Is it safe to use a scratched nonstick Teflon pan?

by | Kitchen

A pan is one of the most used cookware in the kitchen. Whether you prepare breakfast, lunch, or dinner, it is an invaluable helper. Because of the extensive use, we want it to be durable and easy to use, and for this reason, Teflon nonstick pans became a huge hit. They are easy to clean and allow you to use less oil or fat for cooking. Sounds great. But what to do if the surface is damaged? Is it safe to use a scratched nonstick Teflon pan?

 

Issues arising from scratched Teflon

 

– Deterioration of nonstick properties

– Deeper scratches expose the inner material of the pan, which might not be ideal for getting in contact with your food. It is very likely that it is made out of aluminum.
Note: For more information on aluminum cookware see this post from thecookwareadvisor.com. Besides the whole article I especially recommend you to read the comment from Chris from August 8, 2017 AT 11:57 PM and the reply from the author of the article.

– Chipped parts of the Teflon nonstick surface might be digested.
According to the manufacturer of Teflon, Chemours (formerly DuPont), particles from Teflon are not harmful, even if ingested (Source: Point 14 on the official website). That might be comforting to some degree. However, I wouldn’ t want to test this statement.

 

So Is it safe to use a scratched Teflon nonstick pan?

A clear answer has been given by professor Kurunthachalam Kannan, Ph.D. who specializes in environmental chemistry. According to an article on GoodHouskeeping websitehe has stated:

“…if pans do chip or flake, they may be more likely to release toxic compounds…”.
If a pan becomes damaged, he advises to throw it out.

 

Best practices for Teflon

During my research, I came across a couple of things to keep in mind when using a Teflon nonstick pan. If you are a Teflon pan user, definitely check it out.

Maximum temperature ♨️

The manufacturer of Teflon, Chemours (formerly DuPont), states that at temperatures above 500°F (260°C) the quality of the coating may start to deteriorate (Source: Point 4 on the official website). Extremely high temperatures may cause the coating to decompose and give off fumes. During regular cooking, you are probably not going to heat the pan to such degree. But life happens, and if you unwittingly heat the pan up to such temperatures, the deterioration and fumes might take place.

Besides this official statement from Teflon manufacturer, I have found a published study carried out by K. Kannan. It was discovered that nonstick surface off-gassed even when heated at normal cooking temperatures 354-451°F (179-233°C).

Life threat for bird pets 🦜

If you own a bird, you should consider using a different type of a pan or at least be more careful about how you use it. As I have stated before, according to the Teflon manufacturer, when a nonstick Teflon pan gets overheat above 500°F (260°C) (Source: Point 4 on the official website), it might give off toxic fumes. However nonstick Teflon pans might emit some fumes even in lower temperatures. And those are the emissions that can poison birds due to their very sensitive respiratory system, even to the point of death. The thing is that a bird doesn’t even have to be near the Teflon cookware to get poisoned.

The best way to protect your bird is to get rid of all Teflon cookware.
If that is not an option, at least try to:

– Never keep your bird in or near the area, where Teflon cookware is being used.
– Keep your kitchen (or other relevant areas) well ventilated. While cooking, use the stove fan and open your windows.
– Do not overheat your Teflon cookware.

Note: For more information, see the VCA Hospitals website.

 

Teflon on Netflix

During my research of Teflon I came across a documentary called The devil we know, available on Netflix. Even though I was aware of the fact that Teflon might be harmful, the following information was shocking to me. The documentary shows an awful reality of how Teflon production has influenced our environment. It shows how the DuPont company (nowadays the Teflon is produced by a different company called Chemours) infested an area around its factory by leaking PFOA (a toxic compound used to produce Teflon) into the surrounding waters. The PFOA is now in the bloodstream of 99 % of Americans. And probably it is not only the U.S. citizens that were affected but also the rest of the world.

Nowadays, PFOA is no longer used in the production process of Teflon (source). According to the Chemours website, they have moved to next-generation technologies, probably called GenX (source). For more information about GenX click here. However based on the document linked above, the new technologies do not look eco-friendly at all. Still, whatever the “next-generation technology” is, the problem with the toxic fumes continues.

 

Green alternative

For the past seven years, we have been using ceramic pans and an iron skillet, and we were happy with it. I have never felt a need for a Teflon nonstick pan. After researching Teflon pans, I don’t think that I am ever going to purchase one. This year, due to scratches in our current Tefal ceramic pan showing metallic surface, a sure sign for a change, we have decided to try the GreenPan Cambridge pan. Here is a short overview of its pros and cons (source).

Pros

+ made without PFAS (including PFOA)
+ made without lead
+ made without cadmium
+ withstands temperatures up to 850°F (450°C)
+ never releases toxic fumes, even if you + accidentally overheat it

Cons

– price
– it might last for a shorter period of time than a Teflon nonstick pan

The pans come in different colors. On Amazon you can find, e.g., a gray version, or this beautiful bronze one.

Knowing all that I have strengthened my opinion that ceramic pans are a much better alternative. Why contribute to the global pollution that is already so bad? It was an easy choice for us 🙂.

 

The bottom line

If your Teflon non stick pan has substantial scratches, It seems that the best option is to throw it out.

If you are planing to buy a new pan, I would definitely recommend choosing a ceramic one. Even though it might last you for a shorter period of time, in my opinion, the health and environmental benefits are worth it.

Generally speaking, sometimes the best performing, most time-saving, long-lasting products are doing more harm than good to our environment, ourselves and the generations to come. By making more conscious decisions, which might limit us in some regard, we can influence the future for better.

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