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Getting Unstuck: Trashing your Teflon

Getting Unstuck: Trashing your Teflon

As far back as I could remember, Teflon (AKA non-stick cookware) seemed too good to be true, and my lasting associations with the non-stick mythos were always tinged with cynicism (anyone remember the 1980s when Patricia Shroeder called Ronald Reagan the “Teflon President.” But as a kid, Teflon was everywhere and the benchmark of kitchen modernity and convenience and beyond reproach.

Now we conveniently learn (to some of us this is old news) that the polytetrafluoroethelene coating that comprises Teflon is not only a cook’s best friend, but likely carcinogenic and not quite that friendly a product in the long run. So, before I continue with a lengthy explanation of who has issued the advisory, and how dangerous cooking with Teflon-coated products actually is for you, I just want to say: Time to say goodbye to all of that nifty non-stick gear you have acquired over the years. All those scratched and scrubbed skillets that are flaking away into your eggs, along with those shiny cake-pans that do such a fine job—they all need to find a home someplace other than in your kitchen.

So, as we collectively cross our fingers and hope all that all those years of non-stick cooking doesn’t give us a mortal heartburn, it is time to find another use for your pile of non-stick gear. If you have children (as I would imagine most readers of this blog do) the Teflon muffins pans make excellent paint palates, or receptacles for sorting marbles, beans, or any other small object that your child fancies. Teflon cake pans and pie tins make great makeshift percussion instruments, and Teflon skillets and frying pans could be modified by removing the handle (if possible) and turned into saucers for potted plants. As far as I know, Teflon products cannot be recycled, as stainless steel cookware can, so your primary objective is to get them out of your kitchen, as your secondary objective is to utilize them safely and creatively. Any ideas?

Oh, and for those readers that have found themselves pan-less after their non-stick purge, I would recommend purchasing as much pre-seasoned cast iron cookware (Lodge is best in my opinion) as you could get your hands on. If cared for correctly, it performs as well as any non-stick product and will outlast anything else in your kitchen.

NY Times articles and commentary about Teflon

Read more: Blogs, Green Kitchen Tips, Parenting at the Crossroads, , ,

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Eric Steinman

Eric Steinman is a freelance writer based in Rhinebeck, NY. He regularly writes about food, music, art, architecture, and culture and is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit among other publications.

18 comments

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11:33AM PST on Jan 31, 2013

Thank you.

1:10AM PST on Dec 4, 2011

Turn the pots and pans, and all others into musical instruments --like drums, cymbals -- making sure that the teflon does not fall into a place that will hurt people, plants, animals, or the earth.

8:59PM PDT on Apr 13, 2011

Thank You. Shared, saved, emailed to save.

1:54PM PDT on Mar 25, 2010

I burned something once in a teflon pan. The house smelled bad, and the food had to be thrown out. I thoughtit was just that particular pan. I have gotten rid of allof my teflon, now (including the expensive ones).

11:29AM PST on Nov 8, 2008

an easy care bird that is odor free and talks, whistles etc. if taught. I had one for 14 years and he was a good guest announcer as well. If he got too noisy, I just flipped the cover over his cage and he would quiet down.

10:39AM PST on Nov 7, 2008

Re seasoned cast iron: As a biochemist, I suspect the heated unsaturated fats that are used to cause the polymerization that seasons cast iron, and I suspect the resulting polymers themselves, may encourage production of acrylamide, peroxidized fats, and perhaps other toxins or carcinogens, and may accelerate destruction of antioxidants, in food cooked in such cookware. I haven't done a literature search on this, so, if you have, please let me/us know.

7:21AM PST on Nov 7, 2008

Clay pots are GREAT!!! You soak them in water first and they steam your food so it comes out really juicy and tender... I love mine. They will naturally get seasoned over time too and this is a good thing. You don't want to scrub that off every time you clean them. They do take a little extra care because you don't want to use soap when you wash them because it will get absorbed into the clay, but you will get excellent results if you are someone who really loves cooking and cares about that sort of thing...

I would also highly recommend anodized aluminum for anyone who doesn’t want to or can’t use cast iron cookware. I posted a comment about it in the article on safe cookware, but to summarize here… The anodized coating is actually harder than steel and will not come off or leach into you food, so it is totally safe. It is not as non-stick as well seasoned cast iron although I do know of at least one person who seasoned her anodized aluminum, so maybe that would help. It conducts heat much better than steel so you will not get hot spots that tend to burn food and foods will cook much more evenly in aluminum.

Kim, I am really curious, why do you want non-seasoned cast iron? Is it just because you want to season it yourself? BTW - I am pretty sure I have seen non-seasoned cast iron at KMart or Walmart, although I don't like to shop there for other reasons...

10:09AM PDT on Jun 19, 2008

I adore my cast iron cookware, but the stainless steel pot and pan set I have was on of my kitchen's best investments. If food is cooked at a low enough heat, which is should be with oils ect, then the pans are just as easy to clean!

7:45AM PDT on Jun 18, 2008

wat about clay pots?

12:28PM PDT on Jun 12, 2008

Regarding comments and questions on cast iron pans:
If you do not want to use cast-iron, you could always opt for enamel-coated cast iron, which still has the heft, but you won't have the direct contact with your food. Other options are hard anodized aluminum pans (which do not react with acidic food), copper cookware, stainless steel, or enamel and ceramic coated pans (although these tend to be a bit on the pricey side).
Thanks for your comments.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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