Is Cooking with Nonstick Pans Healthy or Not?

Is Cooking With Nonstick Pans Healthy Or Not?
Is Cooking With Nonstick Pans Healthy Or Not?

By Kerri-Ann Jennings, M.S., R.D., Associate Nutrition Editor, EatingWell Magazine

More nights than not, I cook dinner in a nonstick skillet. It's easy to wash up and can lend itself to healthy cooking…but is it safe? Here's what you should know when cooking with nonstick pans:

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Using nonstick pans means you need far less oil when cooking. Just a teaspoon or two of oil will let you sauté meats and vegetables--much less than you'd need when using a stainless-steel pan. It's also great for cooking delicate foods like eggs that might break apart easily in a "stickier" pan.

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But, nonstick pans get their nonstickness from perfluorocarbons (PFCs), chemicals that are linked to liver damage and developmental problems. Yikes! Before you toss out your nonstick pans, consider these ways to make cooking with nonstick pans safer.

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Turn down the heat. PFCs get released into the air in the form of toxic fumes when the pan is heated too high. To keep that from happening, avoid using nonstick pans on high heat and never heat an empty pan.

Use wooden or silicone utensils. PFCs can be dislodged if the nonstick coating is scratched. That's why it's important to only use wooden or silicone utensils in your nonstick cookware.

Hand-wash nonstick pans. Dishwashers get hot! And that will release more of those PFCs than if you wash pans by hand (with a nonabrasive cloth or sponge).

Look for a nonstick skillet made without PFCs. These pans are marketed as "green" or "eco-friendly" and have coatings that won't break down when used over high heat.

If you're still wary of nonstick skillets, there is a great alternative: cast iron. Find out 3 Health Reasons to Cook with Cast Iron.

Related: 9 Green Products for a Healthy Kitchen

Do you use nonstick pans?

By Kerri-Ann Jennings

Kerri-Ann Jennings, a registered dietitian, is the associate nutrition editor of EatingWell Magazine, where she wields her master's degree in nutrition from Columbia University writing and editing news about nutrition, health and food trends. In her free time, Kerri-Ann likes to practice yoga, hike, bake and paint.

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