Post Updated on August 4, 2010 after I received new information from the Thermolon company.
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? One option getting a lot of attention lately is something called Greenpan. These new pans are coated with Thermolon, a Teflon substitute that contains no PFOAs. The original information I found indicated that Thermolon was made using nanotechnology, but this information appears to be incorrect. The Thermolon company contacted me to let me know this:
” . . . there is no nanotechnology used in Thermolon. Thermolon is actually created using sol-gel technology, a process known since the 1800′s. The sol-gel process is a versatile solution process for making ceramic and glass materials. In general, the sol-gel process involves the transition of a system from a liquid “sol” into a solid “gel” phase. Applying the sol-gel process, it is possible to fabricate ceramic or glass materials in a wide variety of forms.
Thermolon has an elemental composition of oxygen (O), silicon (Si), carbon (C), aluminum (Al) and titanium (Ti). However, it is important for you to understand that there is no free element atoms present in our coatings. Instead, atoms are bound with atoms of other elements in a perfectly stable compound known as silica (-Si-O-Si-) – i.e. basically sand.
In Thermolon coatings, these elements are combined with other elements as a ceramic material. Ceramics are earth-type materials such as clays (Aluminosilicates) that have been used as cooking utensils and tableware for centuries. As previously stated, basically, it is made of sand and has been thoroughly tested by independent Labs in the US, UK, Germany etc – even by the Swiss Government. All certify it to be completely free of toxins or anything harmful to man, beast or the environment.”
I hope this new information allows you to make more informed choices regarding Thermolon and GreenPan products. Below, you’ll find some other options as well.
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:
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 all together. 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