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Did you know that nearly 90% of sales of cooking supplies are for non-stick cookware? Of course, it’s easy-to-use, the food doesn’t stick, it’s easy to clean, you can use the less oil for cooking. But do you know that non-stick coating could kill you?
Teflon (another name of non-stick coating) consists of numerous chemical components and compounds. When the frying pan has overheated these compounds start destroying, breaking out in a volatile form.
In the cooking process, you are breathing with these fumes, and also they penetrate into the food. Some of them are fluoropolymers, that are toxic for the most part. It is for them that make the coating non-stick.
Of course, the keyword is – overheating. You’d think – just don’t overheat and everything’s would be alright. The compounds start destroying only at a temperature above 260 degrees.
WHAT ARE THE DANGERS OF OVERHEATING?
As you already know, the temperature at 260 degrees is an extreme point. The hotter points destroy the surface of the frying pan (in other words – destroy the coating) and release the harmful fumes.
At temperatures above 349 degrees, the coating starts destroying more rapidly, emitting so many harmful fumes that, if you breathe them, can cause polymer fever – a condition similar to symptoms with flu, manifested in the form of chills, headache, and high fever. These fumes won’t kill you, but they can kill birds, for example, a domestic parrot, that has weaker airways.
When the temperature reaches 360 degrees, Teflon emits at least 6 different toxic gases, two of which are carcinogens. Scientists agree on the assertion that, because of the small amount of emitted gases, the chances that you will inhale enough of them to harm the body is minimal. Unfortunately, studies of the frequent short-term effects of gases on the body haven’t been conducted, therefore, it is impossible to draw an unambiguous conclusion about safety.
The chemical substance used to produce fluoropolymers, of which, as we already know, consists the coating of non-stick cookware, is called perfluorooctanoic acid.
In the United States, DuPont was the largest producer of this substance (and also dishes), until in the 2000s was proved its negative impact on the environment and the human body. And they did not have to pay claims for several hundred million dollars to injured employees of the enterprise and people living in the neighborhood.
In 2006, the US Environmental Protection Agency recognized perfluorooctanoic acid as a carcinogen. Fortunately for you and me, perfluorooctanoic acid decomposes at a temperature of 190 ºСdegrees, while the technological process of sintering the base of a frying pan with a non-stick coating occurs at a temperature of 420 degrees. Independent European studies have confirmed that non-stick coatings do not contain perfluorooctanoic acid in excess of safe limits.
WHAT IS DANGEROUS AND WHAT NOT TO COOK ON A FRYING PAN WITH A NON-STICK COATING
In an article that became the main basis of this material, Good Housekeeping Research Institute conducted a study in which they investigated how quickly the surface of the pan heats up to unsafe values. For the test, they took 3 different pans: cheap and light (~ 550 gr.), Medium (~ 950 gr.) and heavy (~ 1.2 kg.) And prepared 5 different dishes on them. The study was conducted on a conventional gas hob, so its results are quite relevant for us.
Below are the results of this test. The temperature near the name of the dish indicates the surface temperature of the pan at the end of cooking.
Omelet or scrambled eggs 106 degrees
Cooked over medium heat for three minutes in a light frying pan.
Stir fry chicken and pepper – 160 degrees
It was cooked over high heat for five and a quarter minutes in a light frying pan.
Bacon – 240 degrees
Cooked over high heat for five and a half minutes in a medium frying pan.
Empty pan 264 degrees
A light pan reaches an unsafe temperature in one minute forty-five seconds when heated over high heat.
Empty pan with two tbsp of oil 268 degrees
All things being equal with the previous test, it takes two and a half minutes to heat the pan with oil to an unsafe temperature.
Hamburger 303 degrees
The cutlet was cooked over high heat for eight and a half minutes in a heavy frying pan.
Steak 347 degrees
Cooked over high heat for ten minutes in a light frying pan.
HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF?
You can be sure of the complete safety of your non-stick pan if the food is cooked on it quickly and on low or medium heat. It is also desirable that the products cover the bottom completely, thereby lowering its temperature, such as scrambled eggs or omelets, pancakes, etc.
Below you will find some tips that will help you protect yourself and your loved ones as much as possible from the consequences of improper use of such cookware.
- Do not heat the pan empty. Since the moment of overheating occurs rather quickly, do not heat the pan empty, without oil. The oil begins to smoke at a temperature of about 200 degrees as if hinting to you that you need to slow down.
- Do not cook over high heat. Most manufacturers of non-stick cookware do not recommend cooking on fire above average. They do not warn of dangers, but only say that this way you can increase the service life of dishes.
- Ventilate the room. Turn on the hood, or at least open a window.
- Do not fry the meat in a non-stick pan. Frying meat requires high temperatures that are higher than safe ones for Teflon.
- Choose a heavy non-stick pan. It will cost more, but health, after all, is not the thing you can save on.
- Do not use cookware with a damaged coating. Everyone knows that you should not crawl in a Teflon pan with a metal spoon or spatula. Previously, this could completely ruin the coating, depriving it of non-stick properties. Now the quality of the coating has been improved, but a pan with scratches or nicks on the coating can throw out more harmful substances at lower temperatures. Use wooden spatulas for cooking. Also, do not put the pans one in one for storage, lay between them a napkin or paper towel.
TEFLON WARE SERVICE PERIOD
The service life declared by manufacturers is three to five years with moderate use. Experts advise counting on 2-3 years of operation.
If scratches or even chips appear on the surface of the pan, you just have to throw it away.
CERAMIC NON-STICK COATING
In addition to Teflon, there is another type of non-stick coatings on the market – ceramics. Ceramic coatings are completely safe, but their main disadvantage is the high requirements for operating conditions.
The coating quickly deteriorates if there are sudden changes in temperature on the pan surface, and it is also very sensitive to the use of metal blades and other utensils. In addition, they are not recommended to be heated empty.
It’s hard for me to say anything definite about this type of coverage, because I have never used it myself, and the reviews on the Internet come across too opposite. Somebody says they serve for 5 years, the coating does not lose its properties, everything is fine. For others, the pan becomes unsuitable for use after 2-3 weeks.
Most likely the second problem is in violation of the operating conditions, but you must admit that the pan is not bought for beauty, but for cooking. And during cooking, some incidents can happen – overlooked, overcooked, or was distracted. And if, due to one such incident, the coating of the pan (which is far from the cheapest, by the way) may become worthless, then who needs it?
HOW TO LIVE NOW?
Personally, in the nearest future, I plan to get rid of the non-stick cookware that I use. How to replace it? At the moment I look in the direction of cast iron, although it is likely that by the time of purchase my opinion will change.
Stay tuned for updates to the blog, I will definitely make a material with a comparative characteristic of the cookware coating, based on which I’ll make my choice and recommend something to you.