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Nerdy Science in the Kitchen

Healthiest Nonstick Pans



Nonstick coatings are helpful for cooking, but can have harmful effects.
Nonstick coatings are helpful for cooking, but can have harmful effects.

Non-stick is to cookware as all natural is to food. Sure, it sounds good, but is there more than a little room for some conveniently placed white lies and half-truths? Absolutely.

And the winner? Of course I like the cast iron option from Lodge at Amazon.

The most notorious agent of non-stick cookware is certainly Teflon. If that name sounds just a little too marketable, that’s because it is. The actual product is called—take a deep breath—polytetrafluoroethylene. That’s about seven syllables too many, and the folks over at DuPont Chemical who accidentally stumbled upon its use in 1938 knew it.

After 20 some odd years of use in a strictly industrial, scientific setting, the first Teflon-coated pans hit the United States market in 1961, dubbed as ‘The Happy Pan.’ For decades, Teflon coated pans enjoyed remarkable popularity, replacing conventional pans at a rapid pace.

Healthiest Nonstick PansMaterial
1. GreenLife Soft Grip 16pc Ceramic Non-Stick Cookware Set ceramic and anodized aluminum blends coated in patented Thermolon
2. Ozeri 10” Stone Earth Frying Pan anodized aluminum pan coated in a stone-derived natural substance
3. Lodge 12-inch Cast Iron Skillet cast iron
4. Le Creuset Signature 5-Piece Cast Iron Cookware Set porcelain enameled cast iron
5. T-fal Specialty Nonstick Omelette Pan Set ceramic
6. Cuisinart Chef’s Classic Nonstick 12-Inch Skillet hard anodized aluminum with quantanium nonstick interior, reinforced with titanium
7. Ecolution Evolve Non-Stick Fry Pan aluminum with Hydrolon non-stick coating

Teflon flu

After enough pet birds died while people were cooking with their newfangled non-stick Teflon pans, a few connections were made. These canaries in the kitchen, so to speak, indicated that the heating of these pans was emitting some sort of fume.

As was later discovered, heating Teflon creates perfluoroctanoic acid, which is toxic to all living things. Allegedly, there are no serious symptoms associated with this for humans unless the cooking temperature exceeds 500 degrees Fahrenheit. These symptoms include those often associated with influenza.

However, more and more people are (rightly) figuring that if this stuff kills small birds, why risk the effects it may have on us humans? There is still a great deal of mystery around the long-term effects of these chemicals.

A healthier non-stick pan

OK, so it’s probably fair to assume that in the 21st century, one should be able to cook with a non-stick pan that won’t risk the life of pet parakeets (not to mention the shadowy effects on human health!). What are the options? Between cast iron, stone, glass, ceramic, and the good old-fashioned lubrication of butter, it’s possible to cook without fear of your food sticking AND without fear of killing your local songbird. Let’s explore some of the best options.

GreenLife Soft Grip 16pc Ceramic Non-Stick Cookware Set

GreenLife Soft Grip Healthy Ceramic Nonstick, Cookware Pots and Pans Set, 16 Piece, Turquoise

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The good folks at GreenLife provide many choices. Their Soft Grip 16 piece Ceramic Non-Stick Cookware Set is one of their best values. The set includes three different sized pans, two deep saucepans, one large stockpot, lids, and four different kitchen utensils. Ceramic and anodized aluminum blends are coated in patented Thermolon, which is derived from sand and completely free of harmful chemicals and acids. This material is safe for all types of stoves except induction models.

Ozeri 10” Stone Earth Frying Pan

10" Stone Earth Frying Pan by Ozeri, with 100% APEO & PFOA-Free Stone-Derived Non-Stick Coating from Germany

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Ozeri’s 10” Stone Earth Frying Pan utilizes a simple organic compound infused with innovative German technology, resulting in an effective, safe, non-stick pan. The technology really works. This is an anodized aluminum pan, coated in a stone-derived natural substance, which is completely free of harmful perfluorinated chemicals. Its hardened, scratch-resistant exterior coating is easy to clean.

Avoid messes with safe, nontoxic nonstick coatings.
Avoid messes with safe, nontoxic nonstick coatings.

