clean the pan in less time and cook with less fat.

Nonstick Pans are not Safe at High Temperature

Keep in mind that nonstick pans are not that safe in high heat. The rule is to never use metal utensils with a nonstick cookware and never subject a nonstick pan to high heat.

There have been findings that the PFC chemicals found in nonstick pans is not healthy, which is one of the reasons this easy to clean and popular cookware has been considered as potentially toxic. The danger only begins if the pan over heats. At this point the breakdown begins and smaller chemical fragments are released by the nonstick pans. How hot is the overheat point?

The Good Housekeeping Research Institute tested cheap, lightweight pans and was surprised at how quickly some of the pans got way too hot. At an estimated 500 degrees Fahrenheit, the coating of nonstick pans starts to decompose.

At 660 degrees Fahrenheit and above, the nonstick pan itself may more significantly decompose by emitting strong fumes that is enough to cause polymer-fume fever. The polymer-fume fever is a temporary flu like condition characterized by chills, headache, and fever. It won’t kill you, but it can kill the birds.

Nonstick cookware contains Teflon

cooking in nonstick pan

Nonstick pans used the Teflon or polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, or the perfluorinated compounds known as PFC. The chemicals were used to keep the food from sticking to the cooking ware. How dangerous is it?

This chemical has been found to possibly elevate thyroid disease, cholesterol, and reduced fertility. In fact, your blood level is said to go up when you use a Teflon coated cookware. We all know that nonstick pans make our lives easier, but, unfortunately, the experts found they promote cancer. The EPA has been more concerned of the PFOA because it lasts a long time with people and in the environment.

PFOA  (Perfluorooctanoic acid)

The PFOA is the chemical that manufacturers the fluoropolymers and makes up the nonstick coating. The Environmental Working Group revealed that at 660 degrees Fahrenheit, the Teflon releases two carcinogens and six toxic gases.

The PFOA has been associated with tumors and developmental problems in animals. A study conducted by the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found an association between the PFOA exposure and the small decreases in the head circumference and of the infants’ body weight.

Teflon is made from perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), which has been found to cause liver, testicular and pancreatic cancers in rodents. It is also suspected to cause thyroid issues including thyroid cancer.

In 2015, the EPA reached an agreement with eight companies, including that of DuPont to phase out the PFOA completely. However, the possible sources of PFOA are everywhere, which includes the microwave popcorn bags, fast food packaging, shampoo, carpeting, and clothing.

FDA made a statement about the PFOA. They tested nonstick pans to evaluate the danger of PFOA exposure and they found that the manufacturing process drives off the PFOA and the risk presented to consumers is considered negligible.

Overheating of Nonstick Pans

Overheating the pans at prolonged periods may result in long term detrimental effects. The manufacturer labels often provide a warning to avoid high heat when cooking with Teflon.

Unfortunately, the EWG commissioned tests in 2003 demonstrated that it can be done in just two to five minutes on a conventional stove top. Any cookware coated with Teflon and other non-stick surfaces could exceed temperatures at which the coating breaks apart and emits toxic particles and gases.

Can it make us fat?

About 98% of Americans have the PFOA or C8 in their blood. It is becoming clear that people cooking with nonstick pans are facing a major health risk.

The children of pregnant women found to have the highest levels were found to be more likely overweight in early adulthood and facing abnormally high insulin levels. The PFOA is also used in waterproof clothing, sealing tapes, fire resistant tubings and casings. It could end in the environment coming from different avenues.

Read also: Best Stone Cookware Sets

How dangerous are nonstick pans?

The chemical could potentially cause liver cell damage, spark arthritis, produce smaller babies, influence your immune system or antibody, annihilate your arteries, and associated with out of control cholesterol among adults.

Best alternative

cast-iron-skillet

You can use cast iron, ceramic, glass, and clay for cooking. They do not leak chemicals and provides an even heat distribution. Even if you follow a healthy diet meal plan, but the cooking ware you are using is nonstick, you are still exposing yourself to a greater health risk.

Other safer pans are the stainless steel and the cast iron. The stainless steel browns food better than non-stick surfaces while the cast iron is extremely durable and can be pre-heated to temperatures that will brown meat and withstand oven temperatures well.

Cast Iron cookware

Replacing a nonstick pan with a cast iron pan allows you to avoid toxic fumes. Cast iron can also replace cookware such as aluminum pans, which can also have health risks. Affordable and offering superior heat distribution when cooking, cast iron can easily and safely go from stovetop to oven.

One of the main advantages of using a cast iron pan is that, it reaches a really high temperature, which is maintained while we are using it, as opposed to other thinner pans such as aluminum pans, in which the temperature level varies constantly. Hence, cast iron pans are ideal for those foods that require high temperatures.

A quality cast iron pan will last forever and food will not stick to it. Pots and pans don’t necessarily need to be washed, just rinsed after each use. Cooking with cast iron cookware can even add iron to your diet, which is helpful for people who are iron deficient.

Are Nonstick ceramic cookware Safe?

Ceramic cookware is the best choice if you’re concerned about Teflon, which you can’t blame if you are. There are two types of ceramic cookware currently available: ones that are entirely ceramic and ones that have a ceramic coating. Pure ceramic cookware is free from any metal. These cookware are made of a unique mixture of clay, minerals, and sand. They are fired at more than 1900 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure that they last as long as possible.

Although 100% ceramic pans can be found, they are quite rare. Most of the time when you are looking for an alternative to Teflon, you want to look to ceramic coated cookware.

To make non-stick ceramic pots and pans manufacturers use a process called “Sol-Gel”, which involves turning the inorganic liquid into a solid gel that can be applied to any metal surface. Once applied, the cookware is then heated to extremely high temperatures. This makes the pans durable, creates a strong food release and prevents a solid finish.

However, while the substance is similar to Teflon in terms of function (helping food slide effortlessly off your cooking equipment), it differs greatly in terms of safety rating.

What about Copper Cookware?

Copper is a good conductor of heat and allows for better control of the cooking temperature. Brass, an alloy of copper and zinc, is more rare in cookware.

Copper is beneficial for your health in small amounts. However, if taken in large quantities over a short time it can cause toxic effects. It is unknown how much copper the body can tolerate daily. Copper and brass pans in many countries are coated with another metal to protect the copper from contact with food. The coating can dissolve in small amounts if it comes into contact with food. This is especially true if the food has been sitting for long periods of time or has been simmered.

In the past, copper cookware was sometimes coated with tin or nickel. Such cookware should only be used as decorative items. People allergic to nickel should avoid cookware coated with this metal.

Bottom Line

One thing that many books advised is to take the nonstick cookware off the stove top the minute you finished cooking and just place it on a cold burner or on the countertop. Let us face it. It would be particularly dangerous to live with a compromised immune system. It is not safe to cook with a traditional Teflon based nonstick pan over high heat.

It is best to use quality cookware that is nonreactive to what you cook in it, such as the stainless steel, ceramic, glass and lead free cookware. Keep in mind the slow heating is the most natural form of cooking.

Stay away from flimsy pots or nonstick pots and pans coated with Teflon and other synthetic materials. Once heated these can spoil the food and become toxic. In particular, you should be more concerned about the damage it can do to the immune system.

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