Teflon cookware made before 2013 may be toxic All that was enough for most manufacturers to halt the production of nonstick coatings using PFOA around 2002. But Teflon using PFOA wasn’t officially banned in the United States until 2014. Europe banned it in 2008. That means if you own Teflon nonstick cookware from 2013 or earlier, there’s a chance it contains PFOA. Nine years is typically longer than the average lifespan of a nonstick pan, but if you’re not sure, it’s probably best to replace any Teflon-coated pots or pans.
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One downside is that nonstick cookware doesn’t impart a ton of direct surface heat hot, so you won’t be able to sear meat well and get that coveted crispy crust or seal in flavor. It’s also sensitive, and the nonstick coating will chip off and wear out over time. But the biggest worry people have when it comes to Teflon and nonstick cookware is whether or not it’s safe to use or potentially toxic.
Teflon is one cookware surface with a good deal of fuzziness around it. Many folks I talk to want to know if nonstick and Teflon-coated cookware is safe to use. The answer is mostly yes, these days, but it’s not quite that simple.
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What is Teflon, and is it safe to cook with? Teflon is a brand name for a synthetic chemical called polytetrafluoroethylene that’s used in many household products from wire coatings to fabric protectors and kitchen cookware, too. The knock on Teflon is that it’s unsafe if consumed or absorbed into the body and can increase the chances of cancer and other diseases. While studies have shown some connections (more on that below), Teflon still exists and is used to make cookware, but the safety concerns around Teflon are mostly a thing of the past.
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Nonstick coating is a popular choice, especially for frying pans and skillets. But there are also Teflon-coated pots, bakeware, air fryer baskets and plenty more. The big draw is, of course, that food won’t stick to it the way it does to other metal materials so it’s easy to flip a pancake or extract an egg. It also makes cleanup a snap.
Because of the ban, all nonstick cookware made in the US should be PFOA-free, but you’d be wise to make sure. Be extra cautious about buying cheap or off-brand cookware, especially if it’s not produced in a country with an active PFOA ban. PFOA is still produced elsewhere, largely in China, and used to make consumer products.
The good news is PFOA-free nonstick cookware is cheap, so there’s no reason to risk it with anything that might contain the chemical. You can nab a 10-inch skillet from a trusted cookware brand like Tramontina two-piece nonstick cookware set for $50. Definitely worth it for peace of mind.