Cooking healthier: metal pots and pans.

11 07 2011

Coming back from our “It is easy being green” parenting class, I was surprised to see how my husband was so fired up to make a few changes in our household! I always thought I was the most committed to the environment of the two, so it was a very nice surprise to see him ready to change a couple more things around to clean up our life style a little more. And I think that having a baby on the way made us want to give him the best and avoid any kind of contaminants going in his diet.

One of his projects was to get rid of all the teflon pots and pans. He had been hinting for some time that he was not very comfortable with them, but now he was ready to change them!

Teflon molecular structure

So, why would you ever want to avoid teflon? Teflon is a plastic polymer called Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE). There are some indications that it can be harmful when it or its byproducts are ingested, though this is not yet supported. The interesting thing is that teflon degrades with heat, which is how we use it in our pans and pots! True, it starts degrading at 400C (752F) which is higher than we will ever use in our kitchen, but what happens when this exposure to low temperature goes on for years? And we do clean our pans and pots with warm water and scrub them, even so slightly, but we do. Oh! And we also might scrape them with spoons and spatulas! The thing is that some of my older pans, maybe 5-7 years old, do show some signs of tear, and that very slight and thin layer of teflon does get into our food.

Though teflon is not toxic in itself when stable, its production generates toxic byproducts, and workers in PTFE factories have been reported to show a disease called polymer fume fever. There are also studies stating that when teflon is disposed of in the environment and degrades it releases a chemical that is toxic to plants, substance that shows a high resilience, so it could be a contaminant of concern in the future. Things to keep in mind.

On the other hand stainless steel, cast iron or ceramic coated pots and pans do not have any of these possible side effects. A return to the old ways might be the better idea in this case. Stay tuned for a review on his new pots and pans! 🙂

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