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I've read that non-stick saucepans using Teflon are dangerous. Why do so many people still use them including all the professional chefs, and how do you personally feel about using them after reading this?

We are in the predicament at the moment where we have an induction stove and a titanium Woll pan which is non-stick but takes FOREVER to heat up. The only other non-stick pans are Teflon. What to do?

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Get a good cast-iron pan. Season it well. Don't look back. –  Ocaasi Jul 28 '10 at 14:55
    
@Ocaasi We got a good heavy cast-iron pan but it got so hot that it damaged the glass surface of the induction cook-top and also damaged the heating function - not sure of which components. It's now being used in the oven for steaming bread which is works really well for! –  vaughan Sep 26 '11 at 1:20
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7 Answers

I had a quick look around pubmed, an aggregator of biological and medical literature, and found very little in the way of actual scientific evidence for teflon toxicity under 500C. In fact, teflon is still widely in use in surgery and can be left inside the body for tens of years.

This does not mean that improper operation (such as overheating to the point of thermolysis) cannot result in compounds you would rather not have in your food. It will also ruin the pan. Don't do it.

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I think you mean 500°F, not 500°C. –  derobert Jun 23 '11 at 20:22
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@derobert - 500°C may be right; it depends on what is meant by "toxicity." The really nasty compounds will only occur above about 450°C (about 850°F), and they aren't generated in significant quantities until 600-700°C. Depolymerization of teflon doesn't really happen at appreciable levels until about 350°C (about 650°F), after it has already started to degrade and melt. Below 650°F, you can have off-gassing of stuff (which can also occur below 500°F). The main concern in heating teflon above 500°F specifically is that the surface can degrade and ruin the pan, not really a safety threshold. –  Athanasius Apr 24 '13 at 2:08
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Well, I read the same several times, and it seems that some toxic elements appear at high temperatures, above 250C.

More can be found here

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There is certainly a temperature above which the Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), on which Teflon(tm) is based, will break down. Below this point PTFE is very stable, almost inert (largely due to the strength of C-F and C-C bonds). –  Richard Jul 20 '10 at 8:22
    
So: don't fry hot in Teflon. You can braise, stew, or fry slowly. They're no good for searing beef and such anyhow because they won't develop fond. –  Adam Shiemke Jul 20 '10 at 10:54
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Frying my steaks is exactly what i want non-stick for! On my stainless steel pans, frying always leaves very difficult to clean residue. Anyone know what temperature the pan is when searing steak? –  vaughan Jul 22 '10 at 3:32
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@reckoner: I use cast iron for steaks, which is fine up to at least 600°F. But if you want to use stainless, try either deglazing or alternatively Bar Keeper's Friend to get the residue off. Pan temperature is probably around 500°F, depending on how much you heated it (and if going by oil smoking, which oil). –  derobert Sep 21 '11 at 22:09
    
@derobert We tried a cast-iron pan but it damaged the induction cooktop heating function and glass surface because it got so hot. I think it was the thickness because a lower heat wasn't adequate for cooking steaks. –  vaughan Sep 26 '11 at 1:22
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I wouldn't put too much faith in articles you read on the internet or otherwise. Teflon poisoning is the least of your worries in a kitchen, the simple dangers associated with hot oil and boiling water far outweigh such trivialities. The fact that professional chefs, chemists and the majority of food safety experts do not worry is a good indicator that they're safe.

I am more interested in your induction hobs and this pan that isn't heating up. Some pans are not compatible with induction hobs, the electromagnetic induction doesn't work in the right way. It might be that your pan is simple incompatible with your hobs.

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I think its important to note that many TV chefs have great vested interest in non-stick cookware each with their own range of pots and pans. There is a huge industry built around Teflon, and I don't really think this indicates safety. I do agree that there is probably incompatibility between Woll and Miele Induction cook tops. –  vaughan Jul 22 '10 at 3:28
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Teflon is an inert substance at all but the highest (making pizza maybe) temperatures. Dupont states that it becomes unstable above 260 Celsius or 500 Fahrenheit. Pyrolysis (breaking down of organic compounds in the absence of oxygen) is said to be detectable at 200 C/ 390 F.

Teflon is a result of a mistake by some chemists while trying to come up with an alternative refrigerant to those used at the inception of refrigeration (sulfur dioxide, poison, and anhydrous ammonia, stinky). Their task was to come up with an odorless, non-toxic gas which wouldn't stink or poison people, not conduct electricity, and still work well. Some of the cheap pots and pans I used a few decades ago would sometimes cast off small flakes of Teflon into my food (really skrinchy in the teeth), and I don't like the way Teflon cookware browns food, so I don't own but a small pot I use to make rice in.

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But why do you even need to use it for rice? A little butter and it won't stick to the pan at all! –  bobobobo Nov 11 '10 at 20:56
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As long as you are using teflon pans in their intended role, there is no problem. Once the non-stick surface reaches a certain temperature, it starts to release fumes. For an adult human in a well ventilated kitchen, the danger from these is still extremely low.

Don't leave a non-stick pan sitting empty on an active burner.
Don't use a non-stick pan for deep-frying.
Don't use metal utensils (for lifespan of the pan, not danger to you).


Titanium is non-ferrous. Induction works through magnetic fields. If your pan was solid titanium I wouldn't expect it to work at all on an induction range. Since it is working slowly, there must be some other magnetic material underneath or inside the pan, but not enough to heat it properly.

For an induction range, you really need steel or iron pans. Solid aluminum and copper are also non-ferrous and won't work. From my understanding, the best pan is a tri-ply 18/10 steel pan. It has durable steel surfaces, and a layer of aluminum sandwiched in the middle to help distribute heat evenly through the pan. You can use pans with a non-stick surface as long as the base material is ferrous.

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If you cover your floor in Teflon you are more likely to slip…

However I have never heard of any real risk of using Teflon as indented.

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Apparently the aluminium that is found under the teflon coating is highly reactive and if you scratch the surface with a metal utensil, the aluminium will get exposed. Some pans of course have a thicker teflon coating than others.

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Where can I find references to studies supporting that? –  J.A.I.L. Nov 11 '12 at 20:18
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