It all began in 1938 when a chemist named Roy Plunkett, who worked for DuPont chemical company at that time, accidentally discovered polytetrafluoroethylene, or PTFE for short, trademarked later as now-famous Teflon. Twenty years later it became the main component of all non-stick types of cookware. With time, other non-stick sorts of surface appeared and they soon started to account for the majority of cookware sold in the USA.
These days, after all this time, they are just as popular and it’s not hard to understand why. The food doesn’t stick to the surface so it’s more enjoyable for you to cook with it and way easier to wash it. It also allows you to use less (or even non) oil or butter. So there’s no surprise that when you check Non-stick surface, you can find so many non-stick surface ones there. But what is there to know before you decide to buy yourself a whole set or even one piece?
Is it safe to cook on non-stick surface cookware?
Most people are afraid that, due to the heat, a pan’s coating may detach, get to the food and then be eaten and digested. It is possible, especially with really cheap cookware and pieces that aren’t taken care of (if you scratch the surface with metal implements, it’s more likely to flake). It is not dangerous, though, as small flakes of coating aren’t poisonous for humans, they will probably just get through your system, but it will definitely shorten your pan’s life and cause the loss of effectiveness as non-stick cookware.
Luckily, most producers don’t use a carcinogen perfluorooctanoic (or PFOA) for manufacturing cookware anymore, which was a thing in the past (so maybe you shouldn’t use the pan your grandmother gave you).
Pieces made with Teflon are normally safe if you do not overheat them – PTFE starts to disintegrate above 500°F and release fumes into the air, for example, fluorine-containing compounds which are poisonous (very often they start to break down at molecular level so you can’t really see it).
How to properly use non-stick surface cookware?
Because of the above, it’s better to use Teflon cookware to cook in lower or medium heat, e.g. to make eggs, pancakes or to warm-up leftovers. During tests, the only kind of food that exceedingly heated the pan and took too much time was a steak.
Choose heavier pan – the lightweight ones tend to heat up quicker. Don’t preheat a pan when it’s empty. The cheaper the cookware, the quicker it gets heated over 500 degrees. That’s why you shouldn’t cook on high heat either – try not to go above medium; if not for your health then for the lifespan of your cookware.
Never use any metal utensils or abrasive sponges that may scratch the surface and mechanically cause it to disintegrate. It will not only be safe for you, but it will make the life of your cookware significantly longer. Don’t stack them either – if you have to then put something in between (e.g. paper towel) or hang them side by side. Plus, don’t ever use a damaged pan. Non-stick surface cookware should be replaced every couple of years before they start flaking completely.
When it comes to maintenance, don’t use any cooking sprays with lecithin; lubricate it with oil and try avoiding drastic changes in temperature so don’t ever wash a hot pan under cold water. Don’t put your pan into a dishwasher and remember to wash it gently – more soaking, less scrubbing.
There are non-stick cookware made without Teflon, though, so you can always choose, for example, ceramic, hard-anodized aluminum or hybrid materials.
What’s best to cook in non-stick cookware?
It’s the most beneficial for food that doesn’t dishwasher too high temperature and that tends to stick to the surface, e.g. eggs or fish. The non-stick surface makes a pan lose the ability to conduct heat so it shouldn’t really be used if you need to truly brown something – it’s possible but it wouldn’t be as effective and there won’t be a possibility to make a rich pan sauce.
Green non-stick cookware
Because of some still uncertain drawbacks of PTFE, some people started to think about alternatives and hence, new non-stick coatings were introduced – ceramic and silicone. They’re considered eco-friendly as they contain none of PTFE and don’t require the use of PFOA while being manufactured. The downside of the ceramic surface is that, due to heating and cooling, it starts to disintegrate, and it doesn’t conduct heat very well. When it comes to silicone-coated pans, it doesn’t resist heat – it’s more common to use it on the bakeware than the cookware.
Everything has its advantages and disadvantages, and non-stick surface cookware is no exception. That’s why it’s important to think about your needs to gather a set of cookware that will meet them all (yes, it’s possible). But it’s definitely worth having at least one or two non-stick surface pans in your household. Statistics show that 70% of all pans sold in the USA have non-stick coating – that many people can’t be wrong, right?