Should You Ditch Teflon for Cast Iron Pans?
If you’ve been on a mission to remove chemicals from your everyday environment, you’ve probably already targeted the obvious sources personal care products, household products, and pesticide- and chemical-laden foods.
But, have you considered the impact your cookware can have on the food you prepare in it – and your health?
Depending on the type of pots and pans you use on a regular basis, you could be exposing yourself and your family to unnecessary and harmful chemicals.
And, what’s the most toxic cookware?
Anything labeled “nonstick” that has been coated with a slick, chemically-formulated coating, such as Teflon. This brand, and other nonstick cookware are marketed as being easier to cook with, easier to clean, and requiring less fat during cooking – so, naturally that’s healthier, right? (*insert sarcastic tone here*)
For starters, those shiny nonstick coatings are made from potentially toxic and harmful chemicals, including known carcinogens.
Prior to 2013, Teflon was formulated with PFOA – a chemical the World Health Organization has labeled “possibly carcinogenic to humans”.
Teflon is no longer made with PFOA, but nonstick coatings are still chemically-formulated.
It’s all in the chemical breakdown…
These chemicals can break down at high temperature (helloooo, high-heat cooking!) and can end up producing toxic fumes you may inhale or getting into the food you’re about to eat.
Mmmm, sounds delicious, right?
Most studies have found the release of these non-stick chemicals during cooking is minimal or only occurs at temperatures hotter than what most home kitchens are capable of producing, i.e. greater than 570 degrees F. Nonstick cookware is easily damaged by metal utensils and regular wear and tear. If you notice scratches, chips, or flaking in your nonstick cookware, chances are the function and safety of your pots and pans have been compromised.
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What’s the bottom line on nonstick pans – and what’s the best alternative?
If you don’t want unnecessary chemicals in your life, ditch the nonstick cookware. The best natural alternative cookware is CAST IRON – yep, just like that beat-up ‘ol skillet that Grandma used!
Here are the top 7 benefits of switching from nonstick cookware to cast iron:
- It’s durable and long-lasting. Cast iron doesn’t chip or scratch like nonstick cookware.
- It gets good ‘n hot and then retains the heat – great for keeping food warm if you serve food straight from the pan! (old school style!)
- It’s affordable. You can score a standard 10-inch cast iron skillet for $15-$20.
- It’s chemical-free. Nothing but iron here, folks!
- It’s versatile to just about any type of cooking you want to do. You can bake, fry, sauté, roast, grill, sear meat, and braise in a cast iron pan. Think of all the cabinet space you can save with a couple of trusty cast iron pans on hand!
- A well-seasoned cast iron pan is naturally nonstick, meaning you can still cook with less mess and less fat – just like other nonstick cookware!
Seasoning means oil that has been baked into the iron. The more you use cast iron, the more “seasoned” it becomes.
The best way to keep your cast iron pans clean and seasoned for years of nonstick cooking is to rinse with warm water, dry thoroughly over low heat on the stove, and then rub a bit of plant-based oil (like avocado) onto the pan with paper towel.
- Cooking in cast iron fortifies your food with a bit of extra iron, which is especially important since iron deficiency is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies.
A 2013 study found foods cooked in cast iron had a 16% increase in iron content compared to the same foods when cooked in Teflon pans. FYI – iron is important for healthy blood cells. It’s a part of red blood cells and hemoglobin, which are responsible for carrying oxygen through the body. Getting enough iron from food is especially important for vegans and vegetarians who don’t consume heme iron – the most absorbable form of iron found in animal foods.
Savoury Baked Veggie Frittata
1 Tbsp butter (dairy-free alternatives: coconut or avocado oil)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
2-3 cups baby spinach
½ tsp garlic powder
salt & pepper to taste
1 cup shredded cheese (shredded non-dairy “cheez” works great too)
8 whole eggs, beaten
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Melt butter in pre-heated cast iron skillet, then add onion and pepper. Sauté about 5 minutes.
- Add spinach, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and cheese, stirring to combine.
- Pour beaten eggs over veggie and cheese mixture. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook another 2 minutes or until edges of egg just begin to set.
- Transfer pan to oven to finish cooking, about 10-15 minutes or until center of eggs is set and lightly golden. (yes, you can put cast iron pans in the oven!)
- Slice into wedges and serve with a fresh side salad.
Healthline: Is Nonstick Cookware Like Teflon Safe To Use?
Indian Journal of Pediatrics, 2013: Beneficial effect of iron pot cooking on iron status
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