Stainless steel pans and pots are very versatile and durable. These pans tend to retain heat well, and also distribute it evenly for better and more efficient cooking. In spite of these benefits, a lot of people tend to avoid a stainless steel pan as it is not non-stick.
It is why delicate foods such as fish and eggs will quickly fall apart on stainless steel surfaces in case there is not a sufficient amount of oil or butter in the pan.
Food sticks in stainless steel pans because of chemical bonds between the pan surface and food. The surface of the utensil is always metal or aluminum. A majority of these chemical bonds are either covalent bonds or weak van der Waals forces.
It is why protein-rich foods are especially vulnerable to sticking since the proteins can form various complexes with metal atoms, like iron, in your pan. As a result, cooking in a pot that is not nonstick has the risk of having food stick.
It can be very frustrating for cooks; it not only makes cooking challenging but also makes cleaning the pan an arduous exercise. To avoid it many people try to master their stainless steel pans. However, it is easier said than done, as getting your pan to the perfect temperature is a little tricky.
If you want to cook your meal seamlessly and efficiently in a stainless steel pan, the utensil should reach the exact temperature of 320 degrees F., and it takes plenty of practice to know once your pan is hot enough. It is why a majority of people now use non-stick cooking pans.
What Is Non-Stick Coating?
A non-stick coating is a surface that is uniquely engineered to lower the ability of various other materials, such as foods, to stick to it. It is why non-stick cookware and pans are a widespread application. In these cases, the non-stick coating of the pan allows your food to fry or cook without sticking to its surface.
Also, keep in mind that the term non-stick is usually used to describe surfaces that are coated using polytetrafluoroethylene. And a notable example of a brand that uses this material is Teflon.
However, nowadays a variety of other coatings are being marketed as non-stick. These include ceramics, anodized aluminum, silicone, seasoned cookware and enameled cast iron. The latest form of non-stick coating is superhydrophobic coating.
The latest non-stick pans and pots have polytetrafluoroethylene, coating, commonly known as Teflon. The material was serendipitously invented in 1938 by Roy Plunkett when employed by a joint venture involving the DuPont company.
Keep in mind that this substance has many unique properties, such as excellent corrosion-resistance along with the minimum coefficient of friction compared to any material manufactured to date.
PTFE was an instrumental element in seal manufacturing - they made seals resistant to uranium hexafluoride. Dupont registered the Teflon trademark Dupont in 1944. The company soon started to plan for the commercial use of its new and innovative product.
In 1951 Dupont had come up with various applications for Teflon, especially in commercial cookie and bread-making; however, it avoided consumer cookware market because of potential problems and issues associated with the release of harmful gases. It was the case when stove-top pans overheated in improperly ventilated spaces.
While he was working at DuPont John Gilbert, the alumnus of NYU Tandon School of Engineering was requested to assess a recently- developed substance called Teflon. During his experiments and tests, he used the fluorinated polymer to surface coat pans and pots. These experiments helped bring a revolution in non-stick cookware.
Nonstick cookware and coating have become extremely popular as it is easy to clean and use. It is because the slick coating can help keep various foods from sticking to the surface, and it makes your cleaning job a breeze. Also, most health-conscious cooks tend to like the fact that they need to use less oil while working with non-stick coating (use a little oil as it helps lubricate the cooking surface).
On the other hand, you are going to need more oil if you are cooking with uncoated cookware. However, it is vital to bear in mind that the convenient cooking surface tends to carry a few potential risks.
Some environmentalists, scientists as well as consumer advocacy groups have voiced concerns regarding the chemicals in the production of many of the modern nonstick coatings, like PTFE (commonly called Teflon), available in the market today. Out of the various chemicals, the most concerning is PFOA.
However, it is worth noting that the use of nonstick cookware would not expose you to this harmful chemical. It is because the chemical is only emitted in the manufacturing phase and will not end up in your finished cookware.
However, if you expose a nonstick pan to extremely high temperatures, it will release various other toxic chemicals into the air. As a result, you need to be cautious while using nonstick pans. Do not heat your pan empty on the burner, and while cooking keep the stove on low or medium. Also, throw out your non-stick pan in case its coating is starting to flake or chip.
Types Of Non-Stick Coating
While there are many non-stick coating alternatives available on the market today, knowing and understanding the various kinds of non-stick coatings and their general uses would help you make a more informed decision when choosing the right product for your particular application.
