Ready to replace your favorite non stick pan with one that isn't coated in Teflon? Believe it or not they're not as hard to find as you would think. Read a little more about why you want to avoid Teflon and which of my favorite pans are totally PTFE free.
Mention the names Erin Brockovich and Warren Guy, and most Americans will know the former but not the latter. Erin Brockovich is seared into our collective consciousness thanks to Julia Roberts and a blockbuster movie. Warren Guy’s movie hasn’t been made yet. Perhaps one day, we will look to the big screen to see this David and Goliath tale come to life. A young graduate student approaches a corporate giant to ask, “Hey! What’s this toxic stuff in my blood?”
Clearly, a screenwriter will be tasked with creating a better line for the script, but the story exists for the telling. Warren Guy was indeed a graduate student who questioned PTFE before the rest of us even knew what it was and whether or not it was, in fact, killing us. (The corporate giant was 3M).
And many readers still haven’t a clue about PTFE (that’s an easier way to say polytetrafluoroethylene, by the way). But those same readers probably hear “Teflon” and think “bad.” However, it is also a universal wish among cooks everywhere to prepare food that does not stick to a pan. So here is our dilemma: can we have nonstick pans AND avoid introducing toxic chemicals into our blood? Can we fry the perfect egg and not worry the pan may give us cancer?
Spoiler alert: the answer is YES! There are plenty of safe ways to cook on nonstick surfaces. We will walk you through some of the best choices on the market. First, we’ll take a look at how we got to this point, and why we had to go through the Teflon-is-bad phase at all.
What is Teflon?
In the same way that Kleenex's brand name would become synonymous with tissue, the brand name Teflon would eventually be used interchangeably with “nonstick pan.” For a time in the 1980s, Teflon was also associated with a notorious American Crime family. John Gotti earned the nickname “The Teflon Don” because charges against him just would not stick. Perhaps that early negative connotation associated with Teflon should have been a sign of even worse times to come for the brand.
So just how did something as seemingly harmless as cookware go on to end up at the top of the cancel culture list, before we even knew what cancel culture was?
Teflon is a man-made chemical (polytetrafluoroethylene/PTFE), and to make it, another man-made chemical, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), is used. PFOA is the real problem. It is known to wreak havoc on both the environment and human bodies. Most of the PFOA is burned off in the process of making Teflon. However, because we know how dangerous and problematic it is, we still had to take action to prevent even the smallest amounts from remaining in the final product.
Many countries participate in a global ban on PFOA. Most cookware is now made without it. Studies continue to try and determine links between PFOA and cancer, and Teflon has been PFOA-free since 2013.
Is Teflon Safe On Non Stick PansToday?
It depends on who you ask. The “negative press” was the one thing that actually COULD stick to Teflon, and many people steer clear of it even after 2013. Understandably, consumers worry about any product mentioned in the same breath as cancer, regardless of whether the scientific data points to cancer as a definitive result. When there are so many other types of cookware on the market, home chefs often decide they’d rather play it safe than sorry.
Some of the more traditional types of cookware, such as cast-iron, can be “converted” to a non stick pan by the user. This is a process known to cast-iron aficionados as “seasoning.” But for those who lack the patience and want a pan that is ready to go right out of the box, there are certainly nonstick alternatives to Teflon available.
Other Types of Non Stick Pans Without Teflon
Aluminum cookware is popular because it is affordable, and it is even starting to change the minds of chefs who might have previously dismissed aluminum. For those on a budget (and with basic cooking schools), it definitely gets the job done.
If you’re scratching your head and trying to recall from a high school chemistry class two decades ago what anodizing means, relax. It’s not as complex as you might think.
Anodizing aluminum is when you add acid to it, and it hardens; it becomes harder than stainless steel. The oxidized layer is what then translates into an ideal cooking surface: it becomes scratch-resistant and nonstick. Plus, there are no unwanted reactions when it combines with food.
If low-maintenance is your jam in the kitchen, and you have a reasonable but not extravagant budget for cookware, this is a great choice for you to consider as an alternative to Teflon.
Another alternative to using cookware made with Teflon is to opt for a nonstick ceramic coating instead. It is important to designate that this is a coating only: the ceramic is coated over a metal pan. That coating is free of PTFE and heavy metals, and it is a safe and healthy option for heating food.
So far, you have heard “nonstick” and “safe,” so ceramic is probably sounding like a promising option. But we need to break something to you that might be the ultimate deal-breaker for ceramic pans: they need to be hand-washed.
For those who only pull out the fancy china once a year for that very reason-that it needs to be hand-washed-ceramic may not be a realistic or desirable choice for everyday cooking. On the other hand, a segment of the population eschews dishwasher use and favor washing by hand (or so we’ve heard. They probably grind coffee beans by hand, too). If you’re not turned off by hand washing, or a slightly higher price tag than aluminum, consider giving nonstick ceramic cookware a try.
