When it comes to the types of nonstick cookware, it’s all in the coating. Nonstick cookware can be a breeze to use and clean, and are often found for a reasonable price tag. And there are many choices of different materials on the market today to help you fry up your next meal. But how just well do each type of coating work and how safe are they to use? Here are the different types of nonstick cookware you need to know.
Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) Coating
One of the most commonly used types of nonstick cookware. PTFE for short, is a white waxy substance that is slippery in nature and applied to rough surfaces to make them nonstick. A synthetic fluoropolymer, it was discovered in 1938 by Roy J. Plunkett, and registered under the name Teflon. The first pan to bear this substance is commonly known as Tefal and is still widely sold on the market today. It’s a very popular choice when it comes to nonstick cookware.
PTFE is useful in making a pan nonstick. It helps to ensure that food gets released from the surface of the pan while it’s cooked. However, it does have some drawbacks. It has been proven to be harmful to both humans and the environment under certain select conditions.
PTFE itself starts to release different types of highly toxic PFIB fumes once it reaches 464°F (264°C). If inhaled, these fumes can cause polymer fume fever to humans and death to birds. This is why you should never preheat empty PTFE-coated pans or use them for high-heat cooking techniques.
If you have PTFE-coated nonstick cookware, you can follow these tips to minimize your health risks:
- Never heat your Teflon pan to temperatures more than 500°F (260°C). Low and medium heat is recommended for cooking.
- Do not heat up an empty PTFE-coated pan, as it can quickly overheat with the absence of food.
- Ventilate your kitchen by opening the window or turning on your exhaust fan to clear any fumes.
- Replace old Teflon cookware that have a considerable amount of scratches to avoid ingesting the coating.
PTFE non stick can typically lasts 2 to 3 years with proper care. Always use wooden or silicone utensils to prevent scratching the nonstick surface. Also, it’s best to gently hand-wash with a soft sponge, avoiding steel wools and scouring pads when cleaning.
Ceramic coated nonstick cookware started to gain in popularity during the 1960s. With many people looking for alternatives to PTFE, ceramic nonstick cookware gained a lot of traction. Most home cooks desired a material that’s non-toxic, and made more naturally to protect themselves from some known risks at the time.
Ceramic nonstick cookware uses a mineral-based coating that is made from a mixture of silica (a component of sand), oxygen, binders, color pigments, and reinforcing agents. While the original ceramic process involved lead, it no longer does and is still loved for its excellent nonstick capabilities.
The main disadvantage of ceramic based non stick coating is that it is not as durable as Teflon. Aside from being prone to chipping, the non-reactive coating typically only lasts one year with moderate use. However, you can extend the life of any pan by taking good care of it. For ceramic specifically you should use gentle manual washing and silicone and wooden utensils are always recommended.
However, ceramic pans are some of our absolute favorites, and are a trendy and useful option for any kitchen!
Silicone is a flexible nonstick material that is often used for both bakeware and kitchen utensils. It is extracted from “silica”, a mineral quartz that can be found in sand, in a high heat process. While it may look like plastic the FDA has cleared silicone as generally safe, and the agency repeatedly checks product for “producing, manufacturing, packing, processing, preparing, treating, packaging, transporting, and holding food.”
Be careful of low-quality silicone kitchenware though, since they may contain plastic fillers that can leach toxic chemicals into your food. Pure silicone is non-toxic and nonreactive to acidic food. To check if a product is pure silicon simply stretch the silicone with your fingers – if it changes color, it has plastic fillers.
Some key features to know about silicone:
- Silicone isn’t completely nonstick – you still have to grease or dust it with some flour before you pour in batter if baking.
- The material can be wobbly so they aren’t suitable as cake pans. Even silicone muffin molds need to be placed in holders for stability.
- Using mitts are a must when taking them out of the oven since they can still get hot.
- Scratched silicone can harbor bacteria, so sharp objects shouldn’t be used.
- Over time, a white residue called calcium sulfate can form on silicone products. This is relatively non-hazardous but if you want to remove it, just soak it in a water and vinegar solution for 30 minutes.
Porcelain Enamel Coating
Typically used in enameled cast iron cookware, porcelain enamel is made by fusing powdered glass to the base of cast iron. The powdered glass melts, coats the base, and hardens to become a smooth coating. Just like ceramic, porcelain enamel is safe, inert, eco-friendly, and free from PFOA and PTFE.
Porcelain enameled cast iron cookware is certified as nonstick, allowing you to cook with less oil. It’s also an excellent alternative for iron-sensitive people who can’t use non coated cast iron cookware. Another plus, enameled cast iron cookware can last for years with proper care and can be found in a variety of colors.
Seasoned Cast Iron Coating
Seasoned cast iron is an old favorite and one of the most popular types of nonstick cookware. When regularly seasoned, becomes wonderfully nonstick and resistant to rust. Using high heat, the oil is polymerized onto the pan, changing the color of its surface into a patina.
Seasoned cast iron cookware is one of the best in terms of safety since it doesn’t use toxic chemicals like PTFE, PFOA, cadmium, and lead. Although there are some that believe there is a risk of iron leaching. Fortunately, the seasoning acts as a barrier that minimizes the iron leaching. Of course, despite the seasoning, the longer you cook, and the more acidic the food, the higher the chance of iron leaching.
Seasoned cast iron can be hard to maintain as it requires regular seasoning. It is also very heavy, making it unsuitable for cooks with weak wrists. But, cleaning this extremely durable cookware is easy, requiring only some water and a bit of scrubbing.
Anodized Aluminum Coating
Raw aluminum is a reactive metal that must be processed first before it can be used as a cookware. Once properly anodized, aluminum becomes nontoxic, non-reactive, and heat resistant.
The one thing you need to remember is that it is only the surface of the anodized aluminum cookware that is non-reactive. This means that if the surface is scratched, your food might come into contact with the raw aluminum inside. To prevent this from happening, only use wooden or silicone kitchen utensils with your anodized aluminum cookware. Also, never use abrasive cleaners like steel wool.