The 6 Dangers of Non-Stick Pans and the 2 Safer Alternatives

I don’t know about you, but I’ve heard a lot about the dangers of Teflon frying pans, you know, the light, non-stick pans. Sure, they’re convenient, they weigh almost nothing, and they require no prep or pre-treatment. But these pans can cause serious harm when not treated properly.

The dangers associated with Teflon are only when they aren’t treated properly. But any overheating of Teflon can cause the non-stick coating to break apart and release toxic chemicals that can kill pet birds, and cause flu like symptoms in people. In other words, overheating Teflon for even a minute or two can cause illness. Teflon has also been linked with (but not proven to cause) cancer, high cholesterol, thyroid disease, and decreased fertility. Which is too big a risk for me to take, personally.

The 6 Dangers of Non-Stick Pans and the 2 Safer Alternatives

So what are your options? You have two options (as far as I’m concerned): cast iron or ceramic. Each comes with it’s own wonderful advantages and less wonderful disadvantages. So, without further ado. Your lists.

Cast Iron

Cast iron is my personal choice and I’ve got a lot of confused looks for this. I can’t explain why I prefer cast iron to the other two, because it’s slightly more work, but love it I do. Also, a properly seasoned cast iron pan is fine to cook acidic food in. That pervasive myth is annoying.

Pros.

  1. Indestructible.

Legitimately indestructible. I have dropped a cast iron pan and had it dent the floor, but it’s always handled any abuse I could throw at it.

I bought one at a garage sale for three bucks, covered in rust, and with patience and some rust-remover, I have reclaimed a wonderful cooking instrument. What I love about the pan? It’s vintage, I suspect it of being from the 30’s. And really old cast-iron was polished smooth in the interior, so it’s much more non-stick than my newer pan. Which makes buying an old cast iron pan much more practical than buying new.

  1. Oven Safe

I LOVE that I can throw my cast iron skillet in the oven with no worries. Love it. It makes me feel like a professional chef, but it’s also practical, I can ensure even heat in the pan, or bake a pasta dish after I finish tossing it in the sauce I made it the pan.

  1. Metal Utensil Safe

You can use metal utensils in a cast iron pan in cast iron. Any one who tells you differently doesn’t know what they’re talking about. There is nothing damaging about metal utensils here.

  1. You can wash them (or not) as you see fit.

One of the pervasive myths about cast iron is that you can’t wash them with soap and water. Incorrect. Cast iron can be washed, or not, as you choose. I normally wash mine out with boiling water. And once every two weeks, give it a proper scrub and then gently re-season it.

  1. You can use it anywhere.

Big camper? Take cast iron. You can toss that sucker into a campfire no problem. It’s probably the only multipurpose cookware you can get.

CONS

  1. Cast iron doesn’t heat evenly. It doesn’t. I have no excuses.

Whatever part is directly over the heat gets hot, but the rest of it stays relatively cool. Which I personally think is a bonus, because I can cook multiple things at once at different temperatures, but I feel like most people think this is negative.

  1. Cast iron requires seasoning.

This isn’t difficult and most (new) pans come pre-seasoned. Older pans you’ll want to strip and do your own seasoning on them, which is still easy.

  1. Cast iron isn’t totally non-stick.

It comes close, but you have to prep the pan.

  1. Cast iron is really, really, REALLY heavy.

I have beautiful forearm muscles though. I can flip a pancake no problem with cast iron, but it took practice.

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