Best Nonstick Cookware Sets: What Are They?
The term “nonstick” is used to describe any type of cooking utensil that does not produce food debris when cooked. A nonstick surface prevents food from sticking to it while cooking and reduces the risk of food poisoning. There are many types of nonsticks available today, but they all have one thing in common – they do not leave behind any residue or build up on your cookware after use.
Nonstick cookware sets come in various shapes and sizes. Some are made with metal; others with plastic.
Most nonstick cookware sets include pans, pots, skillets, griddles, baking sheets and other accessories. You may choose between different materials such as cast iron or Teflon. All these types of nonsticks will work well for preparing foods that require high heat and long cooking times like meat dishes, fish dishes and vegetables.
There are several types of nonstick cookware sets. These include:
Teflon Nonstick Coating: Teflon is a special kind of thermoplastic that was developed in the 1970s. It is non-toxic and does not contain harmful chemicals or carcinogens.
However, it does have some drawbacks. One drawback is that it can cause allergic reactions in some individuals. It can also begin to flake and chip after some time. And, because it is a plastic, it cannot be put in the dishwasher.
There are some newer types of Teflon on the market today that are more durable than the original product. It is true that most Teflon coatings only last for six months to one year.
But after this period of time, they can easily be replaced with very little expense.
Metal Nonstick Coating: This type of coating is made from anodized aluminium. It is very wear resistant and lasts for years if looked after properly.
Some of the best non-stick cookware products in the market today use this type of coating. It is not susceptible to chipping, peeling or flaking and it can be cleaned easily using hot soapy water.
Enamel Coating: This coating is made up of several layers are fused together to form a type of glass. It is an extremely tough material that can be found on high-end cookware sets.
It should not be used on high heat and requires some time to heat up. And, it should never be used to cook with oils or other liquids that are very hot.
Is Nonstick Cookware Safe?
Nonstick cookware has come under a lot of scrutiny for being a health hazard. There have been reports that some coatings contain chemicals and other toxins that can leach into your food while you are cooking. Manufacturers of non-stick cookware have either denied these claims or have not given an answer at all.
Here are some questions that people have asked about non-stick cookware:
Are the fumes dangerous?
Are the chemicals found in non-stick cookware dangerous to humans?
Is there a possibility of toxins leaking from the cookware?
And, when should you throw away your old non-stick cookware?
Let’s take a look at each question individually and see what the reality is.
Are The Fumes Dangerous?
Here is a statement that will shock you. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), you will be exposed to more toxins on the drive to work than you will be in the kitchen. This is because non-stick cookware, in general, produce very few fumes at all while they are being used. It’s true that some non-stick coatings have been found to contain chemicals that are dangerous. But, these chemicals either evaporate completely or break down into less harmful elements when exposed to high temperatures.
Are The Chemicals Found In Non-Stick Cookware Dangerous To Humans?
There has been a lot of controversy over the safety of Teflon and other non-stick coatings. DuPont, the company that makes Teflon, has always claimed that their product is safe to use. However, it was only until recently that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) finally tested the safety of Teflon and other non-stick coatings. The results were a bit unsettling for some people. It turns out that some of the ingredients in non-stick pans are toxic if ingested in large quantities.
However, if you are following the manufacturer’s directions for use, you will not be ingesting the chemicals from the non-stick coating because you should not be eating food that is burned. If you burn food and consume it, then you have far more important things to worry about than the safety of your non-stick cookware.
Is There A Possibility Of Toxins Leaking From Non-Stick Cookware?
Here is something that might surprise you. If you burn food on a regular pan and throw that pan away, the toxins will leak into the environment when you toss it in the trash. This is because certain types of plastics, like the kind that your regular pans are made of, do not break down easily in the environment.
Now, if you use a non-stick pan and burn food on it, the toxins do not get into the environment through normal disposal methods. The pan itself does not break down easily either.
So, you can simply throw it away or give it to someone who can still use it (like your local thrift store).
