Non-stick cookware: Non-stick cookware comprises pots and pans with surfaces that have been coated with a polymer polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), a well-known brand of which is Teflon. Teflon is a synthetic chemical made up of carbon and fluorine atoms that was first made in the 1930s. Teflon provides a nonreactive, non-stick and almost frictionless surface making it convenient to use and easy to clean. When cooking in non-stick cookware less oil or butter needs to be used for seasoning and frying.
Although Teflon coated cookware is considered safe for cooking, over the past decade, the safety of non-stick cookware has been under investigation. The concerns are mainly due to a chemical called perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) which was used in the production of Teflon prior to 2013. PFOA has been linked to a number of health conditions including thyroid disorders, chronic kidney disease, liver disease, testicular cancer, infertility and low birth weight. Today all Teflon products are PFOA-free, so the effects of PFOA exposure are no longer a cause of concern.
Although Teflon coating on non-stick is safe and stable, at temperatures above 570°F (300°C), it starts to break down, releasing toxic fumes into the air which can cause temporary flu-like symptoms known as polymer fume fever.
Here are certain precautions that should be taken when using non-stick cookware.
- Do not heat non-stick cookware empty: Empty pans can reach high temperatures within minutes, releasing irritating polymer fumes. Make sure you have some food or liquid in pots and pans before you preheat.
- Avoid cooking on high heat: Non-stick cookware should only be used on low or medium heat.
- Use the right spoons and spatulas: Unless specified as metal spoon-friendly, metal ladles, spoons or spatulas and other sharp cutlery should not be used for stirring or removing food from pans as they can easily damage the non-stick finish. Spoons, ladles, spatulas and forks made of wood, bamboo, food grade silicon or nylon are safe to use when cooking in non-stick cookware.
- Allow the cookware to cool before washing: Do not wash non-stick cookware while it is hot as damages the coating. Allow it to cool and then wash them using a soft sponge or scrubber. Avoid using steel wool since they can scratch the surface.
- Replace old cookware: Once the non-stick coatings get scratched or pitted replace the damaged cookware.
Apart from PTFE coatings, non-stick cookware is also manufactured using ceramic coatings or hard anodised aluminium.
Hard anodised aluminium cookware: Anodised aluminium cookware is manufactured by placing aluminium pots and pans in an acid solution and exposing it to an electric current during which a layer of aluminium oxide is deposited on the surface. Anodised aluminium cookware has a hard, non- stick, non-porous surface that makes it scratch-resistant, durable and easy to clean. This type of cookware also has good heat conductivity and is safe for cooking all kinds of foods including acidic foods like tomatoes or lemon juice.
Enamel cookware: Enamel cookware comprise cast iron pots and pans that have a vitreous enamel glaze. The enamel coating over the cast iron prevents rusting, eliminates the need to season the metal, allows more thorough cleaning and has good heat conductivity. This cookware is safe for cooking any type of food including acidic foods. The enamel coating provides a non- stick surface that prevents food from sticking to the bottom. It also holds heat well, provides an even consistent temperature in the utensil during cooking and helps keep food warm when serving. Hence, enamel cookware is suitable for cooking and serving.
To be continued…
(Writer is a consultant nutritionist with 20 years of experience, practicing at Panaji and can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org)