Sunshine Natural Food & Grocery | Grants Pass, OR

Truth About Non-stick Cookware


Don’t Be The Canary In Your Own Coal Mine

By Rob Pellnon stick cookware

 Even if you enjoy preparing healthy food, unknowingly, you may be poisoning yourself by using the wrong cookware. The health risks associated with common non-stick cookware greatly outweigh the small benefits to convenience.

 Pots and pans coated with Teflon, or any of the similar surfaces analogous to Teflon, are immensely popular. U.S. consumers spent roughly $1.2 billion on 159 million pots and pans last year, 60 percent of which were nonstick.

 Although the technology has improved, the essential nonstick ingredient is the same as it was when a DuPont Co. chemist discovered it in 1938. In 1954, a French inventor figured out a way to bond Teflon to frying pans and in 1960, the FDA approved using teflon for cookware in the US.

 DuPont now acknowledges that teflon coated cookware will begin to release carcinogenic fumes when heated to temperatures around 450 degrees. They recommend keeping pot and pan temperatures below that. Trouble is, any pan left on a high-heat setting on a home stove can reach temperatures hundreds of degrees above that in minutes. I guess that means that as long as you keep your non-stick cookware away from your stove, you’ll be perfectly safe. Yikes!

 The fumes are known to kill birds, and manufacturers actually warn against use of these pans in homes with pet birds. Guess what, long term exposure to fumes that will kill your pet parakeet will, in large enough doses, probably kill you too! Don’t be a canary in your own coal mine.

 Another problem is that once the non-stick surface has been overheated, it will degrade more easily the next time. The same is true if the cooking surface gets scratched or damaged.

 For pollution related to the manufacture of teflon, DuPont recently paid out $107.6 million settling a class-action suit and admitted that it hid medical data for 20 years. They may have to pay up to $300 million in additional environmental fines.


 ENAMEL-COATED CAST IRON: Enamel is essentially a type of glass, making it inert and non-reactive. With proper care, good enamel-coated cookware will last a lifetime. Since the base is cast iron, this cookware has exceptionally good heat distribution and retention. The main drawbacks are that it’s somewhat expensive and, while durable, it can be broken if handled carelessly.

The Kitchen Company in downtown Grants Pass has an excellent selection of Le Creuset enamel-coated cast iron cookware in a variety of colors.

 CERAMIC: Is inert and non-reactive making it extremely safe and there’s virtually no chance of damage or a melt down if it is ever accidentally boiled dry and overheated. Quality ceramic cookware can go from the refrigerator or freezer straight to the stove-top or oven. It provides good heat distribution and retention.

 GLASS: Glass is completely inert and affordable, but highly breakable and does not conduct heat evenly. Tea or coffee brewed in a glass pot using pure water, tastes noticeably better than the same beverage brewed in a metal pot.


STAINLESS STEEL: Stainless steel is the least reactive metal, and many people consider it the most versatile and affordable healthy cookware option. Take care to buy high quality stainless that is perfectly smooth with a high polish. Otherwise it will be more likely to stick and be difficult to clean. The best stainless steel cookware will be laminated to aluminum or cast iron. This provides a clean, non-reactive cooking surface on the inside and offers the even heat distribution of cast iron or aluminum on the outside.

CAST IRON: Cast iron is extremely durable, versatile and very inexpensive. It features superior heat distribution and retention. When properly sealed (seasoned), cast iron cookware resists sticking. It requires consistent maintenance, but should last for generations.


Common non-stick or aluminum should be avoided. Aluminum is a soft, highly reactive metal that can leach into food, especially when you are cooking with acidic ingredients like tomatoes, vinegar or lemon juice. The long-term health risks associated with these materials make them very poor choices. Copper interior cooking surfaces should also be avoided.

If you still have non-stick cookware in your home, it would be smart to invest in healthier alternatives. Considering that it’s something you probably use almost daily, and that it should last decades, you’ll be making a great investment in your health.

Rob Pell owns and operates Sunshine Natural Foods in Grants Pass, Oregonand has 35 years experience helping people with natural foods, products, exercise and healing. This article appeared in The Daily Courier,12-21-2011.