Lodge 12-inch Cast Iron Skillet

Lodge Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet with Assist Handle Holder, 12", Red Silicone

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Cast iron skillets are arguably the most emblematic saucepans in the history of cookware. Forged from a single piece of iron, these dense powerhouses take a while to heat up, but really hold their heat once warmed up. This means that you can effectively cook on these skillets without having to consistently blast the heat, reducing the risk of burnt food. Additionally, these skillets add iron—a necessary nutrient—to everything they cook.

Traditionally, these skillets were not ‘seasoned’ until they had been used many times. Once seasoned, these pans are remarkably non-stick. A little basic maintenance of some gentle oils or animal fats keeps them smooth and non-stick. Trying to figure out how to season a carbon steel pan? I’ve got you covered.

As long as no soap and abrasive scrubbers are used in cleaning these skillets, they will provide great non-stick cooking for generations. The Lodge 12-inch Cast Iron Skillet is very much the industry standard, and it comes pre-seasoned (with all natural soy-derived vegetable oil), meaning it will immediately provide all the benefits of aged and seasoned cast iron.

Le Creuset Signature 5-Piece Cast Iron Cookware Set

For the utmost in classic design with modern health technology, look no further than the Le Creuset Signature 5-Piece Cast Iron Cookware Set. This set includes a 9-inch skillet, a covered 1 ¾-quart saucepan, and a covered 3 1/2 –quart French oven. The ergonomic composite knobs on the covers are heat-resistant up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit, allowing easy placement and removal while cooking.

Porcelain enameled cast iron interiors give all the benefits of cast iron, plus the added benefit of the protective enamel—this cookware can withstand soapy cleanings that its un-enameled counterparts cannot. The flame-colored exteriors add a dash of French elegance which your dinner guests are sure to approve of.

T-fal Specialty Nonstick Omelette Pan Set

T-fal Scratc G917S264 Initiatives Nonstick Ceramic Coating PTFE PFOA and Cadmium Free Scratch Resistant Dishwasher Oven Safe 8.5 and 10.5-Inch Fry Pan C, 2-Pack, Black

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Looking for a great deal without compromising quality, healthy nonstick materials? Check out this 2 pan set from T-fal. It comes with 8.5 and 10.5 inch pans, great for frying or sauteing, at a relatively low price point. Despite this awesome deal, you still get great heat distribution and a comfortable handle for efficient cooking.

Both of the pans feature a nonstick interior that is durable and holds up even with frequent cleaning. They’re PFOA free, so you can be assured that whatever you’re cooking is free of contaminants. They’re dishwasher safe, too!

Cuisinart Chef’s Classic Nonstick 12-Inch Skillet

Cuisinart 622-30G Chef's Classic Nonstick Hard-Anodized 12-Inch Skillet with Glass Cover, Black

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If you want something a little bigger, check out Cuisinart’s 12-inch skillet. It comes fully equipped with a glass cover to trap heat and evenly cook your food safely and securely, while keeping an eye on it. It also has stay cool handles for added safety and a solid grip, and a tapered rim for drip free cooking and pouring.

In terms of the nonstick material, it is healthy and safe, and enforced with titanium for extreme durability. This nonstick coating isn’t going anywhere any time soon! It’s also nonfat for healthy cooking. Oven safe up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit, this pan can do it all.

Ecolution Evolve Non-Stick Fry Pan

Ecolution Evolve Non-Stick Fry Pan PFOA Free Hydrolon Non-Stick -Pure Heavy-Gauge Aluminum with a Soft Silicone Handle

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Another great healthy budget pick comes from Ecolution. It’s PFOA free, and it’s nonstick coating is actually water based. It’s a material called Hydrolon, which is very environmentally friendly and nontoxic for cooking! Even it’s packaging is made from 70% recycled material.

Aside from its safety advantages, this 8 inch pan also comes with a safety grip silicone handle that stays cool while on your cooktop. The pan itself is made from heavy gauge aluminum, which is an extremely durable material that conducts heat very well. It’s also dishwasher safe! Just be sure to only use utensils that are safe for nonstick coatings, and do not pour hot water into the pan while it’s still warm, as this can cause warping.

Stop the Teflon terror!

With such a variety of healthy, non-stick options available, there is no need to play with your family’s (or your pet parrot’s) health. Enjoy the benefits of non-stick cookware without wondering what sort of negative long-term effects are being incurred by using your old Teflon cookware. If you accidentally messed up your nonstick surface and scorched your stainless steel pan, learn how to fix it.

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Image credit via Flickr Creative Commons: Your Best Digs