We’ve Come a Long Way, Baby
As a Baby Boomer, I grew up in the age of Teflon. According to the Science History Institute, the discovery of Teflon was an accident. Roy J. Plunkett worked at the DuPont Company’s Jackson Laboratory in 1938. While Plunkett was researching new chlorofluorocarbon refrigerants, he noticed a residual substance. Plunket recognized that the substance possessed beneficial properties for applications beyond refrigeration. Later, they named the white powder he discovered, “Teflon.”
- 1 We’ve Come a Long Way, Baby
- 2 The Science History Institute explains:
- 3 Fast Forward to 21st Century Science – It’s Scary Important
- 4 Ceramic vs. Teflon
- 5 Ceramic-coated cookware
- 5.1 Construction
- 5.1.1 Never use metal utensils with your cookware
- 5.1.2 Season your cookware
- 5.1.3 Always cool your pans before washing
- 5.1.4 Use low to medium heat to cook in ceramic-coated pots and pans
- 5.1.5 Hand wash you ceramic cookware
- 5.1.6 Some ceramic pans are oven-safe, but not all
- 5.1.7 Treat your pans gently to avoid scratching, staining, chipping, cracking and marring
- 5.1 Construction
- 6 The Heart of the Matter
Teflon was first used in the Manhattan Project. But at first, there wasn’t any commercially viable market. It was simply too expensive to produce it on its own. The company continued conducting experiments and discovered more uses. Over time, Teflon found its way into many household items. Eventually, Teflon became a household word.
The Science History Institute explains:
“Teflon pots and pans were invented years later. The awarding of Philadelphia’s Scott Medal in 1951 to Plunkett—the first of many honors for his discovery—provided the occasion for the introduction of Teflon bakeware to the public: each guest at the banquet went home with a Teflon-coated muffin tin.”
Fast Forward to 21st Century Science – It’s Scary Important
We certainly have come a long way since they introduced those first Teflon-coated muffin tins in 1951. Once all the rage, Teflon pans contain PFAS or Poly- and perfluoroalkyl. Non-stick, Teflon coated pans are created from these substances. And now, the Environmental Protection Agency recognizes PFAS as harmful.
When heated, cookware made with these popular, non-stick substances releases a related chemical called perfluorooctanoic acid or PFOA. This chemical is linked to certain diseases and several serious health problems.
The more I searched the literature, the more concerned I became. In fact, everyone using cookware containing these harmful substances needs to understand the risks.
Manufacturers of non-stick pans conducted scientific research. Their studies showed that their cookware released up to 15 different types of toxic gases and particles. Beyond the manufacturers, the broader, worldwide scientific community acknowledges mounting evidence of this toxicity.
The Madrid Statement
The Madrid Statement was published in the May 2015 issue of the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.
More than 200 scientists, from 40 different countries signed this Statement.
It warns of the hazards presented by PFASs.
In part, it states, “In animal studies, some long-chain PFASs have been found to cause liver toxicity, disruption of lipid metabolism and the immune and endocrine systems, adverse neurobehavioral effects, neonatal toxicity and death, and tumors in multiple organ systems. (Lau et.al., 2007; Post et. al., 2012) In the growing body of epidemiological evidence, some of these effects are supported by significant or suggestive associations between specific long-chain PFASs and adverse outcomes, including associations with testicular and kidney cancers (Barry et al. 2013; Benbrahim-Tallaa et al. 2014), liver malfunction (Gallo et al. 2012), hypothyroidism (Lopez-Espinosa et al. 2012), high cholesterol (Fitz-Simon et al. 2013; Nelson et al. 2009), ulcerative colitis (Steenland et al. 2013), lower birth weight and size (Fei et al. 2007), obesity (Halldorsson et al. 2012), decreased immune response to vaccines (Grandjean et al. 2012), and reduced hormone levels and delayed puberty (Lopez-Espinosa et al. 2011).”
Ceramic vs. Teflon
Today, the decision to change from toxic to non-toxic cookware is a perfect example of how “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Many health-conscious individuals and families are switching from eating lots of heavily processed foods to enjoying more minimally processed, fresher and mostly organic foods.
In addition, changing to healthier, non-toxic cookware is a natural, logical and powerful next step.
Actually, there are two kinds of ceramic cookware: Ceramic and Ceramic-coated.
Clay, minerals, and sand are combined to make pure ceramic cookware. Once shaped, pieces are fired and often glazed. For our purposes, we are only looking at ceramic-coated cookware. This cookware is frequently called ceramic non-stick cookware or sometimes modern ceramic cookware.
Ceramic-coated cookware is a hard shell of ceramic over a lightweight metal – such as aluminum, anodized aluminum, copper or stainless steel. This specialized, non-toxic coating contains non-stick components. It also has various color pigments. Based on the brand, there are differences in the thickness and quality of the coating.
In addition to non-stick properties, ceramic cookware’s hard, polished interior surface cleans up easily. Foods slide off and pans wipe clean. However, you must take specific steps to care for your ceramic-coated cookware. These precautionary steps include:
Never use metal utensils with your cookware
Although many manufacturers say wooden utensils are alright, customer reviews say otherwise. So our recommendation is to use silicone utensils to prevent scratching the interior surface.
Season your cookware
For best results, season your cookware right out of the box. And periodically thereafter, renew the seasoning to maintain their nonstick property. Seasoning means to wash the pans in warm water with dish soap, rinse and dry. Then heat the pan for a few minutes on medium heat. When slightly warm, rub the pan’s ceramic coating with refined food-grade oil, such as coconut, safflower or refined olive oil. However, do not use Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
Always cool your pans before washing
Never submerge or clean ceramic pans until completely cooled. Putting a heated pan into water will cause it to warp. It is very important that the bottoms of your pans are flat for even heating.
Use low to medium heat to cook in ceramic-coated pots and pans
This type of cookware is very responsive. It heats up and cools down quickly whenever the heat is adjusted.
Hand wash you ceramic cookware
Dish-washing detergents are abrasive. High heat temperatures in dishwashers can mar the ceramic interior. In addition, high water pressure can cause pans to bang against each other, causing dents and dings on both the interior and exterior.
Some ceramic pans are oven-safe, but not all
Always read the manufacturer’s guidelines to determine the maximum temperature your pans will withstand.
Treat your pans gently to avoid scratching, staining, chipping, cracking and marring
Most pans come with a hole in the handle so that you can hang them. If this is not practical in your kitchen, use a pan rack. If stacking, place a felt liner or some other protective material between the pans.
Manufacturers design non-stick ceramic-coating for daily use. But you will damage it easily if you don’t follow the manufacturer’s specifications. However, when you do follow the guidelines, you can have a marvelous cooking experience for years.
The Heart of the Matter
Good quality ceramic coating is non-toxic and remarkably non-stick. But given the nature of the coating, it will degrade over time with normal use. And this can lead to possible exposure to the metal base underneath the coating, at which point you will want to replace them.
Ceramic-coated cookware typically lasts 3 to 5 years. The quality of materials and construction are important. How well you care for each piece is also important. Higher quality brands have 10-year warranties, and others have lifetime warranties. When looking at options, consider these factors.
It is possible to have a wonderful experience with this highly desirable type of healthier cookware. Even though not designed to last forever, with proper care you will enjoy using them with great peace of mind.
Happily, we now have beautiful, functional options in ceramic-coated cookware. We no longer have to cook our fresh, organic ingredients in toxic cookware. There is also great peace of mind in knowing that you are using completely safe and nontoxic cookware to prepare your healthier ingredients for yourself and your family.
If you’d like to see our top picks for healthy ceramic cookware, you may see our comparison reviews here.