Enameled Cast Iron Non Stick Pan
Traditional cast iron cookware has seen a huge resurgence among home chefs. Many users swear by the authentic home-cooking tastes that can only come from a cast iron pan. Plus, you simply can’t beat the aesthetic. Especially if you try to impart a rustic farmhouse dinner party vibe (even in an 80 square foot New York City apartment kitchen).
The challenge with traditional cast iron or the challenge for those lacking patience is the need to season the pans before using them (and periodically to keep them non stick). If you’ve ever tried to fry an egg in a cast iron pan that was not properly seasoned, you know just how disastrous and disappointing the results can be.
Once you bring enamel into the picture, voila! You have a cast iron pan that is ready to go with a nonstick surface. Best of all, that surface is safe and Teflon-free. To be fair, we should acknowledge here that the enameled pans do not have the same effective heat distribution as the traditional cast iron. However, they do come with the same drawback: they are just plain heavy.
Cast iron pans of any variety can be challenging for those who have trouble maneuvering heavy objects-whether that means while they are on the stove or even simply lifting them to store in a cabinet after being used. Also, these pans are not cheap. So enameled cast iron may not be a good fit for everyone, but if you have the budget, they are absolutely worth considering to meet your nonstick cookware needs.
Silicone is a flexible and widely used nonstick coating, especially when it comes to bakeware. To get really technical here, the cookware uses a mixture of silicone and water and methyl chloride. This then becomes polydimethylsiloxane. (The next time need to ask your sous chef to “pass the rubber spatula,” you could impress them with “pass the polydimethylsiloxane spatula” instead.)
The silicone items in your kitchen are probably going to act more as “accessory” pieces (like the aforementioned spatula) or smaller items such as baking cups (a convenient and reusable alternative to the paper cups that have been around for years). Still, they can be important tools that are used almost as often as your pots and pans. Silicon splatter guards might be the perfect accessory to go along with whatever nonstick pan you choose!
Superhydrophobic sounds like a term that would be tossed around more at a boat show than in a culinary store. You may see the term popping up more in relation to cookware as manufacturers are starting to test it out.
A superhydrophobic coating is simply a thin layer that repels water. You already enjoy its benefits if you own a car (this is what repels water from your windshield). Gel compounds are applied to metals to make a superhydrophobic coating. It is safe to be used in cookware applications. It is up to the manufacturers to tinker with it and find the best way to incorporate it into cookware before bringing it to the wider consumer market.
How to Care for A Nonstick Pan
First things first: if the nonstick pans in your kitchen cabinets or hanging on your pot rack are very old and scratched, just err on the side of good health safety and throw them out.
If you are purchasing your first nonstick cookware, follow a few simple rules to extend the life of your pans:
- Use wooden spoons when cooking with nonstick cookware and avoid scratching the pans with metal utensils.
- Avoid stacking the nonstick pans in storage (which could scratch their surfaces.) Perhaps now is the time to go ahead and shop for that pot rack you’ve always wanted, too!
- Check the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning before putting the nonstick cookware in the dishwasher. And remember to clean the pans before you use them for the first time.
The Best Nonstick Pans Without Teflon
GreenPan Rio Healthy Ceramic Frypan
The ceramic nonstick coating on the GreenPan Rio Frypan is free from chemicals, and users can rest assured no toxic fumes will be mingling with their gourmet creations.
This is a durable pan that you will find yourself pulling out daily, whether it’s to fry a quick egg or sauté vegetables. The pan's coating is reinforced with diamonds (talk about blinging out your kitchen). It is also oven safe up to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
While many will opt for the traditional black pan, it also comes in a fun turquoise shade. The stay-cool Bakelite handle is an added plus, and this pan can be purchased in 7, 8, and 10-inch sizes.
Cooker King Nonstick Deep Sauté Pan
This pan truly is fit for a king…or a queen! An absolute workhorse of a skillet, the Cooker King will quickly become your go-to pan to get dinner on the table.
The pan’s base is made of an aluminum alloy, covered in three layers of toxin-free nonstick coating. The durability factor is strong in this pan. It comes with a glass lid (ensuring you can see what is simmering even when your pan is covered). The lid is also vented, and the ergonomic handle offers a comfortable yet firm grip for cooking.
The Cooker King Nonstick Deep Sauté Pan can be used on any cooktop, including induction. It is dishwasher safe and also safe. You can also use it in an oven up to 480 degrees Fahrenheit.
This is a five-plus pound pan, so it is certainly not the most lightweight choice. However, it is a sturdy, moderately priced pan guaranteed to last with the proper care.