Plus, it is essential that you understand different types of non-stick pan coatings, it would help you better understand the value and properties of each option. Nonstick coatings and surfaces have a variety of applications in a broad spectrum of industries. A few of these applications and industries include:
The main compound used in fluoropolymer resins is called polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE). These are mostly plastic polymers and are reliable, non-toxic, and inherently nonstick.
Fluoropolymer coatings and surfaces have the unique ability to retain their non-stick properties for extended periods of time. These coatings have also become much more resistant to wear with time due to advances in technology.
A few standard applications of PTFE coating include:
The fluorine found in fluoropolymer is always electrically harmful. It gives the material the useful property of not easily bonding with a variety of other materials. It is what makes fluoropolymer inherently non-stick.
Also, keep in mind that fluoropolymer is a broad term, which includes several other products with famous trade names, such as Teflon, Algoflon, Excalibur, Xylan, Fluon, and Solef. Although the first fluoropolymer product came in the 1930s, now hundreds of different variations exist.
Besides their nonstick property, fluoropolymers have various other benefits. They resist corrosion and reduce friction. Also, they can withstand extremely high temperatures.
Fluoropolymers are also an insulator, which means that they will not conduct electricity. They also do not soak up water. As a result, they are perfect for use in cookware, electronics, and automobiles.
Due to the latest advances in technology, it is possible to conveniently and quickly combine silicone and thermoplastics for lowering the coefficient of friction. Silicone coatings are popular as they are non-toxic and nonstick.
However, if you compare them to fluoropolymer coatings, you will find that silicone coatings are more prone to wear and damage and, thereby, do not do a great job of retaining their non-stick properties for very long. One of the primary benefits of silicone coatings is their lower cost compared to other types of surfaces.
Silicone non-stick coatings are now mainly used for kitchen utensils and bakeware. A few of the specific applications are:
Because of their unique hybrid nature, sol-gel or ceramic coatings have managed to successfully merge the strength associated with silica with a relatively low coefficient of friction.
It also avoids the use of fluoropolymers. Ceramic layers are also called sol-gel coatings. Ceramic coatings are quite resistant to extremely high temperatures because of their hybrid nature and are also PFOA free. These coatings are also available in a broad range of colors.
Keep in mind that there are several brands of ceramic or sol-gel coatings available in the market.OTC ceramic coatings are usually more user-friendly, especially for non-professionals; however, they often lack in durability, hardness, and slickness.
High-skilled professionals and companies often tend to use professional products, when they are looking to produce the best quality products for their customers. Some better-known commercial and industrial applications of these coatings are:
Copper coatings are also quite popular as you can apply them to nearly any surface. It causes the relevant surface to resemble real copper. However, it does not stop there! You can improve the finish of cookware by the application of one or more of individual patina oxidizers, which can lead to beautiful aging effects.
The primary difference between copper coatings and various other faux coatings available in the market is the full presence of genuine copper and other copper alloys. In just a few minutes you could easily transform plaster casts, wood, ceramic, tile, Styrofoam, plastic, and fiberglass into an impressive work of copper art.
How Do Non-Stick Coatings Stick To Our Pans?
You may have guessed how Teflon and other nonstick coatings somehow stick to our pans better compared to foods like eggs. In many cases, a coat of Teflon often seeps inside the tiny cracks and holes.
The Teflon or other nonstick coatings baked into our pans. Keep in mind that the metal itself does not stick to the surface; however, the plastic often gets stuck into the small nooks and crannies.
You may ruin or damage your Teflon-coated pans in two ways. You might destroy the nonstick Teflon coating, reducing the efficiency of your pan, or scratch beneath the layer in case you frequently use metallic utensils or apply excess force while scraping or stirring food.
The second way, which might be more familiar to you, to ruin a nonstick pan is the application of excess heat. It can happen if you burn the food or overheat your pan without any food.
Whenever you apply too much heat, the carbon bonds will break, releasing toxic fluorocarbons into the air. It is not good for your health or your pan; so, you should never subject non-stick cookware to extremely high temperatures.
Why Should You Be Careful When Handling Non-Stick Pans?
