I love how food slides out of a frying pan that uses Teflon. But, are non-stick pans safe? We decided to research the topic more thoroughly now that we are responsible for a little one. I was surprised by the results.
In this article we answer:
- Is non-stick cookware harmful to your health?
- What is Teflon and is it safe?
- What are the best non-stick cookware options with Teflon?
- What are the safest non-stick cookware options for your health?
Is Non-stick Cookware Harmful to Your Health?
First, it was safe. Then, it wasn’t. And, now? Well, now it’s debatable. Non-stick used to mean a Teflon-coated pan. Now, there are new nonstick options that do not include Teflon. We’ll tell you about both.
In our home, though, we’ve learned that taking risks on “maybes” is not a good idea. So, full disclosure, we do not use anything with Teflon. We believe that it simply is not worth the risk. You might come to a different conclusion, though. Everyone has to make their own health decisions.
In addition to Teflon, manufacturers used to use a coating called “PFOA,” or perfluorooctanoic acid during the application of Teflon. Human exposure to PFOA, over long periods and at high levels, presents certain risks, like an increase in cancer, so the US government banned it in 2015 and since then all pans are supposed to be PFOA free. Make sure you double check any pans made in low-cost manufacturing countries.
The science says that Teflon is safe as long as you stay below its smoke point, so it remains on the market. In recent years, other non-stick options have entered the market. Each one has its own pros and cons. We summarize some of the more salient points below, but the video is well done and merits watching if you want a more in-depth explanation:
What Is Teflon and Is It Safe?
More than half of non-stick pans nowadays come with a coating made of Teflon. This material’s proper name is polytetrafluoroethylene, or “PTFE” for short. Teflon is a synthetic compound that was first used in the 1930s. When used properly, Teflon has been deemed safe by the US government.
But, the controversy continues. A 2019 documentary film dramatized real life events about a lawyer’s struggle with Dupont, the manufacturer of Teflon. While the film is not scientific evidence, it does portray a real-life court case where the scientific facts were debated. In that case, Dupont settled by paying $600 million, which implies guilt. Granted, the case was not about pans, it was about the manufacturing plant where the Teflon chemical was made. Nonetheless, it is a cautionary tale:
If you opt to cook with Teflon, then (as stated in the first video) you need to be wary of your heat settings. Be sure to keep the temperature of the pan under 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
Also, in my opinion, if you are going to use Teflon, then you should replace your pan every year. I used Teflon-coated pans for most of my life and I always noticed that no matter how well I took care of the pan, the coating began to peel off after some use. So, while I have no proof, I am guessing that eating Teflon flakes is worse for you than breathing Teflon fumes.
But, perhaps Teflon is safe when properly used.
What Are the Best Non-stick Cookware Options with Teflon?
The best non-stick cookware has undergone rigorous testing, and you’ll find a lot of good options. Here are our top rated options:
Circulon - 10-Piece Hard Anodized Nonstick Cookware Set, Black
- 1.5-quart saucepan.
- 2-quart Saucepan with lids.
- 3-quart Sauté Pan with lid.
- 8-quart Stockpot with lid.
- 8-inch frying pan.
- 1-inch frying pan
- Durable hard-anodized.
- Non-stick surface with innovative ring design.
- Sturdy, dual-riveted handles for long-lasting, continuous use.
The Circulon Anodized Non-stick Cookware is a durable 10-piece set made from anodized aluminum with a stainless steel base. While it is PFOA-free, it does use Teflon.
The handles feature dual rivets so you can get a comfortable grip when shifting things around on the stove.
It’s safe to use these pots and pans on the stove and in the oven, up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
Furthermore, everything is completely dishwasher safe.
Rachel Ray Nonstick Cookware
- 1 Quart Covered Saucepans
- 3 Quart Covered Saucepans
- 6 Quart Covered Stockpot
- 3 Quart Covered Sauté Pan
- 8.5 Inch Skillets
- 10 Inch Skillets
- Slotted Turner
- Nonstick pots and pans are crafted with durable aluminum and sturdy hard enamel porcelain exteriors
- PFOA free
- Oven safe to 400°F
- Suitable for all stove tops, except induction
- Manufacturer advises against washing in dishwasher
The Rachel Ray Non-stick Cookware is a beautiful, teal-colored set from this infamous chef. Other available fun colors include purple and yellow.
This one is also PFOA-free, oven safe and made from aluminum. You’ll receive 12 pieces, including a spatula and a slotted spoon.
The handles feature a silicone coating and dual rivets for a secure hold.
This All-Clad Cookware Set includes a best non-stick frypan that’s heavy duty in construction. You’ll get two pans and they’re marked safe for use, one 8-inch and one 10-inch.
Both are scratch-resistant and dishwasher safe. However, the manufacturer recommends washing all components by hand to prolong their lifespan.
There’s a lifetime warranty to boot, in case something goes wrong.
What are the safest non-stick cookware options for your health?
The best, safe non-stick pans are those that have the fewest chemicals, are easy to clean, cook well, and fit your budget. It amazed me when researching this topic how passionate many were about being green, but ignored the practical reality that the other aspects were also important. If the pan does not cook well, is too difficult to use (code for: it does not clean easily), or is too expensive, then no one will use it.
There are three healthy options that merit consideration. These are not listed in any particular order. Think of them as categories. We have an entire review for each one. We have listed here our topic-rated recommendation for each.
1) Carbon Steel
In our review The Best Carbon Steel Pan of 2020 – The Secret of Chefs Everywhere, we recommend the Matfer Bourgeat – 12 5/8-inch Black Carbon Steel Round Frying Pan, Gray (062006). This pan first caught our attention when it was recommended by America’s Test Kitchen. It’s a sure-fire crowd pleaser if you maintain it well. And, best of all, no Teflon.
2) Cast Iron
Have you ever heard the saying “old is gold?” Cast iron is non-stick by nature if the pot or pan is seasoned properly. It can withstand very high temps and will last you decades if you take care of it well.
Cast Iron is the oldest non-stick pan on our list, invented in its current form in 1707 by Englishman Abraham Darby. Cast iron skillets have not changed much over the years. One of the most popular, best-rated cast iron skillets is the Pre-Seasoned 10.25-Inch Cast Iron Skillet with Red Silicone Hot Handle Holder.
The above video explains how to season and clean a cast iron skillet. If you are comfortable following these instructions, then cast iron is your best healthy option for a non-stick pan… it will last your decades! And, again, no Teflon.
Ceramic cookware is the newest innovation on the market. You can use it for a variety of cooking methods, but they do chip. Home chefs mentioned that some start chipping much sooner than they expected.
However, if you’re looking for non-toxic and budget-friendly cookware, it’s a viable option. The Home Hero — 13-Piece Copper Ceramic Cookware Set is our top-rated choice for ceramic non-stick. The company claims it doesn’t chip easily and its customers say you should expect to replace heavily used pieces every year or so. This 13-piece set is very affordable.
We also like the TECHEF — 7-Piece Ceramic Nonstick Cookware Set. These are dishwasher safe and you can use them in the oven up to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
You can read our full review at The Best Ceramic Cookware for Your Health in 2020 .
Double-Check Your Cookware
Most non-stick pans that are on the market today are safe for use.
The exception to this is if you’re using them on extremely high heat. Watch out for dangerous signs including smoke and the release of gases. This won’t lead to cancer or anything severe, but it could cause flu-like symptoms.
You can also opt for other materials in cookware like silicone, cast iron or stainless steel, among others. Each of these has something to offer and your worries will be even less regarding the health risks for you and your family.