Waxon Ware Granite Ceramic Non stick Pan
Looking for a pan that is induction compatible, dishwasher safe, toxin-free? One that is guaranteed to produce an omelet to rival your wife’s favorite one from the local greasy spoon?
Well, we don’t want to oversell this, because your wife may be incredibly picky. But we bet the omelet made in this pan will come close!
The Waxon Ware Granite Ceramic Nonstick Frying pan is another reliable choice for shoppers wanting the ease of nonstick without the Teflon. This eco-friendly and non-toxic pan has a 5-layer ceramic coating. Thanks to aluminum alloy construction, it is a lightweight pan. It is durable enough to withstand wear and tear. Waxon Ware offers a limited lifetime warranty for this product. They recommend that users opt for hand washing the pan over the dishwasher (even though it is safe) to extend the pan's life. As a bonus, the bundled padding that comes with the pan can be used as a table mat and store the pan to prevent scratches.
DaTerra Cucina Ceramic Wok
When it’s time to break out the big guns of nonstick cooking, bring the Da Terra wok to the table. Woks are one-dish wonders. Anyone who thinks they’re for Asian dishes only is missing out on what could be your favorite everyday pan.
Big guns often come with big price tags. We will go ahead and warn you that the DaTerra wok is going to cost considerably more than some of the aluminum alloy pans we’ve recommended. But this is an investment worth it for serious at-home cooks.
This wok is made in Italy with an oven-safe design (it can withstand up to 450 degrees Fahrenheit). The cool-touch handle and oven-safe lid are great touches. Best of all, this pan is toxin-free. You can rest assured it is manufactured without harmful chemicals. It is a fantastic choice for those shopping for non-Teflon pans.
DaTerra is a family-owned American company, who were inspired on a trip to Italy and wanted to bring a piece of ceramic cookware back to America. They proudly stand behind their products with a warranty.
Tramontina Professional Aluminum Non Stick Pan
This sleek and simple pan is indeed a choice of professionals. With its easy silicone gripped handle and durable nonstick coating, the Tramontina Fry Pan is suitable for a large restaurant kitchen or a simple home kitchen.
Backed by a lifetime warranty, this nonstick pan is safe to use in the oven up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and is compatible with gas, electric, and ceramic glass cooktops. The silicone grip can be removed from the handle, and the pan is also dishwasher safe. Cooking sprays should be avoided, which leave a residue on the nonstick surface, and users should always allow the pan to cool before washing it.
For an affordable all-purpose fry pan, the Tramontina is an outstanding choice.
Utopia Kitchen Nonstick Frying Pan
Ask any busy parent about prepping dinner on a weeknight, and they are highly unlikely to call it “utopia,” but this reliable nonstick pan can at least take some of the stress out of meal preparation! Additionally, the pan is dishwasher friendly, ticking another box on the busy parent’s checklist for cookware.
This budget-friendly choice is an aluminum alloy pan with a surface free of harmful chemicals. It is suitable for use on all cooktops, with its induction bottom, and the handle is securely riveted to the non stick pan, making it sturdy and easy to use.
The Utopia pan is 11 inches in diameter and an extremely lightweight 1.3 pounds; you’ll have no trouble lifting this pan to practice the flipping techniques from your favorite cooking show.
Green Life Soft Grip Ceramic Nonstick Open Frypan
At this point, you probably believe you have seen every fry pan under the nonstick rainbow. But what about a pan that comes in every color of the rainbow?
The Green Life Soft Grip Nonstick Open Frypan is a beatiful budget-friendly choice. No matter the color scheme of your kitchen, there is a shade that will match your décor.
And this non stick pan is not just pretty, they are functional with a stay-cool Bakelite handle. They are oven safe up to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Green Life also believes the “second time around is better,” and they do their part to protect the environment by producing their nonstick cookware from recycled aluminum.
In addition to this 12-inch frypan, Green Life offers numerous other nonstick cookware pieces. They can be mixed and matched in their seven different shades.
Carote Nonstick Frying Pan Set
Finally, if you struggle to settle on what size pan is right for you, perhaps a three-pan set is what you need. The Carote Non Stick Frying Pan Set is a great way to ensure you have just the right size on hand. Whether you simply want to flip a few flapjacks or sauté enough veggies to feed an army of hungry kids.
The granite stone nonstick coating matched with the wood-look bakelite handle gives these pans a great vintage feel. The natural stone coating is derived in Switzerland. The set is both affordable and durable enough for daily use. Included are an 8-inch, 9.5-inch, and 11-inch skillet. This ensures you can whip up several different dishes simultaneously.
Carote suggests the pans are dishwasher safe at low temperatures. To extend these nonstick pans' lives, you should wash them by hand as often as possible. The nonstick surface makes cleaning a breeze. You can cook with confidence on a Carote set, knowing the pans are free of any harmful chemicals.
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Originally Published October 14, 2020