When buying any kind of non-stick cookware, it is nice to know what is in that cookware and the non-stick coating.
You may know that non-stick coatings throughout the years have contained harsh chemicals that can be released if the pan gets too hot.
However, you may also know that Teflon, and the company that made these controversial coatings, is still going strong. So, why is this? Well, to find out, we first need to know what Teflon is.
What is Teflon?
Teflon is a trademarked name for a chemical found in non-stick coatings. It was patented in 1945 the DuPont company. By 1948, Dupont was making about two million pounds of Teflon a year.
In 2015, manufacturing was moved to Chemours, which is an offshoot of DuPont. Chemours now owns and makes Teflon.
Teflon is made using a chemical called Polytetrafluoroethylene—doesn’t that roll off the tongue? This is a manmade chemical and more commonly known as PTFE.
In about 1951, Dupont began using another chemical in their non-stick coating as well. This was Perfluorooctanoic, we all know it as PFOA, the scientific world knows it as the chemical called C8.
This chemical was used to smooth out lumpiness in the freshly poured Teflon for the pots and pans at first. However, it would later be used in everything from electric cables to waterproof clothing.
Dupont didn’t happen upon PFOA like they did with PTFE. Instead, they used to buy PFOA from chemical company 3M until they phased out making it in 2002 when DuPont started making it themselves.
Both PTFE and PFOA have been linked to various health conditions over the years, including liver disease, cancer, developmental problems, and thyroid problems. These health concerns only really gained any tractions in the public eye about 15 years ago!
Is Teflon banned?
Studies have shown that the chemicals mentioned above can be extremely dangerous to use in the kitchen. It is said that DuPont and 3M knew about this since as early as the 70s. So, Teflon has now been banned in the use of cookware products.
In Europe, Teflon has been banned for use in cookware products since 2008. PFOA was banned only in 2020, though.
In the States, PFOA was banned in 2014. And in the UK Teflon was banned in 2005.
Teflon is still widely used in other industries, though. It is used to make wires, outdoor clothing and as a cable coating along with much more.
So, while many of us still use the word ‘Teflon’ to describe non-stick coatings, no manufacturers of non-stick pots and pans use Teflon in their non-stick coatings. Instead, they use natural non-stick coatings and other manmade, chemical coatings that, according to the most recent studies, are safe to use at normal cooking temperatures.
If you do have any pots and pans from the era before Teflon and C8 was banned, it may be worth investing in some new pans.
Also, if your non-stick coating is scratched, it can flake off into your food. If you have non-stick pans from before the chemicals were banned, it might be best to invest in new pans anyway, as they have probably seen plenty of action and had their day in the sun by now.
Are there any alternatives to Teflon?
Here we are using ‘Teflon’ as a generic term for all non-stick coatings that use some form of artificial chemical. If you would prefer a ‘natural’ non-stick coating or a ‘healthy’ option, you do have some choices.
Firstly, you could use cast iron cookware, you will have to season it, but it’s simple to do. Chef’s Pick has an article detailing what to season cast iron cookware with. Or you could choose cookware with a granite or stone-derived non-stick coating. This is as natural as non-stick coatings are going to get for a while.
We hope this look at Teflon has answered some of your questions about this non-stick coating. As we said, Teflon is still being made, but it is no longer used in cookware products. Many cookware manufacturers are now using natural non-stick coatings. Check out our roundup of the best non-stick frying pans.
The best way to know if the non-stick coating that cookware has is natural is to research that cookware. Chef’s Pick actually has an article all about the safest and healthiest non-stick coatings if you’d like to make the switch.
Scott is a writer and a passionate home chef. His passion for cooking began when he was 10 years old. Scott has been writing professionally for over five years now and loves to combine his passion for cooking with his day job.