When Should You Throw Away Old And Non-Stick Cookware?
DuPont, the company that makes Teflon, says that your pan will last longer if you do not use metal utensils and high heat. It stands to reason that if you do not do either of these things, the coating should last a lifetime.
That being said, there is some controversy over how long a non-stick pan will last. Consumer Reports claims that non-stick cookware has a lifespan between one and five years.
If you take proper care of your non-stick cookware by following the manufacturer’s instructions, you can easily extend the life of your pan or pot. And, as far as Teflon is concerned, it can last anywhere between two to five years of regular use.
So, to answer the question, when should you throw away old and non-stick cookware?
As with most things, age and regular use will cause the non-stick coating to deteriorate over time. So, it would be a good idea to replace your non-stick cookware every five years or so regardless of how well you take care of it.
Advantages And Disadvantages Of Using Non-Stick Cookware
In addition to what we have already discussed, there are other advantages and disadvantages to using non-stick cookware. Let’s take a look at each.
Pros Of Using Non-Stick Cookware
The ability to lower the amount of oil or butter you use when cooking. This is very beneficial if you are eating healthy as it will significantly decrease your fat intake.
Less food will stick to the pan, so cleaning will be much easier.
Non-stick pans can be used for certain recipes that call for browning or caramelizing ingredients. You can do this without having to hover over your pan and/or your food burning.
Cons Of Using Non-Stick Cookware
Many people believe that the coating used on non-stick cookware is bad for you. While it is true that some of the chemicals are toxic at high levels, you would have to consume some of the coating itself in order for this to be a problem.
If you have never used non-stick cookware before, it can take some getting use to handling. Just be careful with it and you should be fine.
Some of the coating will come off into your food. In extremely rare cases, this has been linked to cancer in lab rats.
However, the amount that comes off in your food is miniscule and far less than what is found in a typical vitamin. In fact, vitamins themselves have been linked to cancer in lab rats.
Tips For Using Non-Stick Cookware:
Never use metal utensils when cooking as this can scratch the non-stick coating. Use plastic, wood, or silicone instead.
Use medium heat rather than high heat when cooking as this will decrease the amount of scratches and damage to your pan.
When cooking fish or other recipes that might stick, make sure to use enough fat so that it doesn’t stick. If food is sticking, it is because you need to replace your pan.
Make sure to wash and dry your pan immediately after use. Leaving it for extended periods of time can cause the non-stick coating to break down faster.
Never put your cookware in the dishwasher as the harsh detergents and heat can severely damage it.
Never use your non-stick cookware to fry or saute acidic ingredients (such as tomatoes) as the high heat can damage the coating.
If you have a glass top range, never place a cold pan on top of the stove as it will crack the glass. Allow it to warm up along with the rest of the stove first.
When cooking an egg, never use a high heat as the extra liquid can damage your pan. Start with a low to medium heat and then reduce it to low or keep it on the medium setting as you continue cooking.
Stick With It
These are just a few tips to get you started. Be sure to research other tips online as well as in cookbooks.
Once you find what works for you, your non-stick cookware will last longer and require less effort on your part.
Just remember, non-stick cookware is not a toy. You still have to be careful with it as you do with any other type of cookware.
Don’t just toss it around because while it might not dent, it can still shatter if you are not careful.
If you follow all of these tips, your non-stick cookware should last you for many years to come. And that is definitely something worth sticking with!
Sources & references used in this article:
The best cooking techniques & utensils: Why the wrong kitchen equipment or cooking method can reduce the amount of nutrients you glean from even the healthiest … by C Reade – IDEA Health & Fitness Source, 2002 – go.gale.com
The Non-stick Cookware Revolution by V Goldschmidt – saveourbones.com
ON THE GREATER SECURITY OF NONSTICK PANS by F Battaglia, G Fochi – formegolose.it
Towards super-nonstick aluminized steel surfaces by H McGee – 2010 – Penguin