How safe is the nonstick coating on pans?
June 29, 2020 — 6 a.m. EST
Before quarantine started months ago, I had no idea I had a cast iron pan — much less how I was supposed to use or clean it. My philosophy with pans has always been simple: use what’s in front of me and instantly forget about it once I’ve made my meal. But since we’ve all been staying home and using our kitchens more than ever, it’s time to get a better understanding of which pans are best for frying, the safest frying pan materials, and more that you should have in your home to save time on clean up and keep your family healthy.
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On June 29, 2020, Inside Edition’s chief investigative correspondent, Lisa Guerrero, and chef Rocco DiSpirito visited The Dr. Oz Show to break down everything you need to know about these efficient kitchen tools.
What Makes a Frying Pan Nonstick?
Nonstick pans have an added material that coats the rough edges of a pan to make it smooth and frictionless. There are two types of nonstick pans: PTFE and ceramic. PTFE nonstick pans have been around for decades and is one of the most common types of nonstick pans available. “The coating is sprayed onto the pan surface and then set,” and you can physically feel the coating on the pan, says DiSpirito. “It’s highly water repellent, so it repels the water in foods and it will repel food substances from adhering to the surface as long as the nonstick coating lasts.”
DiSpirito says ceramic pans have been thought to be healthier and safer then PTFE because they’re coated with natural materials like sand and rock. “The clay-like substance has a silicon based oil in the coating that gets released as you heat to repel instead of using PTFE,” says DiSpirito. However, this is not proven and ceramic coating isn’t as durable as PTFE and wears easily over time as you scrub.
Are Nonstick Pan Coatings Safe?
A few years ago, there were concerns that PFOA, the chemical compound sometimes found in PTFE, was harmful and potentially caused cancer. Major factories agreed to phase out use of PFOA by 2015 and have successfully done so, notes Guerrero. If you’re concerned, look for cookware that specifically says “PFOA-free” or “made without PFOA.”
According to the American Cancer Society, PTFE itself is generally safe as long as the cookware is used as directed.
The Type Of Pan to Use For Each Food
Pancakes and eggs: DiSpirito says you should always reach for a nonstick pan when cooking these delicate foods. Nonstick pans require little to no oil, are easy to clean, and are lightweight and affordable.
Vegetable Sautés & fish: DiSpirito recommends stainless steel pans.
Searing & deep-frying donuts, chicken, etc.: DiSpirito says nothing beats a cast-iron pan for getting crispy sears on your favorite foods. “Cast-iron pans are also oven-proof, so you can use them to roast meats like beef or pork and also to bake cornbread, deep dish pizza, Shepherd's pie, and more,” says DiSpirito. Cast-iron pans are great for deep frying because they keep oil at a consistent temperature and can be nonstick, depending on the amount of oil you add.
Shopping & Cleaning Tips
Never use metal utensils with nonstick pans, which can scratch and damage the surface coating. Instead use rubber or wooden spatulas and always hand wash pans vs. placing them in the dishwasher.
Dispirito says when looking for a cast-iron pan, you should look to inherit one, that way, they’re already “stained” or seasoned. “Make sure they are iron and not aluminum, some are actually cast-aluminum, which doesn’t conduct or retain heat the same way,” says Dispirito. “If a pan isn’t heavy it isn’t cast iron.” Iron skillets can also help you absorb extra iron, which is a great and easy way to add it to your diet.
Since you’re doing so much of your cooking from home these days, it’s helpful to know the types of cookware that pair best with each food. Try these tips and notice how much easier it is to get the cooking results you’re after.