Is Teflon Safe?

It is well known that if pots or pans coated with Teflon are left on a stove without any food in them, pet birds living in the kitchen can easily die from the fumes given off. It’s a condition some vets call “Teflon Toxicosis”. It makes you wonder if these non-stick coatings might be harming us.

DuPont the company that makes Teflon admits it can release toxic gasses but only if heated to temperatures well above those used in normal cooking. If Teflon is heated enough it can release up to 6 know toxic chemical, two are known carcinogens. One chemical is an analogue of phosgene, a nerve gas used in WWII. Read More…

Some tests show that the temperature of cookware can exceed ‘normal’ and can release toxic chemicals though the common act of preheating a pan on a burner set on high. An organization called the Environmental Working Group (www.ewg.org) has performed independent research on Teflon cook ware, including reviewing research from DuPont and performing their own experiments. Their conclusions were that Teflon coated cookware could emit toxic fumes even at temperatures considered within ‘normal’ cooking range.
Their advice was that people should try and phase out this type of cookware from their home, especially for bird owners. They also warned that bird owners should be aware that it's not always easy to find out about Teflon components in ovens, space heaters or other devices, which have also been found responsible for some bird deaths.

Weather or not you want to believe the industry that Teflon cookware is perfectly safe, it would certainly make sense to try and avoid situations where the cookware becomes very hot like pre-heating frying pans or grills.

If you do want to phase out Teflon pans in your kitchen, what are the alternatives?

• Stainless Steel
Stainless steel is a terrific alternative to a non-stick cooking surface. Most chefs agree that stainless steel browns foods better than non-stick surfaces. In their 2001 review of sauté pans, Cooks Illustrated, an independent publication, chose a stainless steel pan over otherwise identical non-stick models. They also recommended stainless steel pan roasters over non-stick.

• Cast Iron
Cast iron remains a great alternative to non-stick cooking surfaces. Cast iron can be pre-heated to temperatures that will brown meat and will withstand oven temperatures well above what is considered safe for non-stick pans. Cast iron is extremely durable and after being used a few times develops its own non-stick surface.

• Other Cooking Surfaces
Some examples include ceramic titanium and porcelain enamelled cast iron. Both of these surfaces are very durable.