There have been many concerns in the past regarding the safety and health risks of non-stick pans. However, the good news is that most manufacturers have revised and improved their construction materials so that they can adhere to recent safety guidelines and policies when it comes to nonstick pans and coatings.
But, you still need to be careful when handling your nonstick pans. You can take the following steps to minimize health and safety risks.
Wash By Hand
It is vital that you wash the nonstick pan by hand using hot soapy water before using it the first time. It will help remove any oils, residues, and dirt found on a new product from manufacturing and shipping. Rinse thoroughly and dry thoroughly. You do not have to 'prime' a nonstick pan as it is ready for use after the initial wash.
Use Moderate Temperature
Always use moderate or low heat with your nonstick pans. A majority of nonstick coatings cannot withstand high heat. It is true even when you start cooking. Some ceramic-based nonstick pans can endure higher amounts of heat for searing meats; however, you must avoid overexposure to high temperatures.
Do Not Store Food In The Pans
Avoid storing your food in the pan. Instead, use a plastic container for storing your food. A lot of people frequently complain that food often takes on a strange metallic taste after you keep the food in a nonstick pan. The food might also degrade, depending on the kind of food stored.
Never Use Metal On A Non-Stick Pan
It is probably the most crucial rule you need to keep in mind. Unless you have bought a dense and diamond-crusted nonstick pan, metal utensils would quickly ruin or scratch the surface of a nonstick pan. It means you should refrain from cutting your food in your pan using pizza cutters or metal knives.
Similarly, never turn your pancakes using metal spatulas; instead, use a wooden one and don't use metal whisks or forks to stir the vegetable blends or gravies. It is better to use scratch-friendly materials like rubber, wood, silicone or nylon for these purposes.
Avoid Acidic Foods
Keep in mind that cooking various acidic foods in a nonstick pan can lead to flaking. It is especially true for the cheaper models that cost less than $60.A variety of foods such as lemons and tomatoes can quickly bond with and ruin shallow nonstick coatings.
You will not believe it, but some pans can get destroyed just after one use. Also, remember that not all types of nonstick cookware are stove-top friendly.
Do Not Use Aerosol Spray
Cooking sprays would ruin your nonstick pans faster compared to anything else, even if the cooking spray is pure vegetable kind. These aerosol sprays can build up, coating your pan’s surface when it is heated. Instead, what you can do is use self-pump oils or a bit of standard oil.
Health Issues With Non-Stick Coatings
Nowadays, all Teflon and most other types of nonstick coatings are PFOA-free. So, the adverse health effects relating to PFOA exposure are not the primary cause for concern anymore. The use of PFOA in the manufacturing of Teflon stopped in 2013.
PFOA causes many health conditions, such as thyroid disorders, liver disease, chronic kidney disease and testicular cancer. Moreover, it also creates low birth weight and infertility.
On the whole, nonstick coatings such as Teflon are stable and safe compounds. But, at temperatures of more than 570°F, Teflon and many other nonstick coatings on cookware tend to break down, which releases toxic and harmful chemicals in the air.
If you inhale these dangerous fumes, it may cause polymer fume fever or the Teflon flu. Keep in mind that polymer fume fever has temporary, flu-like symptoms like chills, headache, temperature, and body aches. In most cases, the onset occurs after about 4 to 12 hours of exposure, and it takes about 12 to 48 hours to resolve the condition.
However, the troubling part is that various studies have reported some adverse side effects, including lung damage.
How To Wash Your Non-Stick Pan?
Follow these tips to wash your pan efficiently:
Following the above cleaning tips will help keep your nonstick pans clean and also extend their useful life.
We have discussed why food items like fish and eggs stick to our pans. It is mainly because of chemical bonds between the pan surface and food. We have talked about what a nonstick coating is. We have discussed in great detail the different type of nonstick coating. These include PTFE or Teflon, silicon coating, ceramic coating and copper coating.
We have also highlighted how nonstick coatings stick to our pans and steps you can take to avoid it. We have provided various tips on how you can safely and efficiently use your nonstick pans.
These tips include using low to moderate heat, using wooden forks or spatulas, always washing the product with your hands and avoiding cooking sprays. We have highlighted a variety of health issues associated with the use of nonstick pans.
We have provided step-by-step instructions on how you can clean and maintain your nonstick pans and pots. Our buying guide will discuss the different features that you should consider when buying nonstick containers along with some recommendations.