What fry pans should we be using?

* This post has been updated. See below.

Following the toxic audit on my apartment that I wrote about on Sunday, two rather big things. I have to move out of my apartment. And I’ve tossed my frying pans.


I’m moving because my bedroom is on top of the fuse room for the entire block. I’ve always thought this was a bonus – my room is nice and warm in winter. Nicole the building biologist asked if I have immune problems because the crazy, magnetic field action in my room would be wreaking havoc, she’d imagine. Boy do I ever – I have auto-immune disease, and it’s taking an eternity to heal. “How long have you been living here?” A little over three years…  “How long you had auto-immune disease?” Three years. Ahhhh….

I’m not a dramatic over-reactor. But I can’t ignore this.

But to the pans. Non-stick pans are coated in Teflon, which is what makes them slippery. Oh, how I’ve loved Teflon in the past! The way it cooks eggs. And nuts. No mess. No oil.  Problem is that a chemical that’s released when you heat up Teflon is leaching into everyone’s blood stream and is making us sick – cancer, birth defects, HORMONE DISRUPTION and high cholesterol (ironically, given non-stick saves on cooking oils) are the oft-cited effects.

Studies are going back and forth. For a full discussion, read Slow Death by Rubber Duck. They go through the arguments and come out categorically telling everyone to get rid of non-stick pans.

Also, know this:

* manufacturers are nervous and are voluntarily phasing the stuff out. A few years back DuPont, which makes polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) resin, which is what Teflon was called when it first popped up as a laboratory accident back in 1938, reached a $US16.5 million settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency; apparently the company knew all along that Teflon was bad for us.

DuPont has promised to eliminate another chemcial – PFOA – from all Teflon products by 2015. When heating a Teflon pan up to a very high temperature – which is what we tend to do to cook, say, a steak – PFOA is released into the environment. 2015 is too late for those of us with pans in our cupboard, but.

3M have voluntariily taken PFOS out of their products. One can only guess it because they think there might be issues!?

* Teflon is EVERYWHERE. It’s seeped into the blood of 98% of Americans. It doesn’t breakdown. Our stomach acids can’t get rid of it. It’s a slippery little sucker.

* Manufacturers advise you don’t keep pet birds near where you cook with Teflon. It kills them.

* In a strange twist, smoking in the presence of Teflon is VERY toxic – particles decompose in a ciggie, causing polymer fume fever. Very wrong. In so many ways.

How to Kick Non-Stick:

* Marian Burros, the food writer for the New York Times, got rid of her Teflon pans. She tested dozens of pans by making a trillion omelettes, and she wrote that the black enamel frying pan made by Le Creuset was as good as Teflon and even managed to cook eggs that didn’t stick.

* The Slow Death boys say this:

  • buy a pan with a solid base
  • black cast iron skillet is best, but don’t cook too many tomatoes or high-acid stuff on them
  • to avoid food sticking – season the pan well before use. Then heat to a high temp before putting food on, use enough oil and use a plastic spatula, not metal.

Update: It’s now 2015. Here’s a snippet from Scanpan’s website regarding their use of PFOA/PFOS:

As part of our on-going product and technology development, we have developed a coating 100% free of PFOA and PFOS toxins (from raw materials to finished product). Combined with our patented ceramic titanium technology, it is one of the market’s most resilient non-stick coatings. 

Regarding PTFEs, this website adds this: 

PTFE, which is a necessary building block for any nonstick coating, including SCANPAN, may give off fumes when heated in excess of 660 degrees F [350 deg celcius]. This temperature is never reached during normal residential cooking, frying or baking routines. The fumes themselves, once they should occur, are not harmful to humans but are potentially harmful to the extra sensitive respiratory system of exotic birds.  It should be noted that the fumes released from margarine are in the same category and are potentially more harmful to certain species of birds. Owners of these birds should take precautions from ALL types of kitchen fumes rather than focusing on cookware alone.

Bird owners beware… 

What do you cook with? What works? What brands do you love? I’m going to go out shopping later this week….

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