We’ve probably all heard about the dangers of plastics, especially about the problems with heating foods in them. (If you’d like more information on why plastics are harmful, click here). While there’s been speculation for some time that the nonstick coating, Teflon, might be problem, recently, a study in the Human Reproduction journal confirmed some very real concerns with the product. This study established a link between PFOA, the chemical in Teflon, and reproductive health in women. According to Enviroblog (the blog of the Environmental Working Group), “PFOA is [also] linked to birth defects, increased cancer rates, and changes to lipid levels, the immune system, and liver.”
So, if Teflon is bad, what should we use?
On The Stovetop:
Stainless Steel. Stainless is considered very safe. Used properly and coated with a little oil, it is possible to reduce sticking in a stainless steel pan. Because stainless alone is not a very even conductor of heat, it’s best to go with a tri-ply version that has an aluminum or copper core, like these:
Cuisinart Chef’s Classic Stainless Steel Cookware – great ratings on Amazon at a reasonable price.
All-Clad Tri-Ply Bonded Dishwasher Safe Stainless Cookware – All-Clad has been the industry standard for quality, long-lasting stainless cookware for years. If you want to go higher-end and make a one-time purchase, this is the way to go.
Ceramic. Ceramic cookware is fairly new to the scene and offers nonstick properties without the peeling, flaking surface. I have a set of ceramic lined stainless skillets and have been very happy with how well they perform.
Cast Iron. When properly seasoned, cast iron is virtually non-stick. These pans may also be good for your health because they increase the iron that is absorbed into your food as it cooks. Instructions on seasoning and cleaning cast iron pans (which is easy to do) can be found in a variety of places; here’s one.
Porcelain Enameled Cast-Iron: If you’re not interested in seasoning your pan or in cleaning it with salt, porcelain enameled cast-iron is an excellent option. These pans, like standard cast-iron, should last a lifetime. There are several manufacturers of porcelain enameled cookware, two are below.
I use a combination of stainless steel, cast iron and enameled cast iron at my house. I’ve stopped using Teflon altogether. I’ve heard some arguments that regardless of the dangers, so little of the “bad” chemicals are released during cooking, that Teflon is essentially safe. I say, why chance it? If there are other options available that work as well, if not better, I feel safer using those.
Photo Credit: Chris Campbell