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Posts Tagged ‘non-stick pans’

So I was happily cooking a few weeks ago and letting my skillet preheat before throwing in some mushrooms, and, well, I got side tracked.  My husband (Mr. “T”, as I will affectionately refer to him as from this point forward – no, no similarities) noticed my smoking pan on the stove and informs me, “that smoke can kill us, ya know!”  Um, what?

I was cooking on my beloved non-stick pan as I have done countless times before.  And, again, just as I had done countless times before, I accidentally let it overheat to a smoking point apparently causing noxious fumes to fill the air.  Non-stick pans are coated with a synthetic polymer called polytetrafluoroetheylene (PTFE), also known as Teflon (a DuPont brand Trademark).  Teflon coated pans have been sold to and been used by millions.  My mom used them.  I have always used them.  And here I was potentially giving my whole family cancer.  (OK, maybe that’s a little dramatic…but still)  Needless to say, I was shocked when I began researching its supposed harmful effects.

“According to tests commissioned by Environmental Working Group (EWG), in the two to five minutes that cookware coated with Teflon is heating on a conventional stovetop, temperatures can exceed to the point that the coating breaks apart and emits toxic particles and gases. At various temperatures these coatings can release at least six toxic gases, including two carcinogens.”[i] Evidence has shown that scratched Teflon cookware, when heated, has the potential to kill birds, [ii] due to the chemical perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) that is released.  Yes, I realize that we aren’t birds, but that can’t be good for us either.  And my pans were well used, AKA, well scratched.  Great.

I had a dilemma on my hands. Continue to use the “Harper Lee” pans (come on people…author of the classic, To Kill a Mockingbird) and give my whole family cancer or go buy the old faithful alternatives, cast iron and stainless steel.  Clearly I went with the later of those two choices.

Oh, and along with this decision also came the harsh realization that I had no clue how to get a non-stick surface from cast iron and stainless steel.  So you don’t have the agony of crusty eggs and lose half of your nicely browned chicken, here are the tips I’ve learned:

Cast Iron – First, raid your grandma’s kitchen and see if she has a few you can snag (kidding…) Older cast iron skillets are likely to be well-seasoned, so if Granny can’t part with hers, you’ll either need to buy a preseasoned one or season one yourself.  In order to season one yourself, thoroughly clean your new pan with soapy water and dry it well.  Then, coat the skillet well with lard or vegetable oil (don’t use olive oil, the smoking point is not high enough) and put into a pre-heated 200° oven for 2-3 hours.  Take it out, and after it cools simply wipe off the excess oil with a paper towel.  In order to maintain the non-stick surface, it’s best not to clean a seasoned cast iron pan with soap and water, as this removes the oil you worked so hard to get on the pan.  If you notice things sticking, repeat the whole process.  Oh, and don’t cook acidic foods (like tomatoes or wine) in your cast iron pans either as they can react and result in not so yummy flavors.

Stainless Steel – I can’t guarantee it will be as non-stick as Teflon or even cast iron, but stainless steel is what the pros use.  I’ve found and read that preheating your pan (only this time you won’t release evil fumes – yay!) and adding oil/butter when the pan is already hot is the best way to avoid food from sticking.  Try to work with room temperature foods, as cold meats tend to stick worse.  Also, don’t overcrowd the pan or try to stir your food too quickly.  Don’t despair when your pan turns an icky brown color either – it won’t kill you.  If you really like shiny things, though, just clean it with stainless steel cleaner (like Bar Keepers Friend) and a lot of elbow grease.  It’ll be all pretty again in no time.  By the way, this is where having a husband named Mr. T comes in handy…

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