Teflon cookware is certainly convenient, but is it safe to use? Here are a few facts to keep in mind when cooking with Teflon…
You may have heard that Teflon releases harmful chemicals into the environment and may be bad for your health. But is this all just hype, or should you really avoid cooking with Teflon?
This comprehensive guide discusses some of the issues with Teflon, and breaks down when you should not use Teflon, and when it might be okay.
Of course, if you’re worried about it, you can always just skip using it altogether. There are plenty of alternatives out there today that are not associated with the potential risks of Teflon. For example, cast iron is my favorite – when well-cared-for, it is non-stick, can take any temperature, and will last pretty much forever! Stainless steel, ceramic, and ceramic titanium are a few other alternatives to Teflon cookware.
A couple of the more harmful chemicals associated with Teflon are PFOA and PTFE. According to Two Kitchen Junkies,
PFOA – short for perfluorooctanoic acid, is a synthetic compound that has many applications. This is one of the compounds that you find in Teflon and is known to be toxic under certain conditions, these conditions are all temperature related.
PTFE – short for Polytetrafluoroethylene and is a synthetic fluoropolymer of tetrafluoroethylene. Again the dangers associated with this compound are those associated with temperature as PTFE will start to break down when heated above 500F.
These chemicals can be released into the air when cooking in Teflon at high temperatures, as described below:
What happens when Teflon is heated above its recommended temp?
Teflon is a chemical compound and is subject to the laws of physics and chemistry. What this means is that when heated to certain temperatures chemical compounds can become unstable and begin to break down.
With Teflon, this means that at around 500F it breaks down and gives off a gas. It is this gas that is toxic and not actually Teflon itself. Below this temperature is it inert…
What Chemicals are released when Teflon is Overheated?
Here is a list of some of the chemical compounds that escape as gases when Teflon is overheated:
- TFE (tetrafluoroethylene)
- HFP (hexafluoropropylene)
- OFCB (octafluorocyclobutane)
- PFIB (perfluorobutane)
- CF4 (carbon tetrafluoride)
- TFA (trifluoroacetic acid)
We won’t bore you with an endless list of all of the chemicals that come off. But if you are interested in having a look at this then have a look at this article.
What Temperature does Teflon become unstable
The short answer this is that this occurs around 500F(260C). It is important to understand that this is not an exact mark and that there will be some variance in the temperature. Just don’t be cooking anything that comes close to that more temperature.
Here are a few safety tips and precautions to keep in mind if you choose to cook with Teflon:
- You have to be attentive when you are cooking – Here is the problem, many people are doing more than one thing at a time when they are cooking. Life and family are busy and messy, you can’t always be watching what you are cooking, and this is where you have to be careful with Teflon, If you are prone to burning foods then Teflon is most likely something you should avoid.
- You have to be careful about what you cook – If you are someone who pays attention to what they are cooking and knows what cookware is best for what dish then you are more likely going to be able to use Teflon safely. Cooking things like steak is not really a good idea.
- The quality of the cookware is very important – We have often said and will continue to make this point where ever we can, always by the BEST quality cookware that you can afford. We are not saying the most expensive, just the best quality – don’t be a lazy buyer, do some research check out what others are saying about their purchases of the product that you are interested in.
- When is it safe to use Teflon – Cooking at Low to medium temperatures – for example scrambled eggs. Cooking foods like bacon at medium temperatures. The best way to look at this is to apply a little physics. boiling water will stick around 212 F so using Teflon to cook something that has water in it will mean lower temperatures and safer.
- When you are cooking something that is effectively dry like a steak this is where you can run into trouble. Cooking liquids also essentially mean that the base of the pan is covered. When a pan surface is exposed and subjected to heat it will heat up super fast and can potentially run away from you.
- When Teflon is unsafe to use – The best way to think about this is that if you are cooking something and there is exposed surface you are going to potentially run into the surface breaking down if it is overheated.
- Preheating pans before you add what you are cooking – As a good rule of thumb, you should never preheat a Teflon pan, if you are cooking something that requires preheating, you should not be cooking it with a Teflon pan SIMPLE AS THAT!
- Frying meats – If you apply the rules from above then you will see that this is not a great idea, you are ok with super thin meats like bacon but all the rest it is better to use either a cast iron skillet or a stainless steel one.
- If you have pets in the house – This is more of a safety measure, some birds and other pets are susceptible to Teflon Flu and can die – why take the chance?
BOTTOM LINE IF COOKING WITH TEFLON:
- Never leave Teflon pans on the stove unattended.
- Make sure you are cooking something that covers the whole base.
- Never preheat Teflon; if you are cooking something that requires a preheated pan, just use something else.