PTFE – short for polytetrafluoroethylene – is a chemical compound containing carbon and fluorine atoms. If you haven't heard of PTFE, you probably have heard its trade name, Teflon. Whatever you choose to call it, PTFE is responsible for the simple cooking and cleanup made possible by nonstick cookware.
Where Did PTFE Come From? (A Brief History
While working at the Dupont company, researching refrigerants, a chemist named Roy Plunkett accidentally discovered polytetrafluoroethylene. It didn't take long for him to notice the remarkable properties of PTFE.
Of any solid, PTFE has one of the lowest coefficients of friction and is also chemically inert. In layman's terms, that means PTFE can be used to create one of the smoothest surfaces around, plus its chemicals won't react with other chemical compounds in food. Additionally, it has a strong resistance to water and has an extremely high melting temperature, making the compound even more durable.
As a result, PTFE has been used as an electrical insulator, a component in satellites, and to coat household items like pots and pans since 1949. Thanks to the slick surface, non stick pans make for easy flipping and equally easy cleanup – all without using high-calorie cooking oil!
Is PTFE Safe for Cooking?
For more than 70 years, we've been using PTFE coated (or Teflon coated) pans for cooking. For a while, there were reports in the news about a possible link between Teflon pans and serious health concerns.
After much investigation, it was found that traces of the chemical perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) were present in these pans. It was determined that PFOA – not PTFE – was responsible for the health problems associated with nonstick pans. The government acted quickly to these findings. In 2013, the use of PFOA in the manufacturing of nonstick pans was banned entirely.
Nonstick pans manufactured after 2013 are entirely PFOA-free and safe for cooking when used and cared for properly.
How to Cook Safely with Nonstick Pots and Pans
While modern non stick pans are PFOA-free, there are still some risks. When heated to extremely high temperatures, PTFE can begin to break down and leach toxic fumes into the air. When breathed, these chemicals can cause a condition with flu-like symptoms called polymer fume fever.
To preserve the integrity of your PTFE-coated pans, avoid cooking with them over high heat, using them with your oven's broiler setting, or preheating them while empty.
Nonstick pans are safest to use when the PTFE coating remains in good condition. You can prevent scratching, chipping, and flaking by cooking with non-abrasive utensils made of wood, plastic, or silicone.
Prolong the Life of Your Nonstick Cookware with Proper Care
To keep your nonstick pots, pans, and frying pan flipping pancakes like they're brand-new, it's important to properly care for them. Hand-washing is the best clean-up method. Dishwashers and their detergents can be too abrasive and degrade the nonstick surface. Instead, use warm water, a soft dishcloth, and mild soap to wash your nonstick cookware by hand.
You can also protect nonstick cookware from getting damaged in the cupboard. Store yours in a rack designed to keep pans separated or line them with silicone pan protectors.
The Safest, High-Quality Nonstick Cookware for Your Home Kitchen
With the best nonstick pans, you can safely enjoy flipping and frying your favorite foods for life!