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Old 12-06-2007, 11:07 PM   #1
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Article on Nonstick Cookware Safety

There is an article in the November 2007 issue of Good Housekeeping Magazine titled, “Nervous About Nonstick?” It is a no nonsense article focused on settling the questions about the safety of nonstick pans. I couldn’t find it online to link so here is a summary of the key points:

The Good Housekeeping Research Institute with the assistance of Robert L. Wolke, Ph.D., professor emeritus of chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh and Kurunthachalam Kannan, Ph.D., an environmental toxicologist at the New York State Department of Health, tested and analyzed results.

The article addresses the common fears attached to nonstick cookware and debunks some, labeling the cookware as safe with conditions.

When nonstick surfaces reach a temperature exceeding 500 F., the nonstick surface begins to break down and starts releasing chemical compounds. When the surface temperature reaches 660 F., gases are released which can cause flu like symptoms in humans. These gases can be fatal to small birds. At 680 F., toxic gases are released, but in such small quantities as to be harmless.

Bits of nonstick coating that may flake off a pan surface are harmless if ingested. They simply pass through your body.

PFOA, a chemical known to cause tumors and developmental defects in animals (there is no proven harmful effect on humans) is used in the manufacturing process but is not present in the finished product. PFOA is present in other products such as microwave popcorn bags, fast food containers, shampoos, carpeting and clothing.

The article offers six steps to cooking safely with nonstick cookware:
  • Never preheat an empty pan. The temperature can exceed safe levels in as little as two minutes in pans made with thinner materials.
  • Don’t cook on high heat. Set your burner to medium and cook at that level. This is also the manufacturer’s recommendation.
  • Ventilate the kitchen. Turn on your exhaust fans.
  • Don’t broil or sear meats. These cooking methods call for higher heat than is safe for nonstick cookware. Use a different type of pan.
  • Buy heavier nonstick pans. Thicker metal pans take longer to reach and exceed dangerous temperature levels so you have a margin for error if you forget a pan on the burner.
  • Don’t continue to cook with pans that have damaged nonstick coatings. Use wood or plastic utensils to prolong the life of the surface.
My take from this article is that nonstick pans are fine to use and you don’t have to avoid them “just to be on the safe side”. Overheating should not be a problem as long as you don’t leave an empty pan on a burner going full blast and walk away.
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Old 12-06-2007, 11:09 PM   #2
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Thanks, Andy, for the information. I know a lot of folks who have birds as pets will appreciate this information.
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Old 12-06-2007, 11:33 PM   #3
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Teflon Flu

Here's our chat back in '04 about it.
I haven't bought non-stick since then and haven't missed it (although I'm still looking for a good griddle that's not non-stick or cast iron, the latter because of the sheer weight)

I was in Macy's recently and was looking through some griddles (always hoping) and was reading the warning labels on the cookware. Sure enough it said something relating to birds. I asked the saleswoman if they had any griddles that weren't non-stick, and pointed out the warning label. She said, "oh they just put that there to cover their butts. It's not like it ever would happen". I'm afraid too many think that way.
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Old 12-07-2007, 06:47 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jkath View Post
Teflon Flu

Here's our chat back in '04 about it.
I haven't bought non-stick since then and haven't missed it (although I'm still looking for a good griddle that's not non-stick or cast iron, the latter because of the sheer weight)

I was in Macy's recently and was looking through some griddles (always hoping) and was reading the warning labels on the cookware. Sure enough it said something relating to birds. I asked the saleswoman if they had any griddles that weren't non-stick, and pointed out the warning label. She said, "oh they just put that there to cover their butts. It's not like it ever would happen". I'm afraid too many think that way.

There is a real risk for pet birds. The key is the temperature. In fact, it's not normal to get a pan that hot for the usual things such as eggs. It's when one tries to cook a high heat item that problems can result.
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Old 12-07-2007, 07:34 AM   #5
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Great information Andy! Thanks for taking the time to post it!!
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Old 12-07-2007, 07:40 AM   #6
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"Never preheat an empty pan".

I'm guilty.

Thanks for that info, Andy.
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Old 12-07-2007, 03:12 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Andy M. View Post
Bits of nonstick coating that may flake off a pan surface are harmless if ingested.
But, you will never describe any food with the term "sticks to your ribs" again.
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Old 12-07-2007, 03:24 PM   #8
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Very good update, Andy.

Lower temps and thicker pans seem to work well together dues to better heat distribution anyway.

A small amount of sugar seems to help immensely with browning in non-stick pans at medium temps without imparting any sweetness.
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Old 12-07-2007, 04:51 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Andy M. View Post
Bits of nonstick coating that may flake off a pan surface are harmless if ingested.
I was wondering where all that extra pepper was coming from
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Old 12-08-2007, 11:43 AM   #10
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thanks andy.

and thanks jkath. that was one of my favourite old discussions. lol, emus.
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