I don’t know about you, but I’ve heard a lot about the dangers of Teflon 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 pans are only present 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 pans have also been linked with (but not proven to cause) cancer, high cholesterol, thyroid disease, and decreased fertility. Personally, it’s too big a risk for me to take.
So what are your options for the safest cookware? You have two (as far as I’m concerned): cast iron or ceramic. Each comes with its own wonderful advantages and less wonderful disadvantages. So, without further ado. Your lists.
Safest Cookware: Cast Iron Over Teflon Pans
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.
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.
2. 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.
3. Metal Utensil Safe
You can use metal utensils in a cast iron pan in cast iron. Anyone who tells you differently doesn’t know what they’re talking about. There is nothing damaging about metal utensils here.
4. 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 reseason it.
5. 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.
1. Cast Iron Doesn’t Heat Evenly
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.
2. 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.
3. Cast Iron Isn’t Totally Non-Stick
It comes close, but you have to prep the pan.
4. 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 practise.
Safest Cookware: Ceramic Over Teflon Pans
If I ever have to swap over from cast-iron for some unknown and unwelcome reason, I will switch to ceramic.
1. Ceramic is Non-Stick
Almost as non-stick as Teflon. Some pans require a bit of oil or butter in the pan with them, but most don’t.
2. Heat Evenly
This is a big seller for most people. I have nothing against it myself. But when I use one of these, they cook even and clean, with little or no residue when you’re cleaning them.
3. Super Easy to Clean
Because they’re not as uneven as cast iron even if they’re caked and gross they still clean with a bit of soaking and a dishcloth.
4. Non-Scratch and Non-Stick
Really. I’ve heard these are metal safe too. And I love that they are truly non-stick, which newer cast iron can’t claim.
5. Oven Safe
CHECK YOUR BRAND. Some brands of ceramic cookware are NOT oven safe. But those that are, go in with the same ease that cast iron does.
This is actually necessarily true. All the ceramic I’ve work with has been almost as heavy as cast iron, but apparently, there are brands that manufacture lighter versions of ceramic skillets being made.
This is a problem I’ve heard over and over again. You drop one of these babies and it’s going to break, crack, or shatter.
I’ve never seen one of these go cheaply. And unlike cast iron, you can’t really pick them up at a local garage sale for the price of a coffee.
I know that ceramic is probably the way to go for an adult-only home. I think it might be a bit risky to have ceramic in a house with kids, or if you’re clumsy (hi, join the club, we have badly knitted sweaters). Ceramic is easier to care for and probably a good deal more practical, but the high price tag and the breaking factor are partly why I hesitate to purchase these.
The other reason is I’m totally dedicated to a cast iron. I know it seems like a bunch of work, but seasoning only needs to happen rarely. I like the weight of them. I love my older pan more than I can say and continue to look for them at antique shops and garage sales. The older pans will be smooth when you run your fingers on the bottom. Pans made after the 50’s tend to be bumpy along the bottom. Older pans are worth the money you pay for them. I promise.
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