With the rise of awareness about toxic material in cookware, a lot of people are still wondering whether nonstick is really safe. The reason why the matter became so controversial is due to the fact that the word cancer appears in claims regarding toxic material in cookware. These toxic materials are linked to causing or increasing the risk of cancer. But it’s not just any cookware, it’s only nonstick cookware, right?
Well, this means that every nonstick cookware should be banned from sale, which is obviously not happening. If the nonstick cookware is toxic why are there still products on the market? To shine some light on the topic we’re here to elaborate on nonstick usage, toxicity, and safety.
What Exactly is Nonstick Cookware?
Nonstick cookware is a type of cooking vessel that features a unique coating. This coating is merely a thin layered of sprayed solution that acts as a protection for the vessel while adding to heat conductivity and other important features. This layer is responsible for that nonstick property that every modern pan and pot share.
But are all nonstick cookware the same? Of course, not. There’s a variety of different models and types of cookware available on the market. They all share popular nonstick properties, but not all nonstick layers are made the same way. The reason why the public is concerned about nonstick cookware is that certain brands used to add PFOA, PTFE, cadmium and other toxic elements to the list of materials used in a nonstick formula. It was formerly believed that the nonstick formula couldn’t be completed without the use of these materials.
But things are different nowadays. Thanks to public concern and actions of those responsible for cookware distribution and manufacturing, PTFE products are banned. Not only that but any cookware that has toxic material similar to the structure of PTFE or PFOA simply isn’t making it to the market.
Now, every type of cookware that gets released whether it’s ceramic, stainless steel, aluminum is free from toxic materials. There are always exceptions with cheaper models. As they aren’t tested or FDA approved. It’s best to avoid shady brands and obvious copies of original brands.
Exposure to Heat
Nonstick cookware has great overall features. It’s relatively affordable, fairly durable and practical. But what about heat conductivity and overheating? There were claims that nonstick cookware reacts to overheating in a manner that’s harmful to the environment and living beings.
Is nonstick cookware safe to leave on a burning stove without monitoring? Are we bound to stay put while cooking? How does that reflect on multitasking while cooking? The matter is quite simple really. Every cookware has a maximum temperature it can withstand. Some cookware that features silicone handles has lower resistance to temperature. Other types that are made entirely from ceramic or stainless steel, for example, can endure much higher temperatures.
So naturally, if you expose cookware that has a maximum endurance temperature of 350 ° F to temperatures higher than that, there will be side effects. Whether due to the nonstick layer, the composure of base or wall of the cookware, or material used on the handles, something will react to that temperature.
Exposing your cookware to open flame is even more dangerous than leaving it on a hot stove to overheat. Not only that you’ll further deteriorate your cookware this way, but the damage to the environment is far greater. Leaving greasy or otherwise dirty cookware on an open flame burner can emit vapor and fumes toxic to you and your pets. The reason behind this is due to the binding agents that blend alloys and different minerals together. These materials used in the construction of cookware aren’t toxic per se, but once exposed to open flame or extremely high heat can change the structure and become toxic.
All of these types of cookware are made from different blends of chromium, steel, nickel, chrome, and other elements. And although the first place is reserved for the non-stick kitchenware, stainless steel cookware is definitely the next best thing.
Scratch-resistant vs Scratch-proof
Despite what most people say or think about the protective layer on cookware and their experience with it, there is a difference between scratch-proof and scratch-resistant properties. There were a lot of complaints regarding cookware with scratch-resistant features. Mostly in cases when iron and stainless steel cutlery was used for cleaning, scraping and even cutting food while it was in cookware.
It goes without saying that these complaints were dismissed, as there was an obvious case of misuse of the cookware. Having scratch-resistant cookware means only that it will resist scratches to a certain extent, as the name suggests.
However, if you have kitchenware set with that’s scratch-proof, that’s another story. This type of cookware is specifically designed to remain intact even after scratching with sharp objects of dense structure ( stainless steel, iron, metal cutlery).
Most of these sets have a high-low scratch-proof layer that makes any damage to the base of the cooking vessel nearly impossible. So if you’re looking for a set that you can’t damage with cutlery in any way, look for that with scratch-proof properties.
How to Stay Safe When Using Nonstick Kitchenware
Apparently, there are rules when using different kinds of cookware. Some brands require special care when washing, other when handling and exposing to heat. When it comes to using nonstick pots and pans to prepare food there are also rules. Here’s how to stay safe while cooking with nonstick kitchenware.
- Always preheat the pan/pot in which your cooking before adding food
- Use room temperature ingredients or if cooking frozen food wait until it has defrosted
- Don’t leave the cookware exposed to open flame for too long
- Don’t cook on high-heat
- Keep the kitchen area ventilated at all times when cooking
- Do not cut meat, stir or otherwise use sharp steel cutlery while cooking
There are many potential hazards that may occur when using nonstick cookware. However, with proper care and usage, nothing can go wrong. It’s as simple as that. Leaching is the most common case when scraping the base of the pan with sharp objects. Fumes can be released from the nonstick layer but only when exposed to temperatures that exceed the maximum it can endure. Everything comes down to misuse and knowing how to maintain your cookware.
Using and Maintenance
Although modern cookware features scratch-resistant and scratch-proof coating, they can be chipped and damaged. No matter how durable the material used in its construction, it’s not indestructible. And damaging even the smallest fraction on the cooking surface may lead to leaching. Leaching is, as we know, extremely harmful for us. But what makes it so harmful you may ask?
The cookware is made from minerals and alloys of different blends. Most of these minerals are essential to our growth. In other words, our body needs calcium, iron, etc., in order to function properly. But adding too much of these elements to our diet can lead to serious problems. And that’s exactly what leaching does. To prevent all this, be sure to use only plastic, wooden, silicone or nylon cutlery. This way you won’t be able to damage or peel off the finish even by accident.
Also, keep sharp objects ( knives, cutters, etc) away from the cooking area. There’s a place for all your fine stainless steel cutlery, so there’s no need to keep a knife next to pots and pans of delicate design. You may not even notice that you’ve made a dent or cut while storing cookware in a dishwasher. Also, if the kitchenware set is dishwasher safe, but hand wash is advised, go for the hand wash.